Volume 5 - Issue 09
If the “Prema Jyothi” was ‘Pure Joy’ because of the Pure Love that was suffused in every speck of the presentation, the making of this unique Exhibition was an equally euphoric experience. Truly, the whole exercise embodied the spirit that was portrayed in every inch of the giant presentation. Nearly 180 graphic panels, 10 back-lit light boards – some large and others very large, six TV loops, the Radio Sai booth, the colossal ‘temple welcome wall’ and the attractive floral decorations were all blended together to create a lasting impact in the heart of every visitor. And this is what everybody saw, experienced and enjoyed; but what very few are aware of is how this glorious manifestation of love actually materialised. The behind-the-scenes story of this unique endeavour is truly as stirring, if not more, as the actual presentation. And this was because it was in its every facet and fabric, inspired and implemented entirely by His Love. His “Prema” was what made every seemingly impregnable obstacle evaporate just at the right time; He was constantly at work, as always.
A devotee Sarah Banfield from UK, wrote,” Wow, the exhibition is a true example of extreme hard work, devotion, passion and love.” Yes, it was that, and more. It brought together a range of talents from carpenters to computer designers, from artists to artisans and from planners to panel fixers. Everyone worked flat out for a number of weeks, which had become a race to the finish line after getting a rather late ‘all clear’ to stage the exhibition during the Guru Poornima celebrations. And to top it all, the venue was never confirmed until a few days before the actual day of inauguration. But nothing deterred the students and volunteers working in the Prashanti Digital Studio (PDS) under the inspired leadership of Prof. Venkataraman.
How the Masterpiece Materialised
The first – and the most crucial part – was conceptualising the whole presentation. The ideas took shape in Prof. Venkataraman’s mind and Swami was later shown a brochure which had the basic framework of the flow of the entire theme depicted tastefully with graphics. With the concept sealed and permission granted to stage it during Guru Poornima, now came the execution at break-neck speed, as there were only four weeks left for the festival.
This second phase of the work required enormous physical and mental stamina as well as quick decision-making. All the pictures had to be chosen from the archives maintained at the PDS and mind you, it is not an easy job to portray the mind-boggling glory of Swami in a few pictures. Some of the best and significant moments from the entire life of Bhagavan had to be picked for the first theme entitled “The Effulgence of Pure Love.” The next four themes after this concentrated on service projects, which was a relatively easier task to complete. But, for the remaining two themes selecting the right pictures was again a complex task. “The Matchless Glory of Pure Love” and “Pure Love as Ultimate Protection” needed in-depth research and careful thinking to do justice to the potent ideas they intended to convey.
As the picture-selection was going on under Prof. Venkataraman’s direction, the text for each panel was also being readied by him. Once the English text was ready, it then had to be translated into two other languages - Hindi and Telugu. Every panel had an additional board with captions in these vernacular languages along with English which was in the main panel. And all these tasks were going on in parallel. It was like a multiple assembly-line production being done by a handful of dedicated workers.
God Sends Help Through So Many
Once the pictures and text were ready, now came another important task – designing. This was completed with the help of three committed employees from SN Informatics, a Bangalore based software company, which has partnered the Prashanti Digital Studio in almost every endeavour right from its inception. But the speed with which they worked this time along with Swami’s students in the studio, in not only designing but also in making the necessary pre-processing before final printing and overseeing the whole operation of printing, was really commendable. It was as if everyone was possessed….His love reverberated in everybody’s veins.
Once the printing was finished in Bangalore, there was another group that came in now, by His Grace, to render their services – the energetic Sai youth from Bangalore. It is this group that handled the logistics of shifting all the panels and the metal supports carefully to Prasanthi Nilayam. But more than the panels, the most challenging task was printing and transporting the huge 150 width ‘welcome wall’ which was a show-stopper for every visitor. Also in the meantime, the large number of panel frames and supports were being designed in Bangalore while the wide wooden bases for the back-lit panels were being fashioned by carpenters in Puttaparthi. And then, there were many other issues to be sorted out from proper lighting, planning the best layout possible and establishing internet connectivity, to floral decorations and designing the Radio Sai and “Leelas” Booths.
With every individual in the studio multi-tasking night and day, soon the printed panels, the frames and the front wall arrived and they were stored in a spacious hall inside the ashram. When the complete set – panels, frames, supports, etc. – for one theme arrived on July 11, the students arranged the panels as a trial in a spacious hall inside the ashram and requested a few respected elders of the Ashram to visit and give feedback. Everybody who saw them said, “This is spectacular. You must have this Exhibition in Poornachandra Auditorium so that maximum people can benefit from this during the Guru Poornima celebrations.” Till now, the Exhibition was on a sticky wicket as far as the venue was concerned. Therefore, buoyed with the feedback from the elders, the idea came, “Why don’t we show Swami this one theme? And then pray for further guidance from Him with regards to venue, date, timings and the term of the presentation.” Everybody agreed it was a great idea and the kind Lord too consented to see the trial on July 13. The excitement in the studio now was now on a new high and the panels depicting Swami’s water project were shifted to the Poornachandra Auditorium without delay.
Direct Encouragement from the Divine
As promised, the Benevolent Lord arrived at the auditorium soon after evening bhajans on Friday, the 13th, and quite contrary to people’s belief about this day, it turned out to be a blessing for the Studio boys in every way. When you have God with you, can you in anyway be unlucky? Swami, most kindly, saw the panels in great detail and listened with interest to every line of commentary that was offered by a former student (now a staff in Prasanthi Digital Studio). The Lord spent more than half an hour seeing not only the 23 panels which depicted the full story of Sathya Sai Drinking Water Projects but also a few samples of other themes. He seemed so occupied and interested.
When a 3D model for the layout, done in cardboard, was brought to Swami, He looked at it too and blessed it. And then there were printed copies of all the themes in the form of spiral bound volumes and Swami spent more time browsing through some of these volumes with interest. The happiness and satisfaction on His face, which was so evident, was all that was needed to pump more confidence and energy into the Studio team. The boys now knew they can only expect good news and that’s exactly what happened. The venue for the Exhibition once and for all was now sealed by Swami. It was to be in Poornachandra Auditorium.
The work, now, shifted into a new gear. Two days before the Inauguration, with the help of Sevadals, everything was moved to the Poornachandra auditorium using tractor-trailers. The next operation was one that demanded intense physical work.
The carpenters began to drill holes in the panels for fixing them to the supports; a job which required great skill as the panel material (which are called sunboards) was rather delicate. At the same time other skilled atisans were busy fixing the back-lit panels to their wooden bases. But one important task remained, and that was lighting up the huge hall in such a way that every panel shows up bright and clear. And it is here that students from the maintenance department of the boys’ hostel made all the difference.
His Amazing Army in Action – The Students
When three boys from the Hostel were requested to help in the erection of the big metallic ‘light tower’ and asked to be in the Poornachandra Auditorium at 5 am in the morning of July 18, the group that arrived on time early in the morning from the Hostel was a shocking 30-strong! The whole maintenance department, very unexpectedly, was present to help in anyway they can. And the work they did was stupendous! In the words of one of the maintenance boys, “Erecting the tower is a challenging task. It is 30-feet high when arranged but essentially consists of three main parts - the side supports, the main column and the base. After securing the base with the help of ropes we raised the column and then sealed the structure with nuts and bolts. Whenever we erect this structure in the ground for the sportsmeet and other functions, it usually takes 2-3 hours, but that morning, unbelievably, the whole operation took only 25 minutes! Not only this, even the position was perfect. Had it been a few metres away we would have damaged the art work on the ceiling. The way the entire process was executed with perfect precision, made us feel it was purely His Grace.”
And this was only one of the many tasks that the boys enthusiastically undertook. Apart from climbing 20-30 ft high and fixing the 400 watts halide lights on the big towers, they also helped in the making of the welcome wall, drilling holes in the panels and setting up the Radio Sai and “Leelas” Booth.
Most of this work happened in two days and it was a time of hefting, lifting, banging, sawing, fastening, and tired muscles – but, the best part, all wore smiles at the shared comradeship and joy at the noble goal ahead.
It was difficult laying out the nearly 180 panels in two nights. But thanks to a 3-D colour-coded model done by one of the students working in the Studio (and which Swami had blessed), the work could proceed at fast pace without any confusion.
Each panel needed two persons to carry them with ease and all the work involving fitting the panels, sticking labels on them, moving them manually to their respective places and re-adjusting them to fine-tune the layout was done by the students with the help of volunteers. “It was sheer physical work now after weeks of heavy mental exercise,” recalls a student. “But I enjoyed it a lot. The very thought that we were staging it just next to His residence itself, in the Poorna Chandra Auditorium, used to fill us with renewed energy and inspiration.”
And what is more, Swami Himself sent for the exhibition an exquisite Vishwa Rupa statue (cosmic form of Lord Vishnu) which was a masterpiece in every way. The Lord was guiding the whole set up in His own mysterious way.
The Final Test…and His Grace
On the last night before inauguration, if you looked at the hall, you would be forgiven for believing that the inauguration was at least 2-3 days away! Because the whole place looked so unfinished – the carpenter was still making holes and fixing vernacular panels, the flower decorations had just started, the welcome wall was still work-in-progress and didn’t seem to be ready by the night, the boys from the hostel were busy painstakingly decorating the big lamps with serial lights, there were chunks of saw dust and sand everywhere (they could not be cleaned as work was still going on) and what is worse, the whole place suddenly became dark at 2 am. Power supply was gone.
But when you saw the hall at 6.30 am in the morning, it was nothing short of a miracle. It had the perfect ambience to welcome Swami – all the flowers arranged beautifully at the entrance, tall oil lamps adorned with lights, neatly placed flower-pots to delineate the pathway for Swami, hundreds of incense sticks alight and a serene silence pervading the whole atmosphere. Few know how a big band of women sevadal volunteers enthusiastically entered the premises at 4 am in the morning and got busy like an army of angels. When they left after an hour, the whole area had been transformed.
And this is not the only extraordinary thing. In fact, there were instances of inexplicable coincidences and unexpected help in literally every activity. Take for example, the flower decoration. Though the students had contacted one person in Bangalore, another volunteer who was an experienced hand in this kind of job, came forward without invitatison and literally took over the whole responsibility of the work. He worked the whole night cutting and placing the garlands at the right places and once the work was done by early morning, quietly returned to Bangalore without even informing anybody. That He could be missing the beautiful opportunity to be in the hall when Swami comes in the morning, did not bother him a bit. He was just too satisfied to be part of it in some way.
Similarly, when a sevadal suggested in the final night that it would be good idea to put flower pots at different places inside the hall, no one knew how to procure them at 10.15 pm. Phone calls were made and amazingly so many things fell in place, from securing permission from the official concerned, to tracking the watchman of the place, to finding a tractor late in the night. And then the band of boys took over in placing the flower pots in the right places. Unmindful of the time, they worked ceaselessly till the early hours of the morning. In fact, one of them – a post graduate student - had an exam that morning at 9 am and he was in the hall helping in flower decoration and lights till 5 am. Such was their dedication and love for Swami! No wonder, the Exhibition was a huge success and everybody who entered the premises of the presentation felt only love everywhere.
Swami’s Boys…His Pride
No effort ever goes unnoticed or unrewarded by the Benevolent Lord. Only, He has His own time and His own way. After Swami returned to His residence, having inaugurated and seen the whole Exhibition, the Lord was so happy with the work of His boys that He called Prof. Venkataraman near and said, “I did not imagine my boys can stage such a grand Exhibition!” And immediately, Prof Venkataraman responded, “Swami, it is Your love. With Your Grace, they can do even greater things.” Yes, the Exhibition and the making of it – everything, was actually Pure Love at play.
But the boys and volunteers work did not stop after the inauguration. They were busy for all the rest of the 14 days giving guided tours to primary school students, elderly members of the ashram, Youth contingents and, of course, the large number of devotees from India and abroad who visited the site every day. In the Radio Sai booth, there was always a student explaining to every visitor how they can listen to the Radio on the internet, read Heart2Heart on radiosai.org and receive daily messages from Swami by subscribing to Sai Inspires. In fact, hundreds of devotees subscribed to this service then and there.
But the most moving experience for every student was watching the response of every visitor and listening to their words. Suchita Thakur from India said, “It is my first trip to this holy place and I am absolutely speechless. I am thankful, blessed and grateful for everything Swami has done for me as a person and humanity as a whole.”
Premadayalam Chetty, a devotee from South Africa, wrote, “What a wonderful display of the works of Sathya Sai, our Lord. When everything around you seems to be falling apart, only the inspiration of Sathya Sai and Prasanthi Nilayam sets your heart aflame.”
Another devotee, Sushanth Karanth from Karnataka, said, “This is absolutely fantastic. I have decided to serve Him, and serve Him in all respects. I only wish and hope to be in service under Him in His organization.”
Responses like this were innumerable, and you might have read more in the cover story, still what we have offered you is only a glimpse, because we have volumes after volumes filled with reader responses. Everybody who left the Exhibition was a different person – some were in ecstasy, others in tears; several spellbound and many delighted and determined. And for every student and volunteer to be in some way part of this whole experience was not only humbling, but also a most fulfilling feeling.
Reliving and Reflecting His Love
The sweet and sublime memories of this whole exercise were so alive in the minds of Students of the hostel as well as boys working in the Prashanti Digital Studio that nearly three weeks after the Exhibition concluded they decided to get together to reminisce those moments and relive that joy. And so, on July 18, all of them got together for an evening of celebration in a small corner of the Hill View Stadium. Prof. Venkataraman too was present on this night and he, in fact, gave specially printed “Prema Jyothi” T-shirts as a token of love to all the students of the Hostel after congratulating them for their selfless spirit and efficient workmanship. The Warden of the Hostel was present too and made the whole atmosphere lively with his presence and comments.
For the students of the Hostel and the student-staff in the Studio, it was the reinforcement of the mutual love they have for each other and the cementing of the intimate association between them to spread His glory together, with joy. And this joy emanated from the flame of love, the “Prema Jyothi” that Swami Himself has lighted in their hearts, and which shines brilliantly reflecting only His Love, the Purest Love.
- Bishu Prusty
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Vol 5 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2007
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