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Posted on : Oct 26, 2011
ORPHANED BY NATURE, ADOPTED BY GOD
the trails and triumphs, adversities and blessings
in the life of Mr. Anant Pandey, a young and energetic Sai devotee
|Gandhian and Social activist Anna Hazare|
Anant Pandey is now a known name in some Sai circles as the man who heard what Anna Hazare had to say about Sathya Sai Baba. (Anna Hazare is India's prominent social-activist leading the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement)
“I am just an instrument of Dharma, He is the embodiment of Dharma” - this statement of Anna Hazare makes a resounding and thrilling entry into our beings. Not that Baba needs ‘authentication’ of any sort but it gives us a measure of the inspiration and power that the very knowledge of His existence gives!
But that meeting with Anna Hazare happens to be barely a ‘raisin’ in the ‘cake’ of Mr. Anant Pandey’s life. His life has been a saga of difficulties and struggles but more important, it is testimony to the redeeming and uplifting experience that God’s grace confers. This ‘cake’ of his life has definitely not been a cakewalk but the Lord has His own ways of adding an icing and the cherry on top!
We met with the genial Anant Pandey in the studios and had with him a straight H2H - that’s right, a heart to heart chat. And at the end of it, he was emotional with gratitude and so were we. Here is the beautiful story:
Destiny's Blows in His Early Childhood
Born in Pandeypipra, a village near the holy town of Varanasi (in the state of Uttar Pradesh, North India), Anant has not much idea about the first six years of his life.
“I remember that fateful January 14 when my mother passed away. Life became unbearably tough for me because my father would rarely come home. He used to work as a contractor in a carbide factory at Amarkantak, a small town in Madhya Pradesh (a state in Central India). Shockingly, he stopped coming home after my mother’s passing; it was evident that he did not want me.”
Thus it was that Anant was cared for and looked after by his grandparents. His grandfather imbued him with sound values of Indian culture and spirituality while his grandmother doted on him. That was when he began his schooling too, walking barefoot (for he could not afford slippers) for about 5-6 kilometers everyday. He was not a student at the school, but was inspired to simply sit near the threshold of the classes and grasp whatever was being said there.
Then, another tragedy struck.
|The Narmada Udgam temple at Amarkantak. This place, also referred to as
Narmadakund, is the source of the river Narmada.
“When I was 11 years old, my grandfather passed away. I had not yet come out of mourning when, within the next year, grandmother too left me. That was the first time father came - for his mother’s funeral. When he arrived, he heard earfuls from the villagers about my plight.
“Left with little choice, he took me along with him to Dhamghar which was close to Amarkantak. When I reached there, I was shocked to see my father living with another woman whom he wanted me to accept as my mother. And she had been with him for the past 7 years or so!”
Anant was a child after all. He needed support. But even before he could try to accept her as a mother, she had to accept him as a child, right?
One day, when the father had gone to work, she fed him with poisoned chapatis!
“I felt such a burning sensation in my stomach. I began to vomit blood and my inner being quivered with disgust. I just got out of the house and began to walk. I strolled into the dense Amarkantak forests. I don’t know what happened as I collapsed.”
How did he know he was poisoned?
“That was what the doctors told me. Apparently some boys from a particular Kalyan Ashram had found me unconscious, in a pool of blood. I continued to be in that hospital for a month and during that time, often the police came to talk to me. They asked about my parents. I felt if I told the truth about my father and step mother, they would surely be punished. So I just said that I had no idea whatsoever about my father.”
Who could blame him? He had always experienced a man who was supposed to be his father - not a father who was supposed to be a man! He told the police about his aunt who lived in nearby Bijuri. So he was taken there and submitted to her.
But when he noticed that his aunt was actually in close communication with his father, he ran away from that place too. He was sick of his father’s attitude and did not want anything to do with him. And now he entered the Chatah Mohalla, a sort of an orphanage with Muslim children, and began to live there.
Swami Silently Enters His Difficult Life Like the Rays of Sun Sneaking through Dark Clouds
“I remembered what my grandfather had told me of God. I wondered how could God exist when all this was happening to me. It was here that I began to take tuitions for children of grade 1 and 2. From that little money, I began to attend my grade 8 classes in Harsh Adarsh Vidyalaya, a small school there.”
It was at this point that Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba decided to enter the life of this hapless and helpless child.
“Our Hindi teacher, Sahaay sir, told me about Shirdi Baba, Sathya Sai Baba and Prema Sai Baba. I only mocked him and forgot about what he said. But as he recounted his experiences, he was in tears. His feelings were so genuine! I was moved. I just started believing that Sathya Sai Baba is God on earth! His conviction simply rubbed on to me.”
That night Anant had a dream where a saintly person came and laughed at him, but blessed him with open hands. He felt strange, but also a sense of inner peace.
“The next day, I went to the home of my mathematics teacher, Giri sir, for clearing some doubts. And I saw him doing aarti to the picture of a strange man. At the first glance itself, I felt something familiar and nice about that image. When I asked Giri sir as to whom he was worshipping, he replied that it was Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I immediately recollected everything that Sahaay sir had told me and shared it with him.”
That is the magic of the Lord. Has it not been said that coincidences are miracles where God chooses to be anonymous? And Mr. Giri had been given the photograph for worship by a certain S.K.Urmaliya who was a manager in Central Bank. Out of respect and faith in Mr. Urmaliya, Mr. Giri had begun praying to that photo.
“It was then with goosebumps that I realized the reason for the familiarity of the man in the picture. It was Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba who had come in my dream the other night!”
Thrilled by this, Anant found the whereabouts of Mr. Urmaliya and eagerly asked about this smiling Sai. He not only learnt some fascinating aspects about Baba, but also was gifted a Bal Vikas book and a photograph by him. He placed this picture along with that of Mother Durga in his little altar to which he prayed, regularly and diligently. Mr. Urmaliya also helped him get a good flat for a nominal rent which he paid from his meagre tuition earnings. He was now coaching children of grade 7 and 8s.
'White-Ash' Appears! Was Baba Conveying, “I'll Reduce Your troubles to Ashes”?
|Mr. Anant Pandey in the studios of Radio Sai, October 2011|
“It was the Diwali day - a festival of lights and happiness. I suddenly observed that there was a lot of grey dust on the photograph of Sathya Sai Baba. And what was bizarre was that when I cleaned up the dust, a lot more came in its place. His entire hair was soon covered with that powder. I reported this to Urmaliya sir and it was then that he informed me about vibhuti. He also told me that I was indeed blessed, and promised to take me to Puttaparthi one day.
“Besides, he also introduced me to Mr. Jairam Gandhi from Katni who was at that time a key member in the Sathya Sai Organisations in that area. Mrs. Urmaliya too loved me a lot and inspired me to learn bhajans.”
Life thus continued for Anant. But now, motivated by Mr. Urmaliya, he began to attend village service programmes, but after a while however he lost touch with him. Anant was now in touch with Baba!
With new-found enthusiasm and joy he also completed his high schooling with good grades in 1999. He now wanted to pursue engineering but learnt that he would need at least Rs. 5000 (about $120) for admission fees. Obviously there was no way he could have that much money, so he thought of meeting up with Mr. Urmaliya to seek a loan. The gap of more than a year had seen Mr. Urmaliya getting transferred and Anant had no idea as to how he could contact him.
“It was then that I decided to go to Puttaparthi and see Swami. He was the only One who could help me, I felt. I just decided that I would go and stay with my God. Therefore I simply gave away whatever little material possessions I had, and with only Rs. 500 (about $12), I went to the railway station to purchase a ticket to Puttaparthi. But that amount was not sufficient. The railway clerk told me that if I procured a special concession form from the Sai Samithi (Sai Centre) in Katni, I would be able to purchase a ticket. And so, I went to Mr. Jairam Gandhi who was the Convener then and procured the concession form. I got a ticket and reached Puttaparthi on February 16, 2000.”
His First Trip to Prasanthi Nilayam
The first darshan is often filled with poignant memories. How was it for Anant?
When he entered the ashram, the students were filing in for darshan. Anant happened to be dressed in white. He dropped his little bag near the Ganesha Temple and simply walked in along with the students! He was not even aware of what he was doing.
“During darshan, Swami came to me and asked in Hindi, 'Where do you come from?' I was simply dumbstruck looking at His glowing face.
“He continued, 'Do you study?' I was just lost looking at His wondrous form. He then patted me on my cheek and walked on.
“The next day, something wonderful happened. Swami began to wave His right palm in a circular manner near me and out came vibhuti. I was one among the recipients. It felt so wonderful and I was convinced that my God would take care of me.
“The following day, Swami came straight to me and began to speak something. I did not understand a word. He repeated thrice. Then a foreigner by my side indicated to me that He was asking me to take padanamaskar. So I bent down and touched His feet, and was immediately lost in a trance. By the time I regained from that blissful state and opened my eyes, darshan was almost over!”
A few days later was Shivarathri and once again Anant in whites got into the hall with the students. He was still unaware of the rules and procedures. Swami gifted him with three chocolates on that holy morning; this ravaged boy was enjoying this regular bounty.
However while beautiful things were happening in the mandir, He had almost run out of cash. What was to be his fate? He never had any worries. He knew Swami would take care.
“The next day, when I was walking in front of the South Indian Canteen, I was accosted by Mr. Jairam Gandhi. I was pleasantly surprised for he never had told me that he too was coming to Puttaparthi when I had gone to him for the concession form. Then he told me an amazing story.
“Apparently, Mr. Urmaliya had contacted the State President of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. S.K. Sachdeva to enquire about me and my education. Mr. Sachdeva wanted to help me and had asked the Convener at Katni to bring me to him. And so, Mr. Jairam Gandhi had come to Puttaparthi to locate me and take me to Indore.”
Thus it was that Anant Pandey moved to Indore where he began to pursue his bachelor's degree in science, funded by the large-hearted Sachdeva.
|What you just read was only the first part of a gripping conversation with Mr. Anant Pandey. We are yet to tell you how this dynamic youngster met social activist, Anna Hazare, and how he took on the management of an established educational institution to uphold an Indian tradition which is so dear to our Swami. We shall bring you the second part of this article shortly.|
- Radio Sai team