Volume 7 - Issue 07
July 2009
Other Articles

KODAI FESTIVAL 2009

Come the summer months of April and May every year, and the rumour-mill about the Lord's visit to Kodai Kanal is at full swing whether Swami is in Puttaparthi or in Whitefield. For everyone, be it the devotees or the students, to see Swami in Kodai Kanal - the Divine Creator in the midst of His pristine creation - is an ethereal experience. And every visit of the Lord to this sylvan hill station has been absolutely unique and special in ways more than one.

In an earlier cover story [The Divine Playground - July 2005] we had offered you a glimpse of the Lord's glory in Kodai Kanal that unfolded in the year 2005. And what transpired in 2006 came to you as a series of articles [With the Lord in the Mountains by Prof. G. Venkataraman] in various issues of H2H in 2006 and 2007. And now we are back again offering you a detailed narration of His Divine trip in 2009. However, this story is presented much differently than what you might have read earlier on this topic as this is the script of an audio programme that we have originally made for Radio Sai. The advantage is now you have not only pictures, but also audio and video clips, making it richer and riveting. Moreover, what we have presented below is just the first of twelve episodes that we have planned for you. So, be on the look out for the rest of story to come in the subsequent issues of H2H. May the tale of this divine odyssey fill you with delight and joy!

Part - 12

DAY 1 – April 23, 2009

Welcome to the first episode of this special series, KODAI FEST 2009, during which we shall take all of you to the cool heights of the mountains, along with the Lord of course, and help you to get a taste of the unique Kodai experience. At the end of it all, we are sure you would find that this is an incomparable experience, not available for all the wealth in the world! In short, you are a

 
   
 

Though discovered by the British, in the early days Kodai was patronised more by American Missionaries in South India.

Till 1916, there was no proper road to Kodai; but after the road was built, Kodai quickly became a popular tourist resort.

Swami first visited Kodai in 1957, along with Mr. Venkatamuni of Madras, and thereafter continued to do so till about 1966. Then came a long break.

     
    spacer    
The lovely Kodai Lake -
a must-see for every tourist
 
Sai Shruti, which was once a tiny bungalow, has grown to be the Lord's third Ashram

In the early eighties, Swami resumed His Kodai visits, taking very small groups with him. By the mid eighties, Swami decided to take student groups as a part of His Kodai sojourn, and for this purpose He established a third Ashram there called Sai Sruthi, which is now known the world over.

The Divine Proximity of Kodai from Mr. Narasimha Murthy, the Warden of the Hostel of the Brindavan Campus of Swami’s University, who describes what it is like to go with Swami to Kodai.

With that background, let us return to the main narrative.

In this decade or this century, if we might put it that way, Swami first went to Kodai in 2003. He skipped this visit in 2004 but went again in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Kodai was skipped again in 2008 and when summer came in 2009, there was a lot of speculation:

“Would He, or would He not?”

For weeks, Swami kept every one guessing, thoroughly enjoying perhaps the acute suspense He was creating!

There were all kinds of wild rumours, but finally it became known that Swami would go to Kodai on the morning of 23rd April.

Students Travel on Ahead of Swami

Yes, Swami went to Kodai once more, but there was an important difference. What was that? To learn that, we turn again to Mr. Narasimha Murthy.

This trip particularly, was slightly different, for the reason that it was the first time that on His journey to Kodai Kanal, the students did not accompany Swami. Generally, earlier when Swami would go to Kodai Kanal via Brindavan (Bangalore), there would be a bus or some vans following Him and they would reach Kodai Kanal by 6 in the evening. In 1999, for the first time, Swami flew from Bangalore airport to Madurai and then traveled by road to Kodai Kanal. Even then, boys would accompany Swami in the plane from Bangalore to Madurai and then they also followed Swami from Madurai to Kodaikanal. But this was the first time that the boys went ahead of Swami.

As we just heard, the students and the Warden went ahead. What about Swami? For that part of the story, we turn to Prof. Venkataraman, who was blessed and privileged to travel with Swami. And let us get that part of the story, straight from the horse’s mouth, shall we say?

Prof. Venkataraman Describes the Kodai Build-Up

My going to Kodai this year (2009) is an interesting story. Right from the beginning of April, the rumour mill became very active. There were some who said Swami was going to Bangalore, there were others who said He was going to Kodai, and yet others who maintained Swami would go to Kodai via Bangalore.

 
   
Prof. G. Venkataraman with
His Divine Master

As for me, having gone to Kodai three times and with a lot of work ahead of me, I was wondering if I could find some way of staying back. My work involves deadlines and if I am absent for an extended period, then the work has to be telescoped into a very short period, which becomes very difficult – this happened in 2007, when we had to get Prema Jyothi exhibition ready in barely six weeks, and that was back-breaking I can tell you. And as I am rapidly getting on years, that kind of work compression is getting tough to handle.

So one day, I summoned courage and said privately to Swami, “Bhagavan, I am not certain what Your plans are, but in case Swami decides to go to some other place, please may I stay back? This humble prayer is being made since there is a lot of work pending.” Swami smiled and very emphatically replied, in Telugu of course, “Most certainly, most certainly.”

I took that as a good sign, although I knew from experience that with Swami, there can always be last minute changes. And sure enough there was. About four days before departure, Swami suddenly called me inside the interview room during the evening Darshan.

Very casually He asked me as if He did not know, “Are you very busy with the classes?” I replied, “Swami, the University is closed for the summer and there are no classes right now.” “In that case,” replied Swami, “you are coming with Me to Kodai. We leave on the morning of 23rd, at 8 a.m. Be ready!”

Last Minute Divine Invitation

Actually, I had a hunch that things would work out this way, and so, I had sort of got my act together, so to say. What I mean is that I had planned my work schedule in such a manner that I carved out that portion of the work I could do in Kodai without computer, phone, etc., scheduling all the rest for a later period. This way, I could be ready in a moment’s notice, and that was the kind of notice I finally got!

Whenever Swami takes anyone with Him, He does thorough planning. Next, He makes sure that all instructions are duly issued to all concerned, well in time. I have gone through this routine on many occasions, and knew I had to tune in even the day before.

On 21st, I got the first round of instructions. The plane by which Swami would be travelling would be a private executive jet with a capacity of just eight. So, if I had a suitcase or something like that, I would have to send it along with Mr. Narasimha Murthy earlier. At best, I could take a hand baggage with me. This made my life simpler.

That night, I was told to be ready by 6 a.m. next morning and report at Yajur Mandir, where I would be given further instructions.

Next morning I was informed that I would go to the airport in a car that would pick up on the way, Dr. Dash of the Super Speciality Hospital, Bangalore, and Mrs. Ratan Lal. All three of us were then to proceed to the airport and wait there. We should be there not later than 7.30 a.m. Swami was expected around 8 a.m., and board the aircraft immediately for takeoff.

     
    spacer    
The carrier which had the unique privilege of carrying the Lord has just landed...
 
It was a Challenger 604 with powerful jet engines and four large comfortable sofas

That’s the way the morning routine unfolded. When we arrived at the airport, we were first shown into the lounge. Next, our hand bags were taken away for loading. A few minutes later, we were asked to proceed towards the aircraft which was already there, having arrived the previous evening. Thus, by 7.40 or so, all three of us were aboard the beautiful special jet.  

Fascinating Details of the Special Jet Plane

 
   
Mrs. Ratan Lal is absorbed in a book while Prof. Venkataraman is lost in the view from the top

It was a Challenger 604, with two powerful jet engines at the back, Pratt Whitney or GE, I am not sure. There were four large and comfortable sofas in the front, two on one side of the aisle facing each other, and two on the other side, once again facing each other. Towards the back, on the left side as one faces the cockpit, there was a three-seater sofa. The steward on duty during this flight gave me many interesting details about this aircraft; he said, for example, that this could fly non-stop from London to Bombay in about eight hours! For what seemed a small jet, that sure was impressive.

When we boarded, Mrs. Ratan Lal, Dr. Dash and myself occupied the sofa seat, leaving the four seats in the front vacant. Three people were expected to occupy them. One of them would of course be Swami. One seat would be taken by Satyajit, and the third one would be for Mr. V. Srinivasan, who this time was personally accompanying Swami all the way to Kodai, having done much to make the trip possible. The fourth seat would be vacant.

Having taken my seat, I looked out and I could see the tarmac with all kinds of people, airport staff, security people, and sevadals assigned various duties.

 
   
The Lord arrives for the divine odyssey

In the midst of this crowd, I could also spot our studio boys, whom we must all thank, because without their help you would not be hearing this program. I could also see a portion of the road, which was lined with big crowds, awaiting Swami.

That was the first instalment from Prof GV.

Let us now track Swami.

The Lord's Journey Begins...

In the morning of 23rd April, a big crowd had gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall, waiting for Swami.

As He always does when He goes on a trip, Swami got into the Porte car at Yajur Mandir. The clock showed 7. 45. Satyajit was in the driver’s seat and Mr. V. Srinivasan who took the main initiative for Swami’s visit [as he has been doing for many years, was also in Swami’s car.

Slowly the car entered Sai Kulwant Hall. There Swami took arathi, and drove out of the Temple gate towards the airport.

As Swami drove past the school, college and hostel, there were cheering crowds everywhere, with many who lined up along the roads throwing flowers at the car.

Shortly thereafter, Swami reached the airport, where a special lift had been arranged for Him to board the plane.

     
    spacer    
Sai is welcomed with roses and salutations
as soon as He alights from His car
 
Captain Sharma, the Airport Manager, lovingly guides the Lord into the plane

After Swami boarded the plane, as usual many people crowded round Him, mainly the ground staff, trying to get photos, pada namaskar and what not. By the way, we too got some photos of Swami seated in the aircraft.

Finally, the Captain asked everyone to get off the plane and ordered the doors to be closed. To know what happened thereafter, let us turn once more to Prof. G. Venkataraman.

Audio clip of Prof. G. Venkataraman

Swami Boards the Plane and Brings Joy to All

I shall begin from where we spotted Swami’s car, sitting inside the plane.

We were all looking out eagerly through the windows, when suddenly there was excitement and buzz all-round; and sure enough Swami’s car quickly appeared on the tarmac.

Swami got out of the car and moved onto a special mobile chair that was then taken to the special elevator. Slowly, the elevator then took Swami and His chair from the ground level to that of aircraft door. A few moments later, Swami was in the aircraft, and what a feeling it was to be with Swami in such exclusive company in an executive jet! I am sure there are millions out there absolutely jealous of me!

     
    spacer    
Everyone present craves for the final darshan
 
The Lord is slowly glided into the plane

It was a special blessing and privilege, and right there I resolved that I would express my thanks by doing my best to capture this entire trip in a wonderful radio documentary, and a companion stirring article in H2H.

 
   
Sai in all smiles inside the divine carrier

The moment Swami got in, a whole lot of people tried not only to get padanamaskar, but also their photos along with Swami. Naturally, everyone who was around did his best to seize the opportunity, but then Capt. Sharma who manages the airport and the Captain of the aircraft had their own responsibilities. When a flight plan is filed, and this has to be done in advance, then the aircraft has to leave as scheduled. So, at some point, all people not flying were asked to leave so that the door of the aircraft could be shut!

This was done and I thought all picture taking was over; no it was not, for now the steward on the flight came to Swami, took namaskar, and had his picture taken, with his cell phone of course!

We were now all told to wear the seat belts. In earlier flights, Swami never did and no one dared to suggest that to Him either. This time, the steward mentioned this to Swami. Swami smiled and I think Satyajit did the needful.

The engines were revved up and the Captain made the usual announcements.  Like all modern aircrafts do these days, this one too had LCD panels connected to a GPS system that showed maps, current location, etc. I noticed that the clock showed 8.10 a.m., that the distance to Madurai was 333 miles, and that the estimated flight time was 47 minutes.

     
    spacer    
And the momentous journey has begun...
 
Swami is probably now looking down from the window

 

It was all set, and slowly, the aircraft started moving even as everyone outside waved. Swami looked through the window and smiled. The taxiing was quickly over and in no time at all we were airborne and gaining height.

All of us who had gone to the airport to see Swami off, soon lost sight of the aircraft. But what happened within, as the plane sped to Madurai? Let’s find out from Prof G. Venkataraman.

 

Sai in the Sky

I have travelled with Swami a few times before, by air specifically, but it was a long time since I went with Swami in a small private jet like this. The last time I had this opportunity was in March 1999, and I believe that entire trip has been broadcast over Radio Sai as a talking book.

 
   
A unique opportunity for the plane crew

Unlike last time, on this occasion, there was much less talk, and whatever was said, was mostly driven by the GPS information appearing on the two LCD screens in the plane, one of it located right before Swami’s seat.

Shortly after the take off, the Captain showed up and offered his pranams, which was of course customary. About twenty minutes or so after we took off, Mr. Srinivasan signalled to me to move over to the vacant seat in front of Swami since that would help in answering Swami’s occasional questions, which, by the way, were mostly about the flight in progress. Swami’s voice, by nature soft, has lately become even softer and it was sometime difficult to catch what He was saying over the steady roar of the powerful engines, though they were only in the back.

And so, I moved over and sat right in front of Swami. Luckily for me, millions the world over did not know about it, for otherwise, they would not only have cursed me, but got me thrown out offering themselves as a much-superior candidate! Anyway, as a born-in-Madurai-fellow, a qualification that no one else on the flight could claim, I could sort of act as a running commentator as we approached closer and closer to the temple city.

 
   
Lofty blessings in high air!

On the whole, the flight was uneventful, and we touched down on the dot. It was about 9 in the morning, and the Sun was well up in the sky, beating down harshly I suppose, though we did not know about it till the aircraft door was opened.

Looking through the window, I could see the helicopter, which, apparently had actually done a dummy run to Kodai the previous day, and kept in waiting so that Swami could transfer easily. Actually there were two helicopters on the tarmac, but it was easy to figure out which was the one Swami would use. There were the characteristic signs, including Sevadals, standing in attendance.

As our plane taxied and came to a stop, Mr. Ramani, State President of Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Tamil Nadu was there to greet and welcome Swami, complete with the crew to help Bhagavan in coming down, for which purpose a special elevator had been arranged.

The helicopter was about fifty feet or so away from where the aircraft had parked, and Swami was taken in a moving chair right from the plane, via the elevator, onto the tarmac, and rolled over to the small ramp near the helicopter. Unfortunately, none of us had cameras and airport security being what it is, hardly anyone of the receiving party had a camera either.

In any case, all were on duty with specific jobs to do, and photography was not one of them. What I am trying to say is that sadly, H2H cannot present any photos relating to this part of the Divine journey.

After Swami got down, the entire elevator was moved away and we stepped down using a built in ladder in the aircraft. And having got down, we slowly walked away to the terminal building since everyone was asked to clear out of the tarmac and be near the arrival building while the helicopter took off.

Swami Transfers to His Exclusive Helicopter

 
   
After the plane, it was the helicopter's chance

Thus it was that I saw Swami take off from the side. The helicopter was a relatively small one with only four passenger seats, located behind the two seats in the front, one for the pilot and the other one for his assistant. The four seats were arranged as two pairs, facing each other.

There was plenty of plexi-glass all round so that every passenger could have a very good view of the outside. From where all three of us stood, namely, Mrs. Ratan Lal, Dr. Dash and myself, apart of course from Mr. Ramani, Swami could be seen very clearly.

Soon the engines were revved up, and it took about three or four minutes before the Captain slowly raised the helicopter above the tarmac. Thereafter, he just followed the runway from about five metres or so above the ground, and when he reached the far end, he just rose sharply and flew away; within a minute, Swami was out of our sight!

Having seen Swami off, the question now was: How were we to go to Kodai? Mr. Ramani said, “Listen, all arrangements have been made, but first please come with me inside to the airport officer’s room where we shall serve breakfast. Breakfast first, and all talk afterwards.” We just obeyed and silently followed him to the airport officer’s room, where three packed breakfasts were waiting for us.

 
   
The chosen band of Sai's boys who were
taken care of at every stage of their journey

None of us were keen on eating and we nibbled just a little bit, while Mr. Ramani, who had left Kodai at 2.30 that morning, had some breakfast himself. He was really carrying a crushing load.

In the morning, soon after arriving in the city, he first made sure that the student party led by Mr. Narsimha Murthy was being taken proper care of, and more important, they left by 5 a.m., so that they could be in Kodai by the time Swami arrived there! After attending to all those arrangements, he came to the airport to take care of an entirely different set of duties.

A Surprise Heli-Ride!

As we were finishing breakfast, Mr. Ramani said, “Originally, all three of you were supposed to come with me by car to Kodai. But today, there is a bandh called for by a political party. I should mention here that the election season was in full swing, and in fact that day was polling day in Puttaparthi.

Tamil Nadu, however, was having its polling much later in May, and the election fever was at its highest. Which meant a lot of tension, etc., and this bandh meant complete stoppage of transport in the big city. That was one reason why the student party got out of town very early. It was not clear whether we would be obstructed, and so it was decided that the three of us would get a helicopter ride! When I heard that, I said ‘wow’, since I had never before had a chopper ride, although I have flown by air many times and in many parts of the world.

     
    spacer   sia  
'Sai Shruti' is all decked up...
...
 
...eager to receive her Sweet Sai

 

That meant we just sat there and waited, carrying on small talk. I asked Mr. Ramani, “OK, we take off, but what about you?” He gave a Mona Lisa smile and replied, “Look, I have many things to tie up. I cannot come right away. In any case, all your hand baggage cannot go in the helicopter.

I have to take it with me and deliver it to you in Kodai.” We then asked, “How long do you think we have to wait here?” He said, “Swami would reach Kodai in about 25 minutes. The helicopter has to cool off for a while before it can take off again. The pilot has to then come back. After that he has to refuel and so there is plenty of time ahead! Just take it easy!”


While Mrs. Ratan Lal, Dr. Dash and Prof. G. Venkataraman were waiting in Madurai Airport, Swami sped to Kodai. And believe it or not, He was there in less than half an hour! Let us first hear the sounds of the helicopter touching down in Kodai.

     
    spacer    
The unique helicopter ride of the Lord culminates in the specially made helipad in Kodai
 
Devotees wait eagerly for the Lord to finally land
in the serene hill station

That was the helicopter carrying Swami, landing in Kodai. From the helipad, Swami drove straight to Sai Sruthi, and needless to say, there were big crowds lined up all along the route. Some say that the drive from the helipad to Sai Sruthi took more time than the ride from Madurai to Kodai. No wonder. If devotees had wings, they would have choked the airways too!

     
    spacer    
The Lord is given a red-carpet welcome
 
And soon He is on His way to Sai Shruti


 
   
Kodai exults as the Lord showers His benedictions

 

We hope you appreciate how different this trip was for Swami. At 8 a.m. He was in Puttaparthi airport. By 10.30 a.m. He was being greeted by His students in Sai Sruthi! Incredible! More about that, but first let us listen again to Mr. Narasimha Murthy, about their trip to Kodai, and getting there before Swami.

     
    spacer    
As soon as He arrived, the Divine Mother enquired with the boys about their journey, food, etc.
 
The first arathi in Kodai Kanal as Swami retires
into His residence after His arrival

 

The Lord is Warmly Welcomed by His Students

The students, 36 in number, plus myself, left Prashanti Nilayam by bus around 2 p.m. the previous day, and went to Bangalore International airport, and from there flew to Madurai. We stayed at Madurai that night, and on the next day, the 23rd, we left early in the morning, at 4:30, and reached Kodai kanal one hour before Swami reached there. So we were there to welcome Swami when He arrived at Sai Shruthi.

Swami arrived at 10 a.m. on the 23rd and He came to Sai Shruthi and the boys were all waiting to go inside. But we didn’t take our luggage inside because we wanted to go inside only after Swami came!

 
   

Everybody was sitting with their luggage and waiting under the shade on a side, and as soon as Swami came, we all stood up!

Only after Swami went inside, and after He gave word for the boys to come inside, did they go in. When Swami asked the boys to get the luggage, they were very, very happy.

And since they had traveled separately, they actually had a little doubt if Swami would allow them to live in the room next to the hall this time.

But once Swami permitted they rushed and occupied the little space in the hall. So that is how the day started for the students in Kodai.

Let’s catch up now with Prof. G. Venkataraman and others. We can’t leave them behind, can we?

Helicopter Rides Can Be Fun!

As I mentioned earlier, while we were cooling our heels in Madurai airport, we got a minute to minute commentary about Swami’s movements, thanks to Mr. Ramani and his cell phone. Boy, what a difference this gadget has made to communications!

 
   
The chopper that returned to pick up Prof. Venkataraman, Dr. Dash and Mrs. Ratan Lal

Suddenly someone burst into the room where we all were and asked Mr. Ramani, “What are these people doing here? The helicopter pilot is waiting! He wants to take off immediately, because after dropping these people, he has other duties!” We obviously did not know that the helicopter had returned, refuelled and all that! Anyway, we rushed and soon we were in the copter.  

We just went in and climbed into the chopper – no ladder, no steps, etc. – just climbed in! And it so happened I got the seat earlier occupied by Swami! Honest, I did not scheme or manoeuvre!

The helicopter was quite small but comfortable nevertheless. The windows were real big and one could get a very good view of the outside. When Swami went, there were only three passengers, but this time one more joined us; he was an official connected with the charter company.

As we all fastened the belt, this was a must in the chopper, I heard the pilot telling his colleague, “I have to drop these people in Kodai, get back to Madurai, do a trip to Madras, and from there go to Bangalore by night!” When I heard this, I said to myself, “My goodness, this guy is sounding like a taxi driver!”

The rotor blades were set in motion, and we could see those huge things going all round us and a bit above us. The pilot waited quite a while till the blades were up to the right rpm (revolutions per minute), and then he lifted; the chopper just went up, and it was like floating! He took the chopper to about four meters and then started moving. He went exactly as he did when he flew Swami, that is to say, he strictly followed the runway, and once he reached the end, he quickly went up.

This being my first ride, I was of course excited. But what increased my excitement was I was very familiar with this neighbourhood, and was busy trying to identify familiar landmarks. I could of course clearly see the Tiruparankunram hill at the base of which is a famous Subramanya temple, the railway line leading to Trivandrum, and the hill range by the side of which is the Madurai University campus. But other landmarks that I wanted to spot, I completely missed.

The chopper was gathering speed and also height, and soon I just settled down to enjoying the glorious view from about 5000 or 6000 feet.

 
   
The beautiful Kodai view from high above

Down below were green paddy fields, looking like a chess board. Meanwhile, I kept looking at my watch all the time. I was given to understand the ride would take about 25 minutes; 20 minutes had gone by and there was no sight of the mountains.

I was asking myself, “What’s going on?” And then, all of a sudden, the mountains appeared straight ahead, and we were almost at the level of the mountain top. And the Captain was saying he would touch down in a few minutes.

I braced myself for identifying the Kodai landmarks that I knew, and soon we were flying above and past the TV tower, which, by the way can be seen from Sai Sruthi.

And before I knew it, I saw down below, to my right, some distance away of course, the lake, and right by its side, Sai Sruthi. I was excited and pointed it out to Mrs. Ratan Lal and Dr. Dash. Within half a minute after that, we were descending in no time at all, we had touched down on the helipad.

We had taken just about 30 minutes to reach Kodai after leaving Madurai airport. It was simply unbelievable! I think the time was about 12 0’clock. At 8 we were in Puttaparthi, and by noon, here I was on top of the mountain, after spending nearly two hours at the Madurai airport! It was like a dream!

While I sat wondering, the rotor blades started slowing down. We were of course severely warned not to try getting down, but I guess there must have been a door lock that would anyway have prevented any attempt to open the door until the release switch was operated by the Captain. I was waiting for the rotor to stop completely; but no, we were asked to get out even while it was still moving, though quite slowly.  

I should here mention a few important facts. The first is that this helipad had been specially prepared just a week or so earlier at the private estate of the late Raja of Sivaganga, whose grandson now owned the estate. This gentleman is not only a Sai devotee but also a Sevadal volunteer. The estate is about a dozen or so acres, right at the top of the hill, and the helipad was made specially for Swami.

I was told that in case there were clouds [which sometimes happens] the helicopter carrying Swami was to land at a special alternate helipad constructed just for Swami at the foothill, from where Swami was to be taken up the hills by road. Fortunately, the weather was fine, and also free from turbulence and Swami flew straight to Kodai.

 
   
These boys could not have asked for a better vacation!

We had a good ride, as Swami also had, as I learnt from the Captain. By the way, I should mention that the inside of the cabin was not only pressurised, but also relatively noise free – in all the old models, there used to be heavy chopper noise inside. Earlier Swami had gone once to Alike from Bangalore by chopper and had mentioned a lot about the deafening chopper noise. This time, it was a noise-free ride, relatively speaking that is.

Outside, there were a few cars waiting and we were asked to rush and take our seats. And guess what? By the time we had got into the car, the chopper had already taken off and was on its way back to Madurai! In about fifteen minutes or so we were in Sai Sruthi. As I got down from the car, I was told Swami was with the students, which meant I must immediately go in and report my arrival.

Sai Amidst His Chosen Ones

As I entered the hall, the sight that greeted me really filled me with surprise. Not only was Swami looking fresh as a rose, but in fact, He was fully engaged in a lively conversation with the students, who were crowding round Him, grabbing the chance of a lifetime. He was smiling and joking and what not; it was amazing because I had not seen such a scene for nearly a dozen years now.

In olden times, Swami used to spend hours and hours in close company with students, but in recent time, the traffic of VIPs plus the heavy schedule of various events staged before Him, in addition to a few other factors, made such close encounters shall I say, an almost impossible thing, except momentarily perhaps, at the end of a music or drama performance say. But this was different, and I was so happy to see Swami so happy.

The All Compassionate Mother

 
   
For Swami, His students are always His primary concern

As we entered, Swami turned to us and greeted us. His first question was: “Did you have anything to eat?” I was touched; who would remember to ask such a question, but for Swami those things are very important. We replied, “Swami we were taken good care of by Mr. Ramani at Madurai airport.” For Swami, that was not enough. “What were you given for breakfast?”

We dutifully mentioned all the items we were fed. Next question, “But what about tea, coffee?” This was just too much! We replied, “Swami, we were offered all that and a choice of fruit juices too, but we declined and only drank some water!”

Swami’s eyes then wandered to the wall clock. Noticing the time, Swami said to the boys, “Get up, it is time for lunch.”

So that was Prof. G. Venkataraman, taking us to Swami announcing the lunch break on day 1. For a moment, let us go back to Mr. Narasimha Murthy again, and a few words from him comparing this arrival in Kodai with earlier ones.

Golden Memories of Earlier Years

 
   
Devotees were thrilled to see their Lord in the Bhajan Hall on the first day of His stay in Kodai

In the earlier days, when Swami would travel to Kodai by road from Madurai, His car would reach early. And the boys would be traveling in a mini-bus or a big bus. Generally, they would be slightly late, and Swami would be waiting for their arrival! He would keep all the snacks/tiffin ready for them, and wait for them!

On one particular trip, I can’t remember the year, it was a Sunday and there was heavy downhill traffic in the evening, and the boys’ buses got stuck in the traffic. Swami had reached at 6:30 or so and the boys’ bus reached at 11 in the night and Swami was still waiting for us! He gave us dinner in the dining hall and told the boys: “Since you arrived late and are sleeping late, you can get up late – by 8 o’ clock!” That is His love for His students and anyone who is associated with His students!

In recent years, day one generally tends to have a light schedule, which of course is understandable. It was so this year (in 2009) too, with a few minutes of evening bhajans.

 
   
 

For the record we might mention that when Sai Sruthi was first built in the mid eighties, it lacked many of the facilities we all take so much for granted. In fact, the story of the birth of Sai Sruthi is itself an interesting story, and maybe, we shall make it a part of our narrative some other day. For the moment, we would just like to say that the Bhajan Hall was built much later, as a part of the gradual expansion of the Sai Sruthi complex. Once the Bhajan Hall came into existence, Swami held bhajan sessions there, with of course, His boys leading the bhajans.

Part - 12

Dear reader, as mentioned in the article, this episode gave you a glimpse of the proceedings of day one of Bhagavan’s Divine Visit to Kodai Kanal in April 2009. We will be following this first episode with another 11 articles to cover all the 12 days of Swami’s stay in Kodai in the coming issues of H2H. So there are plenty of interesting stories and pictures in the pipeline. Do not miss this treasure in h2hsai.org

 

- Heart2Heart Team

 

Articles by Section
Go to Radio Sai
Go to Publications Division Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust
Go to Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust
counter for wordpress