Friday, 11 December 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 15 - All good things come to an end - so does the Shimla visit

A special remembrance

A sweeping view of the evening session in Shimla.... I was doing both - photography and video shooting.

CG was convinced that he had been picked for the visit to Delhi and Shimla as an accompanying artist on the Sitar for the music group. Though it had been more than a week since the Divine Visit began, CG confessed later that he never had felt like Swami had wanted him as a Sitarist for the trip. This feeling had kept getting intense as Swami called different singers and students from the music group and interacted with them. The feeling reached its heights when Swami asked for a ‘final’ music programme in Shimla. (The reason for putting the word ‘final’ in quotes shall become clear in the subsequent parts.) As CG was joining the other students out of the dining hall towards the darshan grounds, Swami had called Lu sir and said,
““Get ready for the programme. Let the Veena also play!”

{This reference has been explained in detail in the previous part which you can access at the link below:
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:

Swami interacting with the Himachal youth. The picture captures the wonderful
setting of the dining hall with the Ramayana picture.
Even as Swami mentioned ‘Veena’, He looked at CG. CG was happy that Swami saw him but later, when Lu sir told him what Swami had said, he was simply thrilled. He knew that ‘Veena’ was just a veiled reference to his Sitar! That got him completely charged up and he was raring to go play for the concert. As all the boys filed out, Swami moved to the side and began to look at the paintings and chandeliers in the hall. That was only an excuse to gently amble towards the serving boys. All the youth who were serving us knelt in a row and Swami began interacting with them. Knowing that this was a nice chance for them, I began to take photographs. I had hardly taken three pictures when Swami looked at me and said,
“All boys must go and start the singing!”
I turned around and made a quick exit.

The boys had gone up to gather the instruments. Swami knew that this would take time and so, He was striking two birds at once by interacting with the youth members of Himachal! In spite of that, we were all not ready by the time Swami moved down the lift and arrived on the scene! I was trying to double up as the video cameraman also because CG was now part of the music group. It was not an easy task. Swami began signaling from the stage itself, asking us to start.

A signal from a distance to begin... Like on that day, we should always be on a lookout for the Lord's signal in our life...
May we remember that God is always watching from a distance...
A students’ songs programme

Ashwath, the one who needs the least lead time took the mike and began, “Vataapi Ganapatim”. That was an on-the-spot-decision because there was hardly any ‘discussion time’. But the way Ashwath and P Sreenivas took everyone through the ups and downs of the song, nobody felt that it was being sung all of a sudden. Once the first song was complete, the order followed was the same as the private programme the previous evening. It was as if Swami had watched a dress rehearsal yesterday in the interview room. The second song was the qawwali by Ravi bhaiya and Lu sir - “Sai ke darbar mein”. Since Shimla is a Hindi-speaking region, it made immediate impact. Everyone clapped along with the rhythm and many of them sang along too. After that, Prabhakar and Aravind Sai sang “Maa Prana Deepam”. Then came Bantureethi Kolu - the memorable ‘prayer song’ that Swami had liked so much yesterday.

The students were given a prominent position in the front to perform.

Swami is very sensitive to the devotees likes and wishes. Though the songs being sung were wonderful, Swami sensed that  they were in a tongue that many were not familiar with. From the top He indicated for bhajans to be sung which could be followed by one and all. He asked for the ‘slokam’ bhajan. Ashwath immediately began, “Sree Raghavam”. This was followed by “Prashanti Nilaya Nivasa” alaap by Ravi bhaiya and the bhajan, Araj Suno Mere Parama Krupaalu. Swami then received Aarthi and left. Ravi bhaiya seemed to be a well-known figure in these hills and soon, we were mobbed by his fans. They all wanted to take a picture with him and some even were seeking autographs!

Some of us also joined Ravi bhaiya's fans in this picture...

The auditorium where the programme for the evening was scheduled, was one level below, at the furthermost corner of the darshan ground. Swami would be going there by car, but we were told to proceed by foot across the grounds. We quickly reached the steps leading to the auditorium. The hall had been filled to capacity. Though it wasn’t a very large one, it was definitely holding at least a thousand people today! As I neared the entrance, I saw that a ribbon stretched across the door. Till the last minute, it was kept open to allow people to enter and exit but now, it had been stretched across the door. I felt that the devotees in Shimla were utilising the opportunity to have Swami inaugurate all the buildings they could probably get Him to visit!

Auditorium inauguration and cultural programmes galore

At about 6:15pm, Swami’s car arrived at the entrance of the auditorium. The balcony atop the entrance was also filled with people who were having darshan from above. As Swami alighted from the car, He saw the ribbon and beyond the ribbon, me! I felt so happy to be in His gaze. Swami came forward and tugged at the ribbon which finally gave way and there was a loud applause from inside the auditorium. Swami moved through the central path of the auditorium as the gents and ladies on either sides strained and dived to see Him and touch Him. The gallery above was filled. It was a small balcony and most of them there were children.

The front seaters were all of us students and the elders who were on chairs along the wall. The hall might have been about 60 feet by 30 feet I think. Swami arrived to the front and soon three children came to Him with a card. Swami saw the card and the scroll that were presented. He smiled and blessed all the kids. By then, a mike had been placed on the stage and children clad in saffron dhoties and angavastrams began to chant the Vedas. After about five minutes, they concluded and the play began. The opening shot was a dance to the famous Shankar Mahadevan song - Gananayakaya - from the album Vishwa Vinayaka. That dance was completed in about five minutes.

The Lord's entry into the auditorium at Shimla.
The story of Eswar Chandra Vidyasagar began. A wandering fakir tells the young Eswar that he is bound to achieve all riches in life and he mistakes it to be money and wealth. His mother corrects him and tells him that she would rather have him good instead of great! She advises him to earn the wealth of love, compassion and service. Taking it seriously, he soon becomes a philanthropist, building a school, dispensary and a well for the people to get water. He gets the title “Vidyasagar” conferred on him. As Swami watched the play, He was so happy. He called Nishikant sir and told him about how great Vidyasagar was.
What a sight it was! The redeeming feet made it difficult for me to focus on the programme... :)
The play now proceeded to the story of how an Englishman who had come to meet Vidyasagar makes him carry his bag and then feels ashamed on realizing what he had done. Swami was very moved as He saw this. He said,
“See he made him carry his little bag.”
He was emotional as He said this. The play then moved on to relate the similar but grander projects that Swami had provided for mankind on Mother Easwaramma’s requests. As the Mother made an entry on the stage, so did her darling son. The drama concluded and soon permission was sought from Swami for another programme that had been scheduled. Swami began to speak. He said that the drama was very good and that Eswar Chandra Vidyasagar had impressed Him with his acting. Swami was all smiles and Satyajit amplified His voice for all the children to hear. There was a cheerful applause.

The final formation by the children with little "Sathyam" and "Easwaramma" in the center.
Two little girls came to Swami with a bouquet and a card. Swami smiled as He saw them and blessed them. He was seated in a very relaxed manner now. His legs had been stretched out and I saw His lovely feet. I took photos of His feet and soon the next programme began. It was a wonderful display of all the different dances in the region. It was woven in from the dance of Nataraja that is supposed to have started creation. Each dance was for about 3-4 minutes and groups of tiny tots did them.

One particular group had an interesting costume and Swami pointed it out to us. They had huge necklaces extending till their waists. Swami said that the same extended behind, along their backs also. Sure enough, when they turned around, we saw it extending symmetrically down their backs too! We were all amazed at Swami’s sharp observations skills - and He had noticed it so fast! At one point in time, when I was seated and gazing at Swami, He told me to ‘take pictures as their faces are all glowing so bright!” He had a glow on His face as He said it. I was surprised at His excitement and thrilled with this interaction. I did as He told.

Few glimpses of the various dances...

Soon the dances concluded with a final formation with all the children singing “Sai Mata Biddalam” - a Telugu song proclaiming the oneness of all as children of Mother Sai. They were all rhythmically waving their bodies and it was a pleasant sight. At the end, Swami turned and asked for Aarthi. As the Aarthi was done, Swam granted an Abhayahastha to the children. He blessed prasadam for distribution. He took two packets and wanted to give them to Satyajit who was not watching. So I signalled to him and Swami then gave him the packets. Swami also blessed basketfuls of chocolates that were offered by some ladies in the front. Then, turning around, Swami headed back towards the door.

Along the way, He blessed many and collected letters from a few. There seemed to be maximum activity wherever Swami moved. When He came out, the small balcony on top of the entrance too was filled with people drinking in the Divine form. There was a big banner with His picture that proclaimed, “Once we surrender to God, He takes care of us.” The devotees there were standing with folded palms and Swami was looking up at them with keen eyes. It was picture perfect and I captured it!

Time for goodbye

As Swami got into the car, all of us rushed back to Anand Vilas. Swami alighted near the back entrance and came in. He looked up at the architecture and different figurines the adorned the wall and roof of the building. Seeing that Swami was keenly observing it, Satyajit took the chair into the parapeted balconies. Swami spent a few minutes watching above. I felt that He was transmitting His Divine energy into the building for centuries to come. Then, getting into the lift, Swami moved to His room. We were all told that we would be having dinner as soon as Swami arrived.

Going to the interview room to wait, we planned to wear the scarf and toupee that we had been given. We also thought that if the opportunity presented itself, we would ask for photos with Swami while in that attire. By 7:50pm, we were all informed that Swami was coming and so we made our way to the dining hall. Swami was there and as soon as He saw us enter, He asked what were the toupees all about. Swami was told that these were gifts by the devotees from Shimla and were the traditional clothing in these cold areas. Swami smiled a bit but did not seem as impressed as we thought we would make Him.We saw that Mrs. Gita Reddy and her husband had arrived and Swami had invited them for dinner. They were at a separate table and Swami was speaking to them.

The food prayer was chanted and the dining session began. Swami called for Arun Jain (brother of Sri Rajkumar Jain, professor of physics at Brindavan Campus of SSSIHL) and struck up a conversation. Satyajit told Swami that he had ensured many of the arrangements in Shimla. Swami said that the brothers had dedicated themselves to Him and He was very happy. Arun said that it was all Swami’s grace alone that made everything possible. He prayed to Swami to bless his family too and Swami said that He would. The other brother too was there and Swami interacted with him too. Shimla is a small place and it has been galvanised by a few families that have dedicated their all for Swami. It was so wonderful to see Swami so happy in the presence of these devotees.  Swami also spoke to a few others.

The last we students saw of Swami in Shimla was Him smiling in all love as He
went into the lift. 
It was 8:30pm when the dinner session was complete. Dozens of volunteers who had been involved in various aspects of planning and working for Swami’s visit, had gathered at a side in the kitchen. They wanted to get a chance to take namaskar.  Sai Krishna prayed to Swami on all our behalf for a photograph with the costumes. Swami was clearly keen on interacting with these youth rather than granting photos to us. He moved towards them and began to interact with the Jain brothers again. He agreed to bless all of the volunteers assembled there. Thus, one by one, they came forward, took padanamaskar and moved. The State President, Mr. Shyam Sunder, was the last to take namaskar. After that, Swami moved into the lift and retired.

It was to be our last night after the first night at Shimla. None of us felt happy about it. Compounding it was the fact that one full day would be spent journeying! Everybody was eager to carry a piece of Shimla with them. Everyone decided that it was photo time. And so, we went to the darshan grounds and all of us took photos with the mandir. We then returned to our rooms, packed up and got ready to leave the next morning.

to be continued in Part 16 which is at the link below:

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  1. Sai words to thank you...Sai Ram.

  2. Sai Ram Aravind, what a wonderful end to our Journey. It's funny but visits to the smaller places seem to be more intense, pleasurable and enjoyable- the difference between simplicity and sophistication. Whether they knew about Swami or not they seemed to have all turned out. They had devotion for God whatever name they called Him by and He went out of His way for them. When I first went home to visit my Grandma i 1984 she didn't speak much. She lived in a village and I asked my mum why din't she speak more? She told me that ma's mind was on God. My mum who is 85 (86) years old now has been keeping her mind on Swami for so for many years now. Here as in all cities it''s the TV fist for most people and when I was 20 years old I admit I was the same. Very enjoyable, loving regards,Chandan aunty.

  3. Sai Ram, Dear Brother Arvind, I would like to thank you for posting Baba's journey. I read all 17 parts. It is very interesting. I like the part when every body was chanting food prayer closing their eyes, our sweet Lord was eating when you peeped. It was so beautiful and so sweet. I just loved it. Read two three times and laughed with joy. You are a good writer, made it very episode interesting even to the episode where Baba was excluded. Your devotion to God is so intense and I almost got jealous.
    I would like to ask one thing, why there is not any program of our Lord in Aasta/Sanskar, channel when there are so many religious programs. Why do you limit our lord only on radio sai. I am sure there are so many people would like to know about Baba but don't get the information. Yes, the devotees know about it but what about others who could be interested in our swami when they watch on regular TV show.
    Thank you again for everything
    Sai Ram

  4. Aravind bhaiya Sairam
    I msgd u on facebook but my msgs are still unread may be becoz we are not frnds their
    I ws praying Swami to suggest me some way baba by which i can actually talk to Aravind bhaiya
    Then i happened to see a interview of urs with team souljourns where i came across an experience u shared abt u a girl who sent u a frnd request on facebook nd u mentioned about ur blogg
    N I thanked Swamiiiiiiiii
    Wow i got my way to communicate to bhaiya


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