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Posted on: July 26, 2016
SAI SADGURU – THE PRECEPTOR UNPARALLELED
Episode - 3
FLYING HIGH WITH SAI
The life-transforming moments of Sai alumnus Mr. Pratim Banerjee as he learns how to enrich one's life the true
way and excel in it to emerge with flying colours to the great satisfaction of his Divine Master
Part - 3
After two years in Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Pratim cleared the entrance for Bachelors in Sciences (majoring in Mathematics). In 2005 he joined the Brindavan campus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
The Halcyon Brindavan Days
“Brindavan is special for me as it is here that I started singing. The way this happened is also quite interesting. There was a mass Upanayanam ceremony being organised in the Divine Presence and everyone was sure Swami would continue to stay in Bengaluru at least till that day. But to everyone's shock, Swami suddenly left on the morning of June 1. The whole ambience turned silent and sombre. Everyone was sitting and sulking in Brindavan. Even as everybody was trying to reconcile with their cruel fate and thinking how to get Bhagawan back, there was a sudden buzz all around – ‘Swami is coming! Swami is coming!’ Yes, He went in the morning and returned in the evening! Till today I do not know the mystery behind this play of the Lord but what is fresh in my mind even now is the unfettered joy that danced on every face as Swami's car entered the Brindavan compound.
“Swami now stayed for a few days and it was during this time that I was shortlisted along with another student to sing in Mandir. The warden had secured divine permission. My first bhajan was Dhimitha Dhimitha Dhim.... I liked the vibrancy in this bhajan; it went up to a crescendo. After the session, one of the teachers congratulated me and said, “Swami looked very impressed as you were singing. It was as if He was saying ‘See, this small boy is singing such high notes so effortlessly!’”
“So by His grace my singing began on a positive note. Later I was blessed with many opportunities, not only to sing but also to participate in various other extracurricular activities. Given that this campus had only undergraduates, there was lot of scope for us to get involved in several events. Brindavan days were hectic but lovely.”
The Paramotors Parable
The inaugural function of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet of the University is held every year on January 11. One of the events that Brindavan campus was preparing to present to Bhagawan that year was a display of paramotors, which are basically motorised paragliders. Pratim was excited about this stunt; he wanted to join this team.
“But I was not even allowed to appear for the selection process because I was already part of the drama,” he recalls. “Actually that year Brindavan campus had not planned to do a drama. But the Master Manager that He is, Swami went to the Prasanthi Nilayam campus boys and said, ‘Every year Brindavan campus stages a wonderful drama. Why don't you also come up with something?’ Two targets with one arrow! Now there was no way Brindavan could skip the drama.
“I was selected for an important role because of which I was not auditioned for paramotors. I was extremely sad. I felt I had it in me to do this event, but all doors were closed. What added to my sadness was a senior who was part of this team. That evening he came to our room and started describing animatedly how fantastic it was to go up in the air, be a bird in the sky, and so on. It only made me feel more miserable.
“That day before sleeping I went to the altar and piteously prayed, ‘Swami, I too want to please only You. I want to do it for You. Give me this opportunity please.’ This became my constant prayer. In a week's time, implausibly, one morning we received this message from Prasanthi – ‘Swami has told that there should be no stunt items. So the events like motorcycle stunts and paramotors have been cancelled.’
“Oh my God! I was so disturbed when I heard this. I went to His altar again and pleaded, ‘Please forgive me Swami! This is not what I had intended or prayed for! All I wanted was that I should be part of the event. That is all. Why is everybody else losing the chance now?’
“Well, that was His will. The event did not happen that year. Next year, the same item was proposed and now Bhagawan consented. The teachers in charge said that they wanted to retain the seven boys from the previous year's team but would take a few more from the junior classes to compensate for the boys who had graduated.
“Interestingly there were motorbike stunts too planned that year and my classmates told me, ‘Pratim, you will waste your time in paramotors. There are already seniors, who are experienced than you, in the team. Obviously no one is going to give you a chance to fly in front of Swami. Don't lose the chance to at least be part of the bike stunts. Else you will miss this too.’
“They were right, maybe. But somehow my mind was fixed on paramotors. I confidently replied, ‘No, let me give it a shot. By Swami's grace I will get into the core team.’ My additional shortcoming was my height. The minimum measurement stipulated was 5' 6'' and I just about made it. Soon the practice started. A few days later the warden called all of us and said, ‘Boys, all the eight of you are now equally qualified to perform this in front of Swami. The only differentiating factor which will decide the final performer on the D-day is the intensity of your prayers. Swami would eventually pick, through the scheme of things, whom He prefers. So be prepared, practise well and pray hard.’
“I remember my life at that time had become a constant penance. There was no moment when I was not praying. Even while eating and bathing I was saying: ‘Swami! You have brought me this far. Don't abandon me now please. I want to do this only for You. Give me this chance please.’
“Another interesting thing I noticed about myself during this period is how I lost my fear of heights. Since my childhood, I was always scared of heights. Whenever I would look down from my grandmother’s apartment in the tenth floor, my legs used to shiver. But now I had begun to relish being in the air, and in fact was enjoying the panorama below from above.
“Our practice went on and soon Sports Meet arrived. I clearly remember that was the year when the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet presentations happened on January 12th and not on 11th as it usually happens every year. On January 9 Swami had kindly come to the airport to see our practice session. After watching our performances, just before He left, He suddenly looked at me and said, ‘What do you want?’ He was so full of mercy and love that I know whatever I would have asked that day He would have granted it to me. But the success of the paramotors event was so much on top of my mind at that moment that I could not think of anything else. I instantly said, ‘Swami, bless me with good wind conditions.’
“This was crucial for the stunt because we were completely dependent on the climate. A little too much or too less of air would make our adventure a failure. Generally, the wind early in the morning was not suitable. Similarly the conditions a little later during the day again were unfavourable. We were completely at the mercy of the wind god.
“The moment Swami heard my prayer He said, ‘I will give, I will give.’ Then looking at our instructor, Brigadier Sandhu from the Indian Army, Swami said: ‘Safety is paramount. The parents of these students have entrusted the responsibilities of their children to Me. Now you are in turn answerable to Me. So take all precautions. First think of safety and then everything else. Also, mind you, the landing conditions in the airport and in the stadium are quite different. It is important that they practise in the stadium.”
That is how the morning practice session at the airport ended. Swami was exclusively with the boys of the Brindavan campus. In the evening there was to be a rehearsal of the events of all the campuses in the stadium and Bhagawan was expected. He did come. One by one all the campuses made their presentations. However, the paramotors event alone was left out. The problem was – unfriendly wind conditions.
Given that Swami had warned so much about safety just that morning, the instructor did not grant permission to the boys to fly. But at the stadium, Bhagawan was constantly looking at the skies. Now the teachers did not know what to do. So they started repeating some of the items. Swami continued to stay on, waiting for the paramotors presentation. Everyone was in a dilemma. Then the warden, mustering courage, went to Bhagawan and said, “Swami, the paramotors boys will start in a while. If Bhagawan wishes, He could go to Mandir, take arati, conclude the bhajans and return. By then the boys should be up in the air.”
Bhagawan graciously responded to the request. But before getting into the car He again warned, “That is okay, but safety is most important.” After Swami left, Pratim was the first one to take off from the airport. He had no clue that Swami was no more in the stadium. He was supposed to go up, wait for his partner, and then together they were to land in the stadium.
“Actually this was the first time I was to descend to the stadium,” he continues. “Until now all of us had only circled up in the air above the ground and returned to the airport to land.”
As Bhagawan had mentioned, landing in the stadium was a completely different game. On one side of the stadium was a hill, while on the other side were buildings not as high. So the wind would hit the hill and bounce; there would be great turbulence up there. A delicate contraption like the paramotor could easily get blown off in that chaos in the air.
In any case, Pratim was now up, high in the sky, and was in fact enjoying his view even as he was waiting for his partner to join him. He remembers those moments: “From that height, everything looked flat and equal, whether it was a ten-storied structure or a house with no second floor. ‘Maybe that's how it is for God,’ I said to myself. ‘From His height all of us seem the same.’”
Lost in this reverie, Pratim was singing to himself and happily floating away. Suddenly there was a beep and he got the message that his partner had taken off, and the Brigadier, in an anxious tone was asking him, “Pratim, I want you to locate the stadium”.
“That is when I looked down between my legs and I found it difficult to spot the ground,” Pratim recalls. “I was frantically searching for the stadium. Only then the gravity of the situation hit me. I was so lost in my inner musings and music that unmindfully I had travelled too high into the sky. It was evening and the warm air from the ground had just lifted me in an upward spiral. Only when I looked down keenly, could I spot the ground; it looked like a tiny saucer, and the statue of the 65-feet Hanuman was not even the size of my little finger. My instructor was now screaming, ‘Have you any clue at what height you are in now? You are at least 3,000 feet high! Come down immediately!’ I followed his instructions, and instantly reduced height to a desirable altitude without much problem.
“Now I was to land. I knew the route thoroughly – above Music College, the Institute Campus, Higher Secondary School, Primary School, General Hospital and then smoothly glide down. But that evening, in my impatient exuberance to exhibit my exceptional talent to Swami, I decided to take a short cut. So instead of flying beyond Primary School and going above the General Hospital, I turned above the Primary School itself. The reason? I could not wait to get the pat on my back from Swami and then the resulting ‘hero welcome’ in the hostel to the ‘Star of the Sports Meet’.
“In that restless excitement I veered my motor hastily. And the next moment, to my horror, I found myself heading to dash straight into the tall globe pillar of Chaitanya Jyothi museum. My mind went totally blank. The collision looked inevitable. I did not know what to do. ‘Increase the throttle! Go high!’ Again my instructor yelled. I acted, just in the nick of time. Thank God! I missed the pillar by a whisker. I managed to whiz past it by some unknown force. But when I opened my eyes now, there was an even bigger obstacle in the front! The pillar was gone but I was about to ram into the Chaitanya Jyothi Museum itself! ‘Take 180 degree turn!’ My untiring inspector bellowed one more time. I instantly did that. I was saved.
“Now I was on course. I thought I will take some time, relax on top, and try to land after a few minutes. ‘Pratim! Free your legs! You are landing now!’ The instructor's focus on me was total. I had no choice. His orders had to be obeyed. However my forward speed was high. Generally your legs can take as much as 20 kmph but I was at 40-50 kmph. I was just crashing down. There was no other go. But when I was just 10 feet above the ground, fortunately I remembered to put on the brakes so that I would drop slowly. However, right then a huge gush of wind just lifted me from behind and the next second I fell! Thud! I was flat on the ground! Even before I could think whether I was alive or dead, doosh! The entire 30 kg equipment collapsed on me. There is only one thing I remember I did before I sank into the earth – I cried out ‘Sairam!’
“There was pin drop silence. Everyone was scared; they feared the worst. Many did not expect me to be alive. Others thought my spinal column would have split into smithereens. But the only thought that was going on in my mind was: ‘Oh my God! What do I tell Swami now? How do I show my face to Him?’
“The instructor and the teachers rushed towards me. I was alive, breathing and conscious. I was immediately taken to the General Hospital. The doctors examined me thoroughly and declared that they could not find any anomaly in my body except for a few bruises that needed first-aid. Really? It was unbelievable for all. I had no pain, no discomfort, no trauma – no sign of any tragedy or accident.
“The next morning Bhagawan came to the stadium. Fortunately I was allowed to perform and this time I executed a perfect landing! Immediately after this, all of us, the paramotors riders, ran across the stadium to the dais and placed ourselves at His lotus feet. Bhagawan was too happy; He seemed so proud of us. Right then and there, He gifted each of us huge cups. What a fantastic moment it was! The finale of this entire paramotors penance could not have been any more divine and blissful!
|Pratim (extreme left) joyously running to Bhagawan after the stellar performance|
“When He saw me, the first question Swami asked was, ‘You were not hurt, right?’ I was actually puzzled. For a moment, I thought ‘Why is Swami asking this? I did a perfect landing now; it was such a smooth ride.’ Thankfully, it struck me that Swami was perhaps referring to the previous evening. I immediately said, ‘No Swami, I am not hurt at all. How can I be hurt when You are there?’ Swami smiled and said, ‘Yes, I am there. I am always there. Have that faith. Have that confidence. I am always there.’
“The story does not end here. On January 9 when I had prayed for good wind conditions, He had said, ‘I will give’. This is indeed what He blessed me with on the day of the performance – the morning of January 12. I distinctly recall how that morning Swami was expected to arrive at 8 am but to everyone's surprise He came a good 45 minutes early. The wind condition then was most ideal, and that is how we did a perfect landing in the stadium. It was one of the most fantastic moments of my life.
“However there is another angle to this incident and when I think of it, I only mutely marvel at His magical way of doing things. In my XI and XII grades I was the athletic champion at the Higher Secondary School. The only motivation for me to toil and work hard for this achievement was to receive a cup from His hands. In the first ten years of this School, Bhagawan used to personally give each student the prize(s) they had received in the annual competitions. In the later years He gave cups with His own hands only to the champions; rest of the prizes were blessed by Swami and distributed by a guest. My dream was to receive this cup from His hand. But to my great disappointment, in my XI and XII grades, Swami personally awarded only the campus cups and not the championship cups. In fact on both these occasions my parents had flown all the way down from Jamshedpur to Puttaparthi hoping to see me accepting cups from Swami's hands. Obviously, they were hugely disappointed on both the occasions.
“But on that morning when Bhagawan in all joy placed the cup in my hand in front of such a huge gathering on the stage of the Hill View Stadium, my father, who was there witnessing it, was on cloud nine! It was such a pleasant surprise! If Swami had given me a cup during the school prize distribution ceremony, I would have been one among 50 other students receiving the same reward from His hands. But on that day I was one among four students blessed with this rare opportunity, and these cups were huge! I also remember how excitedly I rushed back to the stadium from the stage and my father from the stands was shouting out my name and showing everyone around, ‘See, he is my son! He is my son!’ I could not have gifted him a better moment to cherish all his life. Swami's timings and way of working is so inscrutable and magnificent. He grants us the best of moments in the best way possible. No prayer ever goes unanswered.”
Like this Pratim's Brindavan days were filled with thrilling and revelatory moments. Even though Swami does not stay for long in the Bengaluru campus, the experiences the students are blessed with are no less in quantity or quality. As Pratim says, “Actually, since Swami is not physically with us most of the year, our minds are always on Him. Our connect is stronger.”
- Bishu Prusty
Radio Sai Team
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