Volume 6 - Issue 04
APRIL - 2008
When God Becomes Your Guardian…
By Mrs. Bharathi Harihar
What thanks can we render Sai?
This was the refrain of the song that went over and over in my mind on May 31, 2004, the weekend known in USA, as Memorial Day weekend. To explain this, I need to go back a little. On July 4, 2003, the SSE (Sathya Sai Education) children and teachers were granted Divine permission to perform in the Divine Presence during the next Guru Poornima celebrations. By September, children were auditioned for the play based on American heroes. The title of the play was "Bloom Where You Are Planted."
As a mother of a four-year-old, it was my intense desire that Sai Prashanth should be a participant in it. So, our little son auditioned and did well. But since my husband’s project extension hadn’t come through, all we wanted was a minor role.
By November, my husband’s extension came through, and the play practice too began in full swing. After the voice recording and the music was incorporated, a CD was given to all parents. Though just four, he learnt entire dialogues from Abraham Lincoln. But at the practice sessions, he cried a lot and made me very anxious. For four weeks, I tried all that I could to make him understand the enormous significance of just standing in front of Swami. But he refused to be a part of the play, unless I was with him during practice sessions.
Winsome Love and Warm Grace
Saddened by this, I prayed to Swami to guide us. That was the night of February 22, 2004. I talked to Swami saying that if He wished little Sai to be in the play, He should show us a sign. As I was closing the pooja room door, I realized it was very cold. Even though I know that Swami is God, I just blurted out, “Just in case, dear God, You feel very cold, You can come and stand (Oh God! What did I say?) under the heater here. Goodnight Swami. Please take care.”
Early next morning around 5am, I experienced someone scratching my hand, and I got up with a start, thinking a burglar had entered our bedroom. Immediately, I tried awakening my husband saying someone is in the room. Since I didn’t wear my spectacles, it took two seconds to adjust to the darkness. And who did I see? It was my dear Bhagavan, in His beautiful orange Robe, standing under that very heater, and blessing Sai Prashanth and us as well! I shook my husband saying, “Please get up, look, Swami has come.” By the time he woke up with a start, Bhagavan’s form dematerialized, and Shirdi Baba, very tall in His white kafni (robe) appeared and blessed us. Then He kept His hand on His forehead as though some big tragedy is going to befall on us. Within seconds His form too dematerialized. I asked my husband if he saw Swami, he said, “No!” and went back to sleep.
I was shaken to say the least. I have read about Bhagavan appearing to people - but to me? It was unnerving, and then my monkey mind started asking questions. Did I really see Bhagavan? Was it a figment of my imagination? That night again, my silent conversation with our Lord began. “Oh Lord! You promised in our final year interview that, though we may get married into families that do not accept Sai as God, a day will come when we would come to Puttaparthi with our Bhartha (husband), and the entire family. Did I really see You? If I did, then please let my husband also experience the bliss of seeing You.” I wished Bhagavan goodnight and closed the pooja room door.
Early morning, the following day, I saw Shirdi Baba under the same heater, and He was blessing us. I folded my palms in namaskar and awoke my husband who also saw Baba (which he mentioned after three months), and immediately after that Shirdi Baba dematerialized!
The combined play practice then began at ASU’s (Arizona State University) Gammage Auditorium’s green room. Here our son Sai settled down a little, and after driving him to SSE class, my husband and I would take more children to South Phoenix at ASU for the play practice. I would pray during every drive, “Swami, this is for You, please take care. Though You may not need it, we want to do it for You. Please be with us.”
My husband, not much of a talker, but a doer, would drive in Phoenix ’s 120°F (around 48°C), without grumbling, because this play meant so much to me. By then, I too began actively to help out as an SSE teacher’s assistant. Then came Easwaramma Day, the last day of play practice, following which everyone was to assemble by June 18, 2004 in Puttaparthi. As I was talking to the SSE children, I narrated the beautiful experiences of Bhagavan coming to the Vidyagiri Stadium to watch us practicing for Sports Meet. One child asked, “Will Swami come to watch us too?” I looked at a photograph of Bhagavan and said, “Yes! If our focus is just Swami, then He will surely come.” In my heart I sincerely prayed for these children, who would be visiting India and Puttaparthi for the first time, to be blessed similarly.
I was to enroll Sai Prashanth in a kindergarten school in India, as my husband planned to return to India after the completion his project in USA, and join us in India in December 2004. By May 10, 2004, my husband said, “It looks like my project would be extended, so are you willing to come back to U.S. ?” I agreed, but would I get return tickets with just twenty days left to travel? Well, if Bhagavan wished, it would happen. By May 12, the booking agent said we would get good deals only from May 31. By May 25, all aspects of the journey were confirmed.
The Eternal as ‘Ed’ - Roadside Rescue
On May 31, 2004, at 3.45am, we started our drive to Phoenix International Airport. As we were about ten miles to the airport, I smelt gasoline, and within a minute we entered a four lane freeway tunnel. Suddenly we heard a loud bang, and our car swerved out of control; it went spinning. Later, we understood it was a tire blowout. A huge container truck, which was following us, narrowly missed hitting us, and we spun from the right most lane to the left most, and turned 360* and back into the right lane.
In that instant, knowing that it was impending death, I kept chanting “Sairam, Sairam!” and closed my eyes. The car came to a screeching halt, and when I opened my eyes, I saw we were now facing the oncoming traffic, and waiting for a mid-sized van to run into us. “Sairam! There comes Lord Yama (God of death)!” I thought. Amazingly, the van came to a halt just centimeters from our car, and the van driver got down and enquired as to what happened.
Soon a police car arrived, and I was sitting behind the wheel, while my husband and the van driver, Ed, pushed the car towards the shoulder of the freeway (a narrow strip of paved road to help drivers to safely park their cars during emergencies). The police officer started asking me questions, thinking I was the driver of the car. By then I had tears in my eyes. Swallowing my tears, I told him that in an hour I was heading to Los Angeles, and from there proceeding to India. He said,” No problem, Madam, I can drive you and your child to the airport.”
My husband came forward and explained the situation, wherein the police officer gave a tip to park the car on the shoulder, and that the car should be parked along the flow of traffic. That way it would not be towed, and we could avoid an unnecessary expenditure of about $200. They looked at the car tire, and shook their heads in disbelief that we survived without even a scratch on our bodies on such a high speed tire blowout!
The van driver, Ed, (he was about Bhagavan’s height) said, he was an airport employee and would be happy to give us a ride to the airport. Luckily, he had a car-seat for my son, and we transferred the luggage and proceeded to the airport. We had just fifteen minutes to check in, and thanked Ed for his kindness.
He just nodded and drove away as the sun was just rising over the horizon. In that hurry, we didn’t have the presence of mind to ask him for his address. In my heart, I had a strong feeling that he was Bhagavan Himself as Ed. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him to reveal Himself. Then again, I felt it was just His Grace that we were all alive.
Until that moment, my husband would use the term ‘Baba’ to refer to Bhagavan. But on that day, as we checked in, he said, “This trip is a pilgrimage for you. Don't worry, Swami will take care of you.” We boarded the airplane with Bhagavan’s name on our lips.
My husband then called a friend, who rode him back to the freeway tunnel and helped him change the tyre. After this was done, when he started the car, the song “Sab kaa Malik Sai Bhagawan” (Sai is the Master of Everyone) began to play from the CD a Sai sister had given us a few days ago. We reached India safely, and everyone was amazed when they heard about the incident, and how the Divine Hand protected us.
We stepped in Prasanthi Nilayam on the afternoon of June 17, 2004. My mother-in-law and father-in-law had traveled for the first time to Puttaparthi to watch their grandson perform. We went to the assigned room to unpack and went for Darshan. We heard the bhajans and then the arathi, and waited with bated breath to see our dear Lord.
Bhagavan was sitting in the golf-cart, and I felt He was looking at me, and heard Him asking, “So when are you leaving?” I could not make up my mind whether He was referring to my leaving Puttaparthi or returning to the US ; so I just kept staring at Him and His golf-cart proceeded.
The practice session for the play began on the afternoon of June 20, and again Sai Prashanth started crying, and wouldn’t let me go for Darshan. By then, I too had tears. I was having Bhagavan’s Darshan after three years, and the inner conversation with Bhagavan began, “Bhagavan, I have come from so far just to have Your Darshan. Why is it that I can’t even see You?”
Five minutes later, as the children were practicing in front of North 5, one sevadal ran to us saying Bhagavan’s golf-cart was coming to that part of the ashram. Sure enough, we all had a beautiful Darshan! And after the practice, the children ran up to me and said, “Aunty, it just happened as you told us. Bhagavan did come to watch us as we were practicing.” I had until then, a lingering doubt as to how, if ever, Bhagavan would come, because the previous year Bhagavan had undergone a hip surgery. Once again, I knew and was convinced that Bhagavan is a silent listener to all our conversations.
The Much Awaited Moment Arrives
The play was scheduled for the afternoon of July 5, three days after Guru Poornima, in the Sai Kulwant Hall. The day dawned bright and beautiful, and the children awaited their beautiful moments with the Lord.
Bhagavan arrived at 2.45 p.m. (it was earlier than usual) and asked for the play to commence. He asked the child who carried a bouquet, “Who is Sojourner Truth? Who is Abraham Lincoln?” The little girl answered well and Bhagavan turned to everyone sitting around Him saying that even small children knew the play well.
When the play started, a short circuit occurred exactly at that scene, where the play was stopped twenty days ago during practice session, when Bhagavan suddenly had arrived in front of North Block. The serial lights above Bhagavan started bursting like tiny fire-crackers, but Bhagavan sat blissfully, totally unaffected. Then He looked up for a second and it stopped. However, Bhagavan’s swivel chair was moved to the left, near to the men’s side of the portico. Bhagavan asked the narrator to continue, and one year’s practice surely served its purpose. Very confidently, the children began from where they stopped. Soon the recording resumed, and the play continued with a final scene with all the children singing a bhajan. After the play, a senior SSE student requested Bhagavan for a group photograph, and Bhagavan in His Infinite Compassion, blessed the teachers and assistants too with a photograph. So we too could treasure and cherish that precious moment forever.
A Child’s Wish Fulfilled
Immediately after this, Bhagavan sent word for something, and big bowls of apples were brought by the students. Bhagavan personally gave the apples to the Bal Vikas boys. Now, my Sai Prashanth, who was acting as a slave, posed for the photograph, and was completely oblivious to the fact that Bhagavan was distributing apples right behind him. He happily sat removing the stitches from his patchwork. Frantically I began praying to Bhagavan to bless little Sai too with the prasad. Suddenly, Sai got up and Bhagavan called him “little boy” and blessed him with an apple. It was then that I recalled a casual conversation with little Sai in Phoenix, when he was just learning the alphabets. I was explaining to him that Bhagavan can give him anything good he wants, provided, he stays in the play practice without crying, and then I had asked what he would like from Bhagavan. In his own sweet way, he had replied, “Umm, I think I will ask for an apple!” Thus, even the wish of a small child was granted.
Drenched in His Love, I called Phoenix and narrated everything to my husband. At the end of our conversation, he said, “Guess what? I went for seva yesterday.” It was the first time he had the intrinsic desire to go to the welfare center in our one and a half year’s stay in Phoenix, though he would, without protesting take me for most of the Sai center activities, and here Bhagavan was blessing our son with His love!
Infinite Grace of the Indweller
With beautiful memories of our trip, we all returned to our native States to visit grandparents and in-laws. I, then, started my return trip with my little son. International travel is not my forte, but Bhagavan gives strength always. This time the flight departure from Chennai ( Madras ) was delayed by two hours, and so when I reached Singapore, I had just fifteen minutes to change terminals. A kind hearted Singaporean at the help desk, rushed Sai Prashanth and me through the sky train and into the next terminal, and we boarded the plane with just a minute to spare. We returned safely to Phoenix.
Our dear Lord, who promised that He would be with us, was and is always watching over us and guiding us!
What thanks can I render Sai?
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Vol 6 Issue 04 - APRIL 2008
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