Friday, 25 April 2014

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 2 - First flight with God

Swami's 2001 visit to Latur and Chakur

There were experiences galore as the construction of the Mandir progressed in right earnest in Latur. It was a daunting task no doubt, but the Jadhavs felt the comforting Divine presence throughout the period in so many ways. For instance, the holy ash, Vibhuti manifested copiously from a photograph of Shirdi Sai Baba. And on another occasion, they saw Swami’s face replace that of Lord Vitthala in a large picture! The miracle happened in plain sight for all to see.

A full-sized capture of Swami near
the residence of Sri.S.B.Chavan at Nanded.

Photo Credit: S.Balasubramanya
It was in 1999 that the Jadhavs returned to Puttaparthi to inform Swami that everything would be ready in twelve months’ time. At that time, Swami said, "Not one but two years." Perhaps, Swami had heard it wrong, they thought, and so Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav repeated,
"Swami, it will take only one more year."
"No! It will take two years," Swami clarified again.

(This is part 2 of the serial. Ensure that you have complete joy by reading from the beginning. The first part is given below:

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 1 - The blessing materializes )

The Jadhavs had no doubt that the temple would not get ready before 2001. In perfect accordance with the Divine words, everything was ready and set in the year 2001. The historic visit to Latur and Chakur finally did materialize. Swami fulfilled the promise of sitting in the golden chariot that had been created especially for Him. The experiences and details of that Divine trip is part of the folklore in the Marathawada region and it needs to be documented as another separate book, but for the record, here is a brief account. I shall switch from my detailed ‘running commentary’ to a quick ‘galloping commentary’ before returning to the Hadshi trip.

July 15, 2001 was the glorious day when Swami left for Latur by a special plane which took off from the Sri Sathya Sai Airport at Puttaparthi at about 7.30 a.m. The journey was made in an hour. The then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh and his Cabinet colleagues, former Home Minister of India, Mr. S. B. Chavan, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr. Shivraj Patil and other dignitaries welcomed Baba on His arrival at Latur airbase at 8.35 a.m. When the motorcade proceeded towards the town, masses of people in their traditional costumes lined the entire route to offer Bhagavan their respectful salutations. The road was decorated with beautiful arches and welcome gates depicting Baba's teachings in Marathi and English.

At Latur, Swami addressed a congregation of intellectuals at the residence of the local M.L.A, Mr. Diliprao Deshmukh. Bhagavan also gave darshan to devotees at the residences of Mr. Vilasrao Deshmukh, Mr. Shivraj Patil and Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav.

On the following day, Swami went to “Sai Nandanavanam”, a temple built for Him in Chakur. At the entrance of this edifice, Baba ascended the magnificent golden chariot and traveled a distance of 1.5 kms. Mammoth crowds of devotees hailed Bhagawan with full throated shouts of `Sai Ki Jai, Jai Jai Sai'. The entire area was vibrant with colourful banners, flowers, buntings, lanterns, garlands, flags and huge gates; everywhere there were impressive displays of His sayings and teachings in local languages as well as in English.

Bhagawan charging and lending life to the Shiva Linga at the main temple in Latur. The two Jadhav brothersare also seen. The elder Uttamrao, has a towel on his left hand while the younger, Shivajirao is applauding. Photo Credit: S.Balasubramanya

At the Shivalaya (temple dedicated to Lord Shiva), Swami was given a traditional welcome with the Poorna­kumbham. Bhagawan lit the sacred lamp, then placed His hand on the Shivalinga surcharging it with Divine energy. He consecrated the other idols in the Prayer Hall as well as those in the surrounding nine temples. At two in the afternoon, after a few public speeches by elders, Swami blessed the crowd with a Divine Discourse.

Swami addressing a huge gathering in Chakur. There were two translators for the discourse that day - Prof. Anil Kumar for English and Sri Shivaraj Patil for Marathi. Photo Credit: S.Balasubramanya
The next day, Swami proceeded by road to Nanded. This city presented a multi-hued look as lively decorations beautified every corner. Baba arrived at the residence of Mr. S. B. Chavan and showered the bliss of His darshan on the devotees gathered there. In fact, this visit of Baba was the fulfillment of a promise He had given to Mr. Shankar Rao Chavan, the father of S.B. Chavan, about 25 years ago! Swami had told him that He would visit his house when He came to the state for the inauguration of a temple.

At 12.55 p.m., Bhagavan came to Sri Guru Gobind Singhji Stadium to bless the devotees gathered there with His darshan. All of a sudden, Swami advanced the timings for the programme. His enchanting discourse concluded early in the evening itself. He seemed to be in a great hurry and everyone was wondering why. Soon, everything became clear as the hitherto blue sky was covered with thick rain-bearing clouds! Nanded had not yet received its share of rains for the year and everyone seemed to be praying for it. No sooner had Bhagavan completed the discourse and His aircraft left the skies of that city, there was a heavy downpour. It was as if Bhagavan willed to answer the sincere pleas of the devotees instantaneously! It was undoubtedly a memorable trip for anyone who was a witness or a part of it.

Everyone was filled with beautiful memories of their Lord who showered immense grace on one and all in
the Marathwada region
Photo Credit: S.Balasubramanya
The D Day arrives

This being the history of the Jadhav brothers with Swami and of Swami with the Marathwada region in Maharashtra, I was so excited about the divine odyssey to Hadshi, the second ‘pilgrimage spot’ created by the Jadhav brothers. A confirmation list would be announced, we were told, and so, I eagerly waited everyday for that call which would say “Yes, you are in!"

The mind is so funny. My heart asked me in an absolutely confounded tone,
“Swami called you into the interview room and asked for your name to be written. What further confirmation do you seek?”
But the mind kept grumbling, “You never know how things can change with Swami. You are meant to love His uncertainties! So you better be prepared for everything!” And I, though mostly on the side of the heart, cannot say with authority that I wasn't troubled by the mind!

It was on the 26th of October that we were all called to the University’s Administrative Block and the good, nay the best news was communicated. Ah! My joy knew no bounds that day, and I began preparations in full gusto for the D-date, October 28, 2009.

Finally the day dawned – the culmination of many a sleepless night when butterflies romped freely in my stomach. By 6:15 a.m., we had all assembled in the hostel for Senior Students feasting on a breakfast specially arranged for us. At 7 a.m., we were in the airport completing all the formalities of the check-in. A Jet Airways Boeing 737 was to ferry us along with our Beloved Lord to Pune. Soon, we entered the aircraft and took our allotted seats. Within ten minutes, news arrived that Swami was on His way.

It was at this point I realized that the memory chip of my cell phone was not in the phone where it is meant to be! Perhaps it had fallen off when I had accidentally dropped my cell phone on the tarmac. Frantically I rushed out of the plane with Ravi Bhaiya. Imagine my delight when, within a minute of searching, I found the tiny card on that huge road!

Swami arrives to enter the flight via the vestibule life. 
How I had become aware of the missing chip is an interesting episode in itself. Sitting in the flight, I had noticed that on the display of my mobile, there was some other image instead of the usual photo of Swami. I tried to restore that picture on the screen as the wallpaper but was unable to do it as I could not find the photo. I wondered where the photo which I had stored gone? That was when I realized that the folder where I kept the picture was missing which made it evident to me that the memory chip had gone.

Well, that I understood, is the advantage of keeping God as your “screen saver” in life too - you become aware of your problems which can then get sorted automatically!

Dream flight

Swami arrived and boarded the aircraft through a huge vestibule lift. I was right in the front with Sai Prakash (whom everyone fondly calls CG) who was shooting the video while I was taking pictures. I actually moved close to the window of Swami’s seat in the Executive class section of the aircraft. After brother Satyajit had Swami seated, I moved out to the aisle ensuring that my leg does not touch Swami. Swami seemed to be in very good spirits and He was definitely excited about the trip like a child. This was a side of Swami that I was privileged to see – a facet so human and intimate! The members of cabin crew now began to take padanamaskar, one after another, and I went to a prime position to take their photos. Finally, when everyone had got their opportunity, I asked Swami whether I could take a picture of Him. Considering the absence of resistance as permission, I went ahead and clicked twice. Oh! How lovely He looked!

A sweet and lovely smile which He gifted just before take-off. He is buckled and all
set for the flight! The elder Jadhav brother is in the seat right behind Swami.
The flight was ready for takeoff and I quickly returned to my seat. Now the safety precautions to be observed on the flight were being demonstrated. It was an interesting sight to see the usually unemotional face of the steward become tense as if in awe at the Presence in which he was standing and making his presentation. He did his duty sincerely. The announcement was,
“In case of a drop in cabin pressure, masks will descend. Please put them on first before helping others…”
“When the provider of air to the lungs of all beings is amidst us, why should one fear about the ‘fall’ in air pressure”, I thought with a smile to myself.
“In case of an emergency landing on water, the seat below will act as a flotation device...”
“Ah! Don’t you know that Swami is a specialist at saving people flailing and struggling in this Bhavasagara, the ocean of life”, I almost spoke aloud!
It is such a different feeling boarding an aircraft knowing that Swami is with you.

The words have been taken from Swami's letter to Charles Penn.
As we taxied down the runway, we saw hundreds of people wave to us from the road. Not actually “us” but to Swami! But just like the monkeys in the painting alongside Lord Sri Rama in the Coronation scene also get a part of the adoration due to the Lord, we too received the devotees’ loving gaze. Moving slowly to the eastern end of the runway, the aircraft turned around. Facing the west now, the flight thundered down the runway and, soon we were airborne! Up in the skies with Swami! The very thought excited me. I have travelled many a times by flight, but never had I been so thrilled.

Hundreds and thousands of people lined the airport fence in the hope of catching a glimpse of Swami in the front window of the aircraft.
It was past 8:40 a.m. and soon we were cruising comfortably towards Pune. The refreshments arrived presently, but all the while, my concentration was at the front end of the aircraft where the Goal of my life was seated. He was being ‘entertained’ by small talk from the All India President (AIP) of the Sathya Sai Seva Organisations, Sri V. Srinivasan and Mr. Balaram, a long-standing devotee. Unable to hold back any longer, I went ahead and took a few pictures from behind Swami.

Imagine being in a flight where the front seat has been occupied by the goal of your life!
Returning to my place, I saw that the breakfast had been served. As I munched on my food, I noticed that the members of the cabin crew were making the best possible use of their flight time to get photographs with Swami, taking pictures with cell phone cameras!

I felt it would be better to capture these invaluable moments on a professional camera. Calling CG, I went ahead and got into the seat beside Mr. Ratnakar and started clicking pictures.

All the crew members took turns to speak to and interact with Swami - a great chance for them all!
Meanwhile, GV Sir (that is the popular name for Prof. G. Venkataraman, an eminent scientist and currently the Director of the Radio Sai studios) got up and moved to the front. He told the AIP and the people in the seats behind to shut the windows (and I am sure mentally told himself, “There! I have taken care of the problem of backlight.”) and took a picture. Sensing the opportune moment and also utilizing the better photographic settings created by the meticulous professor, I too moved forward and took photos of Swami with the entire cabin. It was another nice frame (that picture is shown above with Swami's quote that He wrote in a letter to Charles Penn.)

When Swami saw CG shooting, He asked as to why there was no flash. That was so sweet I felt. CG replied that it was a video camera. Swami nodded and smiled. After this, we returned to our seats.

Sai Prakash (CG) explains to Swami that since it is a video camera that he is operating, it has no 'flash'.

A small detour here.

Many times Swami asks these ‘common-knowledge questions’. That is to give an opportunity for us to answer. I remember, on one occasion, Swami asked a student,
“What is your name?”
“Swami, you know.”
Where do you come from?”
“Swami knows everything...”
“What are you studying?”
“Swami, you know everything.”
“You prayed that I should speak to you. I am answering your prayer.”
Swami walked away gently.
If information-seeking was the only reason why Swami asked questions, then thousands would have lost an opportunity to speak to Him! It is indeed sweet on His part to ask questions and create opportunities for interaction.

Even as everyone was finishing their breakfasts, it was announced that we should be ready for landing.

to be continued in Part 3 at the link below.

For all readers:

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  1. Aravind your fantastic memories are so well detailed and photographed , have you ever thought of also having the body of your work on audio books, if I can't sit in front of a PC, just had a C operation and can't to read it all , I'dlove to know, with so much volumenous and valuable personal information you can share with the Sai world , can it ever be listened too also? Hopefully by a native American- English speaker. Much Love g

  2. Was like being there....I almost felt Swami's child like enthusiasm for this travel from your words and pictures!


    1. The link is provided within the article itself. Sairam

  4. “You prayed that I should speak to you. I am answering your prayer.”


  5. Excellent narration and compilation of details. Was Blessed to be a Seva Dal in this trip & it was a very very memorable one. In the afternoon all of a sudden unexpectedly clouds formed and we were sure that it would rain. When Swami reached the grounds, we were fortunate to witness Swami holding His hair and looking into the sky just before entering on to the dais, as if commanding the rains to wait and immediately the clouds cleared till Swami addressed the mammoth gathering.

    Brother, could you share link of any video of this trip pls.

    Jai Sairam!



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