Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 10 - Hans Raj concert, dinner at Cheemas and blessings to sevaks

Getting into the car would be an opportunity for
many devotees to get His blessings.
 Another programme at the Dwarka grounds

By 3:00 pm we were back in our rooms and we decided to rest a bit extra. Since the morning session had got extended quite a bit, we were quite certain that the evening session would be delayed . Thus, all of us got ready leisurely by 4:00 pm. We were being pampered with such rich food and such service from the volunteers that, I felt, each day I might be putting on half a kilo! In that light, it was amazing that Swami, after so many years of such treatment, still maintained His figure and weight! I understood better the meaning of absolute control over senses and not falling victim to the taste buds.

It was nearly 4:50 pm when Swami came out of His room in the evening. We were all assembled in the lift landing area and as soon as Swami told us to move in, we went in for tiffin. As Swami sat at the table, He enquired as to what the programme today was. AIP was a bit hesitant to mention the evening’s programme at the Dwarka grounds after it had been cancelled yesterday. Thousands had gathered today also at Dwarka grounds and it appeared as though AIP wanted to somehow push it through today. He said that there was a Bhangra programme and that would be followed by the Sufi singer, Hans Raj Hans.
“After that, we can have the boys programme”, he quickly added obviously hoping that the addition of “boys programme” will make Dwarka grounds more attractive for Swami.

{This is the 10th 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 meditation hall attached to the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre.
Swami then looked at Ashwath and P.Sreenivas and wanted to know the programme. They went to Him with a list of the songs they had planned to sing. Swami saw through the list and He seemed particularly interested in Rama Nannu Brovara. Seeing that Swami had permitted these boys, AIP was very eager have the evening programme frozen. So he went to Swami again, “Swami, firstu Bhangra dance chestharu........tharuvatha, mana pillalu...” (Swami, first they will do Bhangra and then... our boys...”)
He stopped, trying to formulate the next part of his sentence after seeing Swami’s response. Swami looked at him and continued, “Mana pillalu...? Dance chesthara?” (Our boys? Will they also dance...?)

All burst out laughing. That ensured that the mood was light and nice for the AIP too as the tiffin session concluded. Swami told all of us to wash hands and get into the cars. Thus began the long journey to the Dwarka grounds. The convoy was given VVIP status and clearance. In spite of that, we took almost 40 minutes to reach the venue. Just made me wonder as to how the traffic had grown in the Capital city! The traffic was so heavy that the cars that were in the latter half of the convoy got cut off and were left behind. It was a totally Toyota convoy - Toyota Corollas and Toyota Innovas being led by the Toyota Estima! I took quite a few convoy shots in the fading light of the evening.

It was almost 7:00 pm when Swami arrived at the Dwarka grounds. The artiste for the evening, Hans Raj Hans, was standing with a rose to welcome Swami. As Swami came out of the car, a seva dal member offered a rose to Him. Then the artiste came forward and bowed to Swami. Swami seemed so happy seeing him and He blessed him with a beautiful smile. He accepted the rose and gave it back to Him. Swami moved to the upper stage. On the lower stage, the one on which He had sat watching the drama, a group of lads performed the bhangra dance to mark the occasion of Baisakhi. Personally I felt that the dance was slow and without much vigour, but then, the Lord always sees the efforts made rather than the results produced. The dance lasted about ten minutes.

Hans Raj Hans offers a rose and his salutations at the Lotus Feet. 

The Bhangra performance before the concert.
Once the dance was complete, at about 7:20 pm, the singer took centre stage. He offered his gratitude and salutations to Swami before he began. The performance was a memorable one for both the singer and the audience. The Sufi songs were profound and rich with meaning. The flautist who accompanied the singer did a phenomenal job. In the beginning, I felt thrilled listening to the meaning and power of the singing. But after a while, it became a little repetitive and monotonous. The whole performance lasted a bit more than half an hour and after that, Swami called the artiste.

He blessed him with vibhuti packets and then lovingly smiled at him. He once again fell at Swami’s feet and offered another rose. The rose which was his naivedyam, came back to him as Swami’s prasadam. I don’t know whether the devotees were able to have direct darshan as they had to see Him from more than 200 metres away. Of course, giant screens had been erected for them but then the thrill of seeing Swami in the flesh is an altogether different experience. That was probably why Swami used to insist on having the evening session at the International Center itself though there were much more people at the Dwarka Grounds. Quality of darshan was probably more important than the number of people who had darshan.

A panoramic view of the stage during the concert. (Download and see in expanded view).

A very special ending for Baisakhi

Swami turned back and headed to the car. All of us were also told to quickly get into the cars. Swami had promised to visit the residence of the State President, Sri Jatinder Cheema and, so, the dinner was scheduled there.

The journey to his home took about forty minutes. Arriving there, we saw that there was a mechanical lift to take Swami to the top. On the top floor, the whole family gathered at His feet and took namaskar after which Swami was led to His dining table. The entire hall had little tables, like the ones kept for noblemen of yore and, on them, were silver plates filled with eats.

As Swami sat at the table, Cheema and his wife poured water for Him from a silver jug and washed his hand. It was 9:00 pm and most of the boys had not yet arrived. Swami began His dinner and all the members of the family took turns to serve Swami. After taking a few pictures, we were told to sit down and eat with Swami. Eating with Him in such times was a boon and a disadvantage too as I could not take photos. I sat at a nice vantage position from where I could take photos if I wished. Then began my dinner. Slowly the boys trickled in and soon all the tables had been occupied.

Mr. Cheema and his wife get the opportunity to serve Swami during the dining session on Baisakhi day.
Swami ate slowly and very little. Satyajit was there but most of the serving was done by the Cheema family. Swami also blessed Cheema’s daughter who seemed to look at Him with a lot of curiosity. It was a nice and beautiful interaction and Swami blessed all the members of the family. By this time, I had finished dinner and I had taken up shooting these wonderful moments. Vibhu also stood by my side and emboldened by my approach, began to shoot. As we continued to shoot, Swami called Vibhu and asked him something. He was so excited and he spoke to Swami for the first time in his life maybe. I took pictures of those beautiful moments too.

Vibhu gets his tryst with Divinity.
It was 9:40pm as Swami told us all to go and get into the cars and then began our journey back to the international centre. We reached there by 10:00 pm and as Swami was getting into the lift, He told us,
“Tomorrow, at 5:00 pm you will all start from here. You will halt at Chandigarh for the night and then resume your journey to Shimla. I will also land there at that time and we shall meet there! After that, we shall all go to Parthi as boys are having entrance exams there. Then we can return.”

Blessing Mrs. Cheema and her little daughter.
It was wonderful for me to get to know this. I had dreamt of going to Shimla with Swami and it was coming true finally! As Swami came out of the lift in the third floor, we were there, having raced up the steps. Swami repeated the instructions here also before moving into His room and retiring for the day. It was with this joyous feeling of going into the cool mountains of Shimla with Swami that our Baisakhi celebrations came to an end in the capital city.

14th April 2010 - Morning blessings for all Delhi sevaks

By 9:00 am, we were all ready and most of us had finished packing to a great extent. As was the daily habit, we gathered in the lift landing area in the third floor, waiting for Him. I had my laptop and was typing down my diary entries which were far from being up-to-date by now. Some of the boys were being lulled into sleep in the peaceful atmosphere. At 10:00 am Swami came out of the room. He was presented His itinerary for the day by AIP and Cheema and Mr.Rasagotra.  Seeing that, Swami moved to the lift and down to the ground floor. As He came to the landing area, Cheema requested Swami to visit the basement of the international centre.

Swami agreed and so He was taken there. The basement was a large 50ft X 20ft area as per my estimate. On the slightly raised stage, an ornate jhoola in blue had been placed and behind were photographs of Shirdi Baba and Swami. There was a ramp leading from the stage below and on one side of it were the ladies seva dal volunteers. Swami moved along the lines and blessed them. Many took padanamaskar and offered roses to Him. At the end of the line was a cake and a lamp. Swami cut the cake and lit the lamp. He turned back and as He moved towards the stage, there was a line of gents’ seva dal whom He blessed.

All along the border of the stage were oil-lamps burning bright. As I moved backwards, taking pictures of Swami, my leg must have gone close to a lamp. Swami pointed it out to me and told me to be careful! I looked down and saw a lamp just by my leg. I smiled and moved to a side. That was so sweet of Swami. God is like that - He has a million things to take care and yet, has time for our ‘little’ lives. That is what I had seen just now - Swami had taken time to bless all the active-workers. We, on the other hand, get so ‘busy’ in our own lives that we don’t seem to have time for God. If only we could devote a part of that time for God which He devotes for us!

Moving into the lift, Swami moved up to the ground floor. Coming out through the lift landing area, Swami arrived near the entrance of the building. Today, the VVIP who had come to offer his salutations was  Sri L.K.Advani. He had come along with his wife and both of them fell at His feet.
Advani seemed to ask Swami about His health and wished Him well. Swami smiled at him and gave him and his wife a vibhuti packet each. As Swami came out of the main door, a plethora of people were ‘introduced’ to Him by Cheema. It would be absolute Maya to think that someone needs to be introduced to the Master. However, being aware of that Truth, one should do one’s duties because that is a chance and opportunity of interaction that the Master grants to both - the introducer and the one being introduced.

Swami smiled at everyone and granted abhayahastha. Blessing everyone, Swami arrived on the stage. It was a packed audience and I quickly moved around the entire place taking photos. There was a special contingent of alumni and youth who were draped in flaming orange. They were the Veda chanting group. Swami sat for about four bhajans and, after that, He received Aarthi.

Off to school

At the end of the session, youth members got prasadam for blessed for distribution. Another person also came and gave a rose to Swami. Swami blessed him and handed the rose back to him. Swami moved off the stage and into the car that was waiting for Him. As per the schedule, Swami was to visit the Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar school today. A huge crowd had gathered at the main gates of the international centre and a strong chain of the seva dal held back their surging flow. Here, I saw something very interesting, probably for the first time in my life in Swami’s presence. Some of the people were holding up placards and photos of children - boys, and girls. It was evident that the photos were proxies for the actual people who were unable to be present to have darshan.

The divine vehicle on Delhi roads.
Swami’s car started and we followed in the convoy. A twenty minute journey took us to the Sathya Sai Vidya Vihar. At the entrance were children chanting Vedas. Little girls dressed in flowing white robes, yellow sarees and red dresses welcomed Swami into the campus. As Swami got down from the car, the principal offered a rose and Aarthi to Him. In the background were girls dressed in kathakali masks performing a welcome dance. A host of other teachers and seniors from the school offered flowers to Him.

Swami watching the programme in progress on the makeshift stage.

Swami moved along the red carpet that had been laid out and on the way, blessed all the children who were lined along it. These children were all waiting to perform in front of Him.Swami was requested to ascend the stage so that all that had gathered could have His darshan. The stage was small and very high. Swami had to make use of a hydraulic lift to move up the makeshift stage. Meanwhile, the mikes came on and bhajans filled the air. Swami sat on the stage for about three bhajans. In the meanwhile, CG and I moved around the huge pandal and took videos and photos.  Swami then descended from the stage and took His seat on a little platform in the pandal, facing the stage.

I saw that Swami seemed to be having a slight cold! That was being accentuated by the huge blowers from the AC units that were by His side. Seeing that, I went and changed the direction of the ducts. The children had prepared a dance drama to present before Swami and soon it began. It was a short 25 minutes presentation on Swami’s early life and childhood. The episode where Swami substituted for the dancer Rishyendramani, the incident of Lord Hanuman requesting Swami not to circumambulate his temple, the episode wherein Swami tranformed a hunter by telling him, “Shoot, but use a camera instead of a gun!” and some more incidents were depicted. Each of these were interspersed with dances.

All the props and sets were so sweet and cute. They matched the children who were part of the drama. All the children came together for the final formation after which Swami moved from His perch on the mini platform that had been set for Him. He moved down and as He headed for the car, the principal invited Him to bless the school building. She was quite insistent and Swami agreed.

to be continued in Part 11 given at the link below:

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  1. Dear Arvind, Sai Ram. Beautiful jounrney with divine till date. Now, Shimla's visit. It will be a beautiful journey to see from your eyes.

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