Devude dikku. For those who have no other refuge, God alone
is the refuge.
- Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Thirty year old ChinnaNagamma of Jagrajpalli had darkness
staring into her. Future seemed bleak. Her husband had recently
passed away. She had four young children. No land of her own.
No house to stay in. And like a majority of the rural women
in India, she was illiterate. To provide her children with
one square meal a day was a daunting challenge. With none
of her so called kith and kin coming forward to bail her out
of this pathetic situation, she silently, cried out for help
in her heart in the hope that if there was a God somewhere,
may be He would respond.
Her prayers were not in vain. After a few
months of her suffering, she heard from someone that Bhagavan
Sri Sathya Sai Baba was starting a project that would rehabilitate
destitutes like her and that anyone deserving could
come and register themselves. Immediately, she came with her
children to Puttaparthi and met the people concerned with
the project. When she told them her story, they melted. They
registered her and sent her back to her village with the assurance
that she would be called soon after verification. Chinna Nagamma
spent about a week full of anticipation.
Yet, no word came from Puttaparthi. Was this project too one
of those nonstarters, as with the many government schemes?
Or was she found not deserving ? Whose life could be more
disastrous than hers? she thought. A few days later, when
she was returning from the forest after taking the cattle
for grazing, a policeman accosted her. Upon enquiring her
name, the policeman broke the news to a trembling Nagamma
: You have been called by Bhagavan to stay in Puttaparthi,
along with your children. Nagamma could not believe her ears.
She was convinced that if at all there was a God, it had to
be Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Nagamma, along with eighty others is a happy resident, of
Sathya Sai Nagar at Kammmavaripalli behind the ashram complex.
Each of them has a story to tell about how compassionate Swami
has been to them. The Sathya Sai Nagar is the result of The
Sathya Sai Deenajanoddharana project taken up by the Sri Sathya
Sai Central Trust in the year 2001. The project had its genesis
in 2001, when Bhagavan, made a declaration that He would take
up the cause of as many destitutes as possible and rehabilitate
them. He recounted how he was moved by the news of a mother
who committed suicide by consuming poison after poisoning
her three children as she could not combat the abject poverty
they found themselves in. He declared that he would provide
food, shelter and clothing to as many destitute children as
possible, besides educating them to be self-reliant.
(resolve) is Vajra sankalpa.
Action followed with lightning speed. To begin with, construction
began for two room tenements to house the first come orphans
and destitutes, converting His own orchard into a housing
colony. Swami himself laid the foundation stone for the project.
Sixty boys from such families were selected from Bukkapatnam,
Kothacheruvu and Puttaparthi mandals. Some among them had
no mother. Some had no father. Some had none. But as soon
as they came to Prasanthi Nilayam, they found a loving mother
in Swami. Swami would give them clothes, suitcases, blankets
and would bless them with His kind words. During the period
of construction of Sai Nagar, the boys and their widowed mothers
were housed in specially allocated sheds and given some orientation.
Volunteers started taking informal classes according to the
age of the boys, until they were formally accepted in the
upcoming school at Sai Nagar. There were in total 58 boys,
the age ranging from 4 to 14 years. The mothers were ten in
Meanwhile, the construction was progressing fast under the
able execution of Nagarjuna Construction
Company , a reputed firm in Andhra Pradesh. Bhagavan was involved
at every stage of the project, offering practical advice on
all aspects. On June 19th 2002,the festival of Gurupurnima,
Swami inaugurated the fully completed Sathya Sai Nagar . The
grateful boys sang songs of gratitude while the mothers watched
them from a distance with tears in their eyes. Bhagwan himself
was totally lost in the innocent love of those young children.
He listened to their songs with rapt attention, patted them
and blessed them profusely. Later in the year, on 22nd November
2002, the annual convocation
of SSSIHL, Bhagwan handed over a cheque of sixty lakhs to
Sri Paramahansa , the project in charge, in the presence of
the president of India Shri A P J Abdul Kalam. The money was
to be used, Bhagavan declared, for making a fixed deposit
of one lakh rupees in the name of each boy!
Today, the Sathya Sai Nagar is an ideal of
community living. It is more or less an example
of a self-sustained, self-sufficient village. When the idea
of making a cover story came to H2H, we contacted Sathya Sai
Nagar over the telephone, saying we wanted to come there.
Within minutes, there was a car in front our office with Sri
Prakash , the caretaker of the village and a young driver
who must be no more than 14 years
of age. When asked about it, Sri Prakash replied that they
train their boys in all skills, including driving! Believe
us, He was a pretty good driver!
As we enter the colony, there is a beautiful
garden full of flowers. A little further there is a play ground
parallel bars and other facilities. We hear the joyous cries
of children having a good time in the ground. Along the path
that leads to the houses are Swami’s quotes etched on
stone slabs: God is love, Live in love, Always keep
good company etc. As we near the houses, we hear
the sound of drums, keeping beat to a devotional song. A
group of 50 boys is singing full throated,
full of feeling. The whole atmosphere is charged. The head
master of the school, where these children study comes forward
and welcomes us. He says the
boys are practicing for a performance before Swami. All the
boys, he says, are excellent. They are humble, obedient and
are extremely fast in grasping things. This is in contrast
with his experience as a teacher in other villages, where
he would struggle with the boys to make them learn a few alphabets.
The key, He says, is the Love of Swami. Each boy is so full
of gratitude that He wants to please Swami in all that he
does. That includes studying well and behaving well. In fact,
the love of Swami has worked such wonders that these boys,
who earlier found it difficult to speak a few coherent sentences,
are now experts
at reciting Vedas with perfect intonation and pronunciation!
The boys now
surround us and take us to their school. It is a small but
beautiful building of
eight rooms. In front of the
building they have a volleyball court and a basketball court.
But it is not only play and study that they are good at. They
take active part, along with the mothers, in the maintenance
of the place. They also work on a vegetable farm in the colony,
where they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables that are
used in the cooking. They sometimes send vegetables they grow
in the farm to Swami too! The group of ten mothers, along
with the cook, prepare the food and manage the dining hall.
Washing utensils, clothes, cleaning the place
are just a few other things that they do apart from cooking.
one lady put it, they are family of ten sisters and sixty
children: Each living for the other and all living for Swami.
The story will not be complete without mentioning
how Swami, through his personal interactions with these
boys, moulds their character and gives them confidence to
face life. Every Thursday and Sunday when the boys come for
darshan, Swami lovingly asks
them what they had for breakfast. They would reply in unison
“idli” or “dosa”. The younger ones
aged 5 or 6 would be sometimes dozing during darshan. When
others would try to wake them up, Swami would say, like a
loving mother, “Shhh! Let him sleep.”
Every time prasadam is distributed Swami
makes sure that they receive it. On one occasion, Swami was
overseeing apples being distributed to these boys. One of
the boys had already got an apple and not knowing this, the
volunteer tried to give one more apple to him. The boy politely
refused it, saying “Sir, I have already got one!”
This did not escape the discerning eye of Swami and immediately
called the boy near him. He said “Good Boy! Always speak
the truth!” He waved his hand, materialized a gold chain
and put it around the boy’s neck. “Speak the truth
always, and I shall give you everything you want!” He
assured him. Imagine what an impact it would have made on
the boy and the others watching the whole scene. Needless
to say, only the Divine mother Sai can
do this in such a beautiful and loving way!
The most recent incident is yet another proof
of Swami’s love for these boys. A group of seven boys
were selected for writing the
tenth class examination. This exam is conducted by the State
board and the papers go for external evaluation. These boys
were faced with such a situation for the first time. If they
passed the examination, they would cross a major milestone
in their life. On the day of the examination, the boys had
come for darshan to seek Swami’s
blessings. Swami went to them and asked them if they had prepared
well for the exam. One of the boys blurted out that he was
afraid and tense. Swami assured them that they would all do
well and that there was no need to fear. Swami went into the
interview room and the boys left to their colony, from where
they would go to Kothacheruvu, a near by town, for writing
But the Divine mother in Swami was not satisfied.
After a few minutes He came out and called for the car. He
got into it and went straight to Sai Nagar. One of the H2H
members also had the privilege of following Swami’s
car, all the while wondering what was happening. As soon as
Swami reached Sai Nagar, he got out of the car, called for
the boys who were going for the exam, created vibhuthi, gave
them padanamskar, and assured
them of His Grace. The boys were overwhelmed by this unexpected
gesture of compassion and were literally in tears for the
trouble that Swami had taken for their sake.
(A few days back, the results have been declared.
Six out of the seven who appeared
for the exam secured first division and one passed in the
second division! )
When we at H2H met all these boys and the
mothers, we realized what a difference Bhagawan
has made in their lives. It was a heart warming sight to watch
them at Bhajans, singing and clapping their hands with gusto.
“So what will you be when you grow up?” we asked.
“A policeman”, piped up one. “An engineer”
said another. “I will become a doctor, and serve in
Swami’s hospital”, affirmed another. As we walked
away, we thought to ourselves: would even these dreams be
possible for them without Bhagawan?