Volume 16 - Issue 12
December 2018
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Posted on: Dec 31, 2018

 

It is the Bond of Love - Adiye Prema Bandham

The Story of the Epic Song - Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna


The Descent of God is for the Ascent of Man. Like any other climb, this ascent too is filled with pain but since that pain has a purpose, it is accepted cheerfully by the faithful and, in fact, celebrated by the wise! For the vast majority, however, the pain remains nothing but plain vanilla pain - the cause of untold misery. In order to remove the suffering caused by this pain, the Avatar descends with the Avataric mission. That was what Bhagawan Baba, our dear Swami, penned down in the epochal letter to His ‘elder brother’, Seshama Raju,

Beedasadalakaina penubadha tolaginchi lemini bapute prema naku

“I am attached to a ‘work’ that I love: to remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they lack.”

Of course, like every statement of the Avatar, this poetic statement too has multiple meanings and dimensions. But one meaning is definitely this - that He removes the suffering of the spiritually poor by granting them the awareness of Reality that they lack. To do that in a professional and perfect manner, the Avataric Mission is divided into phases. Swami has Himself stated that His first 16 years will be marked mainly by leelas or “the playful jests of the Lord”, the next 16 by mahimas or the extraordinary happenings often described as miracles, and the subsequent 16 years by upadesh or teaching.  None of the three, He said, would be absent in any of the phases. However, beyond 48 years too, the Divine Life had multiple phases seeing completion in shorter periods of time. Every phase-change had a purpose behind it, and naturally, pleasures and pains too.

Like a sinusoidal wave, Swami too, in His physical sojourn on earth, seemed to reach the heights of proximity and intimacy with His devotees before dipping down to the nadirs of separation and remoteness from them. But this was only in the physical plane and was part of His Master plan to teach humanity that ‘dearness’ to God mattered more than ‘nearness’ to Him; that the ultimate objective of the nearness was also, only to achieve dearness. But still, those phase changes that took Him away physically from the devotees naturally caused more pain than pleasure.

In the 1950 when Swami shifted His residence from the Pata Mandir to the newly built Prasanthi Nilayam, the devotees felt that they have now lost the opportunity to spend the entire day with Him. Years passed and as the crowds steadily increased, devotees now had to wait for 'darshan time' to interact with Swami and that seemed 'unfair'. As Swami began building colleges, His time was now divided among students and devotees. When Swami built the college at Prasanthi Nilayam, the students of Brindavan felt that now they had less of Swami.

The Lord who had gracefully chosen to be in our midst, sometimes left the craving devotees with the feeling that He was slipping away from them (as if it was ever possible for the omnipresent to leave our presence). This feeling of desperation made the devout cling more firmly, pine harder and focus better. May be that was the very purpose of this drama.

Decades later when Swami would give Darshan as He drove in His car around the Kulwant hall, a distraught student got up and remarked protestingly, “Swami, why are You withdrawing Yourself this way? You come in a car and we can hardly see You to our heart's content!” Pacifying him yet being firm Swami reminded him, “Never forget that My proximity is always conferred grace, take it not for granted.” But the same Swami, when asked by Dr Hislop if in the coming years it would be impossible to be near Him, replied, “Not at all. If Baba is pleased with a person he may still be close. That is Baba's will.” The nearness was merely to make us crave for that dearness, and He is every ready to make us dear, if that is what we seek.

The Churning Begins

One such phase change came when Swami chose to shift His residence to the Poornachandra Auditorium after residing in the mandir (above the bhajan hall in the Sai Kulwant Hall) for over four decades. The devotees and students, till then, would sit around the mandir on the sands as they waited for His darshan. That seemed such a poetic setting, but now, Swami will stay 'far away' and would attend bhajans in the mandir and give Darshan in the hall that would be built. Though all change is in the mind of the perceiver and meant nothing to the Changeless One, the devotees and students wondered if this new arrangement would take them further away from their Lord.

It appeared to be more than a simple shift of residence especially for the students, as it seemed their Swami was also being a bit aloof. His interactions with them reduced and He exhibited the deathly detachment that only God is capable of. The students were not new to this treatment. Ever so often Swami would withdraw Himself and seem very upset with the students. The apparent change in demeanour would stir the heart of every student and a wave of Sadhana would sweep the hostels as the students en masse would try to win back their Swami's love. And when the moment would come, and the ice broke, Swami's every word would've become sweeter, every smile more loving and every gesture warmer. In reality, the students would've had a glimpse of dearness, in that nearness. But till then, Swami would seem aloof, detached, uncaring, unloving, occupied and so on. Truly speaking, the stirring happens within, the change takes place in our hearts, and we imagine He has changed.

Coming back to the time we are referring to. It seemed Swami was distant and was not willing to speak to students or for that matter to anyone. And at such times there would be an invincible shadow over all, and this time was no different. Swami too didn’t seem to enjoy these moments but knew that He had to do what had to be done - just like the parents subject their dear child to the painful prick of a doctor’s needle for strength and protection.

For His students at Puttaparthi, things got bleaker as Swami continued granting darshans but seemed to be totally ‘absent’. No letters were taken nor were there any interviews. He seemed engrossed in the renovation and reconstruction of the small room behind the Auditorium that would serve as the Divine Sanctum. Without interactions with Swami and this shift of residences, it seemed like the worst of times. It was as if the winter of despair had set in early and the season of darkness was enveloping the holy hamlet. But it was in this scenario that something epochal happened - a small spark of love that grew into a conflagration which consumed (and continues to consume) everyone in its wake. It all began with the intense pining in the hearts of students who feared that the scenario might turn out to be the new normal.

Genesis of the song of the Eternal Love Story

It all started when Dilip Choudhary, one of the students serving Swami at the Residence, sent a message to Shailesh Srivastava. The note which a student-messenger carried was surprisingly detailed.

"Can a special song be composed for the upcoming Guru Poornima - a song which would express the love which students have for their Swami? It should be a song that every student can sing. It should be a song that everyone should understand and therefore, it should be in Hindi (the National language), Telugu (the Divine language) and English (the Universal language). The Alap (opening lines sung slowly without beat) should be sung by the boy Shantanu (a 8th grader) as he represents the child crying out to our Divine Mother to listen to what is in our heart. The prayer from our heart should go out to the Lord and echo to touch the hearts of the devotees as well where they can understand how much we, His students, love Him. We should sing this song when Swami is on stage on Guru Poornima..."

The note had been written with the hope that such a song would be the ice-breaker between Swami and what He had claimed as His ‘sole property’. Shailesh read it and decided that it was a direct message to him from Swami Himself. Though Dil (as Dilip was nicknamed) had written the note himself, it definitely had its genesis in Swami's words. A few weeks prior to Guru Purnima in 1993, one evening, after the evening bhajans when Bhagawan returned to the 'new' Poornachandra Auditorium residence, He summoned Dilip to His bedroom (in the ground floor, as the upstairs rooms had not been constructed yet). Swami then lamented about how one of the devotees had asked Him,

“You give so much of Your time to Your students. Are they worthy of this love and Your valuable time? Do they love You in return? Do they follow what You instruct them to do?” Dil sat down at Swami's lotus feet and responded,

“Swami, You know how much we – students - love You”.

“I know, but the devotees don’t know. They are judging the entire student community for the mistake of a few."

Dil said confidently, “Swami, we don’t need anyone else’s acknowledgement of our love for You. Our love is from our heart to Your heart. So long as You receive our love and acknowledge it, that’s more than enough." Swami was serious.

“Swami can feel the love that’s in the hearts of the students. Kani (however)... others also should know."

The conversation ended there and there was a fire in Dil's heart. He wanted to desperately do something to 'make Swami feel better'. But that would happen only if the love-story between the students and Sai was made evident.

That night, while Dil slept outside His bedroom door, his heart prayed to Him to give a clue. "How do we convey our Love for the Lord which is so special and one-to-one to the entire world?", he wondered. The inspired thoughts that Swami infused in him at that point in time resulted in the note that he wrote to Shailesh.

The song takes birth - again Pravesha and not Prasava

Shailesh was a physics teacher at Swami’s school and college. But he was also known as a beautiful music-composer and a brilliant harmonium-player. Since there were only a few days to go before the Guru Poornima festival, he immediately began writing a new song. It was a spontaneous flow from within and soon, the lyrics of a song in Hindi were ready. Shailesh added a couple more lines in English.

Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna (How much we love You...)
Sai Tum Hi Jante Hain (...is something that You alone know dear Sai)
Sason Ki Dhadkan Tum Ho Sai (You Sai, are the rhythm of our breath)
Tum Hamare Pran Ho (You are our life)
Humko Tumse Pyar Hain. (We love You so much)

We love You dearest Sai, we love You.
We love You dearest Sai, we love You.

Shailesh wanted the song to have lines in Hindi, English and Telugu. He then approached his fellow-wing-teacher for the 12th grade students, Sathish Babu whose native tongue was Telugu. It seemed like the Divine Hand was at work when, within the hour itself, Sathish Babu plumbed the depths of his heart and came up with the necessary lines. He sat with a photograph of Swami in front of him and filled his heart with prayer, “Swami, these are words for You. Please provide them the way You like it.” Then came the words.

Neevu Leni Ma Jeevanam (Our life without You,)
Neeru Leni Chepa Vedanam (is like the plight of a fish without water.)
Nee Sannidhe Maku Pennidhi (Proximity to You is our greatest wealth)
Needu Choope Prana Samanam (One glance from You is as dear as life itself)
Neeku Maku Oke Bandhamu (Only one bond exists between You and us,)
Adiye Prema Bandhamu (and that is the bond of love.)

Shailesh had less than a day to compose the tune. He sat late into the night of the 1st of July, composing the tune. The 3rd of July was Guru Poornima and there would a combined song practice for all the students on the 2nd July morning. Shailesh completed the tune for the Hindi and English portions thinking that the Telugu portion could be tuned before the practice session on the next day! It turned out to be an error. But wait! Was it really an error or judgement or an ‘error’ planted by the Divine for a cause? The next morning, by the time the session in the Mandir was complete, it was almost 9:30 AM. There was less than an hour left before the combined practice session would begin. Shailesh had not yet got the tune for the Telugu portion. Desperate because of the lack of time, he sought the help of another teacher who was also a stalwart singer - Sundaram Kumar. “Come, let us sit together and finish this song Kumar sir”, said Shailesh.

 

Even as the students began to assemble in the Institute auditorium for the practice, Shailesh and Kumar hurriedly rehearsed the song. Kumar was brought up to speed with the Hindi and English portions. The Telugu part remained and there were less than 15 minutes for the practice session to begin. Shailesh sang out a tune for the first line spontaneously, “Neevu Leni Ma Jeevanam”.

Kumar seemed to be in a divine sync as he sang out the next line, equally spontaneously, “Neeru Leni Chepa Vedanam”.

The duet continued as Shailesh added, “Nee Sannidhe Maku Pennidhi”.

Not to be left behind, Kumar came up extemporaneously, “Needu Choope Prana Samanam… Neeku Maku Oke Bandhamu”.

The last line was not in metre! What was to be done?

At precisely this time, they received hurried summons from the warden who said that nearly six hundred students were waiting for the practice session. An inspired Kumar seemed to just speak out the last line - "Adhiye Prema Bandhamu". There was no beat but it built up to an excellent crescendo.

Since there was no time to discuss or debate, they agreed on the tune and walked to the auditorium. In hindsight, it is nothing short of a miracle that the most poignant lines of an eternal golden song were penned in minutes! As Shailesh would recollect years later, “It was as if Swami who had provided the inspiration and lyrics for the song, wanted the tune to be beautiful in its simplicity. But that simplicity would have been lost if there was time to think. Thus, the Master of time squeezed His children with the lack of time to ensure the simple beauty and beautiful simplicity of the song were retained!”

Thus it was that spontaneously and almost effortlessly, the song was born. Just like the birth of the Avatar, the song was also born via Pravesha (entry) and not Prasava (conception).

He is the One who does, He is the One who enjoys

The practice sessions began and all the students from the school and college were taught the song. It was at this point that a student who was part of the music group, Rajesh Singh pointed out to Shailesh, "Sir, how can it be 'Sason Ki Dhadkan'? It should be the beat of the heart and not of the breath." Immediately, the change in lyrics happened and the third line of the song now became Dilon Ki Dhadkan Tum Ho Sai (You Sai, are the rhythm of our heart - verily our heartbeat itself).

As the session proceeded, Shailesh felt that it would probably be difficult to synchronise and sing the last line together as it lacked a beat. Kumar also agreed. But they were in for a pleasant shock! The entire group of 600-odd boys, all sang in perfect unison as if the last line had been timed with the invisible beat of the Universe itself. How could they not sing the line which proclaimed their only connect with their Swami? The practice session itself was so thrilling. Though Swami was keeping His distance, everyone felt as if Swami was present in their midst that day. (And indeed He was, as He later revealed.)

As the Guru Poornima evening approached, Dil was informed that the group song was ready and all the students were ready to sing it the moment Bhagawan arrived on to the stage. Now came the dilemma. Should he inform Bhagawan before itself about the group song or surprise Him by just singing it?

The odds were if they surprised Bhagawan with the song without informing in prior, Bhagawan might stop the song with a wave of His hand! Then all the efforts would go in vain and all the students would be disappointed and sad. But if Dil informed Bhagawan about the song then Swami might get upset as the conversation was a private one in His room. To add to the complication, KBR Prasad sir who was in-charge of the audio system, would not turn on the microphones unless prior permission had been obtained from Swami!

Once again, Dil prayed to Swami in his heart and Sainath provided the solution! Sainath was another alumnus who was serving Swami but was not privy to the conversation or the note. "Sainath, the students have prepared a song. Can you pray to Swami on their behalf before Swami went on stage?"

Sainath agreed and sought Swami's permission even as He got ready to go on stage. Swami’s reaction was casual and straight - "Aa, padukomanu. Kottademi kadu, nenu vinnanu idivaraku. (Yes, tell them to sing. It is not something new. I have heard it.)"

It would only be in retrospect that everyone would realize it was Swami who helped conceptualize the song, compose it and sing it through His students, His instruments.

The Song and the Response

On that unforgettable day, Swami entered the auditorium and sat on the dais. There were the few speeches by Dr. Michael Goldstein, Mr. James Sinclair and Mr. Ajit Haksar. Speeches were the usual practice before Bhagawan’s discourse. However, just before the discourse, the pleading voice of a little child to its mother filled the air,

Sunlo.... Dil Ki Pukar... Sunlo...” (Listen to the call of the heart... Listen to it.)

Swami sat still. He had permitted the students to sing and so, was not surprised. But the whole crowd that had gathered didn’t expect this and they watched on with bated breath as the students cried out, “Oh! How much we love You Lord! - Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna.”

Swami sat swaying to the lilting melody oozing with love from every side. Swami was lost, but lost in a different sense - one that the students loved. The devotees seemed to feel bad that they were not aware of the lyrics. Just at that moment, came the lines, “We love You dearest Sai, we love You.”

With rapturous joy, everyone joined in to proclaim man’s eternal bond with God. Then came the climax - the Telugu portion which ended with the unforgettable crescendo. Swami was delighted! It appeared as though He wanted to hold everyone in His loving embrace. Eyes moistened, and hearts melted. And in that instant, the worst of times had heralded the best of times. The winter of despair had yielded to the spring of hope and the season of darkness had vanished before the season of light!

It was a poignant moment and everyone’s heart was warm with love for Swami. Swami also seemed so touched. In fact, Swami would go on to even make a reference to the song in His Guru Poornima discourse, and also acknowledge the students’ prayers and Sadhana during the period when they thought Swami seemed distant and upset.

In fact, He said, “And, now, about our students; you may compare them with anybody, you cannot find anyone like them anywhere. Our students have been offering prayers every day, observing fasts, and thinking day and night, without, food or drink... They are in anguish and distress. Are there not likely to be a few stones in a bag of rice? In a big group there may be a few black sheep. On account of a few wrongdoers, it is not right to blacken all the students. Our students are like pure refined gold. They are prepared to do anything for Swami's sake. You have all listened to the song sung by a young lad at the beginning of the function. He sang; "We are ready to offer our lives to You, Bhagawan."

When Swami returned to Brindavan after a few days, the students there ‘surprised’ Him with this song (and a few other songs as well) bang in the middle of a Bhajan Session. A broad smile beamed on the divine countenance. That Bhajan session marked the beginning of the end of Swami keeping away from the boys! In fact, on a few occasions, Swami Himself began to ask for the song through a sweet question,

Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna?” (The same words can also be read as, “How much love do I have for you?”)

The boys needed no further prodding to burst out with the song.

Is it any surprise that in one of the final-ever Convocation ceremonies to be held in His physical presence, when Bhagawan asked the students to sing a song, they burst forth with ‘Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna’? And within a few lines itself, everyone’s heart was overflowing with love for Swami. How can the Divine Heart withstand such love? It too began to overflow, and Swami sang out the Telugu line - Adiye Prema Bandhamu. It was as if He too was reaffirming to His students,

“My life without you is like the condition of the fish outside water. My greatest wealth is proximity to you and your gaze on Me is equal to life itself. There is only one bond that holds us together. And that, is the bond of love.”

It is through the gloom of hopelessness that grace shines, it is bitterness that enables us to appreciate sweetness. So too, it is in distance we discover dearness. But the secret is to want God in pain and pleasure. When we seek God for the pleasures, He can grace us with, moments of pain will loosen our grip. But when we seek God and God alone, moments of pain will only make us grip His hand more firmly. This song was an expression of that firm grip, the deeper craving and tearful assertion. Every time we sense a distance growing between us and Swami, may we burst forth in this melody, and let the image of Swami responding to these heartfelt words come before our minds eyes and soothe the ailing heart!

This timeless melody celebrates its silver jubilee this year, and it is another sign of Swami’s love that we were inspired to share the history behind this song now, as the year ends and when former students of Swami are gathering to celebrate the annual 'Prema Bandham - Alumni Meet'.

Thousands of students have expressed their unspeakable love for Swami through this melody. Thousands of devotees speaking various languages have found delight in singing this to Him. This is indeed a special song about a special bond Swami has so graciously permitted us to forge with Him. May this song be sung by millions more and by multitude of generations. And we pray that with every passing day, let our love for Swami become more and more true as expressed in this melody!



Lyrics:

Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna (How much we love You...)
Sai Tum Hi Jante Hain (...is something that You alone know dear Sai)
Dilon Ki Dhadkan Tum Ho Sai (You Sai, are the rhythm of our heart - our heartbeat itself)
Tum Hamare Pran Ho (You are our life)
Humko Tumse Pyar Hain. (We love You so much)

We love You dearest Lord, we love You.
We love You dearest Lord, we love You.

Neevu Leni Ma Jeevanam (Our life without You,)
Neeru Leni Chepa Vedanam (is like the plight of a fish without water.)
Nee Sannidhe Maku Pennidhi (Proximity to You is our greatest wealth)
Needu Choope Prana Samanam (One glance from You is as dear as life itself)
Neeku Maku Oke Bandhamu (Only one bond exists between You and us,)
Adhiye Prema Bandhamu (and that is the bond of love.)

by Aravind Balasubramanya,
Team Radio Sai

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