Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 1 - The blessing materializes

A pleasant bolt from the blue

Sometimes, certain events occur in life that infuse a whiff of fresh direction and new beginnings; that restore and invigorate you in ways you would have never imagined possible. They are like splendid waterfalls in the path of a river as it flows towards its ultimate source - the ocean. They are encountered rather unexpectedly, and what unfolds as a result is something most memorable and spectacular. When the placid stream is suddenly awakened from its leisurely flow into a grand burst of intense activity, it realizes it’s potential. The most interesting thing however is that all this happens so naturally - the bounding brook puts in no extra effort; it just 'goes with the flow'.

The sudden burst of grand activity adds excitement and beauty to the leisurely flow of a river

My trip to Hadshi and Mumbai with Swami in the winter of 2009 was a similar one; it not only came as the mighty waterfall in the flow of my life but stood out as a momentous watershed for I was blessed with the privilege of witnessing, first-hand and for the first time in my life, Divinity in action from close quarters.

As far as I am concerned, the dream journey began as a dream! I 'received' this dream in the wee morning hours of October 13, 2009. The dream went thus. 

Swami had sent for me and I saw myself seated in the Sai Kulwant Hall about to go into the Poornachandra Auditorium. But I was also aware that only singers were supposed to be there. So I picked up a book on music, largely filled with swaras (musical notations), and headed for the auditorium. When I entered, I saw many proficient vocalists (students), all familiar to me, seated there. I went past Swami's chair and took my seat. When Bhagavan questioned me about my delay in arriving, I said, 
"Swami, I did not expect to be a part of this group! Hence I am late!" 
And then I woke up.

I was happy I had His darshan first thing in the morning. Beyond this, there was nothing more that I could decipher from that welcome dream. Two days later, everything became clear. The entry in my personal diary reveals the physical manifestation of the dream - another proof for me that the dreams of Swami are always true.

October 15, 2009

What shall I write about today! It was the most exceptional day when I think about my physical proximity with Swami. I had taken another lovely step in my journey towards Him. It was in the evening that the dream I had two days ago seemed to find fruition and it all happened after Swami completed His darshan rounds and called Mr. Jadhav and Mr. Ramesh Sawant (State President of SSSO, Maharashtra & Goa) for an interview. At this point in time, I was sure that it was going to be a long interview after which Swami would go into the bhajan hall to receive Aarthi before retiring. My love for badminton made me think,
"Should I just leave for my evening games? I don't think anything much will happen today..."

I could not have been more wrong. And it was destiny that told me through my heart,
"It is better to wait for the Lord over physical exercise and mental entertainment."
So I sat and waited.

Swami came out after a while and asked for Dr.Naren Ramji (the Registrar of Swami’s University). He then asked the boys whom He had earlier selected for the Pune trip to go inside the interview room. As He sat on the stage, He seemed to be scanning and searching through the faces in front of Him. In a few minutes, He looked at Neeraj and indicated to him to join the group in the interview room.

What happened next stunned me. His eyes met mine and He beckoned me to go inside as well! Was this really happening? The students seated behind me with "birthday trays" got up thinking He was calling them. I was certain that He had indicated to me and so wanted to quickly move up the stage. However, the birthday boys moved faster. I waited for the birthday boys to get their share of blessings and also for a second confirmatory indication. It came soon, as Swami signaled again and I rushed towards the interview room via the dais. Even as I did so, I turned to judge His reaction as I was still a bit unsure and thought – in case I am not the chosen one, Swami could still send me back! But the kind Lord just looked at me lovingly. Now I confidently walked on and took my position in the portico.

I was excited and thrilled. Indeed, even now, it was so unbelievable for me. That when Jagadish Kanadia came along. On many occasions, I had seen Swami send messages to devotees and students through this lad. I thought he had come to tell me that it had been my mistake to think that I was part of this 'privileged' group! With trepidation in my heart, I prepared myself for the disappointment. But he simply said ‘Sairam’ and sat next to me. A great relief swept over me as I realized that he had come to the portico for the same reason I had come - because Swami had picked him for the trip. Soon, Swami came and asked all of us to go to the interview room. I rushed ahead to take a place near His feet.

Sitting there, I just began to think of how alert and 'pure' I become when I am in Swami's presence. Though it was a passing thought it stayed with me as I realized that if I lead every moment of my life conscious of His presence, my thoughts, words and deeds would be so holy and uplifting - for me as well as for everyone else! Right, don't you think so?

Memories of  Swami's previous trip to the Marathwada region, to Latur and Chakur, were present in my mind
since my father had got the privilege of taking photographs during that visit. 
Once inside, Swami told Naren sir to take down the names. Swami personally asked every one present his name before telling Naren sir to note down - all except me. Again panic struck me and I think it was visible to many in the interview room. In fact, Ashwath prodded me to tell Him my name on my own. I did not want to! Why remind Him that I was there and assure Him that it was not too late to take corrective action in case a mistake had been made by calling me in! Really, I still found it difficult to accept that something so grand as this was being bestowed upon me. Later, as He was looking at all of us, He noticed me and asked if my name had been written. I looked at Naren sir and he nodded.
‘Ah, this was confirmation enough!’ I felt.

After this, Swami told us about the trip. 
"Everything has been well arranged,” He said. “There are rooms for all and the rooms have fans and A/C too; you can use either of them. We will go directly to Pune in flight. All of you must be well behaved. Be strict in your discipline." Swami enquired about the singers, harmonium players and tabla players as well. 
“Too many percussionists are not needed,” He said, adding that three were sufficient. A few musicians however, were added to the list. I was thinking that I would extensively do photography during the trip. So, I felt, it would be great to have a videographer along to ensure complete and comprehensive coverage. When I was sure that Swami was not looking at me, I whispered to Naren sir who was next to me,
"Sir, can we have a person to do video coverage."
"Ask Him; not me", he whispered back. 

I then ventured courageously, 
"Swami, if there is a video cameraman, it would be nice." 
Swami asked,"Won't you be doing that?"
"Swami, I will take photos."
"Who is there then?"
"Swami, Sai Prakash."
"Does he do a good job with the camera?"
"Yes Swami, he takes videos very well."
"Does he have a camera?"
"Yes, he has, Swami."
"And what about films (tapes)?"
"He has them in sufficient number too."
Swami smiled and then told Naren sir to add his name.

As the session went on, more names were added especially of boys skilled in various musical instruments. This made me happy.
Bhagavan then enquired about speakers. I quickly raised my hand. Swami asked, "Will you speak?" 
I said yes and He also seemed to agree. Then He asked Sudhindran as well, to which he replied that he would definitely speak if Swami so willed.Ah! That was a much better answer than mine, I felt. How I wished I too could have said the same. Let me remember always that whatever I do, it is because of Swami's love and grace.

All this while, I had the opportunity to press and massage His feet. During this period He did look deeply into my eyes a couple of times. For the first time in my life, I understood how special God can make you feel in just a moment. It was as if Swami had come to earth only for my sake I was only smiling in bliss. Then Swami noticed the clock. I too did the same.
“How quickly time flies with Swami!” I thought. 
In the meanwhile, Ashwath asked Swami about the songs to be prepared to which He said that they should be in multiple languages so that all devotees find something to enjoy. The interview was now coming to an end. As we filed out of the room, I took padanamaskar. Taking the chance to go closer to Him, I said, "Swami ee avakasam ichcharu... Chaala krutagnatalu (Swami, we are so grateful for this opportunity You have blessed us with).” He nodded. I was swimming in joy.

The resolve of two brothers

Until that moment, though I knew about Bhagavan’s impending trip to Pune, I had never really taken the effort to learn more about the place. But now that I was flying with the Lord to Hadshi, I began to glean vital information, and in the process, learnt some amazing stories of grace from the Jadhav brothers – Shivajirao and Uttamrao. 
"It is a must that we know something about the place before embarking on this historic trip," I thought.



It was in the early nineties that the Jadhav brothers heard about an Avatar who had made Puttaparthi His birthplace. Hailing from the faraway Marathwada region in Maharashtra, they could not come immediately for the Avatar’s darshan. However, in 1993, both the brothers visited Baba’s ashram in Whitefield, Bangalore. They were at once impressed by the devotion and discipline that seemed to fill the air of that Holy Site, and wondered why the shrines at Pandharpur and other pilgrimage places in Maharashtra too could not be maintained that way! That very instant, they made a resolve: We will take this Swami with us to our region in Maharashtra.

This was something bizarre! I had heard of people responding in different, unique ways, when they saw Swami for the first time. But in this case, merely being in the ashram had done wonders; these brothers had instantly decided to take Swami to their state!

The story of how Swami's first trip to the Marathawada region materialized and how He showered
His grace on the people there is a separate story in itself. 
The Jadhav brothers were, in a sense, not new to Swami as they had been devoted to Sai Baba of Shirdi for very long; so much so that the family felt restless if they did not make an annual pilgrimage to Shirdi. On innumerable occasions, they witnessed inexplicable instances of His benediction. For example, once a family member fell extremely ill when the scheduled time of departure for the pilgrimage arrived. Nevertheless, they set out on their holy journey, and by the time they returned, the malady had completely disappeared.

Was that not cruel of God to smite them thus, just to test their faith and secure their pilgrimage? "No!" was the vehement answer. "He knows that it is good for us and those are just reminders when we forget Him. Life has been wonderful for us due to His grace," said the Jadhavs.
Going back to their trip to Whitefield, the Jadhav brothers had in their party Mr. Naidu, an acquaintance who was a senior Sai devotee. And from him they learnt that earlier Swami had indeed made several trips to various shrines and cities of India. However,  the chances of Him coming to a remote village in Maharashtra (hundreds of miles away from Puttaparthi), were remote! Notwithstanding this, their resolve to take Swami home was only further strengthened after they had their first darshan of Him.

Pictures which show the devastation wreaked by the
earthquake at Latur. Those days, digital photography had
not yet made its advent and therefore very few images
exist even on the internet. 
Upon their return, news floated of Swami’s impending arrival to Maharashtra. Swami had expressed His solidarity for the people of Latur, the home-town of Jadhavs, which had been struck by an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale. The catastrophe at Latur had rendered 7600 people dead and more than 16000 injured!

"The earthquake has brought fear into the people. I need to come there,” Bhagavan told Mr. Shivraj Patil, who was then a Member of the Lok Sabha and its Speaker as well. 

The Jadhavs’ coming into contact with Mr. Patil was the mysterious working of Swami’s will. Working hand in hand with this long-standing and esteemed devotee, the Jadhavs prepared for Swami's visit. The best part was Bhagavan Himself took an active interest in the Mandir (temple) that began to blossom at Latur and even promised to personally inaugurate it.

A couple of years went by. On one occasion when Swami was at Kodaikanal, the temple drawings were shown to Him, and He seemed very pleased. All of a sudden, one day, Swami unveiled the plans of the Mandir to His students and said,
"This Temple is coming up in Latur. I will go for its inauguration." That was the first time He had openly declared His promise. Then He asked Mr. Patil who was seated by His side, 
"What is the temple's seating capacity?" 
Not knowing the exact figure, he hesitatingly said, 
“5000 people, Swami”. 

That turned out to be an overestimate! The ever-sincere Jadhavs, however, took this seriously and erected a multi-storeyed Mandir which would indeed be able to accommodate such massive numbers!

Now, Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav also nursed another secret desire – he wished to make a replica of Bhagavan in bronze, and also design and build a chariot for Swami’s use whenever He visited the state. Privately, he had his apprehensions. Firstly, it is considered inappropriate to make a bronze statue of a living personage, and secondly, Swami may not want to move around in a chariot!

A few days later, when Mr. Shivraj Patil was with Swami in the interview room, Bhagavan mentioned to him about Uttamrao Jadhav's nervous disquiet and said, 
"I will give him peace. He is outside. Go and tell him that he can make my idol, and that I will sit in the vehicle that he wishes to construct."

The procession stretched for kilometers. The helicopter seen in the frame is the one used by the Chief Minister. Swami arrived to Latur by car. 
As per the wishes of the elder Jadhav brother, Swami blessed the chariot in which He was taken to the temple. 
Ah! Is there anything called secret or anxiety where the Lord is concerned? Then what to say of secret anxieties! Mr. Patil was totally oblivious of this and he too simply marveled at the Lord’s omniscience as he conveyed this message to Mr. Uttamrao.


to be continued in Part 2 at the link below:

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 2 - First Flight with God


For all readers:

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8 comments:

  1. Mate you have the coolest Swami Stories Ever!!! Thank you for being so open and sharing your experiences with us. Now I can have an idea of what it is like being on the inside which is so incredibly rare. Experiences I would always wish and dream about having with Swami - Samipya Mukti.

    I reckon these writings of yours are eternal, like Bhagavatam, Ramayan & Mahabharata!

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    1. That statement is a great honour for me. Glad that you are able to enjoy and relive...

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  2. I totally agree with the comment,that said,your writing will be read like RMAYANA AND Bhagwat.May Swami keep on blessing with wonderful writing.

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  3. Waiting for the rest.
    Mr Patil was not just member of Lok Sabha during that time but was the Speaker too.

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    1. Thank you for that additional info. Have incorporated it in the blog now. :)

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  4. Sai Ram Aravind,

    I had been trying to read your article since Tuesday, but Swami willed it for me to read it on this holy day. What a beautiful journey, thank you for sharing the intricate details which makes us travel with you and our beloved Swami wherever we are. The analogy of seating Swami in the car of our heart so so apt and practically helpful. Thank you, as always indebted to you for sharing this joy, peace and love. Jahnavi

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  5. Om Jai Sai Ram, Aravind ji, dear brother!
    What an incredible Seva you are doing with all of your blessed sharing.
    These sweet morsels you are offering are more precious than gold. My words falter trying
    to express the joy these stories and pictures evoke within me. May Swami keep you forever within His Lotus Feet.
    Your Sister in Bhagavan,
    Muktimaa

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