Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 3 - Welcome to Hadshi

Swami moves from the aircraft into the vestibule-lift at the Pune airport
Happy landing? Ultimately yes, but a lot of uncertainty for me

The Pune airport, where we were scheduled to land is a ‘complicated’ airport. It is shared between civilian and military aircraft and thus, extra rules and regulations exist there which complicate life for the normal traveller at times. Some of the elders had scared us - especially the ones with cameras - that we ought to be very careful at Pune. Our cameras might be snatched away for security reasons, they had warned us. Even as the plane landed, I could see a plethora of dignitaries who had arrived to welcome Swami. 

(Dear reader,
If you have come directly to this post, I would like to egg you on to enjoy the full story with its history.

Link to part 1 is given below and the link to the next part will be at the end of each previous part. Thank you.

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 1 - The Blessing Materializes)

Prominent among them was the former Lok Sabha speaker, Sri Shivraj Patil. Hordes of security people hovered around the craft and a couple of them even came and sealed the back exit, damming us within the plane. The elder Jadhav, Mr. Uttamrao, himself was literally held hostage at the back exit of the plane due to the guards. CG and I were also held up, but then I told the security personnel,
“See, all those important persons will want a photo with Swami. In case they ask us why we did not capture images, we will have to blame you. So please let us go there.”
I had a look at the name on his badge as I spoke. He reluctantly said that he would permit one of us to go. I asked CG to go since a video camera captures more than a photograph. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine a moving picture!

CG went to shoot no doubt, but very soon, he also went away in the divine convoy! Meanwhile, I was at the plane’s rear with the Jadhavs and the State President of the Maharashtra Sathya SAi Seva Organisation, Mr. Ramesh Sawant. As I got down from the plane, I got to know that the entourage would be proceeding to Hadshi in a specially arranged bus. Swami would be visiting the Jadhav residence in Pune before driving to Hadshi. Now, I began to envy CG’s good fortune and began thinking how I too could go to the Jadhav residence.

I saw Mr. Sawant running in another direction. I caught up with him and asked,
“Uncle can I come with you?”
“Sure”, he said with a look of surprise. I was under the wrong impression that he would also be going to the Jadhav residence. Even as I realized that I had been wrong in my assumption, I saw the elder Jadhav brother hop into an Audi SUV. I was barefoot and I ran, camera around my neck, towards the SUV in the hot sun. Luckily, the vehicle slowed down and I pressed my face against the window glass. The Jadhav recognised me as the photographer on board the flight and asked me whether I would join him. I nodded gladly and in moments, was cooling off in the super-power air conditioner of the car. Apparently, the younger Jadhav was already at home and the elder brother beside me was Swami’s escort from Puttaparthi who had got left behind.. All the other boys, in the meanwhile, were being transported to Hadshi in a luxury bus.

In the car, Mr. Uttamrao asked me what I intended to do when I reached his residence. I had no idea about anything and I told him that I would ‘see’ what had to be done.
“It will be impossible to get into the house there. Knowing the huge crowd that Swami attracts, security has been arranged so that nobody other than the family gets into the house. So here, take this badge. It is a ‘Family’ badge and now you will also be allowed in.”
I gratefully accepted the badge. It struck me as very singular that when you work for God, the entire world becomes your ‘family’ in no time. My only credentials were that I was ‘Swami’s photographer’ and here was Mr. Uttamrao instantly making me part of the Jadhav family! That is His magic!

The happy luncheon session at the Jadhav home wherein Swami ate almost nothing and used the visit to
bless all the family members. 
By the time we reached the home of the Jadhavs, Swami was already there at their dining table. I flashed my ‘Family’ card to gain entry into the home. I saw CG in a far corner of the large hall, busy capturing visuals which posterity would appreciate. I too moved in slowly and took up a position nearby.

Swami was at a dining table and a ‘host’ of people surrounded Him in the pretext of serving Him. In India, it is tradition that one’s love and appreciation towards the guest is directly proportional to the amount of food that one can feed that guest! It seemed as though Swami had become a victim of this tradition! He was being served from more than 20-30 dishes that had been prepared. However, in His plate were not more than a few morsels of food!

Swami's smile is so cute and sweet! Here, the younger Jadhav
washes the Divine hand after the meal.
I have not had many chances to see Swami dine from such close quarters and have mostly let my imagination fill in the gaps as to how it might be. That day as I saw Him, Swami felt so human! He saw me and, suddenly, a smile of recognition lit up His face. Everyone looked up to see who was receiving this lovely smile from the Lord. I felt very special. That smile was to have a lingering role as we shall see later!

Swami was asking about the different items on the menu, though He was not eating everything. He seemed interested in a particular type of vada (a fried, Indian delicacy). More of it was brought accordingly, but Swami did not take anymore. Now an interesting episode took place. Mr. Shivajirao Jadhav's wife entered with a plate filled with eats. Swami asked,
"What is that?"
Mr. Jadhav replied, “Swami, the same saboodana vada. She has cut it to small, conveniently-sized pieces for You to eat."
Swami was so pleased at this attention to detail! As a reward, He accepted a few pieces. He then asked Mr. Srinivasan and Satyajit to have a few tidbits as well. As CG and I shot pictures, both of us were offered fruit salad. I was feeling quite hungry because I had not eaten anything since morning (I had skipped the in-flight breakfast to click photographs)! But as the Divine sight was on us, we politely declined. And Bhagavan seemed satisfied and happy at the way we had conducted ourselves.

Swami soon finished the meal and blessed all the members of the family. To a lad who wanted to pursue MBA after finishing his BCom, Swami advised to do Chartered Accountancy as it would come useful for the family’s business. As He slowly moved out, Swami was told that all would be going to Hadshi. Shortly, aarthi was taken and I was the lead singer simply by the sheer absence of any other singers nearby!

The Lord's visit is never a secret! Crowds had already gathered in Pune to catch a glimpse of the lovable form in orange.
And so began the drive from Pune to Hadshi. I was in Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav's car and, talking to him, I found out about how they had organized the Latur-Chakur trip as well. He told me,
"This visit to our home was a last minute job. Swami agreed to bless us in this fashion out of the blue. Therefore, the arrangements were not so good. See the arrangements we have made at Hadshi."
“Wow!” I thought, “If this was supposed to be a ‘last minute job’, I want to see their thorough arrangements!”
He further acknowledged, “Swami was so very happy when He saw you. You students are loved so dearly by Him! It is amazing.”
I could only trace all this admiration and respect to one source – that single smile from dear Swami!

We were the third car behind Swami's Toyota Estima on the journey
from Pune to Hadshi. 

Before long, we could see the beautiful Mandir atop the hill from a distance. All along the way, hundreds of villagers stood in awe and devotion as Swami's car passed by. Many of them did not seem to know which vehicle to look at, thanks to over a dozen cars arranged by the Jadhavs, which were all similar to Swami's Toyota Estima! Once the climb began, I had a glimpse of the arrangements. The entire road to the top was lined with children and devotees welcoming Swami with flags, placards and ribbons. At every hairpin bend were beautiful posters carrying His message and teachings. All along the way were banners inviting Bhagawan to Pandurang Kshetra. Yes! That was the name for Swami’s shrine at Hadshi.

All along the way, for dozens of kilometers, people lined the road. There were also many arches and
banners which I photographed from the moving vehicle. 
We presently arrived at the main entrance of the grand "fortress-temple" that towered over us. I jumped out of the vehicle to march in front of Swami's car on foot, taking photographs all along. Little did I realize that there was almost half a kilometre to be traversed before the final destination! Music from the bands reverberated in the air. Little boys wearing orange turbans with cymbals in hand welcomed Swami. It was a real "red-carpet" reception for Bhagavan, right up to His residence. The entire stretch had been barricaded but nothing could prevent the fervent prayers and passionate longing of the people from reaching the Lord. Mr. Uttamrao Jadhav, the elder brother, was in a devotional fervour as he, alighting from the car, moved amidst the people egging them to sing aloud and rejoice, for the Lord had arrived. His enthusiasm was highly infectious!

A view of the sea of humanity at Hadshi, waiting to welcome Swami.
Traditionally dressed Maharashtrian village women with pots balancing delicately on their heads were also part of the welcome team. Everyone was so thrilled at the mere sight of Swami’s car. The red carpet now gave way to a green one and a congregation chanting Vedic hymns began to lead the procession. Soon we arrived at the Residence. A shehnai artist accompanied by percussionists filled the ambience with welcome tunes. In fact this was to become a daily feature during the entire period of our stay - a shehnai artist playing music outside the Residence as it was done outside the palaces of emperors! The members of the Jadhav family had lined up at the final stretch before the divine home. A beautiful, circular rangol, about two metres in diameter, adorned the entrance with the words ‘Aum Sri Sai Ram’ etched in Devanagari script.

The drive-through in Hadshi, at the Pandurangakshetra itself was about a kilometer long.
A pink ribbon fastened across the door awaited the inaugural snip from His hand. I wanted to rush in to take pictures from the inside but was rudely prevented. This time the younger Jadhav brother issued instructions that I was not to be stopped and must be given complete access! Again, the power of the Smile I had received at the Jadhavs’ residence in Pune… So it was that I could get a photo of Bhagavan inaugurating the Mandir and arriving inside.

The magnificent Residence building which Swami inaugurated by cutting a pink ribbon. 
A golden rose lay on Swami’s lap, offered by a devotee. As soon as Swami came into the Mandir, the Jadhavs washed His feet, and collected the sacred water into a silver plate to be taken as teertham (holy water) by the privileged family. Aarthi was then performed as all the members of the family gathered before the Lord.

A note here about the Jadhav family – The total number of members ran in excess of two hundred and the family tree had multiple branches, twigs and leaves! They seemed to be harvesting the fruits of joy and satisfaction which the Gardener had delivered to them. Since this was a huge ‘tree’, only the 'trunk' and 'primary branches' were in the Residence and they added up to almost twenty to thirty members!

Their large and airy home had four guest rooms, one at each of the corners of the rectangular hall. Swami’s dining table stood at the northern side of the hall, while about half a dozen other tables for the guests were arranged at the southern end.

Swami moved across the length of the entire hall and had a look at the four rooms. He was immensely pleased with the meticulous care and effort of the Jadhavs. In the south-east corner of the House stood the kitchen, where the youth waited for Swami. They were the youth from Mumbai and Maharashtra who had been chosen to serve Swami and His guests for the trip. Swami blessed them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the students who had been driven down by bus straight from the Pune airport arrived. Swami was very happy to see them, even as He moved towards the lift which was a small enclosure with a grilled gate inside and a wooden door outside. It was just sufficient for Swami's chair and Satyajit. As He entered the lift, Swami brought the index finger and the thumb of His hand together to gesture the sign ‘excellent’ and said,
"It is so nice here. There are all facilities (anukoolanu) for everyone to stay comfortably."

Swami was very happy with the facilities for all as He moved into the lift to go to His room. 
Swami then went up to His room which was in the northwest corner of the Residence. There was a huge atrium in this one-storeyed building to allow natural light from the sky to fill the house. This central area had a wooden parapet and from here Swami saw all of us gathered below as He moved to His room as He retired for the afternoon.

After this, we did a silent Brahmaarpanam (the food prayer) and had a hearty meal. Soon after, we were shown our living quarters. There were three double rooms and each one contained six cots. Ah! The beds were so inviting. We dived into them instantly to stretch out our tired bodies.
After an hour’s rest, we were back in the Mandir.

(I call the Residence as the Mandir, for that is the term for the place where God resides.) We waited down in the area resembling a verandah and soon, Swami came down the lift. He called all the elders to have tiffin with Him. And so, Prof. G. Venkataraman, Mr. S.V. Giri, Dr. Dash, Mr. Gokal Das, Mr. Balaram and Mr. Naganand occupied the table along with Swami.

After they had finished, Swami asked for their plates to be cleared and fresh ones laid. He also supervised the dishes served, and then He beckoned me! I was taken aback and realized with excitement that Swami was inviting me to eat at His table. I was so delighted that I quickly found myself there. He continued, "Mugguru mugguru ikkada kuchondi (Three each sit on either side).” I called out for a few others and soon Phaneendra, KVSK Ganesh, Aravind Sai, Sai Dath, Nishikant and myself were at His table seeing Him for most of the time with momentary glances at the items served on our plates!

The rest of the boys now filled the other tables and soon a thundering Brahmaarpanam began. Everyone around me seemed to close their eyes. I however opened mine as wide as possible and drank in deep the darshan of sweet Swami. I was feeling so privileged. I am sure I have done nothing to deserve this but as He says, "If you love me, you deserve me!" I was feeling such a surge of happiness welling in me. I managed to look at Neeraj Acharya and asked him to take a snap of that glorious moment! Swami then told us to start eating.

Sitting at the farthest end to Swami's right, it was an unbelievable opportunity to dine with Him.
As I began, Swami asked me, "Ay photographer, nee video cameraman ekkada?" (Photographer! Where is your video camera man?)
I quickly rose and called out to CG who was at another table. He came forward. Swami saw him and then asked him to return and eat well. Again I was so happy that at the physical level Swami had identified me as something – a photographer! He told all of us that we would not eat well if He was there! And so, He left saying He would be back in a while by which time we should have filled our stomachs freely.

I ate with trembling excitement and soon Sai Krishna told me that the privilege we had been blessed with was not bestowed upon anyone even in Kodaikanal – sharing the table with Swami! Once we were done, we waited once again to receive Him.

to be continued in Part 4 located at the below link:

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 4 - A shrine is born

For all readers:

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  1. Beautiful, captivating, blissful, envy

  2. Extremely beautiful. Can visualise Swami . Thanks a lot. Why do you want to make this 10 part series. Please pour out the maximum

  3. thanks for your message,,,,,,,,

  4. Thank you so much for taking all of us on this amazing trip with our Lord...eagerly awaiting the next part

  5. Sairam Aravind,
    It was a really pleasure to meet GV sir and you last Sunday at Prashanti nilayam.
    What a blissful experience it must have been to be with swami in the Hadshi trip!. Really captivating to just read through these experiences.

  6. So Beautiful & Wonderful .... Thank you ... Jai Sai Ram

  7. Sai Ram ! Thank you very much for sharing this. Today I felt transported to Hadsi with Baba and all the devotees ! True "You students are loved so dearly by Him! It is amazing.” I feel privilaged to read your articles.


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