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.

Swami seemed so happy during the bhajans.
Family interviews

Swami sat in the room with all the family members and one by one, they came to Swami, took namaskar and spoke to Him. What followed next was a sweet and personal family interview. There were several youngsters in the large extended family and the topics of discussion seemed to revolve around their education, marriage, career and health. Mrs. Kulwant Rai was in full flow and the rapport between her and Swami was so wonderful to observe. Though it was a private session, we went on  taking pictures and videos. I decided on the fly-on-the-wall approach while photographing.  

Vibhu, the photographer from Delhi and a dear Sai-brother was by my side. He was a relatively new photographer and a bit inexperienced around Swami. I was whispering instructions to him, hoping that he would not do anything that could land him in trouble. After all, this was a private session and there were so many women around. Photography in such a situation is surely a minefield. However, much to my chagrin and embarrassment,when I whispered anything to Vibhu, he would completely turn around and ask for clarifications!
“Don’t turn around...” I whispered desperately.
“What? Where shouldn't I turn around?” he asked looking at me. Swami was looking straight at us! I was scared of upsetting Swami but thankfully that didn't happen.

Finally, Swami began moving out of the room and He spent a few minutes near Mr.Kulwant Rai. Mrs. Rai asked Swami to do something about him but Swami just told her to keep patience and courage. Finally, at the end, Mr.Rai brought his hands together in namaskar. It was amazing that even with a memory loss, he had not forgotten Swami. The relation between God and a devotee is at a much deeper level than the body and mind. The connect remains across lifetimes!

Swami blessed him and then moved into the dining hall and everyone else too came there and sat. All of us students and staff were asked to sit along the tables that had been placed on the floor. We felt like some Rajasthani princes! Swami was at His special table and the whole family was standing around Him there.

Blessing Sri Kulwant Rai who, in spite of a memory loss, remembered his Lord!
A dinner to remember

Water was brought in a special vessel for Swami to wash His hand into a bowl. As the water was poured, Swami retracted His hand and His face had a look of surprise. He said,
“The water is too hot!”
They apologised and immediately went to fetch cool water. Then, the plate was brought. Once again, looking at the items, Swami seemed surprised! He said,
“I cannot eat this much!”
A separate plate was brought and Swami took small amounts of the food into it.
Mrs. Rai commented, “Swami eats so little!”
She came and stood beside Swami to ensure that He would eat enough. She also began a conversation which was joined in by several other ladies of the household. Here, I shall attempt to capture parts of that memorable conversation.

Swami: Who is he??(pointing to one of the boys)
Lady : Swami badaa ladka hai (Swami, he is the elder son)
Swami: ( Stretching his hands wide) Bohut bada hai … (He is very big)
Ladies: (in chorus) Swami bohut mota ho gaya hai. (Swami, he has grown very fat)
Swami: (Makes a face showing his displeasure regarding that)
Ladies: Swami aap he batao na…..aap kuch advice do (Swami, you please advise him)
Then that boy happened to pass by Swami as he was serving us. Swami called him
Swami:  Aye kitna mota ho gaya hai. Achcha nahee hai. Walking karo…..(You have grown fat. It is not good. Start walking...)
Ladies: Swami aap aao na, apne sath walking ke liye le jao. Hum sab aapke peeche aayenge... (Swami, you please come here and join us for the walk. You lead us and we shall all walk behind you...)

The dinner transformed into a sweet family interview in our full view. 
The mother of that lad told Swami that the grandmother (Mrs.Rai) was responsible as she simply overfed him. Swami smiled and to this the boy replied,
“Swami she loves me so much.”
Swami looking at one more boy (family member who was serving us)
Swami: Jab last time aaya thaa to ye itna tha (showing with His hands indicating that the was very small when Swami had visited the Rai residence in 1999). What is your age now??
Boy: Swami 25 years
Lady: Swami double of what you saw last.
Then the ladies indicate towards a girl and tell that…
Lady(old): Swami iski shaadi kara doo….(Swami please get her married...)
Swami: looks at her with a smile.
Then one by one other family members are introduced.
Swami(to one lady): Where is your daughter??
Lady: Swami I have no daughters. I have a daughter-in-law……You have not given me any daughter.
Swami: A daughter-in-law is not as good as a daughter? (looking at one other lady) You are from Calcutta!!!
Lady: No Swami…….(tells the name of some city)
Swami : But you were born and brought up there….
All are stunned and the lady accepts that she is actually from Calcutta as she was born and brought up there…..

Mother (pointing to her fat son): Swami uski bhi shaadi kara doo. Mother ka baat nahi mantha hain. Bolta hai shaadi nahee karega…. (Please get him also married. He doesn’t listen to his mother and says that he will not get married.)
Swami: Looks and nods..and then says. ….Shaadi karega tho Aur Mota hoga. (Marriage may make him grow plumper!)
Old Lady: Swami koi moti dhoond doo iske liye…(all laughed when the lady said “Swami, let us find a plump girl to marry him to...”)

Swami stated that He had stayed at their place in 1999 when at that time the International Centre had not yet been built. All this while, CG had been shooting from his eating place itself and I too took as many pictures as I could. After a few minutes, Swami said that the time was up. Mrs Rai said,
“Swami keep coming here. This is your place. See, today more than 400 people came here and are doing bhajans. Do You think that they came for us? No! They came for You.”
Swami nodded and as always, spoke obligingly. Mrs Malvika Rai asked Swami,
“On your return from Simla, please come here Swami!”
At this, Mrs Rai asked, “So Swami, you are going to Simla?”
Swami seemed a little surprised at the question and He replied with a smile. Mr. Anil Rai, Mrs. Malvika’s husband, told Swami,
“Please, you can rest here for a while after the Simla trip.”
Swami said that He needed no rest! He started moving out of the home. He was literally mobbed as He got into the car and drove back to the International centre.

Mangala Arati at the end of a memorable dinner...
The crowds outside had swelled after dinner since those who were on the lawns doing bhajans had also joined in. 

Back in the International Centre, we rushed up and sat waiting for Swami to come out of the lift. As He came, there was a brief discussion about us boys singing the Aha Raha Tava song after the evening drama at Dwarka grounds the next day. Swami was not interested in that idea. He said “Emi voddu” (None of that is needed) as ‘all those people are Hindi-speaking and they will not understand Telugu’. The discussion ended there and Swami moved into His room.

As Swami was going in, the handle of the wheelchair hit the door and made a loud sound. But it was consciously ignored by all, including Swami and we all slowly filed back to our rooms.

As Swami spoke animatedly with the family, I got a nice pic of Him with
the previous Avatar!
12th April 2010 - Another ‘new’ day

Though the day seemed to begin with bath and a sumptuous breakfast, our ‘real’ day began at about 10:30 am with the arrival of Swami. It is this conviction that made the ancient Indians (and many current day ones too) celebrate a second birth and a second wedding with the same life partner when one took to the spiritual path. Among the Brahmins, the thread-ceremony marked a second ‘true’ birth as one got initiated into the Gayatri Mantra.

It is such a great and thrilling feeling to wake up and go to bed with God. But there are some pitfalls to be careful of also. As each day passes, one seems to set into a kind of familiarity. In three days itself, it begins to feel that life has always been like this and will continue to be like this. Only the reminder that the trip will end in a few days and so will this fantastic physical proximity keeps one on one’s toes to make best of every opportunity that is available. So, in a way it is good that I am not forever in the Lord’s physical presence. Just like one needs darkness to appreciate the beauty of light, one needs periods of ‘physical absence’ to appreciate and treasure the Presence. Else it is almost next to impossible to keep reminding oneself of the Divine Reality that has been vestured in a Human persona.

Swami came at 10:30am and when the Srinivasan sir (All-India President aka AIP of SSSO) went to Him with the programme for the day (which consisted of visiting the homes of several senior devotees), He seemed upset. He said out aloud, “If I keep visiting homes like this, what about darshan for the devotees?”
He was visibly upset and did not want to listen to anything further. Even as the AIP was saying something, Swami told Satyajit to take Him ahead. He moved into the lift and descending down, arrived outside.

As He moved through the lines, some relatives of the Indian President, Smt. :Pratibha Patil, had arrived. Swami moved quickly to the dais. The bhajans seemed to be time of great relaxation and peace for Him!  Having come in a human frame, the Avatar was showing the perfect way for one to derive peace of mind - through bhajans and namasmarana! I went to the back and through the crowds. I took all sorts of photos – close ups, wide, ultra wide, crowds, emotions etc. Satisfied with the photographic effort, I returned to the front and participated wholeheartedly in the bhajans.

The special screens that had been erected at regular intervals transmitted the joy of darshan to those that were far also. 
There was a visit to the Bahai Lotus temple scheduled and so by 10:50am, Swami received Aarthi. One devotee offered the rose and prasadam was blessed for distribution. Swami took and gave one sweet apiece to Satyajit and Dario. Then He moved back and straight towards the car. There were a few emotional scenes on the way as some of the “VIP” devotees broke down, unable to contain the joy of seeing Him so close. As Swami sat in the car, all of us filed across Him to our respective cars and soon the convoy was headed towards the Bahai lotus temple. I had not heard much about this multi-faith open temple and was happy that would be making a visit to it along with Swami!

continued in Part 8 at the link given below:

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks once again Sir for sharing the wonderful moments of Swami. I could see the faces of the people in the photo titled "Mangala Arati at the end of a memorable dinner...", so sincere, peaceful & yearning for Swami's Blessings. Very well taken. Waiting eagerly for the next week to read more...
    Thanks & regards


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