Volume 11 - Issue 10
October 2013
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Posted on: Oct 05, 2013

My Mother Divine

A Daughter's Ode....


Chennai resident Mrs. Soundarya Krishnamurthy has a very long and rich history of divine association with the Sai Avatar that dates back all the way to the previous incarnation, the Sai Baba of Shirdi.

The Sai Organisation's spiritual coordinator in the state of Tamil Nadu, Mrs. Soundarya Krishnamurthy has had the blessing of presenting over 40 magical, spiritual and inspiring cultural programs, such as dance dramas, in the divine presence. Since her presentations to the Lord have always been based on spiritual themes, she is well-known for her thorough research and creative finesse in everything she offers at the lotus feet.

Educated at the Queen Mary’s College in Chennai for her Bachelor of Arts degree, Mrs. Krishnamurthy completed her LL.B (Bachelor of Law) from the Osmania University, Hyderabad in the year 1960. This was about the time when Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were divided into separate states and her father was transferred to Andhra Pradesh as the Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission. She also enrolled as an Advocate in the Madras High Court after marriage and settled down in Chennai, then known as Madras.

As commitment to her family was the priority, she opted out of law practice to raise her two sons.

But what gave her utmost happiness was the opportunity to utilize her education, time, talent and creativity to give a fillip to the Balvikas presentations in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Bhagawan further blessed her and her husband Mr. T. G. Krishnamurthy, the former State President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation of Tamil Nadu, to start the Sri Sathya Sai Vocational Training Centre (SSSVTC) for training poor and needy women with job skills at T. Nagar, in Chennai under the auspices of the state’s Sai Organisation. Today, in an exclusive interview with Radio Sai's Karuna Munshi, Mrs. Krishnamurthy looks back at the blessed journey she has had as a daughter of the most loving, divine mother, Sai Ma for over forty years.

KM: Sairam Mrs. Soundarya Krishnamurthy, and a very warm welcome to Radio Sai.

SK: Sairam! I am very happy to be with the Radio Sai team which, with great dedication, is spreading Bhagawan’s message throughout the world. I am also thankful for this great opportunity to share a few divine experiences and unforgettable moments I have had with my Swami in the forty-years I have spent in His divine fold. These are from my personal life as well as from my organisational activities. There were innumerable occasions wherein Swami showered His love and grace on all of my family. I am sure every one of Bhagawan’s devotees has experienced His Divine love to their hearts’ content.

KM: Your Sai connection dates back to Shirdi Baba days. Tell us all about this.

  Soundarya Krishnamurthy
  Bhagawan Baba with Mrs. Soundarya and Mr. T.G. Krishnamurthy in Kodaikanal

SK: Yes. My paternal grandmother was a blessed soul. She was fortunate enough to spend nearly a whole month in close proximity with Shirdi Baba and witness His Mahimas (glory) and Leelas (divine play). She was a very devout person. Every year she would conduct week-long bhajans on Lord Vitthala and proceed to Pandharpur, in Maharashtra to have the Lord’s darshan. On one of her pilgrimages to Pandharpur, she broke her journey at Shirdi to have Baba’s darshan as she had heard a lot about His love and compassion towards devotees. Shirdi was on their way to Pandharpur and in those days traveling was very difficult. The trains would take them some distance and from there they had to travel by a bullock cart or a horse-drawn carriage or Tonga, as it was called then.

When they went to have Baba’s darshan, He asked them to stay for a few days before proceeding to Pandharpur. Baba made them stay almost a month and even after He finally consented to their leaving, He stalled them until the next day. To my grandmother’s utter relief and bewilderment, Baba saved her from falling prey to a band of robbers who waylaid the pilgrims on the way to Pandharpur the day she had originally planned to leave. Many were seriously injured. My grandmother thanked Baba with tears in her eyes and with His divine blessings, took leave of Him and continued her journey to Lord Vitthala’s abode. Such was the compassion and love of Shirdi Baba. He loved, protected, guided, and showered His grace on His devotees. We are all witness to the great love of Baba in His present incarnation – Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi.

KM: How were you introduced to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

SK: It was through my eldest sister Mrs. Rukmani Ramachandrudu that I was fortunate enough to come into the fold of our beloved Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. All in my family – father, mother, and sisters, seven in all - are staunch devotees of Sri Shirdi Baba. As I have already said, my grandmother had even spent a month with Shirdi Sai Baba, the earlier incarnation.

It so happened that my brother-in-law, a doctor by profession, was posted as the District Medical Officer at Anantapur in 1967. At that time Bhagawan used to visit Anantapur quite often to monitor the progress of the Women’s college He was building there. Swami would stay at the house of Mr. Damodar Rao, an ardent devotee of Swami. My sister and her family had a blissful darshan of our Lord during one such visit. As they entered Mr. Rao’s residence, Swami immediately called them for an interview and to their utter disbelief He recounted many incidents from His previous incarnation as Shirdi Baba and stated that they were His devotees during the Shirdi avatar and have come back to Him during His present incarnation. My sister was transported to a different world and her joy knew no bounds. She is the one who brought us all to Swami. It was in Whitefield, Brindavan, Baba’s residence at Bangalore, that we had our first interview with the Divine. Swami blessed us all. The love, compassion and grace He showered on each one of us cannot be described; it can only be experienced. Swami spent almost an hour with all of us talking about spirituality, materializing pendants for each of us and blessing us with the divine vibhuti prasadam. It was an unforgettable first interview with Bhagawan, thanks to my sister.

From then on there was no turning back. I completely surrendered myself to Swami and I will continue to serve Him till my last breath. We can all feel Bhagawan’s Omnipresence. Swami is there. We love you, Swami!

KM: When did you get started as the cultural ambassador of the Sai Organisation as you brought hundreds of child artists and musicians to present their talent in His Divine presence?

SK: It all started with my mother-in-law, then a convenor of one of the Seva Samithis, and Mrs. Shanthamma, the first State Spiritual Coordinator of Tamil Nadu. They used to organize Balvikas cultural programs to be presented in Bhagawan’s presence. There were not many Balvikas centers in the early seventies. I used to help Mrs. Shanthamma and my mother-in-law with their presentations as I was keenly interested in cultural programs, music etc. and would derive great joy from presenting them in front of Swami.

Once I joined the organisation as an office bearer, I plunged into organizing cultural programs of Balvikas children and presented more than 40 dramas with Bhagawan’s divine blessings.

Drama on Tyagaraja (left); Presentation about Bhakta Ramdas (right)

Those days there was not much of a crowd and Bhagawan used to spend a lot of time with the children and musicians, inquiring about their parents and discipline. He would thoroughly scrutinise each and every character, checking their make-up and costumes. He would ask questions about the character they were playing, their age, etc. and bless them profusely. Those blissful days in close proximity of our Swami…will they ever come again?

KM: Why were you so passionate about this work?

SK: We all know that Bhagawan had penned many dramas even as a little boy. He used to direct and act in dramas, compose poems and bhajans, and lead the Pandhari Bhajan group in conducting Nama Sankirtan in the village, especially during the early hours of the day. There is also the story of Rushyendramani, a female artist who did not show up to act in a drama at a function at Bukkapatnam. Our little Sathya donned the character and acted so beautifully that the chief guest was astonished when he found out that a little boy had performed in the place of a seasoned female dancer. Swami’s interest in cultural arts sparked an intense desire in my heart to please Him through children’s programmes.

KM: You must have a lot of memories associated with your various cultural programs.

SK: Yes! Each drama was a unique experience with Swami. Bhagawan would always bless me and give consent for presenting the drama in his Divine Presence, be it in Prasanthi Nilayam, Brindavan or Chennai (formerly known as Madras). I always paid a lot of attention to research and preparation for each drama and presentation, since Bhagawan is a perfectionist in all spheres. I would refer to many books and Bhagawan’s discourses on the subject of the program to meet our Lord’s standard of meticulousness and perfection. I would also strictly enforce a suitable dress code, age limit (not more than 12 years), and discipline in children, and try to inculcate devotion in their minds, reminding them of Swami’s omnipresence during practice sessions. We are like one loving family – our beloved Swami’s family.

 
  Baba blessing the children of the Alwar dance drama

Here I would like to mention a beautiful and memorable divine experience concerning one of our dramas - “The Twelve Alvars - the Vaishnavite Saints of South India”. To our great joy, Major General Mahadevan, the then State President of Tamil Nadu Sai Seva Organisation, obtained Swami’s permission to present this drama on the auspicious occasion of Bhagawan’s 65th birthday celebrations and it also was the day the Super Specialty Hospital was inaugurated by Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, the then President of India.  

Here is an example of the Divine’s play of making us love His uncertainty and then immersing us in an ocean of unfathomable love.   

Since a huge crowd was expected to attend Swami’s birthday and the inaugural ceremony, those of us connected with the drama arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam four days earlier. Bhagawan would come to us at darshan everyday with a beautiful smile, bless us and walk away. Four or five darshans later, our spirits started drooping with the thought that the drama might not happen.

I forget if it was the 21st evening or 22nd morning; Swami greeted us with a beautiful smile during darshan and said, “All of you are worried whether the drama is there or not, isn’t it? Yes, your drama is there tomorrow evening. I waited for the hospital inauguration to be over.”

We were stunned and overjoyed at once.

The following day was Swami’s birthday function which usually included the special Jhoola ceremony. The legendary Carnatic vocalist the late Mrs. M. S. Subbulakshmi’s devotional music concert was also scheduled that day. How would the drama fit, we wondered. But I was certain that Swami’s word would not fail. Bhagawan would certainly bless the children.

Our joy knew no bounds when Swami had it announced after the morning celebration on 23rd that the Balvikas children would be presenting a drama in the evening. That is our Lord…Love Personified. Swami thoroughly enjoyed the drama, blessed the children with sarees and gifts, and materialized pendants for the main characters. Swami then asked the children to join the students on the stage in watching the birthday fireworks display. I have no words to describe Bhagawan’s love. We love you Swami, we love you!

Grand finale picture with Bhagawan - the much awaited cherished moment for all the children participating in the Alwar dance drama

Sometimes Swami would ask us to repeat a drama. Just imagine our ecstasy! Each moment connected with the dramas is an indelible one. To name a few, we presented Sai katha – a Unique Experience, Bhakta Prahlada, Bhakta Meera, Sampoorna Ramayana, Bhakta Markandeya, Bhakta Ambarisha, Bhakta Ramadas, Navavidha Bhakti, Unity of Faiths, and The Twelve Alwars-the Vaishnavite Saints of South India. The last drama we had the opportunity of presenting was during the first anniversary of Swami’s Maha Samadhi. It was based on Avvaiyar - a female saint poet of South India. Swami had always loved the tale of Avvaiyar’s devotion.

 
  Ashtalakshmis offering aarthi to Divine Mother Sai Lakshmi

Another drama I hoped to stage during Bhagawan’s visit to Chennai was ‘Ashtalakshmi’, depicting the significance of all the incarnations of Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi. In those days Swami used to visit Chennai every year, so I took it for granted that He will visit that year also. Unfortunately, I had to wait nearly four years to present it before Bhagawan as He visited only four years later. I, however, never gave up waiting for Swami, every year changing the children who played the characters according to age. Everybody advised me to change the program but I waited patiently. I was thrilled to present the drama at His Lotus feet in the fourth year. It felt like a test given by Bhagawan to measure the depth of our devotion, patience and steadfast faith. Baba was very happy with the drama and Major General Mahadevan, the then State President of the Sai Organisation of Tamil Nadu, asked me to offer Arathi to Swami, which was a rare privilege in those days as women were not allowed to do so in public. Thus my perseverance paid off. I have experienced many such divine leelas during the presentation of each and every drama.

KM: Bhagawan has played personal physician to you at a time when your health was in very bad shape – what happened, can you share with us?

AT
 
Ever at His lotus feet, at late Shri Subram Reddy's residence in Chennai

SK: Oh, yes! My beloved Lord, with the love of a thousand mothers, took care of me when my health had deteriorated  badly due to an incorrect dosage of thyroid medication in the 1980s. I lost nearly thirty pounds within one month and became very weak. I used to run to the doctor and beg to know what was happening to me. Would I be alright or not? My family members thought I was worrying needlessly. I requested my husband to bring it up with Swami when he visited Prasanthi Nilayam on some work. Even in interviews, I was not in the habit of troubling Bhagawan by pouring out my personal woes. But this time I asked my husband to get some vibhuti prasadam. Swami knew everything, of course. Smilingly, He materialized prasadam and even handed a letter to my husband that He wrote for me. In the letter He instructed me to take care of my health; otherwise, how would I do His work? I was elated to receive the letter and decided to stop taking medicine with the permission of my doctor. My doctor was not convinced given my physical condition but slowly reduced the dosage and finally stopped it altogether saying, “God only can help you, Ma!”

Yes, my Swami really helped me, who else can do that except our Lord? Exactly at that time Swami visited Chennai. Because of the side effects of the medication, I was not even able to get up, let alone go to Sundaram for Swami’s darshan.

As soon as Swami got down from the car after the Poornakumbham ceremony was performed, He looked around at the office bearers who lined up to receive Him and asked my husband, “Where is Soundaryam?” Swami always called me Soundaryam, not Soundarya. I loved it when Swami called me Soundaryam. My husband said, “Swami, she is very weak and she is not even able to get up because of the medication. I will bring her in the evening for Swami’s darshan.”

But Swami immediately stopped him saying, “No, no. Let her be at home. I will come to the house and she will become alright.”

When my husband passed on the exciting news of Bhagawan’s visit to our house, I do not know how I got the strength; I got up, dressed up in a saree that Swami had gifted me, cleaned the whole house with the help of my sons and family members, prepared some eatables for Swami and eagerly waited for my Swami’s arrival. As soon as I heard Swami’s car coming, I just ran to receive Him. Swami stopped me saying, “Ochesaanuga, melliga, melliga” (Haven’t I come already, slow down, slow down). So saying, He entered the house singing ‘Ninu Paalimpa Nadachi Vachinaanu’ (I have come walking to protect you, similar to a popular Thyagaraja Kriti) and then joked, “nadachi raaledhule..car-u lone vachaanu Bengaluru nunchi” (I did not come walking. I came by car only, all the way from Bangalore).

Immediately I prostrated before Bhagawan. Swami materialized vibhuti, smiled and threw His handkerchief at me. Oh God, the Divine moments we spent with Swami that day are still in front of my eyes. Whenever I think of Bhagawan’s compassion it brings tears to my eyes. Mr. Radhakrishna, Major General Mahadevan and Central Trust member, Mr. V. Srinivasan had accompanied Swami.

Mother Sai administering the ultimate medication to the ailing Mrs. Krishnamurthy at her residence in Chennai

Then we humbly requested Swami to have the eatables prepared for Him. The loving Lord saying, “Thappaka, Thappaka” (certainly, certainly) came in and sat in the chair. I started serving Bhagawan. Then what happened was ‘history’! Swami would taste a little and then give me the rest of that morsel to eat saying, “You were not eating properly at all. That is why your health has gone down.” This went on for nearly ten to fifteen minutes. I couldn’t believe myself. What a blessings!

Later on Swami asked me to stop whatever other medicines I was taking, blessed me and returned to Sundaram.

I do not know how I got back my strength. I owe my rebirth to my beloved Lord. I will serve Him till my last breath!

From that day onwards, I never went to a doctor for nearly 20 years. I presented before Swami many more cultural programmes, improved the activities of Mahila Vibhag (Women’s Wing), took active interest in Bhajan singing, and helped to bring out our Sundaram Bhajan cassettes. Now it is in CD form and there are a total of 60 cassettes.

 
  Bhagawan blesses with a Mahalakshmi pendant with blessings for good health

I would like to narrate one more incident with the Divine. This must be about 8 or 9 years back when Swami visited Kodaikanal. Unfortunately, I was down with severe gastritis and I could not go for darshan for three days. On the fourth day when I was sitting in the front row, Swami slowly passed by, smiled, and went on to bless the devotees at the other end of the line. He then returned, stopped in front of me and materialized a beautiful Mahalakshmi pendant. He asked one of the devotees sitting next to me to put it on for me. I was taken aback.

Swami blessed me saying, “Arogyam antha baga ledhu, andhuke e moodu rojulu raledhu, antha saraipothundhi le.” Meaning, “Your health was not good. That is why you didn’t come for darshan these three days. It will all be alright.” Even as I am narrating this incident now, my eyes are welling up. How can we repay our beloved Lord? How can we show our gratitude to Him? We are greatly indebted to our Lord for showing us this Divine path of salvation in the present world filled with terrorism, unrest and what not. Thank you, Swami! I know Bhagawan does not like to be thanked. The only way is to follow His teachings and most importantly put them into practice. We love You, Swami. We love You.

KM: You are blessed to be an instrument behind the birth of the Sri Sathya Sai Vocational Training Centre or SSSVTC at T. Nagar in Chennai. Today, it is a vibrant learning space that empowers needy and illiterate women with employment skills. And it is run by the women volunteers of the local Sai Organisation. How did it all start?

SK: It is all Bhagawan’s grace. My husband’s sister donated her house to Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust some forty years ago. At that time the Central Trust was operating from Bombay. She was a great devotee of Bhagawan and Swami always used to inquire about her health, since she was handicapped and couldn’t walk. It so happened that after her reaching Bhagawan’s lotus feet in the year 2001, my husband and I took the house documents to hand them over to Swami personally. At that time the first floor of the building was occupied by a tenant and the ground floor was vacant. The building was quite big and when Swami called us for an interview, my husband handed over the documents to Swami saying that the first floor was occupied. A thought struck me. Since Bhagawan has blessed the Mahilas with Ladies’ Day on 19 November to do service to the poor and needy, we asked Him if we could start a vocational centre on the ground floor until the tenant vacates the first floor. Bhagawan immediately gave His consent and even said the tenant can vacate at his convenience. That’s how the vocational centre was started on 19 March 2001 and now it has grown by leaps and bounds with Bhagawan’s blessings. Around 1500 students have benefited from this centre so far. Since we have various courses in our centre which give training in various fields, the Mahilas are so happy to be part of this effort.

 
Bhagawan distributing sarees during Ladies Day. Mrs. Krishnamurthy in background in blue  

Tailoring is one of the lucrative courses offered at VTC. A well-trained tailor can make a good living.

Under the Secretarial course, students are trained and prepared in typing, accounting and computer skills to take the exams conducted by the Department of Technical Education. They are also given training in spoken English. By the grace of Bhagawan, many of our students are employed as Accounts Assistants, Receptionists, Data Entry Operators, and Telemarketers. One of the students currently teaches computers and typing in our centre itself.

Our Desktop Publishing course includes training in Pagemaker, Photoshop and Coreldraw. Many students opt for these courses too as they have good employment potential.

Candle making, beautician course and yoga classes are also conducted there. Agarbatti (incense stick) rolling is a primary service activity here involving Sevadals of all the three districts of Chennai metro.

Screening and offset printing is yet another training program offered to our students to produce letter heads, visiting cards, covers, etc. With the addition of a baby offset printer, printing work is also undertaken.

As with all projects of Bhagawan, VTC offers these programs totally free of cost to women from disadvantaged backgrounds. This empowerment helps them and their families immensely, and all these are due to Bhagawan's grace and unconditional love.

We are really grateful to Bhagawan for using us as His instruments in offering such unique service to the poor. We have also formed a Bhajan Mandali and Balvikas for the VTC. With Bhagawan’s grace, the mahilas (ladies) are blessed to do such service which is dear to Swami. Service to the poor and needy and with love is the motto of Sri Sathya Sai Vocational Training Centre.

KM: You have received much personal attention and love from Bhagawan while he was in the Form, but today the reality is different. What has changed in your life as a result of MahaSamadhi?

SK: Nothing…nothing at all. Swami is there. I feel his omnipresence always. I see Bhagawan many times in my dreams and I am deeply involved in Namasmarana and Bhagawan’s service as before. There is no change in me. I will serve Swami till my last breath. He is here! He is there! He is everywhere!

KM: In conclusion, who is Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba for you?

SK: Swami is everything for me. He is my life. Day and night, my thoughts are always with Swami even if I am involved in some other work. How can we forget our dear Lord who has done so much for this world? How to show gratitude to Bhagawan for all that he has done for this vast ocean of humanity? This thought keeps going on in my mind. Without Bhagawan all of us would have gone into different paths. It may have been good or bad. But now we have a huge Swami family engulfed in love for each other, following the path of Sathya, Dharma, Shanthi, Prema and Ahimsa which Swami has given all of us. We are all blessed souls to be in this Sai yuga (the age of Sai). Swami, we love You, and we love You more than ever. You are there Swami, still guiding us. Swami I love you more than anything else in my life!

A God-sent opportunity to offer mangala aarthi to the Sai Ashtalakshmi in person after the presentation in Chennai

Today and every day I honour your presence oh Sai!
Swami, thank you for your presence in my life

You are the best friend I could ever have
My confidant and my guide

I honour your greatness by living my life
Totally centred on you, you are in me
And I am a part of you Swami

Jai Sai Ram




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