Monday, 1 December 2014

God's plans are the best for us - the story of Siddhartha's enlightenment_ Part 2

The journey back home
Who would not be devastated on getting to know that beautiful instances
like these would no longer be available? Poor Sid had to vacate the hostel
in a few days time.

In the three days since the results had been announced, Sid had gotten pale and sickly with serious acidity in the stomach. It was therefore not surprising that when his mother took him to the General Hospital on the following Monday, the doctor asked him,
“These look like classic symptoms of some deep-rooted tension. Are you tense about something?”
“I am with Swami here. Why would I be tense about anything?” Sid lied through his teeth. Prescribing medicines and bed rest in the hospital, the doctor put Sid on drips. The mother was in tears seeing her son in such a condition. She wondered what had happened to him as she fondly hugged him.

The time seemed ripe for the revelation. The warmth of the hug melted Sid’s tensions and fears. A deluge of revelations poured out from his heart and he told everything to his mother. The mother had tears in her eyes and did not know what to do. But Sid was now feeling so much better. A huge weight seemed to have lifted off his heart. That in itself made his sickness evaporate and within the next couple of hours, he was slated for discharge from the hospital. The mother wrote a letter to Swami and gave it to Sid telling him to offer it to the Lord.

( If you have arrived here directly, you have missed some crucial portions of this story. It is recommended that you read Part 1 at the link given below and then continue. Else, you may be caught unawares and unable to appreciate the whole import of this experience!

Sid returned to his home in Puttaparthi. He was no longer allowed to stay in the hostel. He grabbed a light lunch, took some rest and got ready for the evening darshan. This would possibly be his last opportunity for enjoying darshan as a student, at least for the time being. Sid sat in his favorite spot, in the bhajan hall where he had many memories of singing for his Swami. When Swami came in, He directly beckoned to Sid. Sid moved up to Swami, gave the letter to Him and said,
“Swami, Amma has given this letter. They (University authorities) have asked me to come back to join the course again only in November.”
It was evident that Sid did not want to state directly that he had failed.

Swami pored over the letter in His hand. He called Sid to His side and placed His finger on one statement that his mother had made,
“Swami, you know what is best for my child...”
“See what your mother has written,” Swami said.
“Yes Swami! That is true. You know what is best for me,” accepted Sid.
“Go now. Come back in November,”Swami said with a pat on his back.
“Swami, whenever I visit Puttaparthi in between, can I continue to sing bhajans for you (as part of the Prasanthi Bhajan Group)?”
“Definitely... definitely... Tell your mother, I will speak to her.”

Sid was in seventh heaven. Swami had promised his mother an interview. He could not believe the reversal of fortunes. The tickets were cancelled as Sid and his mother eagerly waited for the interview. But that interview never came. Four days passed and on each of those days Sid sat in the front lines, ‘showing’ his face to Swami. Swami smiled and acknowledged his presence, but that was about it. Nitin Acharya, who was ‘assisting’ Swami those days came and told him on the fifth day,
“Sir, I think you can sit back. There is no need to sit in the front lines any more.”
Sid understood that Swami’s word had not meant an interview in the next few days. It had meant something else which he would possibly understand as time passed by. As of now, it was over and he returned to Chennai with his mother.

Once in Chennai, Sid realized that there was great stigma and ignominy in being “sent out” of Swami’s University, even though temporarily. People around and society often get cruel in scathing criticism. Sid felt very lonely and just hoped for the days to fly past till November. He also realized that though November would get him admitted back to the University, he still would have to clear the MAC, HR and QM papers. In all seriousness, he got himself a tutor and began to learn MAC and QM from the basics.

Days turned to weeks and weeks into months. With complete faith in Swami, Sid had slogged. However, he was not any more confident about the subjects than he had been a couple of months ago. But he had grown in his faith in Swami and his loneliness had slowly metamorphosed into solitude. In November, he joined back for the second semester of the 1st year of MBA.

The haunting continues

As mentioned in the previous part, even semesters at SSSIHL are loaded with cultural activities and, once again, Sid dived into them. Though it was a bit late to get selected for the Convocation Drama that year, Sid was an integral part of all the other cultural programmes. Life seemed to have improved and Sid felt that he was on the way to leave behind the disappointment of failures. That was when his nemeses struck him again. In the CIE (Continuous Internal Evaluation) exams that were held, Sid flunked MAC and QM yet again. The fact that he passed HR was no consolation. In fact, it added salt to his wounds because QM and MAC had been the subjects for which he had received special tutoring.

Feeling low and lost, Sid took permission to leave to Chennai for some dental check up. The problem was not dental but mental and Sid wanted to rush to the arms of his mother. He felt that he had let Swami down and did not know how to show his face to Him.
“Mother, it’s all over now. I will not go back because it is no use. There is absolutely no way on earth that I can learn these two subjects. I am sure to fail for a second time and get expelled. Rather than face the ignominy and pain of expulsion, I will prefer to withdraw myself.”
The mother was very pained and concerned. She saw her little son broken and had no idea how to mend his heart. She repeated to him what she had written to Swami,
“Swami knows what is best for you my son. When there is a calamity, you should go closer to Swami... instead you are going away from Him? Don’t do that. Return now and all shall be well.”
The mother’s statement was partly her conviction and partly her hope.

Hesitatingly, Sid returned to Parthi in a few days. The first thing he did was to open up to BHagia sir, his QM teacher. Bhagis sir is a very special teacher and he has positively influenced hundreds of MBA students. Ever since his out-of-the-world experience, he had dedicated himself to being a mentor to the students. Little wonder that Sid felt he owed him an apology and explanation.
“My failures in the exams are purely my fault sir... please don’t think that my results reflect how you teach. I am a hopeless case,” Sid just poured his heart out about all his academic misadventures, especially in subjects that involved mathematics.
“Son, try and study hard. After that, have courage to put pen to paper. Just do your best.”
“But what if my best is not good enough?”
“Good enough for whom? Your best is always good enough for God. He will do the rest.”

Sid went home for the summer vacation after the semester-end exams. He had no doubt about his fate. Having failed in the CIEs it seemed impossible that he would be able to pass the end-semester exams with a surplus necessary to compensate for the CIEs. It was with trepidation that Sid joined the hostel for the 3rd semester in June 2008.

The only friend

To his great relief, Sid came to know that he had successfully cleared the 2nd semester. He didn’t care about finding out his marks. He had not failed and that was good enough for him. It was only the “quantitative” subjects that were his nemesis and so, Sid carefully chose those electives in the 2nd year which did not involve calculations. Now, the fear of failure was out of his mind and Sid devoted his time, energies and heart to singing, acting and public-speaking. He also landed himself a key role in the Convocation Drama, Premashrayam. Being among the senior-most students of the hostel, he was a regular for bhajan-singing in Swami’s presence. During the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet drama, Sid played the role of the cunning Shakuni with great elan in the drama Sri Krishna Tatwa Darshanam, winning himself appreciation from Swami and everyone else.

Sid was ready to don any role which could take him close to
his Swami. He was even ready to study, but Sid in academics
which involved calculations was akin to a fish on land!  
The academic year was fast heading to a close and Sid wanted Swami to guide him on what to do next. Sid had decided to stay with Swami in Prasanthi and thus had spent considerable time and thought on what options he possibly had. With his active interest and passion in creative work, he thought that it was work at Radiosai that was most suited for him at Prasanthi Nilayam. It was towards the end of February 2009 that he got an opportunity to seek guidance from Swami.
“Swami, MBA over now. What to do next?”
“PhD cheyi... (Do PhD)”
Sid was shocked. He thought he had not heard Swami properly. But his worst nightmare had come true without doubt. Swami was telling him to pursue a doctorate degree - more academics, more nemeses!
“Swami, I’ll do it for you...”
Swami nodded His head. Sid wanted to make it very clear that he would do a PhD ONLY for Swami’s sake and nothing else. So he repeated,
“Swami, I am doing it ONLY because you are telling me to...”
“Take padanamaskar
Sid bent down to kiss His feet. In his heart was a fervent prayer,
“It is totally left to you how you make me pursue a PhD when I have barely managed to pass a few subjects.”

Having received instructions from Swami, Sid approached the Principal of the Institute to discuss how to go about the PhD. Sid had a reputation of being a very jolly person with an inclination to joke and make any matter seem light. That reputation hurt him when he told his plan to pursue PhD to the principal.
“Are you out of your mind? Maybe you are putting your acting skills to use here to play a joke. Let me warn you Siddhartha, it is not good to make such jokes... Get out of here now and go to your class!”
“No sir! I really mean what I am saying. It’s not as if I have come here to skip a class. Swami told me to pursue PhD.”
The principal laughed out aloud.
“I shall ask Swami...”
The matter ended there.

The following days turned out to be a period of great uncertainty for Sid. Swami did not pursue the matter of his PhD any more even with him, let alone with the teachers or the principal. Usually, students who receive guidance directly from Swami are looked up as lucky ones. But all of Sid’s friends, instead of congratulating him seemed to be offering condolences.
“Ah Sid... we heard... Swami told you to take PhD? Poor you...”
“Don’t worry Sid... There will be some good from this also...”
“Maybe,it would have been better if Swami had not spoken to you right?”
Sid was getting torn apart. He was definitely wanting to stay to with Swami but how was he to obey Swami’s impossible command of doing a PhD?

In the darkness of the night, Sid saw light as Swami came in His dream. Swami held his ear and tugged him into the interview room. There he told Swami,
“Swami, you have to convince these people to give me PhD?”
“PhD not in Management. Do PhD in English.”
Suddenly, Sid felt so light. But he still had a problem.
“Swami, a PhD in English requires that I have a Masters degree in English.”
“Do a post graduate degree in English.”
“But that is not offered by our college Swami...”
“I shall tell you later. But concentrate for a PG degree in English after MBA.”
Again, holding him by his ear, Swami led him out of the interview room.

Sid woke up. It was 4'o clock in the morning. His heart felt happy and light. He had a smile on his face. His left ear felt warm and it had turned red. Sid knew what he had to do. Swami had stood by His side yet again when he had felt all alone and had changed his loneliness to solitude.

That is what had given him absolute conviction that when it came to the Bala Bhaskara verse on the Gratitude Day, Swami, his best friend, would definitely stand by his side.  His conviction and Swami’s grace had made the Gratitude Day programme into a memorable one for Sid.

Dream ending to a nightmarish beginning

The summer vacations began and not surprisingly, Sid stayed back at Prasanthi Nilayam. One day in April, he got the ‘rose-chance’, an opportunity to offer a rose to Swami after the bhajans. He felt this would be a perfect occasion to seek clarification on what Swami had told him in the dream. Offering the rose to Swami, he said,
“Swami, you told me that you will tell me later on how I should do a PG in English...”
“Do MA in English in Madras,” Swami said, “but finish and come back immediately.”
Sid had carried on the thread of conversation from the dream and Swami too had instantaneously and directly responded to it. Things became clear for Sid and he informed his mother that he would soon be returning to Chennai to pursue MA in English at the Loyola College. That would give him the qualifications necessary to pursue PhD at the SSSIHL and that, in turn, would ensure that he could remain forever with Swami at Parthi by becoming an English professor in the future. He was happy beyond measure. The pain of repeated academic failures seemed to have been wiped out of his being.

But Swami seemed determined to test his intent and multiply his joy further.

It all happened with Sid getting selected to accompany Swami to Kodaikanal in the summer of 2009. (This was to be the Avatar’s final trip to Kodaikanal!) There were several interactions with Swami that Sid enjoyed in Kodaikanal but the relevant ones here are those related to his PhD. Swami once told him,
“Ay! After this, go and join a bank...”
“Swami... you have told me to do MA and then PhD.”
The conversation ended abruptly there.

On another occasion, Swami was asking some of the students what degrees they had completed. After Sid had answered, Swami said,
“Wow! You have done a BA!”
“Swami, there is nothing great about BA... I will soon be doing MA Swami... That is better than BA...”
Once again, the conversation halted there.

The third interaction happened in poignant settings. During a public session in the bhajan hall, the students had spontaneously started to cry. And when the famous Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna began, it was literally sobbing all around. Sid too was part of that sobbing group and Swami Himself seemed to get very emotional, shedding tears and trying to pacify the boys.

Just before that unforgettable singing session in the bhajan hall at Kodaikanal, Swami asked Sid to deliver a speech.
“I don’t know what happened to all of us. It was as if we all were destined to cry that day. We were simply crying and even made Swami cry in full public view,” Sid recalls.
It was possibly the city of Kodaikanal expressing herself through the boys for she might have guessed that she would never again be housing her Lord who would be completing the Avatarhood soon!

After that session, when everyone was completely charged with devotion, Swami told Sid,
“Your mother has her company (Trayee Solutions). Why don’t you work there?”
“Swami, I want to finish my MA and teach...” Sid replied.
“Ok. There are many colleges outside. You can teach there.”
“No Swami, I want to teach in your college only. I don’t want to teach in any other college.”
A smile came over Swami’s face and He blessed Sid with padanamaskar. In a span of few days, Sid had moved from saying, “Swami, you told me to do MA” to “Swami, I want to teach in your college.” Ah! Now he was ready.

In the final few private sessions of the Kodaikanal trip, Swami made a revelation that stunned Sid beyond belief. It became crystal clear that God’s plans are indeed the best. It happened in another private session. Swami beckoned to him and asked,
Nee Class Lo Yenta Mandi Ra? (How many in your class?)
Any MBA batch in Puttaparthi has an average of 50 students annually. ‘50’ also happened to be the only number that Sid knew to tell in Telugu.
Swami, Yabhai mandi. (Swami 50 members)”
Swami then turned to the elders there and said,
“See, from among all the 50 members of his class, I have brought only this boy to Kodaikanal.”

While everyone nodded, Sid wondered what Swami was saying. At least half a dozen of his classmates were present in the hall that day. Swami then turned and looked into Sid’s eyes. In a flash, the realization dawned.

Sid was actually the only student from his original MBA class! And none of his classmates from that previous batch had been to Kodaikanal because Swami did not make a Kodaikanal trip in 2008! While the whole world thought of Sid as the only failure in his batch, Swami made him feel like the greatest success story.
It was with great glee that Sid realized how magnificently wonderful
Swami's plans had been for him. (Kodai-2009)

“If the reward is a Kodai trip, I don’t mind failing multiple times too! Thanks to my twin failures, I got this opportunity to travel with the Lord.”

With tears of gratitude flowing from his eyes, Sid recollected that day when Swami pointed out to a statement in his mother’s letter,
“Swami, you know what is best for my son.”
Indeed, God’s plans always bring the best for anyone!

Wrapping up

As directed by Swami, Sid enrolled and completed the MA degree in Loyola college in April 2011. That was when he received the news that Swami had left the physical. He felt instantaneously drained and lost. In those days of deep sorrow, he delved deep into his heart seeking from Swami what he should do. One statement kept ringing out aloud -

"Do MA in English in Madras, but finish and come back immediately..."

Exactly at that time, there was a vacancy for an English teacher at the SSSIHL. Sid applied and was welcomed with open arms. Thus, Sid became a teacher in the Department of English at the SSSIHL where he continues to serve today. As per Swami’s desire he is pursuing his PhD in English while passionately enthusing his students into love for English and, more importantly, love for Swami.

If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy the following:

1. Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - Vijay Sunder's love story.

2. Broaden your vision because beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

3. Every word of Sathya Sai is as true as the Veda - an experience of a Sai Student

For all readers:

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  1. Very moving. Thanks to brother Siddhartha. It's nice that he shared about how even though he had failed, Swami still ensured that his failures paved the way for something more wonderful for him. Thanks Aravind!

  2. How loving is our dear Lord !!

  3. this well written story teaches what we may perceive as failures may not be failures in Swami's eyes . HE declared "I know the beginning, the middle and the end", alas we do not!.

  4. Thanks Brother, for one more master piece, it is such supreme sai students who for eternity will carry sai messages

  5. These incidents are so apt for us right now, I had tears in my eyes reading it. Recently we had an incident in our lives so close to this that I broke down completely. Though we know Swami knows what is best for us, its reassuring to hear it over and over again. Thank you Sid for sharing this with us. Can't express how thankful we are !! And yes Sid, your Madhusudana Hey Muralidhara will always be with you.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Not sure about good deeds in many previous lives leading to great things in current life. How about the redemption for bad people - lost forever while good people piling up good fortune across multiple lives? All attempts to fit Swami's actions or words into a framework of reasoning is a futile exercise.

      I wish upon an opportunity for everyone to experience God's love - this life, every life and always.

  7. Beautiful indeed. I've seen Swami's picture with a lot of students, but All the pictures with Did show Swami beaming.. The story is lovely indeed and has a powerful message, reinforced by the divine smile in looking over Sid.

  8. Bro Sid was blessed by Him specially to work in SSSIHL though he could not pass certain papers on time. Belated success brought him His chosen vocation in God's abode. Sairam

  9. Sairam Aravind, finally after 2 days of receiving the message found time to read the second part. All these narratives from your pen strengthen us in our spiritual path. This episode brought me back to "Anta mana manchi korake" story from schooldays which teaches that whatever that happens it is for our good. It is all HIS will, we must be alive to that and accept life as it unfolds without being elated or be in doldrums. Thanks a lot. Still have to listen to two audio talks uploaded by you in past few days. Best wishes and Love.

  10. Awww I liked Sid's story.Aravind bhayya(is that ok if I call u bhayya?),u write amazingly well.It's so interesting.

  11. Great story! Life is not just about success alone. It is about persevering and keeping the faith when struck with crushing disappointment. In the larger scheme of things an extra year of study and a few failed exams is not a big deal at all but to a young mind going through that phase, it can be a debilitating blow. So glad to see Sid deal with failures and finding joy in doing what he loves the most. His story is an inspiration to other youngsters to take failure in their stride and march onward and forward with faith. Success and failure are both impostors alike and when we learn to be detached towards both, only then we can find balance in life.

  12. Sairam borther... very moving and inspiring...


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