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Part 1

A conversation with Mr. V. Srinivasan

Mr. V. Srinivasan is an electrical engineer and an eminent industrialist. He is a former National President of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and also a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (USA). Currently, he is the All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, as well as a Member of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and Sri Sathya Sai Medical Trust.

The following is an excerpt of a conversation between Mr. V. Srinivasan and Prof. G. Venkataraman, former Vice Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai University, held in the Radio Sai studio in 2002.

G. Venkataraman (GV): Sairam and thank you so much for sparing some of your valuable time. I know you are really very busy. But, you have so much to share with all of us, the very large number of Radio Sai listeners. One of the things that devotees usually like to hear is how did different people come to Swami.  And in your case you have been with Swami for nearly four decades, am I right?

V. Srinivasan (VS): That is true.

GV: So, how did you come to Swami? Can you share with us the experience?

VS: I am a firm believer in the principle of cosmic timing. I believe that each one of us has a preordained moment for coming to Bhagavan, a moment willed and stipulated in the Divine Timetable, unknown to ourselves. In my case, the ‘moment’ came more than three decades ago, when a family member persuaded me to come and meet Bhagavan. And I was fortunate to see Swami in Madras (now Chennai) when He came there in 1970. 

The First Enigmatic Encounter

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Mr. V. Srinivasan

I met Swami at the house of the late Mr. Tarapore, a great devotee of Bhagavan. I was audacious enough to ask Swami a few pointed questions, but Swami patiently replied to all my queries.

And that, somehow, struck a chord in my heart, and marked the beginning of my journey to Him. In fact, within the next month, I came to Puttaparthi and there has been no turning back ever since.

The initial years with Swami were more of a ‘growing up’ experience. As happens with most of us, I came to Swami with a lot of ‘baggage’ - preconceived notions on what He is, what we are and how we should behave. 

But, over the years, under Swami’s merciful care and nurturing, I learnt that there was more to life than what was obvious. Slowly and steadily, the magnificence of Bhagavan’s mission began to unfold before my eyes. 

Baba Enlightens on the Soul of the Business

GV: Would you say that being with Swami also affected your work style?

VS: Definitely. To start with, Swami’s teachings had a tremendous impact on my work style. I had been in business for quite some time, and as you know, business is a domain where functioning with a scrupulous awareness of values is not regarded as good business sense. However, at no point of time did Bhagavan ask me to give up my business.

Corporate governance invalidates today the long-prevailing conception, or rather misconception, that values and successful business do not go together. But the fact is Bhagavan gave ‘horse sense’ to the current codes of business well before they became accepted theories of
conduct in business schools.

Instead, He always said, “Work is Worship. Duty is God.” Gradually, I have stepped back as Bhagavan made it possible for me to do so. Being with Bhagavan, I gained a sense of values.  I felt that I was not a part of the ‘rat race’. I learnt, to some extent, the virtue of contentment. I realised that whatever happens is for the good. 

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Corporate governance invalidates today the long-prevailing conception, or rather misconception, that values and successful business do not go together. But the fact is Bhagavan gave ‘horse sense’ to the current codes of business well before they became accepted theories of conduct in business schools.

Way back in the 1980’s itself, Bhagavan gave a talk to leading industrialists in Chennai, on how businessmen should conduct themselves and the perils of business without ethics. It was one of those invaluable lessons on management. Bhagavan stressed, as He does even today, the importance of a good leader, as the core principle of management.

Bhagavan further defined a good leader as one who ‘leads by example’ rather than giving long talks or trying to make others do what he wants.

All this gave me a firm belief that whatever Bhagavan has been enunciating was so relevant to every aspect of life as it exists in the world today, and as it will exist in the future. I realized that Bhagavan’s teachings were optimal solutions for the conduct of government and the interpersonal relationship between individuals and races, and applied all the way from a single individual to the whole of humanity.

The Ecstasy of Lodging with the Lord in Kodai Kanal

GV: Now, slightly changing the subject. You have been with Swami to Kodai Kanal many times over the years. Can you share with us some wonderful glimpses for the benefit of people who have never been to Kodai Kanal but have heard a lot about it? 

VS: Yes; if Bhagavan is a preceptor and a visionary, He is a wonderful companion as well. We had some unforgettable moments with this endearing aspect of Bhagavan whenever we were privileged to spend time with Him at Kodai Kanal. 

The first trip with Swami to Kodai Kanal happened in 1981. And if there was something which one could be certain about Bhagavan, it was His unpredictability. 

That year, Swami was in Ootacamund (Ooty) and I had gone with Him. My family, meanwhile, had gone to our little house in Kodai Kanal, a house which was about 100 years old, not very ornate, and with limited accommodation. So I called up my family in Kodai Kanal, telling them, “Look, Swami is in Ooty and I don’t think that He will come to Kodai Kanal. It is better that you wind up and come over here to Ooty.” Heeding my words, my family members set off from Kodai Kanal.

Suddenly, that evening, Bhagavan said, “We will go tomorrow to Kodai Kanal.”

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The Lord outside in the cool summer breeze of "Sai Shruti", His residence in Kodai Kanal

You can well imagine my plight. In those days, one didn’t have all these kind of elaborate STD (phones), let alone mobiles.  We had to go through the old fashioned ‘trunk’ system and book a call. It was quite an exercise to get through on the telephone. But I finally managed to call my wife to tell her, “Swami is coming tomorrow”.  She was incredulous. But that was Swami, springing surprises when one least expects them.

The next day, we started off.  It took about 8 hours to travel from Ootacamund to Kodai Kanal – driving down to Coimbatore, getting across the plains and the steep climb to the Palani Hills. We were a small group of people – Dr. Bhagavantam, Col. Joga Rao, C. Srinivas, and one other person, with Bhagavan. I must emphasize that the house was really an antediluvian specimen with old bedrooms and bathrooms.

But Swami spent ten days with us there with us, just like a family member! In the entire duration of His stay, a tiny gathering of barely 50 people would assemble for bhajans in the evening, which used to take place on the lawn outside. There was no bhajan hall or anything like that. But it was wonderful because Swami’s chair was placed against the Sun and during dusk it was a great sight. When the Sun, which was fiery red, was setting, it used to form an orb around Bhagavan’s hair such that it seemed the beautiful glow radiated actually from His hair. Those darshans of Bhagavan have remained etched in my memory.

Bhagavan would remark in those days, that a time would arrive when we will recognize Him from afar by His robe and His hair. And, verily, we can see that happening before us already. 

Bhagavan would remark in those days, that a time would arrive when we will recognize Him from afar by His robe and His hair. And, verily, we can see that happening before us already. 

Some of my cherished memories of the early Kodai trips were the bhajans we used to have by the fireplace.

GV: (chuckles)…You had a fireplace?

VS: Yes, we had a fireplace because it was an old house, so we had a wood log fire. Swami used to love to sit near this and at that time, the bhajan singers were just the family members, and we were not all that good. And the doors in the house would also squeak at that time. In fact, Swami would mischievously remark, “Not only the people, or the family of Srinivasan sing, even the doors here sing!”  That was Swami’s sense of humour.

Kodai Kanal today is a mini-Prashanthi Nilayam visited by unceasing throngs of devotees whenever Swami comes to reside at Sai Shruthi. It is indeed difficult to imagine now the sort of priceless, intimate moments we had with the Avatar, more than three decades ago.

Bhagavan Commands…And the Lame Walk!

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With Swami in the 1980's

GV: Now, talking of experiences you must share with us one or two more from your life.

VS: It was His supreme Love that drew us to Him, just as it attracts millions of people even today, like a Cosmic Magnet. One such glimpse of the Divine Love, I witnessed with my own eyes.

This happened in Prashanti Nilayam many years ago, in the ‘arch’ days (before the construction of the Sai Kulwant Hall). Bhagavan was walking amongst the people He has chosen for interview, and He came across a lady who was sitting with a fairly grown up child, about 10 years of age. This lady was sobbing inconsolably, for it turned out that the child was not able to walk. 

I was standing a little distance away from Bhagavan. And He selected this lady to proceed for interview. But the lady just couldn’t get up along with her child, who did seem quite well-built.

As the lady struggled to get up, I thought I would rush forward to help; I was then very new into the Sai fold and was unaware of Swami’s ways. Even as I moved towards her, Swami firmly asked me to “get back!” Shocked, I moved away. Swami then turned to this child and said, “Walk!” Lo and behold! The child ‘walked’, commanded by the Lord, to the interview room. God alone knows, after how many years! The whole gathering burst into a loud applause, even as tears came from my eyes.

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Offering aarthi to their sweet Lord

This is an experience which stands vividly even today in front of my eyes, an experience that I always value. 

This incident also revealed to me that Bhagavan can do anything, at any point of time, simply by His Sankalpa (Will). It is just that sometimes, He chooses not to do it instantly because He knows that the ‘right’ time or the appropriate time, is yet to arrive.

In this instance, Bhagavan did not wait for the regular interview. He did not even wait to materialize vibhuti, which He often does, to cure maladies on several occasions. He simply commanded the child, who implicitly obeyed!

It was indeed a very moving experience that taught me that Bhagavan chooses His own timetable, and everything is contained in the Divya Sankalpa (Divine Will), the Sai Sankalpa.

(To be continued)

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Vol 7 Issue 05 - MAY 2009
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