Saturday, 19 September 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 3 - Sights of Delhi

A beautiful morning darshan in Delhi with Swami wearing a special-colored robe
First morning darshan in Delhi

It wouldn’t be nice to be late on the first morning darshan of the Divine visit to Delhi! So we hurried and reached the entrance of Swami’s residence building. But there was another surprise. We were suddenly told that Swami may visit our rooms! Oh God! This was not the way to leave the rooms if the Lord was visiting. With the enthusiastic volunteers helping us, we tidied up our rooms to almost aseptic proportions. I thought that since Swami had asked about our beddings last night, maybe He wanted to examine them today. In ten minutes, the rooms were fit for the Lord to visit. Having satisfied ourselves thus, we rushed towards Swami’s residence.

The bhajans were on and we heaved a sigh of relief when we noticed that Swami was not in sight. Punctuality is the art of guessing the time of arrival of the other person. Since Swami had not yet come, we were not late!

Our relief was short lived. The reason Swami was not in sight was because He had already moved to the stage and was lost in the bhajans! No wonder the singing and chorus volumes were so high!  I told CG that we should immediately move out and begin filming. As we moved out and into the erected pandal, Swami began to searchingly look at me. I felt that He was looking out for where the others were.  As I saw Swami, the colour of His robe struck me immediately. It was not the orange of saffron, one that I was so familiar with! It was a few shades darker and had a kind of special shine to it. It was definitely the first time that I was seeing Him in a robe like that and I presumed that either Delhi, as His host, had presented Him with that robe or Swami, as a gracious guest, had decided to bless the devotees at Delhi during the first morning darshan in that special colour.

The ladies’ and gents’ bhajan groups were right in the front on their respective sides and about five thousand people had crammed inside the pandal. Descending from the stage, I moved to the back along the barricades to take photos from all possible angles. That was when I saw the enormity of the crowd that had gathered and the large number of people outside the gates pining to enter and have a glimpse of the lovable form in red. I was touched at the devotion of the people and expressed deep gratitude to Swami for being able to see Him daily. It is sad that we need to see some deprivation to feel gratitude but that is human nature. I thought of all the times when I had cried about Swami not giving me an interview or interacting with me. Today, I was like the person who used to cry for shoes when he met someone without feet!

{This is the 3rd part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:

Or you can read from the beginning. The link to Part 1 is here:

Even as I was taking pictures, Swami asked for Aarthi. I had come late for the session and thus it seemed to get over quickly. Also, I noticed that Swami did not seem to be in the best of health. He appeared a bit tired and so, He must be completing the session a little earlier. I moved to the front to take pictures of the persons waving the Aarthi and offering a rose to Swami. The person doing the Aarthi was apparently unfamiliar with the style at Parthi. He kept waving the camphor long after the “Narayana Narayana Om” stanza of the Aarthi had started. Swami told him to keep it down but he didn’t get it. I went to him and gently nudged him, telling him to place the Aarthi plate down. When he continued waving after that also, I took the plate from his hands and placed it down.

The first morning Aarthi at Delhi was not without its sweet little drama.
Swami then blessed everyone after the prayer for universal peace, the Samastha Loka mantra was chanted. He moved back but instead of turning left into the residence-building, moved ahead and down another ramp.

Swami went across to the other building via a ramp as the devotees
offered a sunshade to be carried over the sun!
Exhibition - an excuse to bless

He crossed the road towards the Primary school building where we had all been put up. Since it was hot and sunny, an umbrella was carried over Him. Moving on the slope, He reached the entrance of the building which had been modified into a makeshift stage. People sat below on the side of the stage opposite to the the slope on which Swami had arrived.  Swami sat facing them for a few moments and that was enough for me to jump down and take a few pictures. Swami gifted those devotees with a single handed Abhayahastha even as Mr.Kaw kept giving flowers and other offerings from devotees into His hands.

Swami now moved into our residence-building where He was taken by the lift to the first floor.
“Oh! Is He actually going to inspect our rooms?” I wondered and raced up the staircase. The lift came to a halt in the first floor where there was an exhibition set up.
“Ah!”, I understood, “Swami is visiting the exhibition on the floors below where we are staying and the hosts assumed that He might want to visit our rooms as well.”
With that understanding came a realization. If only we do all our activities and lead our lives as if God was going to see and judge it, things would be done so impeccably and perfectly.

The photo exhibition of  the various activities happening in Delhi. 
An exhibition of photographs of the various activities at the Delhi International centre had been made. It was not an impressive one because the space was very cramped I felt. But they had tried to make as good an exhibition of photos in the corridors and classrooms of a school building. Swami entered the elevator and moved up towards the exhibition floor. CG and I had rushed up the stairs and we awaited Swami’s arrival as usual. Coming out of the lift, Swami saw through the pictures and exhibits in the central lobby and they had been lined into the narrow passageways also. He was then taken into the library that stood at the end of one of the passages.

Swami inspects the library in the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre premises.
Swami moved among the metallic racks stacked with books and the “variety” that existed there was explained to Him. Swami amidst the books and bookshelves is something rare to see and I got a few nice captures. Many members of the organisation had positioned themselves at various vantage points and they sought His blessings. It was evident that Swami had come to the exhibition more with the intent of blessing the devotees of Delhi than to see the exhibits! 

Coming out of the library, Swami went through the other room on that floor also. Swami then got into the lift and began the descent. Swami was invited to the control room which was being manned by seva dal and some alumni. He went in and had a look. Again, it was to grant an opportunity of proximity for all those who had been working. Swami blessed all of them and heard what they had to say  before moving out of the building.

An opportunity of a lifetime

In the meanwhile, outside the building, the children had got ready to make a little presentation. These children were all from the slums of Delhi who were now being educated in a Sathya Sai Primary school and they all seemed aware that this was the biggest moment of their lives. The entire area had been red carpeted and as soon as Swami arrived, they began their programme. The landing right outside the school building itself transformed into a stage. A few kids came forward and presented a card to Swami wherein they had expressed gratitude to Him for the golden opportunity.Swami sat through the songs and dances.  

The Balvikas children from Delhi's slums get the opportunity to dance before Bhagawan.

The dances ranged in themes from unity of religions to the glory of Sharada Mata. The children were smiling and dancing in all their sweetness and innocence. After the dances, Swami began to move down the ramp. He blessed all the children on His way down. There was a lady who appeared to be the Bal vikas teacher for these children. She was in tears throughout the programme. I felt it was as if she knew best the plight of these children and also knew the grandeur and grace of the bounty of darshan being showered on them today.

As Swami moved down the ramp, everyone took namaskar. Then something unexpected happened. One man, apparently desperate to “introduce” himself to Swami, threw his visiting card on to Swami’s lap. Swami seemed surprised at this new behaviour by a devotee. Dario quickly  picked up the card off Swami’s lap and returned it to the man. He then fixed that man with a stare. One cannot make any judgements about anyone because nobody knows the history of lifetimes of anybody the way Swami knows. The devotee did what he felt was right and Dario did what he felt was right - both of them possibly had the same intention of connecting with their Lord.

The framed picture of Swami at the entrance is one that has been taken by my colleague, Ranjit. I took this
picture as a memento for him.
Crossing the path, Swami moved up the slope on to the other side into the residence-building. At the entrance of this building was a beautiful altar with a smiling full frame picture of Swami that Ranjit, my colleague at the Publication Division in Prasanthi Nilayam, had taken. I took a picture of Swami and the altar for him. Swami moved up straight to the dining hall for lunch. The lunch session turned out to be one in which we would get our first opportunity for creating a good chat with Swami.

My mind went back to a couple of hours earlier when I had thought that since Swami was not feeling that well, He had completed the bhajan session early. I realized that though my conclusion was right, my reasoning had been wrong. Swami had indeed completed the bhajan session quickly - but that was to ensure that He gets time to bless the volunteers and children! How quickly I had rushed to judge my Lord and how wrong I had been! Whatever He does is only for others. He is an embodiment of love and selflessness.

To Swami's right would be the boys' seating and to His left, the elders. This was the seating followed from the second dining session onwards.

Sight-seeing plans at lunch

We entered the dining hall and a very elaborate lunch had been laid out in silver plates and bowls. I counted more than a dozen bowls in my plate. Added to it were items on the plate too! It was a feeling of royalty and I knew that if not for Swami, I would not even dream of dining like this! I sat on the second chair, facing my back to Swami. On His command, we started chanting the Brahmaarpanam prayer. After that, we began to eat.

Towards the end of the lunch, the All-India President (AIP) of the Sri Sathya Sai Organizations, asked Swami whether the boys could go for sightseeing.
“Where will they be going?”
“Swami, they will see the Qutb Minar, Red fort and the Parliament house.”
“Not the Red Fort”, corrected Cheema, “That is on the opposite side. They will visit the India Gate instead.”
Swami then told us that we could go either in the afternoon or the next day morning. AIP came in again asking whether the boys could leave today for some places and the next day for the others. Swami agreed and told us,
“No need to sleep now. Go slowly and see everything.”  Then, He asked AIP,
“By when will they be back?”
“Swami by 3:30pm.”
Swami shook His head to say no,
“That cannot be possible. See everything slowly and come.”
Swami then told us to rise and wash our hands. The elders went first and we followed suit. I went back after washing hands to fetch my camera that was on the table. Swami saw Jagadish who also came in to retrieve something. I was hoping that He would look at me but knowing that, I think, He did not see me! He told Jagadish to get moving fast. Thus we all left. Just before we left, AIP gave us Swami’s instructions,
“Go quietly, enjoy and come back. Be back by 3:30pm. Do not look here and there, at the ladies especially.”

At the India Gate.
The summer sun in Delhi can wear down the strongest of tourists. However, thanks to the air-conditioned bus, the sightseeing was nice and not as bad as we thought it would be.  First we went to the India Gate. Erected in honour of the soldiers who had given up their lives in war, the edifice stood imposing and magnificent. The names of many soldiers who had become martyrs had been inscribed on it. There was also a flame that was kept burning 24X7 in their honour. We took a lot of pictures there. Next we visited the Parliament house and Rashtrapati bhavan. We concluded with a trip to the Qutb Minar.

The Qutb Minar dwarfs everyone in size and majesty.
At the Minar’s main gate, CG was stopped and told that “movie” camera was not allowed. We could see that many other people had carried in their handycams. He replied that in case a ticket needed to be purchased, he would do so. The answer stated was,
“Your camera is not allowed for it is accompanied by a stand (a monopod actually) and hence becomes a movie camera.” I was shocked. The monopod under the camera had disqualified the camera’s entry into the Qutb! The incident was soon forgotten once we entered the courtyard.

It was such an intricately carved monument and no wonder it has been preserved as a world heritage site. I marvelled at Qutb-ud-din-Aibak, the first ruler of the slave dynasty, who had planned the monument more than 800 years earlier though his reign lasted only a mere four years. Taking a few pictures with the monument which dwarfed us in every way, we rushed back to the cool comfort of our bus.

It was 3:30pm when we returned from our sightseeing. We had been told to be ready by 3:45pm but everyone just entered the rooms and fell flat on the beds.

Alertness - a quality needed for every devotee

The fact that nobody gave any immediate instructions coupled with the fact that Dario said that he would sms me if the elders of the group  were ready, made us even more relaxed. I somehow felt that we may have to go early and thus I got ready. In a short while we got the message - “Swami is waiting”.

And once again there was hectic activity all around. Happy at my decision, I moved to the auditorium at the ground floor of Swami’s building. All others filed in and we decided that from tomorrow onwards at least, we would have a stipulated time by which we would all get ready and wait outside His room. In another few minutes, the call came for us to rush up. With God, one has to always be ready.

Swami blessing the volunteers during the morning. Many devotees got the opportunities of their lifetimes during
Swami's visit to Delhi.
In a discourse on 22nd of April, 1998, in the hills of Kodaikanal, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba made a revelation about an aspect of God.
"The photographer asks you to be ready when he snaps your picture, and he gives you time to ready yourself. But the Divine Cameraman will not give you any notice. You should always be ready to meet the situation. If you engage yourself in bhajan and daivachintanam (thinking of God) — keerthanam and smaranam (singing and remembrance) —you will not be caught unawares."
One has to be alert always because things can 'click' at any time; there can be a 'flash' of inspiration during any hour of the day and though situations appear to have been captured in a 'negative' way, they can quickly be 'developed' into the 'positive' to fill one with beautiful memories.

That was exactly what happened in the tiffin session that followed. Swami made a startling revelation in such a casual manner that we would have almost missed it, had we not been alert.

to be continued in Part 4 at the link below:

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 4 - Drama at Dwarka

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  1. Sir, this is not fair to write it in parts. We are not able to control our anxiety. In lighter vein but the truth. Through your writing, I am able to see the entire events in LIVE. Thanks for taking time out in sharing with us the wonderful moments & leelas of SWAMI. SAIRAM

  2. Hahahahaha... Thank you... I take that as a compliment. :)

    The only reason for writing in parts is my own limitations of time and energy. Once the series is complete, I am sure you will be able to enjoy it in its entirety.


  3. touching!!! reading all dz bring sm point of tm v realy lived our life... anyways where u mentioned- " Punctuality is the art of guessing the time of arrival of the other person. Since Swami had not yet come, we were not late!" i actualy replied while reading dat u r alwz late while publishing d article...but den reading a bit more realised u were late fr Swami too :p . ..

    loved d pic of Swami in library, my favorite place :) ...

    n Swamiz asking abt ur whereabts n evry detail shows HZ extra possessive motherly nature , if it cms frm othrs it becomes a burden... n i remember some joke where Swami said if ul stand at delhi bustand evn fr 5 min ul gt maried :p , so HZ worry was genuine ... all hz darshan details r too touching ... loved it :)

  4. Sairam Brother Aravind! Thank you so much for encapsulating the Delhi visit of Swami. Through your article, am again reliving those nine blissful days of being in divine presence and serving him at his residence floor at SSSIC. An interesting thing to share is that while you mentioned Swami used to eat so little. He would actually lovingly leave prasadam for us in his plate which we so happily relished. Infact one of the days when he had a late breakfast, I was sitting outside in waiting area and praying to him as we were so hungry and waiting for his prasadam. :P Am now recalling so many fond memories and experiences we had during Swami’s Delhi visit in 2010.

    1. Thank you for the sweet recollection... It adds to the Sai Bhagawatham. :)

  5. Loved reading the beautiful details of the trip Arvind. Would love to meet you my brother one day with HIS grace. Sai Ram Uma

  6. Dear Arvindji.... Eagerly waiting for Shimla visit. Can't wait. Sai Ram.

    1. Thank you.... Shall post Part 4 tomorrow.... Shimla will figure in the later parts.... It will be in great detail too... :)


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