Friday, 27 November 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 12 - Divine promise to Simla fulfilled

The whole road leading out of the airport had been decked with Rangoli designs and flowers were spread beautifully all over the place. A host of children with welcome banners and boards awaited the divine arrival. As the car headed towards the main gate, we saw a set of children holding out placards, each with a letter, such that all of them together read as “WELCOME SAI”. We moved about taking some shots but very soon, we heard the news that Swami was landing. At exactly 11 am, the little aircraft landed on the airstrip. It had a magical effect on the crowds waiting outside. People began to shout jai jaikars and at random they began to sing bhajans aloud. These were all Swagatam bhajans and there was no mistaking the celebration that was ringing all around. The thrill that these devotees expressed was beautiful to witness.

The welcome that awaited the Lord at Shimla
Though we tried our best, CG and I were not let into the airport premises. This was inspite of the vociferous and heartfelt appealing that Arun Jain sir did on our behalf. The security seemed quite tight and adamant. The formalities of landing and Swami getting into His car took hardly 10 minutes and soon, Swami’s car was moving towards Anand Vilas, the Divine residence that had been built in Simla. It was after more than 3 decades that Swami was visiting this place. The present visit was the fulfillment of the promise that Swami had made in the April of 2007, via a letter addressed to the devotees of Simla.

{This is the 12th 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:

When He had last visited, He had freely roamed the place and devotees had been thrilled with close darshan. He had walked barefoot in many places in Simla and surrounding areas. (In case you wish to view some unforgettable moments from the 1973 visit, pick a copy of ‘Love Flows North’.)

His love for them and their love for Him had not changed a bit but there were a lot of other changes. There was now a police and Seva Dal convoy beside the car that seemed to act as a wall between the Lord and His devotees. Though they were all rudely shocked with this development, one could see the devotion that was pouring forth from their beings. People were running behind and along with the car as much as their legs permitted. The elders stood in prayerful prostration. The most touching sight for me was when people took the dust over which Swami’s car-wheels had passed over, and applied it to their foreheads as though it was vibhuti.

Shimla must have felt excessively 'warm' for Swami in spite of it being a hill-station, thanks to the devotion of the people!
 As we moved ahead, it felt as though the whole of Simla was out on the roads! All the shops and homes appeared empty in the background as people filed on the roads. The security guards had a tough time doing their duty as they had to keep running along the car for long distances. In fact, later, a security guard asked me a surprising question,
“Like Puttaparthi, has Swami spent a lot of time in this place too? We never see such crowds even on Parthi roads!”

These guards come for duty for a month and many times are unaware of Swami’s life and works. I laughed and told them that Swami had come to this place only twice before and that too had been there for brief intervals, years ago. However, I felt that his query was an ode to the devotion of these hill people.

At every bend on the road where the cars would have to slow down, there were people gathered. We were urging Arun to overtake a few cars so that we could be close behind Swami’s car. He did it and we earned the wrath of the security behind Swami who did not know that we were Swami’s students. In performance of their duty, they tried to knock our car off the road!! It was then that a turbaned gentleman in an Ambassador car came up by our side and asked us what we were trying to do. When we said that we were official cameramen for Swami, he picked a phone in his car and made a call that allowed us to get into the coveted position - one car behind Swami. It was from there that we took some pictures and videos. We got this special position for only about five minutes after which, for security reasons, we were back to three cars behind Swami.

Swami travelled more than 30 kms along the road. I feel this was to bless everyone of these simple hill-folk.
I had a little adventure here. At about 11:30 am, we came near a big pandal and a gathering. Swami’s car slowed down so much that I got off my car and went to shoot. I was in front of Swami’s car and taking some shots. I saw that there was a vehicle with an open back that was piloting Swami’s car. I got the crazy idea to jump into that vehicle and get good shots of Swami’s car from this vehicle in front. Camera around my neck, I tried to jump into the moving vehicle. My jump flopped and I landed on the road. I continued running and made two more failed attempts. All this was happening in the plain sight of Swami! I finally gave up and then moved back to my car.

I had a feeling of trepidation as I received an sms from Dario, who was in Swami’s car.
“Don’t do that ever again!”
I sent back an sms, “Did Swami ask about it or get upset?’
I was relieved at the reply, “No! But do not get off the car. Swami will feel bad that His students don’t have a car to travel in!”

I decided not to be that adventurous. I was also moved. I was fearing His anger, but He was fearing for my safety and worried that I have no car. I was very touched. The journey continued. It was a long journey but a very beautiful one and a very scenic one. And whenever we came across a semblance of a town, it appeared as though the whole place was out on the roads. From our car we could see empty shops and deserted homes.

The windows of our car were down and I could hear the devotees’ joyous shouts. They were all proclaiming in Hindi that they had seen God and they were blessed! It was a bit tough for them to locate Swami’s car in the convoy and they simply bowed to all the cars in the convoy! There was sheer joy on their faces. It made us feel so aware of the good fortune that Swami had bestowed on us. By 12:40pm, we had reached our destination. A magnificent archway welcomed us into Anand Vilas - the ‘residence of bliss’. The school building was seen from the road. The children in their uniforms stood waving to the whole convoy.

Swami got down at the main building. As He got out of the car, He moved towards the entrance of the building. A ribbon had been tied across the door. Swami, like an eager child, tugged the red ribbon and the mandir was formally inaugurated by the Divine hands. Inside, He saw that all the boys had arrived and with joy remarked, “Pillalu Ochessare!” (The boys have come!)

Inauguration of Anad Vilas with the enthusiasm of a child!
This temple had a unique architecture and we were to see it later. A huge hall opened out below us. It was filled with devotees waiting to see the Lord on the special platform above in the first floor. For about 3-4 minutes, Swami sat there looking below at the devotees. They were all so happy and sang bhajans loudly. Meanwhile, CG and I moved to the far end balcony of the building and took shots. The building was impressive from inside.

The prayer hall inside Anand Vilas
A brief note about the building here. The building from the front resembled some sort of a Disneyland structure! It was like a colourful castle. Instead of cartoon figures, it was adorned by the various Gods. It was a 5 storeyed structure, It had two domes, one in front of the other at the fourth and fifth levels and was decorated on top with the Aumkara having the Cross and Crescent on its sides. It was majorly coloured in cream with pink and blue. The ground floor was a large assembly hall with a one foot high stage at the back end of the building which acted as an altar. This hall opened out in the front to another stage from which about three dozen steps led down to a huge assembly ground. Swami would grant darshan from this stage later during the trip.

The first floor was totally open except for a small floor at one end and a long balcony along the three other directions. At the back, at the floor area, was the staircase and lift landing space. It also lead to the door which Swami pulled the ribbon from to inaugurate the Anand Vilas. It was in this area that Swami sat to grant darshan from above. The second floor was a large hall with a warm decor and couches to be used as an interview room. The third floor had the dining hall and Kitchen. The fourth floor had rooms for guests, another interview room and Swami’s kitchen. The top floor was Swami’s room. From Swami’s room, a metallic bridge led to a lotus from where Swami could grant darshan if He wished so! From the top, the whole darshan ground resembled the deck of a mighty ship!

Waiting in the hot sun to catch a glimpse...

The lift was transparent and it travelled through a transparent tube.
The lift was located outside the building. It was made of transparent glass and there was a transparent tube through which it would travel. This ensured that Swami could see the devotees and the devotees could feast on His form as He moved up to His room.

After a few minutes in the balcony, Swami moved to the lift. As Aarthi was taken, the bhajans concluded. Swami moved up to the dining hall in the lift as I exited the building to take photos of Swami moving up in the lift. It was almost 1 pm and the devotees sat in what was “scorching” sunlight by Simla standards.  The devotees continued to sit for they knew that they would get another darshan when Swami moved to His room from the dining hall. I rushed back into the building for I knew that it would be lunch time with the Lord. I was soon guided to the dining hall.

Swami was already at His table and all of us took our places in the dining hall. Satyajit was serving Swami. All of us chanted the food prayer and began to silently eat. The next 40 minutes was largely silent. Swami too just ate very quietly. The lunch session was complete when Swami told all of us to wash our hands. I did so quickly for I wanted to return and take some photos. AIP moved to the windows and drew open the curtains to allow the light to come in. Swami told all of us,
“Now go, sleep and take rest.”
Instead of heading towards the door, we moved closer to Him. Who wanted rest when He was there?

Anil Kumar sir told Swami that all the people were pining for Him and that it was a treat to watch the devotion of the devotees. I too moved front and told Swami,
“Swami, as your car moved ahead, the devotees applied the dust from the tyres to their forehead.” (I was not sure about the dust from the tyres part but I felt it would be poetic to say so.) Swami looked at me and nodded and then the AIP also told something and distracted Swami away from me. Swami then stopped at a window and gazed at the hills outside. He was told that during the winter, the hills would all be covered in snow.

Swami moved towards the lift. As He moved in the small corridor, all the devotees gathered below were thrilled. They let out shouts and gasps of joy. The opened out their arms wide as if welcoming Swami into the innermost recesses of their hearts. Swami watched them and waved at them. This ignited their devotion even more and they were all jumping in joy almost. I consider it my privilege and great blessing to have been able to witness the magic of love between the Lord and His devotees.

A single wave that created a flutter in a thousand hearts...
As Swami moved to His room, we too moved towards our rooms that had been allocated to us in the children’s hostel. It was Prabhakar’s birthday today and, in the rooms, we saw three wonderful pastry cakes awaiting our attention. It was so sweet of the devotees to arrange this at such short notice! Wishing him and singing the birthday song, we smeared a lil pastry on his face and devoured the rest with great elan! We noticed that the rooms here had neither air conditioners or fans. And the reason was so clear - the people said that this was the worst summer in Simla with maximum temperatures soaring to 31 degrees C! We picked up our baggage to our cots and soon contented snores filled the air.
Happy Birthday Prabhakar!!

continued in Part 13 which is at the link given below:

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  1. About d coridor darshns..want to add...Once Swami was moving through it n u were
    taking HZ pics n u were stndng btwn devotes n Swami, actualy u were hanging n looking at
    devotees n i complained abt u ..look dz boy z
    cmng btwn us @Swami (didn't knw ur name evn) ... nvr knew d same boy vl tel us HZ stories in cmng times :) ...

    1. Ah!!! Thank you for sharing that...

      I feel redeemed...

  2. Sai Ram Aravind, the difference between the two visits is very noticeable when you see the video. Swami did say that a time would come when most of His devotees would only be able to see Him from a distance because there would be so many of them. Nevertheless they all turned up filled with devotion. Poor Prabhakar, the look on face makes you want to hug him and say dear! dear!, your brothers are only showing their love to you. Enjoyed reading. Loving regards chandan aunty.

  3. Sai Ram, Arvindji. Beautiful.....Thanks for sharing Swami's letter. Most of the preparations for Swami's visit to Simla was done in 10 days. Even the kitchen for Swami and guests was below the ground. But, one day before Swami's visit, it was thought that the distance between the kitchen and the dining hall is too much and the food will not be served in a proper way. The whole night was spent to construct a new kitchen near the second gate of the temple. In the morning at 5 AM. New Kitchen was ready and by breaking a narail food was cooked for Swami and the guests.Due to some good karmas, in past lives, I got a chance to serve Swami's guest in the dining hall. Remained, in trance for those three days. I had Swami's Darshan, Sparsham and Sambhashnam earlier. But those three days with Swami were really gave all of us a real trance feeling. Sai Ram. Long live. Give ananda to everyone. Many many thanks.


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