Volume 6 - Issue 12
DECEMBER - 2008
Sai - The Rhythm of My Life
Over the years, my life with Swami has taken on a whole new meaning. My pigtailed years at school and college serve as the basis of my present life. It had meant a lot at the time, but not in the way it is priceless now. Having been blessed to belong to a family who literally had Swami to talk to at will, I appreciate now, more than ever, that my parents brought me to Swami even before I could speak my first coherent word, and then put me in His care before I was six. As a matter of fact, my mother reminds me every once in a while that the first ever word that escaped my lips was Baba. My life with Swami and what I have made of it can flow like a happy cascade into pages. However, I shall make an honest effort to keep it as short as I possibly can.
My Priceless Possession
Swami dubbed me ‘Assam ka pakora’ for all practical purposes when I was in grade 1 and 2 in His primary school in Ooty. Pakora is a fritter of vegetables dipped in chickpea flour. We had ‘story sessions’ with Swami after dinner on a daily basis when Swami would regale us with stories or tell us at random to answer His questions, often asked in jest.
We would have our ears and eyes peeled just so we didn’t miss a word or gesture. On one such after-dinner session, Swami called out for a certain “ Assam ka pakora”. When I made my way up to Swami’s chair, He pulled my cheeks, smiled at me and ever so lovingly said, “Good girl, yes, you are Assam ka pakora.”
Swami asked me to sing a bhajan and before I could begin the first verse, He handed me a pair of cymbals. At barely 5, I felt thrilled to sing for Swami to the self-accompaniment of cymbals. The omniscient Swami knew that I had an uncanny sense of rhythm for a girl my age.
Swami evidently set the rhythm of my life in those magical moments. He then let a devotee capture this memory in a Polaroid photo. The photo, undoubtedly, is still the best memory of this lifetime.
My Understanding of Intelligence
Unlike my sisters, I considered myself rather unfortunate not to have received a material form of blessing from Swami. He gave my sisters gorgeous pairs of earrings and pendants. One of my sisters was even named by Swami. But Bhagavan decided to give me a surprise one fine evening. He called my family for an interview when He looked at my mother and said, “Today is your second daughter’s day.” He called me to where He sat, patted me, and said, “Good girl, good girl.” Swami then blessed me with a pair of gold earrings, an acknowledgment of my secret unhappiness. He knows how we feel and what He needs to do to lift our dampened spirits.
My academic record in school was quite impressive, but in grade 6, I wasn’t the top ranker. I was miserable and felt I let myself down. During another interview, Swami remembered to restore my somewhat dented confidence. He told my parents I was an intelligent girl. His words soothed me.
I have a theory about Swami’s meaning of intelligence in my case. Intelligence, for most of us, generally means the idea of scoring top grades in school and university. Swami meant to tell me that scores aren’t all, and that I was still intelligent regardless of my rank. I want to think He determined my intelligence not so much by my grades but by my sense of empathy, my inclination to reach out to people for no apparent reason. In retrospect, I think Swami attributed my intelligence to my understanding of life in its simplest sense. He knew I was going to use my intelligence to extend help and support to people that needed it.
Believe With Every Fibre of Your Being
Our grade 10 exams over, the summer holiday was a welcome respite and deservedly so. One afternoon, my mother was waiting in the ladies’ verandah to go into the Bhajan Hall to sing bhajans. Whilst she was lost in a reverie of sorts, Swami nearly gave her a fright by appearing in front of her through the window bars of the Bhajan Hall. She collected her wits together in time to catch Swami’s query. “Do you know your second daughter’s results? She has secured first class!”
My mother was obviously elated, and thanked Swami for the grand news. Little did she know that she was in for a massive shock when the school results were out. Her whoop turned into dismay in a matter of days. Did Swami give my mother to understand the opposite of “first class” if this was what she was supposed to be prepared for?
It turned out that the first 18 of us on the roll call apparently failed that year. As luck would have it, the top 5 rankers were in this chosen 18. It was too ludicrous a piece of reality to digest. How could the best of them appear in the list of failures? I have to admit I felt completely gutted as it slowly sunk in. Many tears were shed, but most of us were stunned to silence. Our headmistress wrote to the Central Board of Secondary Examination in New Delhi about this unusual story. The results came back on a different note the second time around. The 18 failures were actually first division holders. There’s more to the sweet miracle. There wasn’t a single student with a third division! It was a lesson from Swami - Believe in Him with every fibre of your being.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously Always
Swami was full of quips when it came to my grandmother. One morning Swami stood in the verandah of the mandir and beckoned her to go up to Him. As she hobbled up with the aid of a walking stick reaching her destination, Swami, with a playful look in His eyes joked, “Mataji (mother), who called you here?”
Visibly embarrassed in front of a hushed crowd, she turned back and obediently started her little journey to her seat. Just as she walked a few steps away, Swami called her back, “Did I ask you to go back? Return to the verandah!”
Stifled chuckles could be heard from the crowd. Swami seemed to enjoy the little drill till He finally let her walk up right into the room in the mandir for a lovely session with her. I was a little girl then; just as amused like the rest of the devotees that morning.
It struck me only years later that Swami intended to tell us that we don’t have to take ourselves seriously all the time. A few laughs a day are needed to make sense of our time on the planet.
Nothing Escapes Swami’s Divine Radar
My father wished to get my wedding invitation card blessed by Swami, days before I got married in the summer of 2002. One morning in Brindavan, my sister and I could see Swami talking to a gentleman across the aisle that looked like my father. Since it happened to be my husband’s birthday that day, I was delighted that Swami acknowledged my father. Swami wanted to know every detail about the ceremony. He then asked my father where my husband was working.
My father mumbled, “Swami, he’s a manager in Tata Tea” to which Swami asked, “But what is he doing now?” My husband had just quit his job. No picayune piece of information escapes Swami’s Divine eye; He keeps track of the most inconsequential detail that may make little difference to the rest of the world. Swami definitely looks out for us.
The Divine Valley of Peace
My husband didn’t know Swami in His human form, much less the fact that Swami was his shadow all along. It was only after my marriage that he came upon a treasure that he was looking for all his life. He had preserved some scrawls of his, written possibly a decade before we married; they were rambling thoughts that had no significant meaning at the time.
I began to read his scribbles in no definite order when by a curious coincidence, I came upon the words: “Dear God, please take me to the valley of peace where I hope to find the meaning of my existence.” I was gobsmacked, absolutely speechless, as you would imagine. I said a quick prayer of thanks to Swami and continued reading the rest of what came across as thoughts written in rumination.
Months went by and I forgot all about his prayer till my husband’s first trip to Prasanthi Nilayam. As we entered Puttaparthi, there was a huge billboard on one side of the road with “Welcome to Prasanthi Nilayam, the Divine Valley of Peace” in bold. It was almost as if it was hollering at us to be heard. My mind raced to my husband’s prayer. It was his turn to gape in utter disbelief recalling the words he had written at a time when he didn’t know that God existed in Swami’s form.
Time had flown since the day he cried to someone called God. “The Divine Valley of Peace” indeed! He did realize in that instant that Swami knew him all that time. He did have to wait for a decade, but the waiting was worth the while. The few minutes of a prayerful silence that lasted will remain as one of the most stirring memories of our lives.
Have Faith for God’s Sake
A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves strapped for cash before the month end. On our way back from work, we happened to see an ATM. My husband then came up with a purely funny question: “Let’s stop to see if Swami has deposited any magic money in our bank account.” Don’t we say things for the lark of it?
“Why would Swami help us when there are a million homeless people with little to eat and survive on?” “What have we done to ask God on a whim for a few currency notes just because we are broke?” Half amused, he continued, “What if there’s some big-hearted person somewhere who remembered us today? Have faith for God’s sake.” I clearly got the feeling that my husband had lost his marbles. It’s not usual for him to be daft. I relented. “Let’s have a go if you will.”
What happened in the next few minutes is beyond my limited understanding of generosity! (Please note the exclamation mark!) There was a month’s salary in my bank account! It wasn’t from my then employer, yes, you have to believe me. A mysterious stranger, in a very magnanimous moment, thought of two people in dire straits.
Complete Faith or No Faith at all
My husband spends his birthday with Swami, well, since 2003. April end is that time of the year when Swami leaves Prasanthi Nilayam for a while. No one can tell till we hear that Swami has gone to either Kodai Kanal or Bangalore or anywhere else. So, it’s a bit of a guessing game when April comes to a close every year. This year (2008) was no exception then. What made it even trickier to decide was that there were rumours galore. The list of possible destinations sort of doubled in size. Brindavan, this year, seemed to be most unlikely as elaborate construction work was going on right in front of the ashram. Why would Swami choose Brindavan to inconvenience people?
I couldn’t make my mind up, and was already beginning to get glum. My husband’s theory of “complete faith or no faith at all” helped him settle for a four-day trip to Brindavan. I wasn’t overly excited at his obvious sense of sureness. The mind doubts, but the heart never does. While my mind wasted time thinking too much, my husband followed his heart.
The rumours continued to swirl, but we touched Brindavan by 3 p.m., a good two days before my husband’s birthday. There was no sign of Swami’s possible arrival. My niece, who was with us, saw a picture of two stark opposites - one of blatant doubt, and the other of a childlike faith. We assumed we didn’t have much to do for the rest of the day as Swami wasn’t around. A few people were seen milling about, not enough to indicate Swami’s arrival.
Around 5 that same afternoon, suddenly the place came alive. People appeared from nowhere and filled both sides of the road, all smiling. Where were these people all this time? Streamers, garlands, banners welcoming Swami, and festoons, found their places quickly, a regular feature when Swami arrives. “Swami, is it true that you are going to be here in the next hour?” My husband and my niece wore their best smiles, and we waited. By 7 o’clock, Swami’s car blessed the street we stood on; He even looked at us beaming. Our hearts leaped, we saw Him after all! Another lesson on faith?
Well, my husband’s birthday was special in every sense. I prayed, sheepishly, for a sweet. Why should Swami acknowledge one person’s birthday in this large gathering? The morning saw Swami sway to some soulful fusion instrumental music, and the devotees were lost in it, too. We normally sing bhajans every morning in Brindavan unless it’s an occasion or special event. It wasn’t a festival or anything grand that day. It was not even a Sunday. Swami then had His students give away sweets to all of us in the prayer hall. Did Swami really listen to my silly prayer?
At the end of our four-day stay, we headed back home. My sister called us the following morning to say that Swami had started from Brindavan and would be in Prasanthi Nilayam by that afternoon. My husband and I were dumbstruck! Swami planned His stay in Brindavan just the way we did! We were humbled by Swami’s love for us.
Swami Listens to You
My father had to undergo cataract operations in both his eyes last month (October 2008) in a reputed hospital in the metropolitan city of Chennai. My family and I prayed to Swami to take care of my father through both the operations and even begged for signs that He was there with us. My father had brought a CD of the Rudram (Vedic chants) for us to listen to from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. everyday. The afternoon ritual is yet another feeling of Swami’s presence in our home. As soon as we got to the lift of the hospital on the first day, I spotted a gentleman with the familiar blue scarf worn by people who serve at Swami’s ashram.
Mind you, this was not in Swami’s hospital in Puttaparthi or Bangalore, but in a private hospital in Chennai! Instinctively, I ran up to him and said the magic words “Sai Ram!” Even before this gentleman could see who I was that greeted him, he reached for his pocket and gave me 3 vibhuti packets.
When my father gave him a hug and uttered “Sai Ram”, he had something even more wondrous for my father. It was more vibhuti with a photo that had Swami and the Rudra Yagna (Vedic chants around a sacred fire) in it. Truly, a fortuitous encounter!
The first operation was successful, and we were all happy. In our subsequent visits to the hospital, there was no sign of the generous gentleman. A week after the first operation, my father had to get his left eye operated. My father and his entourage, my husband and I, got to the lift when we saw another all too distinctive blue scarf. Same scarf, only a different face.
The three of us looked at one another, beaming in acknowledgement that Swami was waiting in earnest to bless us yet again. Amongst greetings of Sai Ram, my husband and I were given two packets of vibhuti each and a very kind pat on my father’s back with words of reassurances, “Don’t worry. Your operation will go off well.” It was unmistakably Swami in the guise of the kind man.
I can write for days, but I must stop now. Swami is the pivot around which my life revolves. I have learnt with humility that Swami touches our lives everyday through people and situations. I have experienced His love and guidance through total strangers. Every rough patch, every scar, every poignant cry into an empty sky, every harsh loss, is when Swami shows us He is the only one with a comforting word, a gentle pat, an avenue of strength, a solution that we couldn’t have dreamed of. Swami’s manifestations in disguise are evocative of His boundless love and constant concern.
His inimitable presence in our lives spurs us on to greater efforts to love and serve in our own little ways. Swami is the air we breathe, our muse, our inspiration, our white light in the darkness. Swami is everything to us. Everything. I remain inspired by these words of Bhagavan Baba: “Love seeks no reward. Love is its own reward.”
Vol 6 Issue 12 - DECEMBER 2008
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