Friday, 30 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 9 - Baisakhi grace and beautiful dinner

Yet another memorable dinner session

Swami had just arrived after calling upon the former prime minister of India, Sri Atal Behari Vajpayee. It was quite late by daily standards. So, at 8:45 pm we were all told to go and sit for dinner. I went in and stood behind the second chair facing Swami.  Swami told us to sit and then we chanted the food prayer, Brahmaarpanam.  Satyajit was serving Swami and there was a lot of “Vadhoo” (‘Don’t want’) from Him today. Inspite of multiple such refusals, Satyajit went about serving food into His plate; Swami delivered a really loud “Vadhoo!” I could not help smiling and immediately, Swami too looked at all of us and smiled. Then all of us started eating.

The session started with Swami asking,
“A youngster keeps waiting outside to have Swami’s darshan. Who is he?”
Nobody seemed to know the answer and everyone kept silent. I thought that maybe he was referring to Vibhu but did not say anything. Swami called Ravi bhaiya and asked him,
“Why did you not sing Kausalyatmaja bhajan?”
Bhaiya gave his sweet smile and Swami too responded with the same. Yet another instance of God being reaction, reflection and resound! A pleasant conversation followed. Swami seemed to be in a very happy state of mind, having visited Vajpayee. Given below is the conversation, not necessarily in the order presented.

Swami asked GV sir as to when he had come to Simla. He, as always, gave a detailed and elaborate answer. Then Swami was speaking about His trip to Delhi when He inaugurated the international centre. Vajpayee had been present then. GV sir added that Vajpayee was present with Swami even during the inauguration of the Summer course in 1987 at Brindavan. He had addressed all the students then. He summed up that topic by adding -  “We have that picture with us at Radiosai!”

{This is the 9 th part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:
Or you can read from the beginning of the serial where each part is linked to the next. The link to Part 1 is here:

The reference to Vajpayee spurred Swami to narrate the conversation the two had during His visit today.
Vajpayee had  told Swami,
“Your voice seems changed and is quite feeble and low in volume.”
Swami had answered,
“I was healthy in Parthi  My voice too was in good condition. Now, here due to the ACs being everywhere, it has got spoilt!”
Vajpayee had agreed wholeheartedly adding,
“Even my voice has suffered due to the AC.When I go out, am active but the moment I come home, the body becomes weak!”  
Then Swami added to all of us,
“I keep telling boys to switch off the AC  but they don’t do it.”

Swami seemed to have got into a “pulling the leg” mode now as He saw the AIP.
“Srinivasan will not agree with me. He will find my view wrong!”
The AIP was just smiling and before he could say anything, Swami asked Prof. Anil Kumar,
“What do you think about air conditioners?”  
Anil Kumar sir was strong in his criticism. He said,
“Swami, I don’t like ACs at all. People use it everywhere - in all places of work. That is why they die when the power cut comes into force! They are addicted to modern technology and not to the natural climate!”
Swami was laughing heartily at his ‘angry’ outburst. Sensing that Swami was enjoying it, the professor went on.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 8 - Bahai Temple special

Blessing all the devotees just before setting out to Bahai temple. 
08. The Lotus Temple

It took a thirty minute drive through the roads of Delhi to reach the Bahai lotus temple. All along the way, CG and I took shots of the convoy in various parts of Delhi. Reaching the temple premises at about 11:30 am, I saw that it was in the shape of a lotus yet to bloom. I thought that maybe it represented the potential lotus within all of us which was waiting to bloom. Swami often says that one should grow in the world like the lotus in slush - untouched and unaffected. That is why we compare the Guru’s feet to the lotus, however rosy or ‘sunflowery’ they may be - they help one to be in the world and yet not be affected by it. The fact that my name - Aravind - also means a lotus made me feel special. The Bahai temple was a magnificent edifice to look at. Only Swami’s car was permitted to go right up to the temple which was almost 400 metres away from where our cars were parked.

We had to cover the distance on foot with the scorching sun beating down upon us. Having lost my slippers, the sole protection for my soles, I had the experience of running on a frying pan as I rushed desperately to reach the temple before Swami’s car. Sai Krishna was also running in front of me. It was a very tough yet funny situation. I was finding it tough to run because i was panting and I felt that my lungs were burning but I could not stop because my feet were burning too!! I had to run in a manner that balanced both the burns and keep the damage to the minimum. It was almost a quarter kilometre and I had a real ‘Temple-Run’ experience!

A rare picture of only Swami's car on the dried 'lawns' of the Bahai Temple.
Swami’s car moved towards the side entrance but its orientation was such that Swami would have to descend on the lawns. So the driver, Padmanabhan, went ahead to make some manoeuvres and turns to get the car facing the opposite direction. As the car moved on the lawns, it was a rare sight because one can never see Swami’s car in solitude anywhere, thanks to the security and the seva dal belt around it. Once in position, Swami slowly got out of the car.

{This is the 8th part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:
Or you can read from the beginning of the serial where each part is linked to the next. The link to Part 1 is here:
The members of the Committe of the Bahai Temple welcome Swami with roses. 
A committee from the temple welcomed Swami. The Bahai temple is meant for people of all religions, castes, creeds and races. There are no prayers done there and it is in a state of perpetual silence. It is supposed to be a spiritual temple like Prashanti Nilayam rather than a religious one. Swami moved up the ramp and skirted the perimeter of the temple to reach the entrance. The whole building had a pool around it which looked blue even in the harsh sun. An umbrella had been held over Swami to shade Him from the super-hot sun. Entering the temple, I saw hardly 400 people seated there and I wondered as to why so many seats were empty. (Later, I got to know that this was planned as a private and restricted visit. Else, surely the devotees would have ‘flooded’ the ‘lotus’.)

The heat was scalding as is evident from Satyajit's expression! An umbrella was held over Swami as He entered the temple. 

Monday, 19 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 7 - Rai residence special

The benediction that Swami showered on those that had
gathered for bhajans in the Rai residence.
A unique bhajan session

After Arati at the Mavalankar auditorium, we all rushed into our cars and were soon driving towards  Aurangzeb street (which has been renamed now as Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam Street after the demise of the popular former President of India). We saw Swami’s car enter into the large gates of some residence. Following my instincts, I quickly got out of my car and rushed in. There was quite a big crowd that had gathered in the large front porch.  At that time, I did not know that we would be going to the Rai residence. Therefore, I actually had no idea as to where we had come! Seeing Swami’s car go into the compound, I had rushed in. I was taking pictures on one hand and trying to get my bearings about where we were on the other.

That was when I saw Mrs.Malvika Rai near Swami’s car, at the door. And I realized that it was the Rai estate. Swami was welcomed with a profusion of roses and flowers. A Poornakumbham was also blessed. It was when I was moving into the home that I realized who the mysterious sender of smses yesterday was. I had got an sms stating, “Aravind please get your parents too to our home. It’s on Aurangzeb lane.” I felt bad at having missed out inviting my parents and having them seated here.

Swami being welcomed into the Rai residence late in the evening. Hundreds had gathered around the front porch.
{This is the 7th part of an ongoing series. You can read the previous part at this link:
Or you can read from the beginning of the serial where each part is linked to the next. The link to Part 1 is here:

People had been allowed to populate the porch and the front verandah too. In spite of that, both these places were bursting at their seams. Swami moved in and I went a little ahead of Him taking pictures. The house was huge and room after room arrived as we moved through the dining area. We then came to a huge room where an area had been marked for Swami to sit. Mr. Kulwant Rai (after whom the main darshan hall in Prasanthi Nilayam is named) was seated on a couch there and he had a blank look on his face. It became evident that he had suffered some sort of a memory loss.

A sweet moment as Swami entered the home. What a blessing for the baby to have come so early to His Lotus Feet.
Even when Swami came close to him, he did seem to look at Him. He was told that Swami had come and he still did not look up. Swami sat opposite to him and showered his divine, loving sight on the elder. I am sure that in those few moments of silence, a million things were communicated at the level of the soul. Swami then went into a nearby room at the end of a passage, that had been kept ready to Him. After a short while, Swami came out and another door was opened leading to the back garden. My jaw dropped at what I saw there. About 600 people had assembled on the expansive lawns and they were singing bhajans. Though we had heard the singing inside the house, I never thought that so many people would be seated there!

It was indeed an amazing sight to see the devotees who had assembled for bhajans.

Only the borders of the lawns were available for me to go around and take pictures. Later, I got to know that these lawns had
served as the darshan grounds for morning darshan during Swami's earlier visit in 1999. 
Swami went there and the tempo and gusto rose to greater levels as Swami began to keep rhythm. It was a wonderful session and such enthusiasm was rare to find. I went around the lawns taking pictures from all angles. In the end, I came to the post( a shamiana pillar) right in the front and took photos as Swami signalled for Arati. Swami saw a photographer beside me trying desperately to take some close ups. Swami looked at him and then at me and smiled. I also smiled back. Swami raised his hands in blessing for all those who had assembled. We all then moved into the home, following Swami.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 6 - Mavalankar Auditorium in the Indian Parliament premises

A ‘hot’ surprise
Planning afoot for the evening programme in the premises
of the Indian Parliament.

We walked into the lunch hall via the auditorium. As we were making our entry, Swami seemed to have decided to bless the Delhi State President of the Sri Sathya Sai Organization with His love and grace. He called Cheema and asked him when should He visit his home! Cheema was absolutely delighted (who would not be?). He immediately said that the 13th of April was Baisakhi and it would become infinitely blessed with Swami’s visit to his home. As Swami seemed to mull over it, Satyajit said that it was a festival day for the people of Punjab. Nodding to that, Swami told us to take our seats and begin the prayer. The lunch session began silently. As I put the first morsel into my mouth, I realized that the food was really spicy! Instantly I remembered Swami’s chiding to Cheema. That must have been passed on to the cook who had taken the feedback very seriously. That feedback had resulted in making the ‘feed-front’ in our plates so hot that it was nearly unpalatable.

I knew that CG had the least tolerance to spicy food. Sure enough, when I looked at him across the table, he was in tears and gulping down many mouthfuls of water! Only a pure Andhraite (person of Andhra origin) can relish that spice and Swami seemed to be perfectly at home with the food. In this Avatar, He has come as an Andhraite isn’t it?  Another person who seemed to be relishing the food was Anil Kumar sir, also a pure Andhraite! The entire lunch session progressed silently. Nobody spoke possibly because all the tongues were on fire!

It was no surprise that everybody quickly finished the lunch. Swami said,
“Ah! Today the food was good. It had adequate salt and spice.”
He looked at Giri sir and GV sir. They nodded in agreement. What else could they do?
“Abba! Finally, the food managed to tickle our palates Swami”, said Anil Kumar sir and there was laughter all around. That laughter broke the silence and got Swami speaking. He began talking about Justice P.N. Bhagawati.

“His house is on top. I said I cannot come there.” Since Srinivasan sir and Giri sir could not hear that, they went closer to Swami. Then, they said that his daughter’s home was on the ground floor of the same residence and Swami could easily go there.  The topic then shifted to the evening programme in the premises of the Indian Parliament.  Swami asked Giri sir how long he would be speaking. He said twelve minutes and then the same question was put to GV sir. GV sir said that together, he and Giri sir would take thirty minutes together.  Srinivasan sir added that the boys could sing the composition Aha Raha Tava in the end.

God in one instant, human the next...

Swami said that was not needed because nobody would understand the language. (This was fantastic for Swami knew exactly what would happen in the auditorium. When living all the while in the physical proximity, it becomes tough to remember always that we are in God’s presence!)

Swami then called out, “Ashwatha!”  
Ashwath went to Swami and Swami called for his partner too and so PS (P.Sreenivasan) too followed suit. Ashwath asked Swami whether they needed to be ready with songs for the evening and Swami said that there was no need for it. Swami asked Ravi bhaiya who his partner was. Srinivasulu sir (or Lu sir as we call him) stood up and Swami nodded. Swami told the elders to go wash their hands. We continued to sit on.

Now another interesting thing happened which showed us the Avatar’s omniscience.

{This is the 6th 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:

Swami called out for Lu sir and asked him whether he had buttermilk. Lu sir was not able to hear Swami for the first two times because he was a good five metres away. The message was quickly transmitted to him and somehow, Lu sir seemed transfixed. Swami again asked,
“Did you have buttermilk?”
The response was only a hesitant nod! Swami looked at him deeply and left it at that. There was definitely something special about this interaction and I thought I would ask Lu sir later.What I found out simply thrilled me. Lu sir had decided not to drink buttermilk fearing that it might trouble his throat and make it tough for him to sing. Even as he thought that, Swami had asked him whether he had buttermilk! Instantly, he was reminded of his mother at home who would always insist that he should drink buttermilk after meals! He was overwhelmed and touched. (In fact, after the whole lunch session, he went to the kitchen, asked for buttermilk and had it with gratitude and love for Swami.)

Presently, the divine child came to the fore again. A plate of cut fruits was brought to Swami. The Kiwi fruit was there again but it had been presented in a nearly seedless form. Swami called and asked Srinivasan sir what the fruit was. “Swami it’s called Kiwi.”
Swami then suddenly seemed to remember,
“Ah! Purugulu! (insects)”
Then, He refused to eat it! Satyajit came and tried telling Swami that He should at least taste and see for Himself but Swami was simply adamant.  Satyajit even took up a fruit piece on the fork and gave Him but He did not taste it. He gave up and placed the fork back in the bowl. He stepped aside and walked out of the door to fetch something.

Swami called Balaram sir and asked him about the fruits.  He also tried to tell Swami that it was very nutritious and offered Him a piece on a fork. Swami told him,
“You eat it if you want!” He offered Balaram sir a piece on His fork. Ah! How beautiful it was - reminiscent of what happens in temples everywhere! Food is placed before God for a while (Naivedyam) and then partaken as Prasadam. Balaram sir ate the Prasadam joyfully and radiated a smile.  Swami told us to wash our hands and leave.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 5 - The Divine child at Dinner and Dessert

A beautiful family dinner
The setting in the lift-landing area just outside Swami's dining hall at the
International Centre.

Having witnessed the programme in the Dwarka grounds and returning to the International Centre, we immediately filed into the dining hall. We were touched that Swami would not begin any of His meals unless we were present. In fact, tonight, Swami was also just entering and taking His place at the table along with us. Seeing us, He told to enter and take our seats. I sat in the second chair facing Swami. I could see that Swami was being ‘prepared’ for the dinner by Satyajit. A napkin was gently placed on His robe. Our plates had already been served and we all awaited Swami’s instructions. Swami seemed to be objecting to all the items being served into His plate! It felt like seeing a little child at dinner time and, so, I smiled. Swami looked at me and smiled back sweetly. What magic exists in that smile! Ah! I felt raptures of delight course through me. His smile seemed to transfer itself to my lips for the next fifteen minutes at least.  Swami told us to start the prayer. Thus began the loud-throated and whole-hearted Brahmaarpanam.

I was closing my eyes all the while after those first time sign-instructions from Satyajit. But here and there, once in a while I took sneak peeks at Swami. What a sweet surprise it was for me that when I opened my eyes, Swami too was looking at me a couple of times. I noticed that He seemed to be eating at His fastest as we prayed. The pieces of Chapati with the curry went into His mouth quickly as we were praying. This is natural I felt for isn't He the Vaishvanara to whom we all offer the food to?

The prayer was soon completed and Swami told us to start eating. For about ten minutes after that we ate in perfect silence. I began to stealthily observe Swami for I could never take my eyes of  Him, whomsoever told me howsoever times! I felt that I was watching the Divine child, Rama or Krishna, being fed by the human mother. Here, the mother role seemed to have been taken up by Satyajit who kept putting things into Swami’s plate (based on His nutrition requirements I felt).

Swami was vehement in His refusal of some items. Many times He made such a pouting face that I cannot control my giggles. He literally pushed away the dishes which Satyajit was bringing to Him. But on occasions when He was ‘defeated’ and the food was placed in the plate, He seemed to resign to His fate and eat on! On one or two occasions, He saw me seeing the drama that was on between Him and Satyajit. Then He smiled a broad smile. It was like a minor cover up where He seemed to say,
“This is how it is always! So do not worry.”

A child among children, man among men, woman among women. When alone, He is God.

Swami was very inquisitive about all that He was eating.  After a while, He looked at Anil Kumar sir and asked,
Emi Anil Kumar. Aavakai thinnava? (What Anil Kumar? Did you eat the mango pickle?)”  
He responded,
“Swami today there is no Aavakai but they have served Gongura (pickle made of leaves). That Gongura is the crest jewel that has added meaning to all the dishes. Everything else is too Satwic!”
Swami had a broad smile and all of us laughed. I was amazed at the professor’s ability to bring a smile to the Lord. That is a blessed ability indeed.

{This is the 5th 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:

Special dessert session

Towards the end, Swami washed His hands in a special bowl. Dessert was now served. Various fruits had been sliced and threaded on sticks in barbecue style.  Swami seemed amused as we took those sticks and ate the fruit pieces. Just to make Him smile more, I asked for and took another such stick. I wasn’t disappointed as Swami beamed a smile again.

I wish that I could do all my actions in life with that single intention - to make my Swami smile. How beautiful and fulfilling life will be then!