Friday, 18 December 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 16 - Goodbye Shimla; Hello again Delhi

Dressed in the traditional attire, we took a parting picture at the altar to carry the love and divinity of Shimla with us.
17/04/2010 - We will miss you Shimla...

Though located towards the west in India, Shimla enjoys an early sunrise. I thought that when the Lord was residing there, even the sun wanted to rise in the Brahmamuhurtam! When I woke up, I found that CG had gone to the terrace to capture the beautiful dawn of Shimla. (All these camera shots were useful in making the video documentary on the Shimla visit. It is now available as a Sai Blossom DVD in five different languages - English, Hindi, Telugu, Russian and Spanish). By  7:00 am we were all ready to leave. A convoy of cars would take us down the steep hilly parts after which, we would get into our bus.Thousands of devotees had filled the darshan grounds already. I felt sad that I would be missing a darshan in this paradise. But that was Swami’s wish and knowing that makes it easy to accept everything.

Swami had arrived to Shimla in a 16-seater plane and it would be ferrying Him back to Delhi with the elders. The airstrip at the Shimla airport could not support the take off and landing of bigger planes. In fact, even the small 16 seater could only land with full capacity. For take-off, there was only enough runway to gather momentum with 12 people aboard! No wonder every seat on the aircraft was a premium. On top of all this, Manoj had fallen very sick. He was already suffering from vomiting which had got worse while travelling to Shimla by bus. Special permission had been sought for him and he was to fly with Swami in the plane. Lucky fellow! With God, even an apparent misfortune becomes a piece of fortune.

Manoj was there at the convoy waving us goodbye. He would be there for the darshan and then would be part of the convoy till the airport before finally taking off with the lord Himself. Feeling a bit jealous, I sat in the front of the SUV and stretched out to relax and enjoy the sights we would be seeing. CG was also along with me in the vehicle and we had our cameras in hand.

Another unforgettable photograph - in front of the beautifully lit mandir at Shimla.
{This is the 16th 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:

Having a camera in hand when you have to travel quickly through beautiful places in a blessing and a curse. It is easy to understand why it is a blessing - many spots whose beauty cannot be admired only for a few moments can be captured and relished over time. But as our driver (and the rest of the convoy) soon found out, it was also a curse. Every now and then, we would stop to shoot. Since the convoy order and discipline had been strictly instructed, none would overtake us. Soon, there would be a jam of about 10-15 vehicles on the road! (There were separate vehicles carrying our baggage!) I remarked to CG,
“It’s not daily that we get to visit the hills of Simla. So let us just stop and shoot wherever we feel like. Others will not understand a cameraman’s plight and delight. Good that we are together!”

Lovely sights of Samashti with Srishti filled the entire journey.
Shortly before 8am, we arrived to the spot where we would exit our cars and board the bus. Waving goodbye to all the friendly volunteers, we got into the bus and began the journey towards Delhi- at a more leisurely pace. (the pace was not a benefit- our driver just seemed to have a mental block to speed beyond 40 km/h). We had to halt at a level crossing and we thus glimpsed the meter gauge train that runs in the hills. It was such a romantic sight to watch this little toy of a train chug through sylvan beauty. Once the train crossed, we too did the same and resumed the journey.

The merry little train chugging down the hill.

The journey was quite uneventful except for a few stops here and there that we made to take photographs. Most of us slept for most part of the journey. However, an interesting episode occurred and we got to know of it later.

All flights from Simla/Chandigarh fly past a village in Darwa district in Haryana. The village has a vibrant school,Sri Sathya Sai Jagriti Vidya Mandir, started by an alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning - Amar Vivek. As Bhagwan's aircraft got airborne, the faculty was informed on phone. The children quickly got into a formation and waved to Swami's plane from the ground! Later, this picture was shown to Bhagwan in Prasanthi Nilayam and Swami blessed the picture, getting 'emotional' while listening to the story of the picture.

We completed our lunch en route and enjoyed the wonderful city-planning in Chandigarh. It was evening by the time we entered Delhi and our driver seemed very convinced about ‘slow and steady’ winning the race. The speed at which he was going, I had my doubts whether we would have darshan before Swami retired for the day! It was after 6:00pm that we reached the International Centre at Delhi. There was a lot of hustle and bustle on the street and it was evident that Swami had gone out for a drive. He was expected to arrive soon.

Being in His thoughts

All of us freshened up and soon, were sitting at the entrance of the International Centre building. Shortly after 6:30pm, Swami arrived from the drive. Even as He was getting down from the car, He asked Cheema, “Pillalu vochchara” (Have the children arrived?). Wow! Was I moved. My eyes felt a bit moist at the Divine Love. It made me feel as if Swami’s entire Avatarhood was for us! That is the Avatar’s magic - He is available for all and yet, He makes each one feel that He belongs to him/her alone. My first thought was that Swami was so attached to us that He did not know what to do without us and so, He had gone for a drive.

As an afterthought, I know that Swami is never attached to anyone. But He gives us the illusion in that way so that we can also get attached to Him and feel kinship with Him. It is such a beautiful feeling to know that the Lord misses you and waits for you! This was the joy that Swami conferred on us with that simple, small question - “Pillalu vochchara?”

Bhajans were still on. Swami said that He would go there. On the way He blessed a host of people who were seated on chairs. I recognised the VHP president, Ashok Singhal who was there. I also spotted Sailesh sir’s father rising up and taking namaskar. Swami went on stage and as soon as the bhajan that was on got completed, He asked for Aarthi. The camphor was waved at Him. He blessed prasadam for distribution and accepted a rose from a devotee. He then, moved back into the building.

At the lift were members of the youth who had served as Seva Dal volunteers. They utilised this opportunity to take namaskar and seek His blessings. Swami patiently and lovingly spent time with them and then getting into the lift, moved up. All of us too rushed up and we knew that this would be our last dinner with Swami for this trip. Tomorrow, we would be dining in Puttaparthi and not in the physical presence of Swami.

We sat outside, in the lift landing area, waiting for Swami to call us in for dinner. The call came and we went in. I sat in the fourth chair, with my back to Swami. I had not the slightest idea that this session would turn to be a memorable one for me!

Late Sri. Ashok Singhal (second from right on the chair in the first line) was one among those who sought
 Swami's blessings on His return to Delhi. 

Probably the most special ‘chance’ of my life

The dinner session began and once again, it was a five-star banquet. All of us had grown plump on the rich food being fed in the trip at least 4-5 times a day. It was a difficult situation for us as far as the food was concerned - refusal meant that the hosts would feel something was lacking in their efforts while acceptance meant weeks of intense exercising to get back into a semblance of a shape on our return to Parthi!

The dinner was coming to a close when Swami began to speak to us. He was saying that sitting in the chair the whole day takes a toll on Him.
“After all”, He said, “I am not young anymore. I am 85 years old!”
As He was speaking, I managed to push my chair out of the table and was facing Him attentively, almost like a student facing his teacher in a classroom. ( And that is what it always is with Swami. We are the students and He is the teacher and any place is a classroom. That in short means, whenever with Swami - be attentive lest we miss an important lesson.) Swami then said that His knees were hurting and it would be nice if someone could massage them. Ah! What a golden opportunity and what drama the Lord plays to give an opportunity.

I got up from my chair and was almost rushing towards Swami indicating that I would massage His tired legs. Swami looked at me and in a loving reprimand said,
“Wash your hand and come before you do that!”
I quickly rushed to the wash area. I wanted to wash my hands and get back quickly - before the opportunity would passI After washing my hands thoroughly, I wiped them in a hurry with a dozen tissues. I zoomed back into the dining hall and saw that Swami was still sweetly waiting for me to come.

Everything in its own sweet time and situation - a few Delhi volunteers and youth get their tryst with Divinity.
I went near Him and sat at His feet. Satyajit moved the chair a bit to the back and I moved under the table! It was such a wonderful feeling! As Swami’s feet were placed near me, I began to slowly massage it. It felt so wonderful and nice and so private and personal. I began massaging His calf muscles, His feet and His knees. And as I did that, I remembered Appa, Amma and Shruti. I was grateful to Swami and I offered Him salutations on their behalf. In the meantime, Swami asked something and, using that as an opportunity, Phani and Nishikant sir also came to Swami. they too settled down on either sides of me and began to massage his feet. Soon, we were all totally lost in this beautiful ‘service’.

I kept praying,
"Swami, this is such a beautiful opportunity. But, let this not stop only at this physical chance. May my life be one of true Padasevanam to You - the one that You have so beautifully explained."

This is probably the most beautiful opportunity that I have got with my Lord. I saw ‘probably’ because, with God, one can never say anything too soon.

A happy conversation at dinnertime

It was here that the AIP brought an invitation from the chief priests at Aksharadham temple. They had come and were seated a floor below. They had extended an invitation to Swami to visit the Aksharadham premises in Delhi. Swami saw the card and then called Satyajit. He told him to give fruits and milk to the priests and convey His blessings to them. Swami neither said a “No” or a “Yes” for the invitation. I was so amazed at His response - fruits and milk. They are so symbolic. Milk is the most wholesome nutrition and when a mother feeds the baby, milk also offers immunity, protection and bonding. Fruits, in the parlance of the Bhagwad Gita, are something that only the Lord has authority to grant.

The priests from Askhardham temple who had
arrived to invite Swami. 
Swami was looking at everyone who had finished eating and were satisfied. GV sir was still eating and Swami asked him,
“Are you going to keep eating till you get a belch?”
There was laughter from below His table - us! Adding to it was the fact that GV sir did not get a word of what Swami said. Swami repeated and it was Phani who said the word “belch” aloud for GV sir to hear. GV sir responded immediately,
“Swami I do not belch because by Swami’s grace I am able to digest well. Only indigestion brings out belches.”
Even before Swami could say anything, Prof Anil Kumar interjected,
”Why Swami! Even when you eat with complete satisfaction, a belch arrives. It is not a sign of indigestion but of supreme satiation!”
GV sir seemed to retaliate,
“Swami only he will know that because he eats that much!”
Not to be undone Prof. Anil Kumar said,
“Why not Swami! Am happy that am in a position to eat well even at an advanced age. That is a sign of having good digestion!”

Swami was enjoying this tussle that He had so gently sparked. He was smiling and my joy knew no limits. That showed in the new energy that I put into massaging His feet. It is simply stunning how much of pressure Swami likes when His feet are being massaged. It destroys all illusions of Him being dainty and delicate. The hand begins to ache at time with the pressure being applied and Swami hardly seems to notice also. Infact, when the pressure is reduced, He looks down and seems to asks for it to be upped!

Ending the day with love - This is the way to God

Swami was now sipping the buttermilk and tender coconut water that had been placed for Him. 15 minutes later, Swami said,
Paapam! It must be so tiring for you.”
Swami communicates in such a subtle manner. He never told any of us,
“Come and massage my feet.”
He would never tell us,
“Now go! Your chance is over!”
He only hints at first. Not taking the hint, we replied,
“Swami we are not tired. We are happy.”
He looked at us with a straight face and said,
“It enough for now. You can go now!”
Bending down and kissing His feet, the three of us moved back to our seats. I was feeling so special and thrilled and CG told me that he had a captured small portion where I was pressing His feet, on tape.

Just wanted to share this picture of CG playing his sitar, late in the evening, in the darshan grounds at Shimla. A few interested onlookers stayed to hear him play.
Soon, Swami told everyone to wash their hands. He moved into His room by 7:45pm. we also moved towards our rooms. On the way, we saw the priests from Aksharadham. This is considered as a fantastic temple and these people were the high priests there. Yet, I felt more fortunate than the highest of priests because God had directly given me the opportunity to be so close to Him and serve Him physically too. The beauty of our Lord is that He ALWAYS connects directly with each one of us. There is no need for ‘high priests’!

We all went back to our rooms and after a night filled with light and happy talk, we went to the realms of blissful sleep.

to be concluded in Part 17, the next one.

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  1. Beautiful! When you wrote "This is probably the most beautiful opportunity that I have got with my Lord. I say ‘probably’ because, with God, one can never say anything too soon.", I feel it is absolutely true because really, with Swami, one can never say anything. He keeps showering His grace in the most unexpected manner and in newer ways each time that you are left awestruck and grateful at the same time.

    I also second your thought in "The beauty of our Lord is that He ALWAYS connects directly with each one of us. There is no need for ‘high priests’!" So very true! The connection we have is direct and heart-to-heart with Him. Even in silence and through subtle signs He connects with us and shows His constant presence with us, in us, around us, above and below us.

  2. How lucky you are ? I remember during one pilgrimage to Parthi, our family was called in. Swami gave the opportunity to my father, Dr Safaya and myself to do paadseva (massage). I was so excited and happy that I almost pushed my father. Dr Safaya at once understood my eagerness and allowed me alone to do the seva. Oh God what bliss...what bliss...I cannot describe but yes, I can understand what you must have been going through !!! Jai Sai Ram

  3. Sai Ram Aravind, How fortunate you boys were to have such close contact with Swami and for so many years. The girls didn't have close contact as such but had dreams whereby valuable lessons were taught H2H. I suppose boys needed to be pounded with a sledge hammer for the lessons to go in so He kept you all close!! LOL. You don't need to buy one just yet, maybe next time round. Loving regards Chandan Aunty. p.s Loved this article, specially sharing the experience of massaging His feet without the pain.


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