Monday, 19 May 2014

Hadshi-Mumbai diaries - Part 7 - A day for group-photo taking and group-photo showing

A special photo-viewing session with Swami at Hadshi

A beautiful solo-photograph that Swami granted at the request of the Jadhav family at Hadshi
Rising up at 5 a.m. is indeed an excellent practice, I discovered on the 30th of October, as I woke up in Hadshi. It is not only spiritually beneficial as the early hours of the Brahma muhurtam are sacred but also practically useful as one gets quality time with oneself with least distractions or interruptions. Waking early seems to unlock a great energy source within which diminishes in intensity the later one rises! It was during the early hours of the morning that I occupied myself with noting down in detail all the happenings of the trip which is responsible for this comprehensive travelogue today.

(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 

The previous part which is Part 6 is located at the link given below in case you missed that.

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 6 - Sathya Sai's message at Hadshi

Part 7 continues below)

As soon as I finished my notes after returning from the Mandir I got busy getting ready for the day. The morning ablutions time was also fun. Almost twenty of us would be shaving, brushing and getting ready with a lot of talking and singing going on. A lot of leg pulling and discussing never-before-thought-of angles about the events that had happened during the trip brought cheer and mirth to all. Ravikumar (Ravi bhaiya for me) was present and I felt like how a newcomer in the Indian Cricket team would feel when he would share the dressing room with the legendary Sachin Tendulkar! Ashwath Narayan and Koustubh Pare in the meanwhile would have begun their respective Riyaz (singing practice). The whole area would be reverberating with music and swaras. CG would be practicing the Sitar adding strings to the heavenly atmosphere of music. It was just so beautiful.

Yet again we had a sumptuous breakfast by the poolside. Many took photos with the water in the background and tried to capture memories on a memory chip in a camera! Completing our breakfast, soon we were all seated outside Swami's room awaiting His arrival. We all had come up with a plan for the morning- a plan to spend more time with Swami. Eager to have a few exclusive moments with Bhagavan, we thought arranging a photo viewing session would be a good idea. I was all set with a few selected pictures to show Him on a laptop. Something interesting and nice happened. In a corner of the same hall we noticed a 29-inch plasma TV, which when connected, began to read the photos on file! It was as if Providence had liked our idea! Immediately, the laptop was hooked up to the TV. We now could not wait for His door to open.

Once the door opened and Swami came out, we had Him for ourselves for the next 20 minutes or so.
At about 10:05 a.m., Swami emerged and as He came towards us He asked,
"All of you showered well or did you have only a sponge bath?"
We laughed and replied that we did freshen up ourselves in full. Getting up on my knees, I said, "Swami, we have some photos. If Swami agrees, we can watch them." The Lord graciously consented. Soon He moved to the centre of the hall and was seated facing the TV. And then began a most memorable twenty minute session. Even as I began to scroll through the images, Nishikant, Kaustubh, P. Srinivasan and Ravi Teja began to do padaseva to Swami. CG continued to shoot Video and Ravi Bhaiya thankfully took my camera to capture pictures of the whole scene. Here are a few snippets of the conversation that ensued; even though this is not in order of occurrence, I guess the sequence is not as significant as the event itself.

Initially, there were the photos of the concert on Day 1. Swami asked,
"Who is that?"
“Swami, Kavita Krishnamoorthy, that is Nitin Mukesh and.... (I forgot the third name!)”
Satyajit helped me with the answer, “Sapna Mukherjee”.
As the slideshow progressed, there came a picture of a woman receiving a saree from Swami. Bhagavan asked who she was and when nobody answered, He Himself revealed that she was an elderly devotee who sings and has been coming to Him for long.

Swami looking at the picture of Him blessing Sapne Mukherjee. He gave us all the joy of conversation with Him.
The photos of the crowds during the concert were taken mostly from the gents' side and so the ladies were largely seen in them. Observing this Swami said sweetly, as if in justification for me, "The gents were all seated on this side (same side of the photographer and hence he could not click them) There were many people behind too!"

Swami then saw the pictures of the welcome ceremony to Hadshi. Next on the screen was the photo of the sunrise (about which I have mentioned in the fourth part of this serial).
“Ah! The Moon looks very nice,” He commented.
"Swami, that is the Sun," I said.
(And now is a portion when I was in maya or delusion!)
Swami asked me if that was the Sun, why was everything around dark?
The photo exposure of the camera was according to the Sun’s brightness which is why everything around was dark. Instead of going into the details of the exposure levels in the camera, I simply said, "Swami, its orange in colour! It is the Sun."
Swami looked at me as if to say, "Ok! If you say so…"

In retrospect, I feel I foolishly let go of a wonderful opportunity to learn a lesson that I hope I will practice some day. When Lord Krishna pointed out to an eagle in the sky and said it was a dove, Arjuna agreed. When He surmised that it was a crow, without batting an eyelid Arjuna replied in affirmative again for he knew very well that the Lord can easily turn the eagle into anything He wished. I was in a similar position and rather than saying, "Yes Swami! If you say so..." I made Him say that very same statement. I regret now but with the Lord everything is an opportunity to learn and improve. (By the way, this incident in detail forms the heart of an article on how we often become platform heroes but remain practical zeroes.)

Next was displayed the group photos taken in the Vitthala temple. Seeing this Swami asked, "Who are those elderly people?" Before we could answer, He Himself said,
"They are the mother and father of Jadhav brothers." Then came up a photo of the crowd and I said, "Swami, just like the sunflowers turn to always face the sun, people too move to look at You constantly." 

The incident with Ganesha and the wrongly-held umbrella on the balcony was also depicted in the photos. We then moved to the images shot during the tiffin session at the poolside. There were photos of Swami being reflected in the water. As the wide angle shot of Swami eating amidst the natural settings showed up next I said,
"Swami, this picture has a name." When He looked inquisitively, I said,
"Swami, it is called Prakruthi Paramatma."
Swami's reaction to it was the same like the previous day - He opened His eyes a bit wide and with a mocking smile said, "Abba!" All of us laughed and there was so much happiness all around. It is so easy to comprehend at such times as to why it is said, “Happiness is union with God”.

In the photos taken from the balcony were also pictures of lines of cars climbing up the road to Hadshi. I zoomed in to show Him the number of vehicles as earlier He had mentioned how so many devotees were eagerly arriving for His darshan. When the slideshow was complete, Swami asked,
"That’s all? Is it over?"
I said there were hundreds of photos and we had selected only a few. He then asked,
“Where is that picture of Me you took on the balcony yesterday?"
I was thrilled. I had thought that Swami would never want to see pictures of Himself (And I shoot maximum of Him!). I quickly navigated to the folder and brought that up.

The beautiful Lord amidst beautiful nature. This was the picture that I had got the previous day on
the balcony.
He was happy with it but then said, “All My hair has fallen off.”
All of us chorused,
“No Swami; You have such beautiful hair.”
Swami continued, “I had much more; in Kodaikanal, I lose a lot of hair.”
These interactions were so much on the human level and that, I felt is the reason why the whole humanity identifies with Him - He is so less ‘God’ and so much like any of us as we converse with Him in the physical plane.

The picture of Swami in Orange with the Nature in green and blue skies was wonderful and so I blurted out, “Swami, it looks so nice and wonderful.” Swami said, "Avanni photo theesay vadiki trupti, naaku ledhu (that is joy and satisfaction for the one who has taken the photo, not for me).” Instead of waiting for the nectarous flow, I imprudently said, "Swami, You are ever happy. Only our satisfaction is temporary and it comes and goes." The Lord was silent. After a while, He asked for photos of the Residence and the lake too. I showed Him those too and He seemed happy.

Once we were done, He asked all of us to go down. We did just that. In a short while Swami was with us. He directed us to start moving towards the temple complex and start bhajans on reaching there. It was almost 10:45 a.m. as we reached the stage which had witnessed the concert by Kavitha Subramaniam, Nitin Mukesh and Sapna Mukherjee the previous day. A huge crowd was waiting for Him in the afternoon sun. Most of them had cloth pieces or kerchiefs tied over their heads.

A huge crowd had been patiently singing bhajans, waiting for Swami's arrival at the temple grounds.

Morning session leads up to a visit to Pauna Dam

A loving blessing Abhayahasta at the end of the bhajan session.
Swami arrived at about 11:05 a.m. and as always His drive down was accompanied by a set of students whom our teacher Mr. Gopi had selected to be part of a permanent ‘Security’ team. Swami came on the dais and immediately there was so much energy and enthusiasm in the crowd. In spite of the sun, everyone now forgot the coverings on their heads and seemed to open up their hearts to receive the warmth of His Love and Grace. At about 11:20 a.m., Mr. Shivajirao Jadhav sought Swami’s permission for the Bal Vikas children to lead the session. Bhagavan consented and asked the boys to pause as the little ones started.

They sang about four bhajans in their sweet and innocent voices. Swami concluded the session with one bhajan by the students. For this, He called me. When I walked across to Him, He said, "Tell them to sing Panduranga, Panduranga..." I conveyed the same and that was the final rendering following which was aarthi. Now there was a beautiful breeze and fluffs of Swami's hair swayed as if playing with the wind. The flag atop the Vitthala temple too fluttered in all majesty and glory. Swami raised both His hands in benediction for the crowd that had pined for Him. It was almost 12:00 p.m. when He returned to the Mandir.

The devotees are thrilled and many are moved to tears having Swami's darshan.
We were all waiting for Him. Seeing all of us in a row, Swami moved into the Residence and soon we also followed suit. Another banquet had been arranged and Swami was seated for lunch amidst the elders. The discussion on the table meandered first towards the fruits and other crops grown in the region and then into diet and nutritional value of some of them and many others. Thus it was that mangoes, oranges and jamoon fruits ‘cropped’ up in the divine discussion! As lunch concluded, we learnt that Swami had agreed for the boys to be taken for an outing to the Pauna dam nearby.

At 1:45 p.m., our tour began in a special air conditioned bus loaded with cool drinks and snacks! Those were times of plenty and many of us even refused to take advantage of those bounties! The drive was to take about 45-50 minutes and for most of the time, I dozed only to be shaken by someone who said, "Just look at the scenery outside. You will not get such views again. Get up and shoot." In spite of the comforting embrace of the Goddess of Sleep I opened my eyes and indeed it was a sight worth sacrificing the siesta for! In fact, they were captivating enough to make one forget sleep.

A sweeping view of the Pauna Dam
The huge expanse of water was beautiful even at midday and the shapes of the nearby hills resembled the sacred linga! The road was narrow and winding, and a white Audi car formed the pilot for our bus. We came across groups of mules lugging up loads, herded by women in traditional Maharashtrian attire. By 2:30 p.m., we were at the site and had been granted special permission (courtesy the Jadhavs) to actually go along the dam. It was hot with the sun right above us. But a mere glance at the expanse of freshwater before us which was 210 feet deep ensured that neither the salty sweat nor the burning sun dampened our enthusiasm. The staff manning the dam not only showed us the rooms which housed the valves to open the sluice gates but also gave us a demonstration of its entire management. The bus had been sent to the other end where it would wait for us as we crossed the entire stretch of the dam on foot. The blue-green waters below had a sort of calming and relaxing effect and so we easily accomplished the kilometre long walk. As Swami had directed us against going for boating, by 3:10 p.m. we were all aboard the bus ready to return to Hadshi.

Special photo-shoot session

Once we were back we quickly freshened up and rushed to the Mandir. It was well past 4:00 p.m. We could not go up near Swami's room as He Himself was coming down the lift even as we entered. He saw a few of us and asked,
"Have all the boys returned?"
We replied that some of us had reached the Mandir earlier but all the boys indeed were back. Swami then called Mrs. Ratanlal and asked, "Do you still remember your husband?"
“Swami, I recollect nothing of the past. Of what use is it to think of the past?”

Swami speaks with the venerable and sweet Ratanlal aunty - dedicated in His service since the 1960s.
Swami continued to gently prod the elderly devotee. She had been blessed with service of Swami since the 1960s and Swami had relished the food cooked by her for decades.
“Delhi, Lahore, your husband… you must be remembering them.”
“No Swami! We all have come with nothing and we leave in the same manner. If we think of Swami always, it is enough.”
I could not help but admire the wisdom being exuded by this special devotee of the Lord.  I was touched with the surrender and love of Ratanlal Aunty.  At this point, Mr. V. Srinivasan added,
"Swami always narrates to us the story of Alexander who left the earth empty handed."

Swami now moved to His room next to the dining table. Arrangements were being made for a group photo session of the Jadhav family with Swami. The flower vase in the centre of the hall had been made anew with fresh flowers and Bhagavan too arrived around 4.20 p.m. in the beautiful darshan chair. As the family arranged themselves around Him, the angle of coverage needed expansion. So Satyajit and I moved the massive dining table behind. Once this was done, the photo session began. It was very special for me as Swami was constantly looking into the camera with momentary glances at the video camera that CG held. The family members took pictures with Him in various permutations and combinations.

The immediate Jadhav family. The steps on the right lead to Swami's room above. Swami, however,
made use of the lift (seen as a door beyond the staircase) to move up and down.

Soon the boys followed suit. Again, Phani and I requested Swami and He did agree for a complete-group photo. Actually we were all keen to have individual snaps with Swami. However since He has agreed for photos in groups we quickly formed three small teams - a midway compromise between Swami's and our wish! Bhagavan again lovingly got involved in the seating arrangement around Him. I felt so blessed being His student! In the end, it was only CG and I who had not had a picture with Him and so we both sat by His side with our hands on His feet and a beautiful frame was taken. After that, some more people had this blessed opportunity and then Swami Himself called for Prof. Anil Kumar, Mr. Balaram and Mr. Srinivasan to pose with Him. Finally, at the request of the Jadhav brothers, Swami agreed for a solo photograph. With great joy, I took a few good shots. (Shown as the first photo in this part).

A special photo-op for the photographer and the video-cameraman.
As this session concluded by about 4:40 pm, He began to move out. And there He saw all the other members of the family assembled for His darshan. Also present were the workers, gardeners, cooks, helpers and everyone else who had contributed in the service. Swami now began to move amidst them granting them namaskar and blessings. Here, there were other photographers and videographers, and so, CG and I took a small break. This was such a noble act of Mr. Jadhav; he had ensured that none miss the joy of His physical proximity. Towards the end, I noticed that as Swami would move out of the shade, the evening sun would delightfully light up the divine face. So, I rushed there and clicked the Radiant Face smiling brightly. Moving ahead, Swami got into the car.

The padanamaskar session that Swami granted was because of the large-heartedness of the Jadhav brothers and Swami would give us a message about the same, later.

to be continued in Part 8 which is at the link below:

Hadshi-Mumbai diaries - Part 8 - The Vijayabhojanam or the banquet of victory

For all readers:

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  1. Sairam Fellow Universal Brother On Earth,

    You Are Wonderfully A Lovely Instrument Of Sai Bro Aravind

    Jai Sai Ram

  2. Can't wait to hear you speak to us in Sai darshan :)

  3. SAI RAM ,
    Aftergoing through this beautifully Written article, I Cant wait to hear you speak to us in Sai darshan , n



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