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.

“Not only ACs, there are also these refrigerators! People use it for keeping food and water cold! They store food from their previous births and pickles which are decades old! They use the previous day’s rice and all that is so unhealthy and not at all tasty!”
Such was his attack that Swami spoke in defence of the refrigerator,
“That is to prevent the food from spoilage.”
But Anil Kumar sir, in his elements, continued,
“There are so many in the ashram who live simple traditional lives. There is an old woman who even to this day hand-grinds the food to be cooked. The taste in it is altogether different!”

Swami seemed to have decided to continue pulling up AIP. Very sweetly, He said,
“But our Srinivasan here likes modern stuff!”
With a smile, Anil Kumar sir added,
“What for him Swami, he is dhanikudu (rich) and aadhunikudu (modern)! We are all common men and we like and rely upon traditional things.”
With apparent surprise, Swami asked,
“Don’t you drink cold water?”
The immediate response was,
“No Swami! My teeth feel jhil jhil (sensitivity to cold). They also become weak. One has to lose teeth anyway after 70 years. Why should I lose them early?”

Swami was smiling broadly now and, encouraged by it, the professor extended his bashing to the modern tiles saying that the they needed back-breaking cleaning to keep them good.
“Instead, normal-looking stones can be used and maintained easily! People are ready to die even to make the floor look posh! They simply fall and break all sorts of bones.”

Reminiscences and plans

After a bout of smiles and laughter, Swami shifted the topic to the visit to Africa in 1968. He began to speak and it was very interesting to listen to His narrative.
“There are places in East Africa where it is very cold- places like Tanzania! There one finds hundreds of zebras walking even on the roads. The police struggle to clear the roads. Inspite of blowing loud horns, they fail in their attempt. Idi Amin gifted a deer fawn to Swami. But it died before it could be brought to India!”

After a few minutes, Swami searched for Ravi bhaiya. Beckoning to him, He spoke to him on the commonly sung, Sree Raghavam slokam. Swami emphasized that Bharatha ruled the kingdom first. He kept contemplating on Rama and he stayed in a hut built away from the kingdom. He ruled it in expectation of Rama’s return. It was only later that Rama took over. That is why this country is called BHARAT -  since it was first ruled by Bharata. Swami also spoke on the greatness of Vaidehi (Sita) and mother Kousalya. Ravi bhaiya was a silent witness for all this.

Swami then called out in Tamil for Ashwath and P.Sreenivas.
Speaking to Sreenivas He said,
“I expected you to sing some swaras but ….what happened?( Enti, Swaraalu Veyiledhu?)
He continued,
“Tomorrow is Amavaasya (new moon night). It’s also the day for a big festival that all celebrate here.(Baisakhi) What will you sing?”
“Swami, we are ready with Vaathaapi Ganapathim Bhaje for tomorrow. Also, Yendaro Mahanubhavulu...”
My father got an opportunity to offer a letter to his Swami on the next day morning. i.e. Baisakhi
Swami seemed to agree for the former song but denied the latter as it takes a lot of time to render. Swami wanted them to sing only a  few lyrics  and concentrate more on  the swaras (notes). He also agreed to the song Bhajare Maanasa  and He himself sang one sentence with the fine touches. That was so sweet and beautiful.  He said that Thyagaraja used to always sing that. I wondered how thrilled Thyagaraja would have felt to have his Lord sing his composition and remember him centuries later! It was yet another proof for me that the only thing permanent in this Universe for all times to come is God’s love alone.

The time was almost 9.30pm. Swami suddenly mentioned that He was putting us all into difficulty by speaking so long. I said,
“Swami when you speak, we are happy to listen for the whole night if necessary!”
Swami retired for the night after this. All of us slowly wended our way back to our quarters where hot milk and soft beds awaited us.

Baisakhi scenes - the special recipients of grace treasured His darshan more than the gift hampers. 
13th April 2010 - Baisakhi Day

Today was the day of Baisakhi which is a very big festival in these parts of India. The ancient harvest festival in the Punjab region also marks the beginning of a new solar year, and a new harvest season. It is a Sikh religious festival which falls on the first day of the Baisakh month in the solar Nanakshahi calendar, which corresponds to April 13 in the Gregorian calendar. In Sikhism, it is one of the most significant holidays as it commemorates the establishment of the Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib in 1699 by the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.

On the festival day, we woke up a bit late and comfortably. Finishing our morning ablutions, we had a sumptuous breakfast and then the singers had some practise. I typed a bit but then got chatting with everyone. The atmosphere was cheerful and all were feeling comfortable. News had percolated that the Simla visit was on and that was a reason for great joy for all of us. I had never been to Simla before and my debut trip would be along with Swami! Ah! What great joy!

It was almost 11:30 am when Swami came out of his room. We could see Him from our gathering area near the lift-landing. Cheema was showing Him the details of the programme today and the sheet was a big one. His wife too took namaskar and Swami came to the lift at about 11:45 am. As He came down, I saw that the retinue of Shivaraj Patil too had come. As Swami came down the ramp, they all bowed at His feet and then Swami moved out of the building. Being a festival and a holiday, the VIP crowd was at its maximum today. And everyone wanted to fall at His feet and seek blessings!

On the stage after blessing all the gift hampers for distribution.

It took Swami quite some time to navigate through the gents’ and ladies’ VIPs before getting on the stage. A vastradaanam (clothes-distribution) for the poor had been planned for the occasion. All the clothes bundles had been stacked in the front, under the direct gaze of Swami. Later, I realized that they were actually gift hampers and not just clothes. The volunteers were shifting them to ensure an efficient distribution whenever Swami blessed it. The members of the bhajan group were in their best dresses. Even as Swami arrived on the stage, He blessed the distribution to begin and it proceeded with great gusto.

Swami then said that He would move down the stage to bless all. The recipients of the gifts were sitting on either side of the central path. The fact that Swami would now be moving along the central path was definitely a big bonus for them. CG and I immediately moved along with Swami, in the front, getting some beautiful shots of Swami and the devotees. Swami moved almost halfway down the path. At the halfway point came the cut and drop. So Swami sat there and blessed all the devotees. It was here that a beautiful episode took place.

Swami observes a mother seated with her child. The agony in the mother's heart was evident on her face,

Knock and the doors shall be opened

Swami noticed that there was a lady seated and crying. She seemed inconsolable and, on her lap, was a child. He was quite a big boy but seemed to be crippled with polio and maybe even slightly mentally-challenged. I could make out that much. As Swami saw her, He turned back and beckoned to a sevadal volunteer. He gave him a vibhuti packet and instructed him to go and give it to her! The lady was simply thrilled and this brought out more tears! She rose and came two lines ahead and just collapsed. It was as if she was surrendering all her burdens to Him and He was giving her vibhuti as a token of His acceptance. 
She was weeping inconsolably and Swami was in perfect poise and control.

The vibhuti packet was given to her and she immediately applied it to the child. Having done that, Swami sat for a few more moments before saying that He would turn back. For me, it seemed as if Swami had made this entire journey of a few hundred metres to gift the vibhuti packet to this lady. As we walked back behind Swami, I turned and looked at the lady. She was still inconsolable but she had a radiant glow on her face. I was sure that these were tears of gratitude and joy. I felt so touched, happy and overwhelmed!

I also saw many other emotional scenes. This was the closest darshan the people in Delhi could possibly have. The Dwarka grounds were definitely Doordarshan (India’s national channel which translates into seeing things which are very far!!) Seeing Him so close is such an overwhelming experience and it evoked the same kind of response - people were sitting with tears streaming down their cheeks. Swami now moved back to the front and to the stage. Soon He received Aarthi. He turned and moved out. Instead of going into the building, He boarded the car and set out. At this point in time, I came to know that Swami was going to Sri Rajeev Mahajan’s house. But there was some confusion as to what the status of the students was.

"Give this prasadam to that child there."

The beautiful interaction lasted a few minutes but is sure to last several lifetimes for the devotee...
We were simply told to remain in the Center and everyone left. I felt very bad at being left out and mentally complained to Swami.
“Swami, we have come here to be with you and see your glory every moment - not to be at the International Center! However hot or crowded it might be on the roads, it is better because we will be with you!”

All of our boys were still seated in the bhajan area when we saw that there were frantic calls that all the boys were supposed to leave immediately as Swami was waiting for us. I actually felt happy at this call and wished that all the ‘elders’ get a boot for leaving us behind like this. Nowhere is Swami happy without His boys and yet this was the second time in two days that we were being left behind. We rushed into our waiting cars and soon were speeding away towards Mahajan sir’s home.

Sri Rajeev Mahajan welcomes Swami at home along with Swami. (Sri Mahajan is the elder gentleman standing in prostration.)
When we reached there, Swami had already begun His lunch. Vibhu had reached there much before us and he took some pictures that are the only documentation of this home visit. When we went in, Swami asked us as to why we were late. We were about to answer when AIP gave a ‘politically correct’ excuse,
“Swami as I said, there was a lot of traffic and so the boys got held up!”
I was half-inspired to tell Swami the Truth that we had been left behind and would have stayed put at the International Center if not for Him remembering us. But I just let it be. As Swami says,
Na Bruyath Satyam Apriyam”, one should not speak an unpleasant truth. Silence is better in such circumstances.

A baby at home delights Swami...
Presently, the members of Mahajan sir’s family arrived with food plates in hand and began to serve all of us. We sat down on the comfortable carpet and began to have lunch. I was as always, tempted to take photographs but I did not know how it would be received. And so, I refrained. As we ate, we saw how lovingly Swami was being served. In between the lunch, Swami called Ashwath and P. Sreenivas. He asked them whether they were ready with the songs. Ashwath told Swami that there was a mixture of classicals, qawwalis and light songs in the preparation. Swami told them not to sing only classical songs but to alternate between the different genres.

The traffic was manned by volunteers and the public was completely co-operative in the feeling of love.
Even as we completed lunch, we wiped our hands with the tissues that had been issued. We were all gifted with Mont Blanc pens. It was yet another instance to show that when one seeks God, worldly gifts seem to arrive on their own! It was 2 pm when Swami received Aarthi and left the Mahajan home. I stood on the road to take a few pictures of Swami leaving. After taking a few shots of the convoy, I got into our car and we left. It had been such a comfort and pleasure to travel  ever since we got cars. It ensured that we are always there along with Swami. We reached the mandir and rushed up the stairs to receive Swami as He came up the lift. It was almost 2:40 pm and Swami retired into His room and we retired into ours.

to be continued in Part 10 at the link given below

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  3. Immensely enjoyable series aravind...and specially the add ons...conversation n pics.wtng for shimla sojourn now.loving sairams


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