“For this birthday, I do not want any birthday party. Just like you do, I want to shoot pictures of Swami with a camera.”
“Why wait till your birthday? You can take photos when we go next for darshan in Brindavan!”
I was so thrilled and thus began my beautiful journey with the camera.
Fast forward about 7 years. I joined Swami’s school and realized that I would get an opportunity to get physically close to Swami like never before. I was thrilled at the prospects that held for my photography. But I only had a 35mm, fixed-focus camera. I wished that I had a better one and since my birthday fell right in the beginning of the academic year, I thought it was time to seek another gift from my father.
“Dad! Here is what I want for my birthday...”
“My son. I have a plan...”
“No!”, I cut him short, “please buy me a camera with a zoom so that I can take better pictures of Swami. Please!”
I got a new camera in a month. It had a small built-in zoom that ‘brought Swami closer’ to me. Still, it was not close enough. Once the film rolls were developed and the photos were out, my mother put a dampener on me,
“None of your photos are as good as the photos your dad has taken!”
I felt hurt and insulted. I retorted,
“That is because I don’t have a camera like him!”
Hot tears were almost making their way down my cheeks.
My father smiled. He placed a bag on my lap and from that, pulled out a new Nikon F90, SLR camera with a 200 mm Tamron lens. He told me to shoot with that. I felt so happy. And then he said,
“I planned to gift it to you. But you wanted a camera with a small in-built zoom!”
I have never asked my father for cameras after that. As and when I grew up in photography, my equipment has been automatically upgraded. Today, I boast of some of the best Nikon cameras and lenses. They are the ones that were instrumental in helping me become Swami's personal photographer as chronicled in Capturing Divinity.
|One of the first few pictures of Swami that I clicked with a 35mm|
fixed focus camera.
Swami calls one of these kids and asks him, “Where is your brother?” He turns around and points to another kid. Swami then tells him, “Ay! All are brothers!”
The kid has a sheepish smile.
Then Swami continues, “Where is sister?” The kid nods his head and says in a squeaky voice, “Swami! No sisters!”
“Ay! All are sisters” and Swami gives him a gentle pat on his cheek. The kid nods and is returning to his place when Swami calls out to him again.
This time the question is, “Where is wife?”
And the kid, in all innocence, narrows his eyes and asks, “All are wife?”
There is such a burst of laughter......
On another occasion, Swami is speaking about how high the expenditure of the Senior boys hostel has been in comparison to the Primary school hostel. Even as He is speaking thus, we are all thinking, “C’mon Swami! The hostel fees for both is Rs.7000. Senior boys naturally eat much more than the kids!” But Swami continues to tease and says that nobody knows to manage anything as well as the teachers and staff from Primary school. One of the students gathers courage and says,
“Swami, the little children eat less.”
“How many idlis do you eat?”, the question comes in a snap.
“Swami, four idlis...”
Swami now moves towards the Primary school children and calls out for one roly poly kid. He gets him to the Institute students and asks,
“How many idlis did you eat today?” (It happened to be idlis for breakfast that day!)
“See! They eat more but they manage better,” Swami concludes and nobody opens their mouth!
Coming back to the main story before I get lost in these memories....
Swami comes out on that day and begins to interact with the tiny tots. In the process, He calls one of them and materializes vibhuti for him. He calls another kid and materializes a gold chain for him. After a few minutes, Swami goes back into the interview room. This was the period that all of us would start whispering and talking. Nobody dared talk in His presence. Swami would not tolerate even a bit of indiscipline. Many have been the instances when He would look stealthily from the interview room windows and catch the culprits who were talking! And when the interview room door opened, only a few students would be able to see that. A signalling mechanism through finger-snapping would alert everyone of His presence and a quiet would descend all through! Ah! How powerful are the memories!
Well, as Swami went in, I began chatting with the kid next to me. In course of the conversation, I asked him,
“What is more valuable? The vibhuti that Swami materializes or the chain that He materializes?”
The kid who was chattering non-stop till then became silent. He had a confused look, and I, had a bemused one. I was enjoying this now.
“Swami is giving the vibhuti right...?” was his question.
“Yes! I told you that.”
“Swami is giving the chain?”
“Yes! Listen, I am asking you which one would you prefer? Which is more valuable?”
These kids sometimes are so dumb.
“What is the difference then”, he continued, “Swami is giving both. So both are equally valuable.”
His answer was so simple and he looked at me thinking that elders could be so dumb sometimes! While I had the question because I focused on the objects, he had the answer because he had focused on Swami!
There is no difference between anything that Swami bestows. It is all His prasadam (gift).
3. Seek from God alone
This is a story I heard in a discourse and Swami narrated it in great gusto. He spoke about a wandering fakir that went to meet an emperor. He wanted to seek wealth and riches so that his life could get better. The guards, out of respect for the fakir, let him in to meet the emperor. The emperor was in prayer. The fakir heard him praying,
“Lord! Grant me armies to become the most powerful ruler. Let there be never-ending riches in my kingdom. Let my granaries be full and let the horses and elephants in the stables be healthy...”
As the emperor concluded his prayer, he saw that the fakir who had come to meet him was walking away. He called out to him, stopped him and asked him the reason for his strange behavior. The fakir replied,
“I came to seek from you. But then I realized that I am a beggar seeking from another beggar! I shall seek directly from the Lord!” And he walked away.
Swami concluded, “If at all you wish to seek, seek only from the Lord. Experience His bounty and grace directly. Why do you beg others and seek from others?”
|If you HAVE to beg, beg from God and God alone!|
This is a story I read in a book. I think it was Anthony De Mello’s, One Minute Wisdom. I do not remember the exact details of the story but I simply cannot forget the spirit of the same.
A man visited a so-called realized master. This master was supposed to be the disciple of the grandson of the greatest disciple of a great Master that lived 100 years ago. She claimed to have great powers for had she not descended from in a way from the great Master? She claimed to have the Masters visions and herded devotees to herself.
One day, a devotee of the great Master called all the others for a banquet. When they were seated, he began to serve soup. As the guests supped at the soup, they were disgusted and they remarked, “This is nothing but plain water!”
“How can that be”, the host questioned, “it has been derived from the soup that was made from the broth that had its origins in the magnificent soup that I had made the day before!”
“You fool, “ they chorused at once, “you should make the soup again. How can you ever expect a dilution to match your original creation?”
“You are the fools - seeking dilution! Seek the Master directly instead of running behind such dilutions. Is not the Master capable of answering you directly?