Volume 11 - Issue 09
SEPTEMBER 2013
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Posted on: Sept 06, 2013



CONTINUING THE JOURNEY FROM ME TO MYSELF

By Ms. Charu Sinha, IPS
Secretary, AP Public Service Commission

An IPS (Indian Police Service) officer of the 1996 batch, Ms. Charu Sinha served in different capacities in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Later, she also went on deputation to the U.N. Peace Keeping Mission in Kosovo for a year. After working as DIG (Deputy Inspector General of Police), Anantapur Range, for almost three years, she is currently the Secretary, Andhra Pradesh Public Service Commission in Hyderabad.

She came into the Sai fold in 1989 and since then it has been a story of the transformation Swami brings in each one of us, removing all that is less than divine in us. This is her second article on Radio Sai website and it is appropriately titled "Continuing the Journey from Me to Myself" as the first article was called "The Journey from Me to Myself" published in April 2006.

 

The Dream DIG Job

In April 2010 came the day I had been waiting for all my life. I was promoted and posted as DIG (Deputy Inspector General of Police), Anantapur Range! The next day I was asked not to join, as I was politically unacceptable! I prayed to Swami.

A few days later, one night at 10, I was told to join by 9 AM the next morning. I rushed and travelled by road the whole night and joined on April 28 at the appointed hour and immediately after taking office, went in the evening to Puttaparthi for Swami's blessings. He took the flowers I offered and blessed me with padanamaskar saying, “Very happy, very happy”. My dream of being posted in Anantapur had finally come true, but little did I know that I had been called to witness one of the most important periods in spiritual history.

 

Then started a series of beautiful interactions and experiences with Swami. Every weekend after work and on every holiday I would go to Puttaparthi from Anantapur. I would wait outside His residence with my heart beating eagerly. And then the door would open and He would come out with a smile. Several times I would tell Him something or ask a particular thing or at other times just be in His presence.

Many days I would just watch Him interact with other Godselves (read people) and derive vicarious pleasure out of the opportunities with Him. I would look at every expression on His face, the way He would smile, acknowledge the devotees, talk to them softly, listen with full attention, the way they would run up to Him when called like little children, or wait for Him literally holding their breath, their reactions, their joy, their overwhelming tears, as if this was the day they had been waiting for all their lives. Each interaction would become a lifetime memory, which the Lord had gifted to them.

As days progressed, my spiritual learning too progressed through Swami and some of His old devotees. What is the mind, how does it control us, what are the games it plays, how does it create doubt and fear, how does it create lifetime after lifetime, what is the ego, what is the personality that I am, how the mind-body-personality-ego complex does not allow us to be our divine selves and what is the way out – these questions were addressed by Swami.

The learning was beautiful, in perfect response to my yearning for the truth. But was I willing to practise this truth every day? Swami kept testing that again and again. And slowly I learnt the most beautiful truth that I am Swami and He is me; there is no separation. I was thrilled the day I learnt this. I was at the ashram and when I went for darshan I waited for Swami thinking, “Thank you Swami for giving me the most beautiful truth my soul has ever known”, and then He came out for darshan and looking straight at me, nodded His head in acknowledgement and said 'YES!' Only He and I knew the secret of what was going on in my mind. It was our secret!

Swami always said that if we don't finish every interaction in love, we have to come back again lifetime after lifetime till we learn to finish in love. And the only thing that matters is – how much love we have shared with the whole of creation and not what and how much we have achieved and acquired in life. As a part of wrapping up all my relationships so that I don't have to come back again and again to finish them with the same people, I was trying to finish every relationship in love, mentally forgiving myself and others.

 

Once when Swami came out of His residence, I asked Him to help me finish an extremely difficult professional relationship, in love. And then since I asked for it, I had it! What followed was like a virtual bomb blast. The whole thing just ruptured.

It was probably the most difficult lesson I had to learn. But I did hold onto my lesson and practised it fervently. Whether I got through or not, only He knows but then, hasn't the Lord promised that we only need to make the effort and that He will take care of the results?

Several times He asked me about my parents. One other time He told me to come for darshan on a particular day. Once He even discussed the family problems of a home guard at home, a young widow, and gave Vibhuti for her!

Whenever I went to Him with an issue about family or friends, before I even finished talking, He would have the exact number of Vibhuti packets in His hands for the number of persons I spoke to Him about. Like a child, I wanted to and several times did discuss every issue which came up in my life and the people around me, with my Swami. What a treat to have an issue and go run to the Lord to discuss it! Just being able to talk to the Lord about it was enough. Who was bothered about what ultimately happened! Everything I ever wanted to talk to Him about, share with Him or just tell Him, I was able to do in this period. I had the habit of getting angry very soon whenever I saw somebody indulge in wrongdoing, and in His own way Swami alerted me. Again, what a treat to have a personality quirk and have it corrected by the Lord!

The Police Wish Baba 'Happy Birthday'

November 23, 2010 – Swami's 85th birthday was one of the grandest ever celebrated. Lakhs of people turned up. In the morning, with a few police officers, I waited outside His residence. Swami came out and we were the first to wish Him a happy birthday. Along with several others, I was in front of His chariot, leading the procession into the stadium. As soon as the crowd saw Swami, a huge cry rose and people started crying. They were in bliss just to be able to have His darshan. The celebrations went on for almost half a day. At the end, we ran back and reached His residence again, this time with a cake. He was gracious enough to cut it with a knife and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for Him!

The celebrations went on in the evening too, with His schools, colleges and university staff bringing cakes and the students' band playing. It was a feast for the heart and eyes too. After that every time He saw me, He would say softly, “Police?” In the evening while distributing sarees, He called me and gave me a beautiful saree and the next day another one for my mother, knowing she had been waiting for one too!

On March 19, 2011, on Holi when I stood outside Swami's residence, it was with the pink gulaal (powder). I had yearned to play Holi with my Swami, my Krishna. When He came out and I wished Him 'Happy Holi', He took the gulaal and put it on my forehead! He fulfilled even this little wish! That was my last physical darshan of my Lord. I was unaware of the events to follow which changed all our lives.

The Cataclysmic Period for Every Sai Devotee – March 27 to April 27, 2011 and the Role of the Police During this Month

Then on March 27 He became unwell. The next day He was hospitalized in His super-speciality hospital. On April 2 we rushed to Puttaparthi on hearing that He was critical. Crowds had started gathering and were extremely agitated as they felt that no information was forthcoming from the ashram or the hospital about His condition. The hospital was then requested by the district authorities to issue a bulletin on His condition every morning and evening. A team of doctors was sent by the government to review and monitor His condition and brief the press every day so as to quell all rumours and the panic welling up in the hearts of the people who could not see their beloved Lord and did not know what was happening.

The role of the media during this entire drama was a classic example of the present trend in the country of how to suspect, cast aspersions, disrespect, pull down and tear apart every model institution built by anyone. After a few days, the pot-shots began. Rumours were spread about those close to His physical form, who took care of His organization and Him – ranging from stealing, cheating, misappropriation, attempt to murder, to gold smuggling. The motives, sincerity, commitment, surrender and love for Swami of the devotees in close proximity to Him were questioned. Character assassination became the order of the day. Any independent, clean, objective and positive news reporting disappeared. All reporting ethics were thrown to the wind. Media unaccountability was at its peak. And the ones feeding the press were unfortunately devotees who did so for their own reasons, adding fuel to the raging fire.

The Crowd, the Chaos and the Unkind Media

The media enjoyed ripping apart individuals and all the institutions established by Swami. Rumours were created out of nothing, to keep an issue alive and to create doubts about the functioning of the institutions. And in doing so, each channel tried to beat the other, claiming to have found the real truth behind Swami’s legacy. The whole world was watching the sickening drama.

Devotees were hurt at what was being portrayed, many withdrew, the fence sitters distanced themselves and the non-believers or critics simply said – “I told you so”. One particular news channel was being fed by a prominent devotee targeting another devotee, all in the name of a desire to bring out the truth, little realizing the enormous damage done. Swami used to say He was keeping the snakes under His feet and now, they had been unleashed onto the world!

 
The Bus Stand of Puttaparthi was occupied by the OB Vans of a host of TV channels who had stayed put there once Swami's body was placed in Sai Kulwant Hall. It was a similar scene in front of the hospital from the day Baba was hospitalised.  

One could see devotees in the grip of tremendous fear, shock and insecurity, and the question which loomed large was – what would they do if He left? They felt lost, as if they had lost their anchor and did not know what to say or do. Many were depressed and all round there was sheer sadness, madness and chaos. A huge pall of gloom had descended over the town and everywhere people were praying He would heal Himself and come back. We all wish that the Lord even in His physical body should be immortal and be around us, with us, all our lives, to take care of us! Oh selfish man!

Crowds kept swelling and we had to move in police forces from five districts of Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh, not knowing what to expect but desirous of being well prepared for any eventuality. Almost 5000 personnel were deployed to handle the crowds in a place with poor infrastructural facilities, with every likelihood of the crowds running out of patience, getting undisciplined and unruly. The police were in a dilemma. Making arrangements for any kind of crowd management or barricading was fuelling rumours in the media about Swami's passing away and was likely to create unnecessary panic amongst the public, which was avoidable. And not making arrangements was making it difficult for us to handle the crowds. We had to be firm and strict yet kind.

One devotee in the hospital, who brought flowers to offer to the deity at the hospital entrance, triggered rumours in the media that flowers had been ordered to lay at Swami's body and He had passed away. Every rumour would bring in more frantic crowds alleging that the hospital was hiding the truth. And on the administration lay the onerous task of dispelling all rumours, which they did as much as they possibly could, through regular press conferences. Every day was like baptism through fire and it brought a new challenge to deal with.

Meanwhile, the media kept whipping up passions against the ashram authorities whenever they got the chance, clearly playing certain people against each other. And the ones at the receiving end, keeping in mind Swami's teaching never to react to what others say, bravely practised it, in spite of being under heavy fire and severe character assassination.

The Divine Transition on that Fateful Day

In between all this were my visits to the ICU to see Swami, lying quietly amidst the chaos and the madness, even though He is omniscient and omnipresent. His condition, with all parameters relevant to the human body, was being monitored every second by the best team of doctors in the world. They were at the receiving end of allegations from the media and other devotees too – that they had not taken care of their beloved Swami, they had not done what they should have, that they were responsible for His condition, that they allowed things to get worse, that they did not force Swami to listen to them, etc. In spite of all the hurtful things said, impervious to all going on in the outside world, they went about doing their work with Swami in their hearts and mind, and His name on their lips. No wonder Swami had chosen them as a part of His mission. Their level of surrender, sincerity, commitment and love for Swami is unparalleled.

 

Amidst all the drama, balance and control had to be maintained by the police and forces had to be gathered, deployed and commanded to handle the crowds correctly. We did what we had to do, quietly yet determinedly, in spite of resentment from the ashram authorities, who felt embarrassed and angry because of our presence in and around the ashram, which had hitherto never been allowed, little realizing that when the law takes its course, it spares no one and whatever was being done was in the interest of transparency and for the good of the ashram, which was the need of the hour.

Then on April 24 at 6.30 AM, I was informed that He was critical. Everyone knew what to expect. I rushed to the hospital immediately and saw a team of doctors around His bed, holding His hands and feet, chanting the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra.

I joined in the chanting, standing at Swami's feet, bidding farewell to my Lord in my heart, thanking Him for giving me much more than I could have ever asked for and making me what I was. We did so till 7.40 AM. The monitor was showing Swami's heart beats and blood pressure. From 80-120 the BP started dropping and at 7.40 AM at 15-15, the monitor went blank. Swami had actually left His physical body. The Avatar had left the earthly plane. The doctors who had been attending onto Him day and night just sat down, shocked, tired, shattered, and battered. There was complete silence in the ICU. After a few minutes a few people broke down, sobbing silently.

Now the news had to be released to the whole world. We had already alerted our forces and they were in place since morning. All barricading had been erected at jet speed within a couple of hours and all important points like railway stations and bus stands at Puttaparthi and Dharmavaram and all roads were covered by the police, making all traffic and crowd management arrangements. No one knew what to expect. We only had to be prepared for every possible eventuality now. Logistical arrangements for the police personnel were worked out with the help of the ashram authorities. The press release was given an hour later. The news spread like wildfire.

It had been decided to have the Samadhi built at the place from where Swami would give darshan every day. The last rites were to be performed three days later, so that devotees had time to come and pay their last respects to Him.

For the embalming of the body which was done a few hours later, the police had to give permission. The local Deputy Superintendent of Police and Circle Inspector broke down crying while giving the permission, not having imagined in their wildest dreams that one day they will be giving permission for this. The Body had to be taken from the hospital first to the residence of Swami, through the crowds, before being taken to Sai Kulwant Hall. And this time I led the ambulance with Swami's body. What an irony, what a contrast! From leading Him in the chariot on His birthday a few months earlier to leading the ambulance with His body just five months later.

 

Devotees were shattered. They were not allowed near the hospital or on the roads but asked to go to the Sai Kulwant Hall in the ashram to pay their last respects to Him.

In the next three days, almost three lakh people came, pouring in from all over the country and the world, the young and the old alike. Some could not even walk but trudged with a walking stick, all the way from almost five km away, where their vehicles were parked, due to lack of parking spaces near the ashram. Local devotees had set up free food facilities for them. There was no place in Puttaparthi for people to even stay. So they would just come, have a glimpse of the Lord and leave immediately.

Everything I had learned professionally was put to test in this period. There was pressure from all sides. The media as usual preferred police bashing rather than appreciating the enormous task, creating false rumours every day that we were ruthless and had done lathi charge, etc. We still had to maintain our cool, in spite of the unfair lashing we were being meted out. The subordinates had to be commanded, disciplined, controlled and guided so as not to lose patience with the media and the grief-stricken crowds. Innumerable stampedes were avoided in these three days, very quietly by the police but went totally unrecognized and unappreciated. Not a single policeman had time to rest; they were stretched mentally, emotionally and physically to the utmost.

In one area where a stampede was avoided by the police very tactfully, after pushing and pulling the crowd and rescuing children and the elderly from getting suffocated, we were thoroughly tired. Then we heard the sweet voices of four little children chanting 'Sairam Sairam', having come to distribute water to the thirsty devotees! That sight was a feast to the eyes and brought a smile even on the faces of the tired and impatient devotees, waiting for their turn to rush inside the Sai Kulwant Hall. Apart from the devotees, every known VIP came to pay his/her last respects to Swami.

On April 27, 2011, after a grand performance of the last rites, Swami's body, which had been wrapped in the Indian National Flag as part of the state honours accorded to Him, was lowered into the Samadhi.

Feeling Him Yet Missing Him

Then began the struggle of moving from the form to the formless for every devotee – the journey within. Each devotee in his/her own way had to get used to the absence of His physical presence from all activities in the ashram, which had hitherto revolved only around Him. The habit of running to Him for everything, the dependence, the attachment had to stop. We all had to learn to go within, to hear Him and depend on the Him inside us.

Since childhood, I was always afraid of facing the day when I would lose my parents in their physical form to the phenomenon called death. But with Swami in the hospital for a whole month, watching as an observer the divine drama and the entire madness He had created and directed, remembering His words that all this is just an illusion, from somewhere deep inside I was very calm and unruffled, just watching silently the role everyone was playing, understanding that this was all just a drama, and my fear melted away. And when He left His physical form, I thought that when I could see my beloved Swami leave I could face anything in the world. This drama had put to test all that He had taught me spiritually, giving me strength beyond my own imagination. And this time I am sure I passed this test with flying colours.

When I started from Puttaparthi on the evening of April 27, to head back to my headquarters in Anantapur, someone mentioned that the children in the hostel were crying asking before whom they would stage their Sports Day the next year! Listening to that innocent cry, after 25 physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually gruelling days, I broke down and cried because in spite of knowing the spiritual truth that He is in me, I knew I would still miss His physical presence, His smile, His hands, His feet; I would miss running to Him every time I wanted to have darshan, sparshan or sambhashan, or every time I wanted to share something with Him; I knew I would miss His reactions, His expressions of love and the sheer bliss of just being in His presence. I LOVE YOU SWAMI.


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