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Home > Cover Story > Part 1

Abodes of Happiness
... The Abounding Grace of Sai to Orissa

Part 2

While the Sai Organisation of the State of Orissa was in full swing, delivering relief supplies along with comforting and consoling words to those who had lost all hope of ever piecing their lives together, their prayers had touched the powerhouse of compassion and caring, that is Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

As the Dasara celebrations in Puttaparthi were reaching their crescendo in October 2008, out of the blue, Bhagavan Baba advised Mr. V. Srinivasan, the All India President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organsiations, to announce to the huge concourse of devotees assembled on October 7 that He had willed to undertake the Orissa Flood Relief and Rehabilitation Project Himself!

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Bhagavan Baba, so happy after directing Mr. V. Srinivasan to make an historic announcement
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"Where there is suffering, there is Sai to help" - Mr. V. Srinivasan, All India President of Sai Orgn
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Leading by Example, Sai Demonstrates True Love Involves Sacrifice

To a deafening applause, the visibly moved Mr. V. Srinivasan spoke of Bhagavan’s love for the poor, suffering and devastated, and said, “Seven districts of Orissa are totally inundated. Hundreds of villages are completely destroyed. Bhagavan’s heart has gone out to them. Everyday He is in pain thinking about them. And now Bhagavan has decided that immediately a sum of 10 crore rupees (US $2 million) will be given to the state of Orissa for construction of new houses for those who have lost them.”

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Watch this clip to witness
the compassion of tender Sai
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The Lord could not stand the
suffering of thousands in far away Orissa
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Taking more instructions from Swami, He again took the podium and declared, “These houses that will be built for the marooned villagers, will not be temporary; they will be strong and sturdy concrete structures which would be permanent. Also, it would not only be homes, it would be supplemented with schools and other necessities.” And then came another announcement from Swami through Mr. Srinivasan, “Swami would sell the hilltop building in Kodaikanal and the Sri Sathya Sai Airport at Puttaparthi and utilize those funds for such service activities.”

“These houses that will be built for the marooned villagers, will not be temporary; they will be strong and sturdy concrete structures which would be permanent. Also, it would not only be homes, it would be supplemented with schools and other necessities.”

Sai Sanctions Instant Action, Appoints High Profile Team to Assess Magnitude of Devastation and Action Plan

As the All India President narrated the pathetic condition prevailing in the coastal districts of Orissa which he had himself seen during his recent trip, the compassionate Lord was deeply moved. His tender heart seemed unable to bear the suffering of His children. As the speaker went on, Swami again called Mr. Srinivasan and issued another command, "Right after Vijayadashami (the final day of Dasara), you, Mr. Kondal Rao of the Andhra Pradesh Government and Mr. A. Ramakrishna, the former Vice President of Larsen & Toubro, leave for Orissa, and make plans so that in two months time, those people have homes!"

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Thr Lord wanted permanent houses
to be built in record time
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That was how concerned and eager the Lord was to relieve the plight of the rural folk in Orissa. As per His divine command, the distinguished team He had appointed to assess the situation, left for Orissa immediately after the festival, and surveyed the four severely affected districts, namely, Cuttack, Puri, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur. After they reported to Swami the extent of the damage and the rough estimate of the houses that needed to be built in each of the four affected districts, Swami sent them again to Orissa on November 3.

This time they were to meet the officials at the Secretariat of the state Government of Orissa and discuss the nitty-gritty details for the construction of houses, right from acquiring land to identifying the beneficiaries, to working out the finance and logistics of the entire project. During this second trip, Swami added another member to the team, the ashram’s in-house civil engineer, Mr. C. Prusty, who has been serving the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust at Prasanthi Nilayam for over 8 years.

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The four districts of Puri, Cuttack, Kendrapada and Jagatsinghpur in Orissa where
new homes are being gifted by Sai to the grief-striken
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Mr. V. Srinivasan, Mr. Kondal Rao and Mr. A. Ramakrishna during their Orissa survey
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Mr. V. Srinivasan went to every corner of the villages to assess the damage
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Orissa Government Welcomes Sai Initiative, Offers Full Cooperation

Summarising the meeting with the officials of the state Government of Orissa, Mr. Prusty said, “We presented to the government the location and list of houses that Swami would like to build, and sought their cooperation in getting us land clearances and approach roads built to reach the devastated hamlets, as well as electricity, water supply and other civic amenities for the proposed homes. The Chief Secretary of the state consented to all our requests, and then and there instructed his subordinates to take relevant action at various levels.”

After this second trip concluded successfully with all the issues sorted out, Swami was now eager to start the actual work. And for this, He sent Mr. C. Prusty on November 24, the very next day after His 83rd birthday.

State’s Chief Secretary Lauds Sai Project

He reached Orissa on November 26 and on November 30, the first ground breaking ceremony was performed by Mr. Ajit Kumar Tripathy, the Chief Secretary of the Government of Orissa, who was the honourable chief guest of the occasion.

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The plans of the buildings
and layout of the site
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Mr. Ajit Kumar Tripathy, the Chief Secretary of the Government of Orissa, arrives for the first ceremony
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Speaking on that morning in the village of Nadiabarai (Kendrapada District), Mr. Tripathy, said:

“I am so grateful to Swami for this opportunity to be a part of His project. Generally, I am so occupied that making time for occasions like this is extremely difficult, but I surely wanted to be present for this ceremony, and I am glad to be here today. Also, I usually keep away from all public occasions whenever government projects are concerned; I would rather leave it to the politicians to do the honours. But this project is absolutely different. Swami has been deeply concerned about providing relief to you. Dear villagers, we are fortunate for this great blessing from the Divine. Therefore, keeping aside any differences you may have among yourselves, extend whole-hearted cooperation to the engineers and contractors of this project.”

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The earmaked site for the construction
of a house in Nadiabarai (Kendrapada Dt.)
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The new houses were built in the areas
where the old ones existed
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Sai Rescues with His Mission , Men and Message of Oneness

He went on to explain in detail the various problems that could erupt as the project proceeded and suggested their remedies too. He urged the villagers to unite, and quoting Swami, he said, “There is only one Caste, the caste of Humanity; there is only one Religion, the Religion of Love; there is only one Language, the Language of the heart; there is only one God and He is Omnipresent. And He is as much here as He is in Puttaparthi or in Puri. He is in all of us in the same measure. Let’s work for Him.”

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The Chief Guest breaking coconuts during the ground breaking ceremony
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"We are really fortunate for this blessing from
the Divine" - Mr. Ajit Tripathy
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After his riveting talk, food was served and blankets were distributed to all the rural folk of that area. And from that moment onwards, the project started in full swing. Just four days later, the second ground breaking ceremony was performed, this time in Manibad, Cuttack district. Soon, construction started in Penta and Samsara, two more villages in the Kendrapada district, followed by Billipada in the district of Puri. In a matter of 15 days, work was in progress in 5 simultaneous sites, and this number grew to 12 by the end of the first 30 days.

In a matter of 15 days, work was in progress in 5 simultaneous sites, and this number grew to 12 by the end of the first 30 days.

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Another ground breaking ceremony
attended by Mr. V. Srinivasan
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Deep foundations that can withstand
any future flooding
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Project Poses Unique Challenges, None Insurmountable by Sai Will

The construction agency involved in this project was M/s M. S. Ramarao. When we met the firm’s director, Mr. Sridhar, and asked him what he felt was really exceptional about this project, he said:

“From a construction standpoint, the uniqueness of this project is also its major challenge. Here we are building houses for people who would have never dreamt in their lives of having such permanent homes, and it is happening right in front of their eyes, in their own lands. While this is a great feeling, the flip side of this is that all the houses are scattered widely. To construct 5000 houses in one fixed site which has easy access to raw material and good roads, is not so challenging as building 500 houses, spread over more than a dozen locations, which are remote and isolated, have pathetic connectivity in all respects.

"For example, the distance between the first and second site is 200 kilometres! Like this, work is going on in parallel in 12 sites. To monitor all of these simultaneously and conform to the strict timetable is no small task. Besides, even within one village, the huge distance between the houses (sometimes hundreds of metres) posed a great test.

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The state of the rural hamlets in Orissa
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The current (left) and the new one coming up
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"Being involved in this project is a self-fulfilling experience" - Mr. Sridhar
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“Apart from this, given the under-developed condition of these areas, everything is a challenge, right from finding the right kind of labour to procuring raw materials to recruiting experienced engineers to expedite the work. Therefore, the sheer width, scope and location of the project are all huge differentiating factors than any work we have done so far.

"...the distance between the first and second site is 200 kilometres! Like this, work is going on in parallel in 12 sites. To monitor all of these simultaneously and conform to the strict timetable is no small task. Besides, even within one village, the huge distance between the houses (sometimes hundreds of metres) posed a great test.

“But at the same time, the most amazing thing about this whole endeavour is that we are able to do it! I still cannot believe that it is happening! For example, in the villages Manibad-Jharkota, we performed the bhoomi puja on December 4 and soon after we were supposed to start the construction. Before this, we had to finish the layout of every house, and it was taking one day to come up with the drawing of one house. And there were 51 houses, which meant two months! I was not getting anywhere.

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The houses in various stages of construction
in Manibad, Cuttack District
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The workers toil day and night
happily for these dwelling
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"None of the raw materials, be it laterite stones or flyash bricks was reaching that place. I had 15 people working in that site at that time, and when Mr. C. Prusty enquired about the progress, I confidently said, ‘More people are coming’. I had no clue from where the additional human resource was going to materialise. But today, the strength of people there is 65! And the project there is nearing completion. I am sure something is working behind the scenes to make all this happen.”

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The 'unseen hand of God' seen here!
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“So, what has been your approach to this project?” We quizzed him again.

High Quality, Tight Timelines Define Sai Project

“Our motivation here is completely different; we are not here for money. Financial constraint does not delay any aspect of this work; our focus is to only deliver quality and on time. We are virtually running with the project.”

In fact, ‘quality’ and ‘time’ is what Bhagavan too emphasized when He announced about this project for the first time, and on many subsequent occasions to Mr. V. Srinivasan and others involved in this project.

Engineering marvels, attention to detail and futuristic vision are typical of all projects that are inspired by Sai. Explaining clearly the explicit directions given by Bhagavan, Mr. C. Prusty, said:

“Swami instructed that the houses should be built at a higher ground level, so that it protects them from heavy rains next time. Therefore, wherever the land is low, we are increasing the height of the plinth in the foundation of the house. Also we are placing a three inches RCC (Reinforced Cement Concrete) band in the plinth, so that even if there is any pressure from the ground below, it would not transmit to the super structure. Similarly, we are placing one more band at the door level. These two bands should take care of either upward or downward pressure, and protect the house if exposed to calamities like the recent flood again in the future. Additionally, we are providing lintels above the windows. Thus, in this manner, we are following the best practices of construction to ensure that the houses are built really strong.

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The elevated plinth to safeguard against
future such tragedies - this one is made of laterite
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The walls are as strong and
steady as the plinth
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Mr. A. Ramakrishna, the former Vice President of Larsen & Toubro inspects one of the sites
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Engineers explaining details of
the work to a site foreman
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"By His grace, we are working
in full swing" - Mr. C. Prusty
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Leaving No Brick Unturned to Ensure Structural Stability

“Another clear instruction from Bhagavan was that each house should be a complete dwelling unit by itself with one big room, kitchen, bathroom and a verandah. Swami also mentioned that there should be racks in the house and a wash area adjacent to the kitchen. The toilet is separated from the house as per Government standards. Though there are many single units, wherever possible we are doing double houses and placing them as close to each other as we can, so that it helps to create a sizable colony.

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Every batch of bricks is tested
in a laboratory to check their quality
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The open foundations are deep to ensure that
the houses last hundreds of years
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“Also, to ensure that quality is not compromised in anyway, we are testing every batch of bricks in a laboratory to check their water absorption capacity and compressive strength. Every red brick should be able to withstand 40-50 kilograms per sq. cm, while fly ash bricks can take up to 70-80 kilograms per sq. cm. If the bricks do not conform to these standards, we reject the lot. Also, to be sure about the uniform application of such quality standards at every site, we organized a special classroom session for all the engineers and gave them the blue print of our plan and procedure. This interaction programme helped a great deal in clearing many doubts lurking in the minds of some of the fresh engineers.”

"...to ensure that quality is not compromised in anyway, we are testing every batch of bricks in a laboratory to check their water absorption capacity and compressive strength. Every red brick should be able to withstand 40-50 kilograms per sq. cm, while fly ash bricks can take up to 70-80 kilograms per sq. cm. If the bricks do not conform to these standards, we reject the lot."

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A training session for the fresh engineers
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They found it immensely useful
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Very dedicated to His mission, since the time Bhagavan entrusted him with the job, Mr. Prusty has stationed himself centrally in the state capital Bhubabeswar, to oversee all these construction sites and projects. We asked this ashram resident, “Don’t you miss darshans having to stay away from Prasanthi Nilayam since November 26?”

“I do,” said the short and sexagenarian engineer, adding, “But, at the same time, ‘Duty is God’. I feel very blessed that Swami has given me such a golden opportunity to be a part of His work. I remember, when we left, Swami had lovingly said, ‘Go, I will look after everything; have no worries whatsoever.’ And I feel He is with me all the time. The problems that arise today, fade away tomorrow. Besides, Swami is constantly guiding us by sending instructions through the All India President. Therefore, I am only beholden to the Lord for granting me this chance to be a part of this divine mission.”

"‘Duty is God’. I feel very blessed that Swami has given me such a golden opportunity to be a part of His work. I remember, when we left, Swami had lovingly said, ‘Go, I will look after everything; have no worries whatsoever'.... I am only beholden to the Lord for granting me this chance to be a part of this divine mission."

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"I am only beholden to the Lord for this opportunity" - Mr. Prusty
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Foundations done for an extended
site of new Sai Homes
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Hope of a Home Evokes Villagers’ Participation

As we walked along with this humble and committed instrument of Bhagavan in one of the sites, he pointed towards a semi-completed house where small children along with their parents were gleefully pouring water on the construction, and said, “This is what gladdens my heart. Even without our suggestion, people themselves are carrying water and curing the brick work.” We saw two little kids lugging small bags of sand in a mason’s pail and filling the plinth of the houses enthusiastically. It was absolutely moving.

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They shared sense of purpose and joy - even children help in the task of building these new homes
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Every beneficary lovingly cures his
upcoming home with water
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Watch how every body wants to do
his/her bit in this sacred task
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“There is so much unity in these villagers now, after we started the project. I feel they are being united by a spiritual power,” added Mr. Prusty, and continued, “This has helped us greatly in expediting the progress of the work. We are now building 253 houses in Cuttack district which are spread in the villages of Maniwad, Jharkota, Khondohota, Rahamba, Sithala and Keutapatna. Similarly, 150 of them are coming up in the district of Puri, and another 199 in the Kendrapada district. We have already completed one model house and sent the pictures to Swami. We were happy to know that it met His expectations.”

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The model home completed
and presented to Bhagavan...
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One big room, a kitchen, bathroom,
verandah and plenty of shelves
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A New, Concrete Home is a Dream Come True

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All our sorrows have vanished;
Sai Baba is our God, says Mrs. Tara Jena
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When we went to this model house in the Kendrapada district, we were thrilled to see the devotion of people in that area. There was a marquee (orshamiana) and altar for Swami right at the entrance of the village.

As we keenly took pictures of the new, light pink and mellow yellow building, the beneficiaries of that house soon gathered. Now, we could not but engage them in a conversation.

“Our eyes are filled with tears of joy... Who else, but God, can give us such a beautiful home?”

“How do you feel seeing this house?”

“Our eyes are filled with tears of joy,” said the lady of the family. “Who else, but God, can give us such a beautiful home?” Her voice was choked and she bent her head to wipe her overflowing eyes with a corner of her saree. We too were speechless. After a pause, we asked again.

“Did you know Sai Baba before?”

Project Appeases Physical and Spiritual Hunger

“No. After we had lost everything, including our house, to the flood, survival had become very difficult. It was at this time that some people came to our village, and presented us with flattened rice, sugar, candles, matchboxes, blankets, tarpaulin sheets, etc. More than this, they helped us to clear the mud-filled hole which was once our house, and spoke to us very lovingly.

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The Bal Vikas children at Nadiabarai - full of devotion for Sai
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"They assured us that they would take care of us, and help us rebuild our ruined home. Not only this, they checked our health too and brought us medicines. And later new clothes, rice, etc. When we asked them who they were, they said Sai Baba has sent them. It was only then that we heard about Sai Baba.

“And the next day, they came and told us they are going to build an absolutely new house for us! We could not believe our ears! Only God can do such a thing for unfortunate people like us… Now, we are sure we will spend the rest of our lives in peace and happiness as Baba’s compassion is there on us. We worship Him everyday.”

After this, the lady called all the small children standing around her, and together the small group, with folded hands and closed eyes, started singing, “Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam…” (The first bhajan that Baba Himself sang in the 1940's when He declared that He was ‘Sai Baba’)

We were spellbound, to the say the least. We congratulated the children, saluted the lady and walked out of the house with our cameras. There was nothing more we wanted to ask.


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Watch Mrs. Tara Jena's happiness - so uplifting!
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The little children sing "Manasa Bhajare.."
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Sai Provides Homes, Hope, Employment and Life’s Purpose

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"We had never dreamdt of such houses" - workers
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In the next site, at Sithala (Cuttack district), when we saw a worker slogging it out in the hot sun, we approached him at an opportune time when he took a breather, and said, “You are working so hard, does it not bother you?”

“No sir, I am enjoying this,” said the man, to our astonishment. “Sai Baba is giving us these houses; we are extremely happy.

"We are daily wage poor labourers; even in our wildest of imaginations we could have never built such homes for ourselves.

"We are daily wage poor labourers; even in our wildest of imaginations we could have never built such homes for ourselves."

"For years, we have lived in only temporary thatched houses which get destroyed every other season. We had thought pucca (concrete) houses are not for people like us, but Sai Baba is so kind; He is making such beautiful houses for us.”

His eyes now overflowed. Another worker, who was standing next to him took over and continued, “These houses are Baba’s mercy to us. That is why we are working here with all our energy and vigour, as many hours as possible in a day… actually after this is over, we want to build a temple for Sai Baba in this village and worship Him to our heart’s content.”

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"Baba has give us these houses;
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A few snippets of the
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Topographically Sustainable Construction Planned

The devotion of these poor labourers which translated into hard and dedicated work for long hours everyday was simply heart touching. We saw them pouring pails of concrete into huge holes dug into the earth. It was evident that the foundation work of the houses was in progress; still what was being done there, in Sithala, was very different. Unlike other areas, they were no columns of huge pits dug on the ground; instead, there were only small holes into which long pipes were being inserted and cement mix poured.

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The ‘Pile foundation'
under way
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Pouring the concrete ring
above the piles
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We clearly wanted to know more, and seeing our puzzled faces, the Convenor of the Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Orissa, Mr. S. Mahapatra, came to our rescue. Explaining the procedure being done, he said:

“What you see here is a ‘Pile foundation’. Unlike open foundations, where 3-4 feet is dug below the ground level; in this case, the ‘piles’ or simply, ‘concrete columns’ go up to 10 feet underground. This type of foundation is best suited for areas where there is clay soil or if the ground is very loose. In this type of foundation, even if there is a erosion due to water leakage or flooding, the base remains intact. In fact, we have adopted this system of foundation in half of our total sites, as the earth in these areas, being coastal regions, is not firm enough.”

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The grade beam above the piles. In half of the villages, pile foundation was the method used
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Mr. S. Mahapatra, the Convenor of the
Sri Sathya Sai Trust, Orissa
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Elaborating more on the details on this procedure, Mr. Mahapatra, who is a civil engineer himself, said, “The method here is to drill a hole using a ‘bore drill’ and fill it up with concrete. Generally, for every house we make nine such deep pits which are then connected using a ‘grid beam’ on the top of the piles. Above this, are built the walls and floors of the house. Interestingly, even though this foundation is actually cheaper and faster than open foundations, the common people here neither know about this procedure nor do they have the special tools needed to adopt this technique.”

Disbelief, Gratitude and Higher Inspiration Fill the Environment

As we looked around, we did see the sophisticated equipment being used at the site. No surprise then that the villagers are giving their heart and soul to this work and are so grateful to Bhagavan.

The overwhelming sense of gratitude and disbelief was not limited to the beneficiaries of the project. Mr. Sridhar, the director of the construction agency also has a deep personal involvement at stake in this sacred project. When we asked him, “What impact has the project had on you as a person?” this industrial engineer, who had actually spent 14 years of professional life in the USA , took a deep breath and said, “For me, it is the most self-fulfilling work. I had never dreamt that one day I would be walking along with farmers and fishermen, and building houses for them.

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"Our objective in this project is quality
and time, not money" - Mr. Sridhar
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One of the almost completed houses
in Samsara, Kendrapada district
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"The sense of urgency and efficiency is also what I have learnt from being associated with this project. Everybody seems to be so disciplined and focused about their job with one single objective in their minds; nobody is laid back. I think that is what is making a world of difference in the unfolding of this project. Besides, if there is one virtue to which this project has opened my eyes, it is humility. And as days go by, I am realizing its value more and more.

“Actually, now I am an inspired man. As a company we too want to be involved in some philanthropic activity in these villages. I have indeed called a couple of my friends, who are doctors, to organize a medical camp here. The 39 years and 9 months of my life before I came here was a different story, from now on it is going to be a new ball game altogether...”

“Actually, now I am an inspired man. As a company we too want to be involved in some philanthropic activity in these villages. I have indeed called a couple of my friends, who are doctors, to organize a medical camp here. The 39 years and 9 months of my life before I came here was a different story, from now on it is going to be a new ball game altogether...”

Project Divinely Supervised and Executed

When God touches someone, directly or indirectly, he/she can never be the same again. And we found plenty of such instances in our interactions with villagers, Sai workers, labourers, officials and engineers. The District President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Kendrapada, Mr. Ramachandra Swain, said,

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It is Sai who is guiding us at every step in this project, says Mr. Ramachandra Swain, the District President of Kendrapada
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“In reality, the issue of land ownership in these villages is a very sensitive one. Often people can come to blows because of such conflicts, as no one would be prepared to concede even an inch. But as far as this project is concerned, they are so moved by what Bhagavan has done for them that they have forgotten their conflicts, and gladly offered their lands; often, at lower than the prevailing market price.”

Continuing to narrate another story of His grace, he said,

“I must share with you a small but delightful incident. A few weeks ago, we needed an additional plot of 2178 square feet to add more houses to the row of construction in the village Samsara. That would make a colony of 24 houses. Now, the owner of this additional plot of land promised to give it to us, but for some reason was dilly-dallying. I was in tension as I was soon nearing my deadline to submit the papers. I did not want to present a plan which had many deserving landless persons being left out.

"I had no other go but to pray hard that night. In the next morning, unexpectedly, the owner’s son landed from Mumbai and handed over the relevant papers to me in 24 hours.

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The only Doer behind all the action
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"I have seen the ‘hand of Sai’ in so many small instances like this. In fact, before we arrived here, there were two groups in this village, but now all are one. They are united in their devotion to Bhagavan.”

Energised by ‘Sainergy’, Selfless Work Brings Ineffable Joy

Mr. Ramachandra must have been in his sixties, but he seemed to be one of the most active Sai workers in the region. “What propels you to work so hard?” we asked him.

“I do not know, I feel I am fired by a tremendous energy which keeps me on my feet 28 days a month! I work round the clock but don’t feel exhausted. What really energises me is speaking to these poor villagers, mingling with them and sharing my love with them.

"I was just a science teacher all my life, but Bhagavan has now blessed me with such a precious opportunity to do His work. I feel it is the reward for all my years of sincerity and hard work. I am really filled with joy. I have no words to express my gratitude to Swami.”

One could see the thrill in his eyes as he went on to narrate how he has planned to undertake plenty of other spiritual and social welfare activities which would unite the villagers more strongly and promote harmony in the area. “I feel His presence all the time,” is how the inspiring and elderly Sai worker signed off.

"What really energises me is speaking to these poor villagers, mingling with them and sharing my love with them. I was just a science teacher all my life, but Bhagavan has now blessed me with such a precious opportunity to do His work. I feel it is the reward for all my years of sincerity and hard work. I am really filled with joy. I have no words to express my gratitude to Swami.”

It is the same enthusiasm and gratitude that inspires everyone from the State President of Sai Organizations in Orissa to every daily wage labourer involved in this project. “We are very happy to work for God. This is truly a dream house. We feel as if God Himself is coming to stay in our house. There is no end to our happiness. It is just overwhelming,” said a mason we spoke to in Penta (Kendrapada district).

When we asked him if he needed anything more in his life, he spontaneously said, “All we want now is a temple in this village, so that we can worship Bhagavan, and deserve His compassion for us. We want to be closer to Him; we want to live in peace and in His love.” The sincerity of his words was evident in his unsophisticated expressions. As soon as we thanked him for the conversation, he picked up his trowel and returned to his work. It seemed as if he did not want to lose a single second in anything unnecessary.

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Mr. Bhagavat Jena works more than 12 hours a day
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For the mason, Mr. Akshay Jena, the only goal of his life now is to dedicate completely to His work
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"We want to go near Him and
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“By the end of March, we want to complete these houses,” said another young mason, Mr. Bhagavat Jena, in the village, Penta. Turbaned with a red cloth to protect himself from concrete and water, and wearing a simple smile on his lips, he added, “I have not seen Sai Baba in person; nevertheless, I am so thrilled looking at these houses.

"If Baba asks me today, ‘How are you?’ I would say, ‘Earlier we were in great distress; the flood waters had caused havoc in our lives. But now, we are extremely happy’. In fact, His very name now removes all fears from our lives. Often times, I return to my temporary shelter very late in the night, but it does not bother me. I work gladly for more than 12 hours a day here. I am thoroughly enjoying this experience.”

‘Earlier we were in great distress; the flood waters had caused havoc in our lives. But now, we are extremely happy’. In fact, His very name now removes all fears from our lives.... I work gladly for more than 12 hours a day here. I am thoroughly enjoying this experience.”

The smile of Bhagavat Jena said more than his words. And even while he was speaking to us, he continued to plaster the walls. It was as if the work was more like a blessing to him than an assigned job.

Sai, the Provider of Life, Shelter and Mental Peace

And everybody in these villages, big or small, skilled or unskilled, joined in to do their bit joyfully, including the tiny tots of Mrs. Pushpalata Behera, the devout lady who saved the life of her husband with her sincere prayers. When we asked her, “Do you now have full confidence in your prayers?” She said, “The God who saved our life, is now giving us shelter too. And I know He will look after us all the way through. In fact, from the day the devotees of Sai Baba placed their foot on the soil of my village, life has only got better. Mentally, I feel so relieved.”

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In every face in these villages,
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'Can you please take us to Baba?'
- Mr. Rishi Malik of Billipada
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A colony of three houses on the verge of completion in Nadiabarai, Kendrapada district
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Poor Rishi Malik of Billipada (Puri district), who had been suffering due to no income and no house to provide for his five children and wife, said after seeing the foundation of his new house being laid right in front of his eyes: “Our years of prayers to God are now being answered. Once we have a shelter to return to at the end of the day, we can surely eke our livelihood and live happily. However, now we have only one request. We have not seen Sai Baba physically. Can you please take us to Him?

"Can my old wife too join me? Please, can you make this possible? Without seeing Him, we cannot rest in peace... He has given us so much. I only have one photo of Him and we worship that picture everyday with flowers and sandalwood paste. But once, we want to see Him with our own eyes…”

"Please, can you make this possible? Without seeing Him, we cannot rest in peace... He has given us so much. I only have one photo of Him and we worship that picture everyday with flowers and sandalwood paste. But once, we want to see Him with our own eyes…”

We could not but stare at him dazedly. He humbled everyone around with his sincere pining to be blessed with just one darshan. After a pause, we said, “Definitely. You are going to see Sai Baba! The Lord, who has given you so much unasked, will certainly grant you your wish.” We had no clue how he was going to see Swami physically, but we just knew it was going to happen, somehow, someday, surely.

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So happy to be in a 'Sai Village' -
The spontaneous joy of pure hearts
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She seems to say all our troubles have become so easy to handle; it's more happiness than ever before
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"The Lord who protected us, is now giving us shelters" - Mrs. Pushpalata
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"I cannot enter the house without
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Craving to Meet and Behold their Divine Benefactor

In reality, this was not the wish of Rishi Malik alone. Every village we went, this was the common request. Mr. Pramod Jena in Samsara (Kendrapada district) said,

“Rootless people like us are now being gifted concrete homes! But the greatest gift is that along with these houses, we are getting God! Now, we will live in a shelter where God Himself lives! We will convert every home into a place of worship. We want to dedicate our lives completely to Bhagavan. But our only desire is to go to Prasanthi Nilayam. Once, we want to see the face of our Lord….we will work very hard in the next few weeks to save whatever money we can. Please take us one time to Prasanthi.”

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We want to see Him and build a temple in our village to worship Him" - Mr. Pramod Jena
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Keys to Unlock a Whole New Life

On February 8, 2009, when Mr. C. Prusty, and his son Rameswar Prusty (who too was sent by Swami to stay with his father and help in executing the project) and the media team from Radio Sai that had just returned from their visit to Orissa, presented to Swami the pictures of the progress of the work and shared with Him the heartfelt feelings of the poor village folk, the Lord was very touched.

He wanted the houses to be completed at the earliest, so that He could personally present the keys and bless the affected families. The very mention of these villagers moistened His eyes, overwhelming Him. It was as if He was aware of every pang of their aching hearts.

The Lord knows when to bless, where to shower His grace, and how to fill His devotees’ hearts with His all encompassing love. The sacred festival of Rama Navami, which falls on April 3, is the red-letter date when Bhagavan is scheduled to hand over the gift of His ‘mansions of love’ to the first batch of His much loved poor devotees. That day, history will etch, in golden letters, another stirring saga of His ever-full and ever-flowing Pure Love.

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The teams from Prasanthi apprising the Lord with the progress of the work in Orissa
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Further instructions to Mr. C. Prusty and Rameswar Prusty before their departure to Orissa
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SSSVIP to Usher New Hope and a New Way of Life along with New Homes

Meanwhile, the Sai Youth of Orissa have not become silent after the flood relief operations. “Our vision now is to convert all these villages into Pilgrim Centres,” said Mr. Narayan Sar, the Sai Youth Coordinator. “We will pray to Swami to include all these villages into our Sri Sathya Sai Village Improvement Programme (SSSVIP), and work towards making them model Sai villages,” he added.

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"Bhagavan will be giving these villagers not a key, but a masterkey to a new life - Mr. H.K. Dash
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Mr. Hare Krishna Dash, the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Orissa, said, “When Bhagavan awards these villages with the key of their houses, it will be no ordinary key. That will, in fact, be the ‘Master key’ gifted by the Master Himself which will unlock the hidden treasures of their lives. And as a spiritual organisation, it will be our endeavour not to only improve the all round physical, mental and social health of these rural folk, but also strive to instill in them the divine purpose of their existence.

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The Sai Youth enthuse and vivify the atmosphere
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As new homes come up, the children are simountaneously being trained to become ideals
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"Each one has to be made to realize that he/she is, indeed, a spark of God and it is to God again one has to finally return. And to make this journey of our lives easy and simple, we have with us the most loving guide in our Beloved Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.”

“When Bhagavan awards these villages with the key of their houses, it will be no ordinary key. That will, in fact, be the ‘Master key’ gifted by the Master Himself which will unlock the hidden treasures of their lives."

Where there was death, devastation and distress, now there is love, harmony and peace. It is as if another flood has swept the coastal districts of Orissa, like a healing balm, soothing the sharp pain inflicted by its predecessor. This avalanche of love brings all positive and life changing developments in its trail, making it the most welcome and wholesome experience ever. The communities that were isolated, neglected and ostracized for generations have now become oasises of Love. Orissa, is now no more a deprived state, it is, in fact, a divine state; one that has won a special corner for itself in the heart of the all-loving and ever-giving, Lord Sai.

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The Magnificient Messiai of Pure Love!
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Part 2

Dear reader, how did you like this story? Did it inspire you in any way? Would you like more such stories focussed on Bhagavan's service projects for the needy and sick? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. We look forward to your feedback, comments and suggestions to help us serve you better. Thank you very much for your time.

- Heart2Heart Team


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Vol 7 Issue 03 - MARCH 2009
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