Volume 6 - Issue 05
MAY - 2008
NEVER AWAY FROM THE AVATAR’S EYES
By Ms. Uma Ramakrishnan
In 1991, exactly a year before I joined Anantapur, my family came to know about the Avatar’s presence on earth. When the time is right, nothing can stop one from knowing the truth. Such is the Divine Will. In our case it happened through a lot of personal struggles which have not only drawn us closer to Him, but also strengthened our faith. I was diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition of abnormally high pressure inside both the eyes when I was barely fifteen years old.
The doctors who confirmed this diagnosis could hardly believe that with such high intraocular pressure, I had not only escaped from blindness but was still asymptomatic. Since I had to undergo several evaluations and procedures as a result of this condition, I was unable to attend regular school.
I was appearing for my 12th standard higher secondary examinations and all hopes of completing high school with flying colors were shattered to the ground because of my health. My surgery was completed and the recovery was uneventful. But what followed, the surgery turned out to be a life altering experience.
On the morning of 22nd November 1991, I had this strange, yet wonderful dream. In that dream I saw a man in an orange robe with a big mop of black hair, walking among gathered men and women, who were seated in rows. This man walked up to me and commanded me to take ashes from a burning sacrificial fire near-by and gestured me to apply it onto His forehead.
I was confused and unsure if the order was meant for me, as I was seeing Him for the first time. I also wondered if He even knew me! But then, He repeated his order again and this time, I knew it was meant for me. I slowly got up, picking up the burning ash, I tried to apply it on to His forehead as instructed. But He stopped me midway and took my hand in His and applied the ashes onto both my eyes.
I woke up with a jolt. Even in a state of half asleep, I was somehow conscious that this was no ordinary dream. I eagerly shared with my mother all that had occurred. The two of us were racking our brains to comprehend the purpose of this strange dream. Who was this man in an orange dress, what were those men and women doing and given my eye condition, why did He apply the ash on me? Was this some sort of miraculous cure or was it all a simple heart’s desire to be normal again? We wondered!
Swami, out of His Compassion and Love, did not make us wait too long. The same night there was a news segment on the regional TV about the inauguration of a hospital in some remote place. It did not catch my attention at first. And then suddenly as I was watching, I could not believe what I saw on that television monitor. I saw the same person in orange robe with the big mop of hair! Breathless and shocked, I called out to my mother. Sensing the urgency in my voice she came running into the room. “Do you see the same thing that I see?” was all that I managed to ask my mother. At that moment we both realized, that the dream was no ordinary one. It was a calling from the divine.
When Swami calls some one to Him, He arranges for the journey as well. It was like flood gates giving way. How I cherish the thoughts of those days of discovery? The fascination never ceased. Everyday we would hear through someone about Swami’s leelas. We talked about Him for 24 hours, non-stop! I thank all the good souls who shared their experiences with us and strengthened our faith. Subsequently, we learnt about the local Sai centers, or samithis, as they are called in India.
Since we were musically trained we were naturally drawn to singing bhajans. We joined a samithi near our home in Chennai. During Shankranthi of 1992, we had the first darshan of our beloved Swami. The journey from the “man in an orange robe” to “beloved Swami” was incredible, to say the least. And somehow, from there I found myself catapulted into the Divine embrace. It was His will.
It was about three months since I had joined Anantapur. All the girls along with our teachers were asked to come to Puttaparthi for Gurupoornima celebrations. We were blessed with an opportunity to serve in the new Indian canteen. We rolled chapattis, made laddoos and cut vegetables amidst bhajan singing, to feed the masses that were anticipated to come from every part of the globe.
During that time, I met an old teacher of mine from my home-town of Chennai. We exchanged pleasantries and chit-chatted for a while and as she was taking leave of me she asked me how my father was doing now? “Very well,” I said after which she left. It was a busy day and it was not until that night that this simple question put forth by my teacher started to bother me. I had not been receiving mail or phone calls from home regularly. I hoped that things were fine at home and thought that my parents might have been busy.
In a couple of days, I went back to the routine at Anantapur and the mid semester exams were to begin in a couple of weeks. So, I put off worrying about my parents and focused on my exams instead. During the course of our exams, one day I was called to the warden’s room to meet a visitor. This came as a big surprise for me as I was not expecting anyone. My mother had called a week ago and she had not mentioned anything about coming to Anantapur. Expecting to see my parents, I rushed down to meet them.
Anguish Over Father’s Health
At the front porch of the hostel, a family friend was waiting instead. She told me that my dad was not well and that the warden has given me permission to go home with her. Through out the trip back home my guardian would not divulge anything. Finally, unable to contain myself I asked how grave the situation was and if my father was alive. Relieved to hear that he was alive and afraid to learn more, I kept silent throughout the journey.
I reached the hospital in a rather disturbed state of mind. The constant beep of the monitors, the bedpan and the other paraphernalia made me realize how gravely ill my father was. I saw my father at the far end of the room. Even as I approached him I sensed that some thing was not right.
He lay still in his bed. His face looked distorted and his arm and legs looked stiff. My mind went blank. I did not know what to do or say. I just stood there and cried silently. My mother at his side looked unusually quiet and peaceful under the circumstances.
I had a lot of unanswered questions. I asked my mother to fill me in on what had happened in my absence. It turned out that about a week ago when she was completing the Sathyanarayana puja at home, she heard a loud crash in the kitchen. When my father failed to respond to her call, she got up from the puja and rushed out to see my father having seizures.
His arms and legs were fluttering and his face was looked strange. Hearing my mother’s cry, a neighbor rushed to help transport my father to a near by hospital. CT scan revealed cerebral hemorrhage with about 95 % cerebral clots. My father had suffered from a paralytic stroke. He had lost speech, vision and the left side of the body was completely paralyzed. My father was shifted to the ICU and was given 24 hrs to live.
My mother was in a state of shock and total disbelief. What would she do if father leaves us? Who will take care of us, the children’s studies, and their marriage? With these thoughts tormenting her, she could not even cry she said. It was late into the night when she was allowed to visit my father in the ICU, while my relatives waited outside. Mother picked a corner and sat leaning against the wall drained of all her energy. All she could remember were just these two words: Sai Ram. She started chanting mentally the name of Swami and was crying for His help. He was her sole refuge. She had no one to turn to. She was praying to Him to give her the strength to accept what ever destiny had in store for the family. Unknowingly, she fell asleep.
SaiCare – Supreme Care
All of sudden, she felt a jolt and woke up. But what she saw there startled her even more. She could see a slender hand adorned by an orange cuff gliding along my father’s frail body. Physical fatigue and an overwhelming feeling caught up with her and before she even knew she fell asleep again failing to understand fully what she had witnessed.
In the morning, my mother woke up to the sounds of the beeping monitors. She did not know when she had slept. She had spent the whole night leaning against the wall. She went to check on my father and stood by his bed watching in silence. The maid who swept and cleaned the ICU floors was still asleep. She was the only other person who was allowed to stay in the ICU the previous night.
The maid woke up in a short while. She sat there on the floor and as she was tying her open hair into a knot, she spoke to my mom. She told her about a visitor who came to see my father the previous night. The way he was dressed was rather odd, she said. He sat on the stool next to my father’s bed and sat there gently stroking his paralyzed arm and leg and was also carrying a conversation with him in a subdued voice. The maid further stated that she asked this stranger, assuming that he might be a family member, if my mother needed to be woken up.
He turned and looked at my mother who was asleep, leaning against the wall. He told the maid not to wake up my mother as she looked very tired. He also told her that he will take leave of my father in a short while and asked her to inform my mother about his visit when she woke up in the morning. Then he left in a short while, she said, finishing her story.
As you can imagine my mother could not believe what she was hearing. The thoughts of the previous night came flooding back. All that my mother could remember was the orange cuff adorned slender hand. Immediately, my mother drowned the maid in a deluge of questions “What was he like, what did he wear when did he come?”
The maid became a little irritated. She walked past my father’s bed to the night stand. Picking up a photograph from the night stand she showed my mom and said in tone laced with exasperation and finality, “this is the man that came last night.” It was a picture of Swami that most of us would have seen around the ashram at Puttaparthi. It is a picture of Swami lovingly and tenderly stroking a calf.
Is it not wonderful how Swami takes care of each and everyone of us and tends to us the same way as He tends the innocent calf? Swami’s influence in my life has been significant ever since He took me under His wing. He has nurtured me with love and great care.
My father survived that fateful yet memorable night with Swami as his Sarathi or charioteer. Following rehabilitation my father resumed and continued to go to work for five years and got his two daughters married. It has been sixteen years since that wonderful revival and because of Swami’s Boundless Grace alone, my father till date continues to enjoy a good life amidst his children and grand children.
SOS – Sai Our Saviour
There are million different ways how Swami calls His devotees to Himself. He painstakingly handcrafts these ‘calling cards’ for each individual. They remind us about the Unlimited Love that He has for each and every one of us. The greatest gift that these calling cards bring is our knowing the Avatar in this life-time.
He waits patiently for us to finish off with our preoccupations. He fulfils our material mundane needs so that one day we will ask Him for the things that He has come down to bestow upon us. I am learning slowly but surely, not to fight His Will. Everything that we are blessed with in this sojourn on earth is for our own good and for our growth. However great or small a work might be, it’s His work that I am always doing, and not mine. These experiences dictate my current attitude towards the challenges of the world. Why fear when my Lord is here? I never was, never am and will never be away from the Avatar’s eyes.
In conclusion, a small poem from Prof. N. Kasturi’s “Loving God” conveys it all.
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Vol 6 Issue 05 - MAY 2008
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