3 - Issue 7
The Magic of Kodai
Imagine! Early morning you are sitting just in front of Swami’s bedroom, Swami comes out of His room and then standing beside you (His robe touching your shoulders) looks out of the window and softly and sweetly hums a divine tune! Or, imagine Swami narrating jokes and humorous anecdotes and smiling and laughing for more than an hour and you are sitting there right in front feasting on this glorious sight! Or, imagine Swami pretending He needs help and asking for your hand and then walking a few steps, His soft and tender palm holding your hand! Or, imagine Swami talking about Lord Rama and then in a jiffy waving His hand and producing a beautiful medallion with Rama’s portrait n it just in front of your eyes and saying, “Look, this is how Rama looked when He was about to be crowned”!
Or, ..or, imagine you are in the plane and Swami walking on the aisle after take-off and coming near you and enquiring if you are comfortable and then asking for your palm and filling it with chocolates! Or, imagine Swami rocking on the tastefully decorated swing and listening to your songs most delightfully! And even giving rhythm to your song by playing the cymbals in perfect synchronization with your music! Or, imagine going with Swami to the highest point in a serene hill station - you are standing in the midst of a cloud - and there Swami posing with you for an exclusive photograph! Or, imagine…well this could go on and on. For, this is the Lord’s Divine Play, most blissful, ever rejoicing, never ending. And this is just a glimpse. A glimpse of the glorious saga that unfolds when Swami is in “Sai Shruti”, His picturesque abode in Kodai Kanal.
Tucked away among the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, in South India, and jealously guarded like a prized jewel by the dark forests, is this heavenly hill station of Kodaikanal. In fact, the name itself, in Tamil means “Gift of the Forest”. You could not have imagined a more provocative and appropriate name for this quaint, clean and green little hill station where the air is intoxicating, the scenery breathtakingly beautiful, and the serenity seldom found in other hill stations. No wonder this exquisite locale has been the Lord’s choice to be His playground summer after summer!
At 2133 m above sea level and 120 kms from Madurai is located this lovely hill station in the southern crest of the upper Palani Hills in the Western Ghats. They say, the best way to spend time here is to just be here and appreciate the beauty. Now, what if you are there enjoying the beauty of Kodai and along with it the beauty of its creator too! Well... that is the magic of being in Kodai during the Lord’s visit here, because the whole place transforms into a dream world. And if you are someone picked up by Swami to be in His troupe, you have an opportunity that has no equal. It is the fulfillment of your prayers of a million life times!
Imagine Swami coming near you while you are having lunch and the Divine Mother asking for an extra helping of your favourite dish to be served to you as you gaze at His compassionate form! Or, imagine you are walking with Swami on the manicured lawns and suddenly there is a small breeze and with great joy you watch the wind playing with Swami’s silken copious hair! Or, imagine you are in a sedan behind Swami’s car and as Swami’s car passes, you witness the devotees’ joy and thrill – some crying in excitement, some hugging each other for they have caught a glimpse, some still in awe and disbelief, some jumping in joy!
Or, imagine Swami filling your hand with currency and then asking you to go for shopping, boating and horse-riding! And not only that - when you come back, enquiring in detail about your purchases and your rides and as you are narrating, revealing His omniscience so casually, so unceremoniously! Or, imagine early morning Swami coming to you and enquiring if you had good sleep and rest and then all of sudden producing a big resplendent diamond and then asking, “Come on! Who wants to take it?” ...Well, these are the kind of experiences and ecstasies that Swami’s visit to Kodai Kanal is composed of. The whole ambience becomes so very divine, so full of delight and full of bliss.
After a hiatus of a year, Swami visited Kodai this April-May to the delight of the devotees, students, Kodai’s residents and Mother Nature.
It all started on the 19th of April when Swami emplaned from Puttaparthi around 12.30 pm in an Indian Airlines Flight to Madurai. The plane landed at Madurai in an hour and hundreds had gathered at the airport for a glimpse. And there was an even bigger crowd waiting for Him at a bungalow in Gangavarapatti where He was supposed to stop over for a while. Swami and the boys reached there in an hour. After the boys had their lunch there, Swami came out of the bungalow, blessed the waiting devotees, enquired with the boys if everything was alright and the journey resumed. The rest of the 120 kms to Kodai Kanal was to be on road.
Behind Swami’s car followed the students’ bus. The boys could not wait to get there. There was joy inside and joy outside. The panorama outside the bus’s window through the turns and curves of the Ghat road was exhilarating. What a relief it was to leave the hot, dusty plains behind and drive up into the cool hills! They watched the vegetation gradually change from palm-fringed paddy fields to wild brush with flaming blossoms to plantations interspersed with stately silver oaks. And driving higher, it was such a rejuvenating experience when the cool mountain air brushed their cheeks! The whole countryside, dotted with wildflowers in jeweled colors, magenta and purple, was truly a breathtaking sight. But the boys’ thoughts were not on the glorious mountain outside the window but on the glorious days that were to come inside Sai Shruti.
The excitement increased every passing second in their hearts as the destination got closer and closer. At about 7 pm, they reached the hallowed hill station. All the boys alighted from the bus and stepped into “Sai Shruti” and good gracious! Swami was there waiting for them! Their hearts pumped with delight for all the thirty seven knew they had stepped literally into Sai’s own home! They were to live almost every moment with Him in His beautiful abode for heaven knows how many blessed days!
And to add to all this was the mild breeze playing with His shining , supple hair and Swami gently moving them away from His radiant face as if persuading them to stop caressing Him and allow Him to confer His loving glances on His devotees uninterruptedly…. As He moved down the slope, He was getting closer and closer to the devotees, little by little and for every devotee, you could see it on their faces, it was the sweet fulfillment of a penance.
After a while, Swami got into the white golf cart and slowly moved towards the devotees. Swami’s car passed so close! There was almost no barrier between the devotee and the Lord. And Swami looked so resplendent, so very compassionate, accepting letters from as many as possible from the 1 st row, 2 nd row, even the 3 rd row, sometimes asking for the letters from the rows even behind. He was just giving out joy and the cup of every devotee’s heart was full. For more than half an hour, sometimes nearly an hour, He was out with the devotees listening to the prayer of somebody, blessing the child of the second one, materializing a beautiful ring for someone here, a shining bracelet for someone there…everyday He was giving away gifts, speaking so affectionately to an old woman, smilingly blessing and conferring gifts to the small children who had come from a Vedic school, a recognizing glance to an old devotee… in the words of a student, “Swami gave Himself away completely, especially to the devotees”.
In fact, one particular evening when it started pouring just before Bhajans and the devotees could not get inside the Bhajan hall, Swami Himself went outside and stood there giving Darshan to the devotees during the whole Bhajan session. He stood there radiating His love for nearly half an hour. Not only that, He asked for arathi to be given there, outside in front of the devotees, while the boys were singing Bhajans inside the Bhajan hall. That was His immense love for the devotees. He was just reciprocating their deep love for Him, as He, we know, is just a pure clean mirror.
There were days when Swami was reminiscing His old devotees like the Rajah of Venkatagiri, a great devotee, who would roll on the ground as Swami’s car had just passed to sanctify himself; and the old time devotee Smt. Kamala Kotnis; His visit to the valley of Kashmir and how all the people in the troupe would struggle to keep pace with Swami’s speedy steps; His days in Venkatagiri and how the then Transport Commissioner of that area, Mr. Hanumantha Rao, baffled with Swami's driving skills awarded Him Driving License when He was only 12!
Another day it was how, years ago, people would gather around Him wherever He got down in Madras (now Chennai) assuming Him to be a film star! And earlier how He used to have breakfast in Puttaparthi and lunch in Madras, driving Himself 270miles at a go at His swift pace! And the days of World War II, when He was in Madras, the M-10 fighter planes, the bombs and the siren…; how He got the just-born Sai Geeta (His pet Elephant) in His own entourage from the Bandipur forest after her mother was cruelly killed by elephant-hunters, and how Sai Geeta would go around everywhere inside the ashram including Swami's room!
One session was entirely devoted to ‘Food and Hygiene’. Swami, in detail, elaborated on what, when and how much should one eat, giving examples from His own life. Recollecting His own childhood He narrated the incident when He would make Rasam (a kind of soup) for His body’s grandfather, Sri Kondama Raju, and how all the village would be lined up front of His small house for a little portion of that preparation because of its irresistible aroma, fine taste and medicinal properties.
Another day it was on religion and about Sikhism, in particular. He explained in detail the five important things for Sikhs and recollected with great enthusiasm His visit to Chandigarh many years back where a group of four strong Sikh devotees lifted His car and put it on the stage when the crowd around Swami's car became unmanageable.
There were quite a few morning sessions when Swami would permit students to sing and they would enthrall everybody with their beautiful rendering of timeless devotional compositions. Swami would graciously accept the cymbals from one boy and start giving beat to the music most wonderfully. Hours would pass like this and He would involve Himself completely with their singing, sometimes asking them to stop and enquiring the meaning of the song, or who taught them, or if they could sing that again or if they know a particular song, or if they know the raga and the beat and so on. As one boy put it, “Swami is truly Ganapriya i.e., Great Lover of Music”. And Swami sealed the issue when He said, "Music is God's Love". Later, Swami rewarded the two student singers by slipping beautiful emerald rings onto their fingers and the boy on the keyboard who was also a singer was gifted with a gold bracelet and a nine-gemmed ring. A perfect example of how one can win the Lord’s heart with heartfelt music. And Swami even elucidated in detail all the gems that make the nine-gemmed ring with their names and properties.
For the boys, it was a continuous learning experience. During one morning session, Swami asked one boy, “Where are you from?” He said, “ Bangalore”. He then asked, “Where in Bangalore?” to which the boy mentioned the street. Then Swami said, “There is a temple near it, isn’t it?” “Yes, Swami” he nodded a bit amazed at His omniscience. Swami then inquired, “How far is it from your house?” The boy said, “Just 2 minutes, Swami”. To this Swami said, “This is not the right way to answer. Whenever anybody asks for distance you should answer in miles or kms, not in units of time as the time taken will differ with the mode of travel. Let people judge the time depending on their conveyance”. How down to earth He gets to teach us small but significant things!
There were morning sessions which were full of laughter. Swami would ask an elder or a boy without a musical voice to sing and the whole group would burst into laughter. Another day there was the game of passing the parcel where a parcel would be circulating in a group and as the music stopped the person holding the parcel is supposed to open the box and pick up a chit and do what is written there. Swami would take the chit from the boy and read out for all to hear. It was another very amusing session.
One very memorable session was dedicated to the small kids in the group. Swami had said the previous day that there are a lot of nice stuffed toys available in Kodaikanal and the next day there were a number of tigers and lions, dogs and bears, big and small, bright and light on the table. When Swami came, like a loving mother, He asked the kids in the group to pick their choice. They rushed and picked up one each. After each one selected his/her toy, he/she came to Swami and showed their well-chosen toy. Swami would take the toy and just like an innocent one would begin to explore and admire the tiger or the lion, then talk to the kid, make some sweet comments and finally pose for a photograph with the kid along with his/her favourite animal. As this was going on, each one present there could not but recollect the famous declaration of Swami – “When among men, I am man; when among women, I am a woman; when among children, I am a child….”
the Hill Top
The boys had a beautiful session with Swami on that old but elegant building full of woodwork. Swami, sitting on the swing and asking elders to sing who have never sung in their life… it was a very amusing session. The boys sang heartwarming songs. And after that, an unforgettable banquet on the high balcony overlooking the beautiful greenery of the Kodai hills was like icing on the cake.
And Swami’s love was not restricted to students or devotees alone. That afternoon, Swami beckoned all the gardeners of the Hill
Top building and blessed them with excellent clothes and gifts. In fact, in an earlier visit, Swami had materialized a beautiful ring for one of the gardeners and posed with them for a lovely snap on the manicured lawns. Swami never forgot the washer men or the drivers. Before leaving, He would call all of them and give them gifts that they could have never imagined to possess.
On another day Swami sent all the boys for boating. The boys enjoyed the ride on the lake. There were fragments of the sun dispersed through out the lake and there were small pockets of lotuses strewn all around the circular pond. Appreciating the beauty of a particular lotus, one boy thought, “How nice it will be to present it to Swami?” and immediately plucked the lotus. After they returned, with a beaming smile on his face, the boy held it out to Swami and Swami’s first reaction was, “Why did you pluck
it out of the lake?” as if feeling the pain of the lotus deprived of the water and the sun.
“I am Chittachor”
On another day as Swami was coming from the Dining Hall towards the boys, one boy hiding his camera behind two other boys was trying to take a snap and not surprisingly, Swami noticed it and immediately said, “Boy, you are a camera chor, but I am Chitta Chor” (meaning, you are a stealer of photographs but I am the stealer of hearts).
One morning as soon as Swami opened the door, He said, “P Sushila is gone. Yes, She is gone.” The boys looked at Swami with
utter shock and disbelief because just yesterday the famous playback singer was there hale and hearty and many times during the day Swami had spoken to her. In fact, one boy, astonished, got up and asked, “Really Swami?” Swami then keenly looked at the boys and suddenly smiled and said, “When I am there here how can anything happen to her? Last night around 10 o’ clock she suddenly fell ill seriously and had to be taken to the hospital. She is stable now.” Neither had Swami come out of His room the previous night after He retired around 7 pm, nor had anyone informed Swami about it physically.
That morning Swami went to the hospital to see her after morning Darshan and when He returned He narrated with great gusto how Smt Sushila was so surprised to see Him there by her bedside and how she was overwhelmed with Swami’s love and just could not contain her joy… The boys could see Swami was so full of joy and energy when He was narrating all this. Truly, the devotees’ joy is Swami’s Bliss, it is His Food, It is His Mission.
There was another occasion when Swami went out of Sai Shruti. It was for a long drive all around Kodai on the 3rd of May. All along the way He was giving Darshan and blessing the devotees from the car window. The boys’ following behind in many vehicles were not seeing the scenic beauty of Kodai but the ecstasy and excitement on the faces of devotees lined up on either side of the road. As Swami’s car passed by them, some were literally in the air jumping in joy, some were crying with happiness and there were some who were in bliss with their eyes closed.
Much before this, when Swami was outside giving Darshan and overseeing the preparations, there was one senior devotee who was inside Sai Shruti and the thought passed in his mind, “What am I doing here when Swami is outside. If only Swami calls me I could go out and have His Darshan.” And just then his son who was outside with Swami came to him and to his utter amazement said, “Swami is calling you.” His joy knew no bounds. He was as much stunned as he was overjoyed at Swami’s omniscience and benevolence!
The whole morning the boys spent preparing food plates inside the Bhajan hall and then passing it outside through a human chain. Swami came there and was extremely pleased with their work. After the distribution was over and the boys were with Swami again, with much concern in His voice Swami said, “Boys must be very tired”. He then lovingly distributed pens individually to every boy so that the joy of receiving the gift from Swami’s hand probably would reduce the tiredness of their bodies. And it surely did. The boys were full of smiles.
That morning Swami informed all the boys that the next day would be the last day of their stay there and they would be leaving to Madurai the next day and from there in flight to Bangalore. All the boys were obviously disappointed. In the afternoon, however, as soon as Swami opened the door, He said, “Anyayam Aayipoyindi (Something terribly wrong has happened). There is no flight for us to go tomorrow. We have to go today itself. Even today, there is only a 20-seater plane. Have you all packed?” The boys were shocked. “You all have to go by bus. Even I will travel in bus. All the elders and kids will go in the small plane.” The boys did not know what to say. They just stared at Swami. The air was tense and there was silence. And then suddenly Swami laughed and said, “I was just joking”, and then came the golden words, “Once I decide something, is there anybody who can contest it?” What a revelation! What enacting by the Divine Director!
After this small divine drama, the whole troupe went to Mr. Srinivasan’s house where Swami spent almost an hour recollecting days when He had stayed in that house and sat next to the fireplace in the corner of drawing room. The boys along with Swami had refreshments there and returned to Sai Shruti to see a nice and entertaining play entitled “Kaliyuga Nachiketa” by the Bal Vikas children of Tamil Nadu.
7th May- Precious Moments...
And He rewarded them profusely. Every boy got a snap kneeling beside Swami’s sofa. Their last wish was fulfilled. But Swami did not stop at that. He stood up and walked to the point in the terrace where the Kodai Lake came nicely as the backdrop and posed again with every boy! Every boy got a bonus snap holding Swami’s hand and standing beside Him. And it did not stop there too. This was followed by group photos, photos of boys in pairs and then some lovely shots of Swami with the background of the Kodai Lake.
It was a great day for devotees too. For, from below they could have Darshan of Swami for more than an hour. It was a lovely day, the sky was clear and Swami was so beautiful with the bright halo of hair. The boys sang heartrending songs expressing their love and gratitude. Swami blessed them all and told them to have breakfast and get ready to leave. There was so much joy, yet so much sadness. What a great climax for such a wonderful trip! Swami had preserved these moments for the last day perhaps to lessen the grief.
Around 8.30 in the morning the convoy started from Kodai Kanal and by two in the afternoon Swami was in Madurai. He went to ‘Ananda Nilayam’, His beautiful abode in Madurai where there were thousands waiting for a glimpse. Incidentally, Swami inaugurated this beauty of a building when he had stopped in a similar fashion in 1999, though He was en route Kodai then. Impressed by the architectural beauty of the structure Swami then had said in Telugu, “Andam Anandam” i. e., “Beauty and Bliss” and had named the building “Ananda Nilayam” (meaning, ‘The Abode of Bliss’) to the joy of Tamil Nadu devotees who had been praying to Swami since His arrival to christen the new building. After a brief stop over there, Swami and the whole troupe moved towards the Madurai airport. The plane left around 4 pm and Swami was in Bangalore by 5 in the afternoon.
odyssey had ended. All good things must come to an end. But the
timeless precious memories remain. Memories that are more valuable
than all the wealth of the world. Memories that can inspire you
for a whole life time. Memories that will stand by you whether you
are in pleasure or pain.
|Optimized for Netscape and Firefox. Best viewed in Internet Explorer - 1024 x 768 resolution.|