Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 17 - A concert in the skies and homecoming

18th April 2010 - The Grand Finale

As the day dawned to greet the Lord for the final day in Delhi, in our hearts too, the realization dawned that soon it would all be over. We were told that our flight was at 1:30 pm and that we should board by 12:30. We had no idea about what the morning session would be like. So, we got up, showered and had breakfast like any other day. Returning to the room, we began to pack up. In sharp contrast to the packing I had done before taking off from Puttaparthi, this was no fun at all. Packing up for this visit had been so full of anticipation-joy However, I must say that in spite of all that, landing back at Parthi and going back to life there was an exciting prospect. How ever far the bird might soar, it has to return to the nest for rest.

By 9:15 am, we were all at the lift landing area outside Swami’s room waiting for Him to arrive. Sai Krishna got busy planning with all the singers to sing some songs of love and gratitude to Swami. The plans were quickly made. In a short while, Swami came out of the room in the normal wheelchair. He saw all of us seated and indicated that He would soon come to us. Then, Swami went back into His room for a short while. When the door reopened and Swami arrived, we started off with the song, “Dayaku Premaku”. Swami was welcomed into our midst with that song and He seemed to be very emotional even as He arrived. Quickly we moved towards Him and gathered around His feet. Sai Krishna and a few others around His feet began massaging them too, drinking deep in the bliss of Padasevanam. Swami sat listening to us as all the elders stood around, forming the perimeter of the circle of love.
The 'last supper' with Swami in Delhi turned out to be a 'lasting supper' in our memories.

Even as the first song was complete, we began, “Madhura mohana”. That song has become sort of a “Prema bandham anthem” ( Anthem to express the bond of Love) between Swami and His children. Even as the song was going on and Swami was emotional, He was calling a volunteer and enquiring whether the food and all other preparations were ready. Swami asked us as to who the composers of these songs were. The answers were given and Swami moved to the dining hall. All of us too went there and Swami said that He would have lunch with all of us. To spend time with us and make it memorable, Swami did not even go down for darshan.

{This is the 17th and final 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:

We were all so happy. We had just finished breakfast a couple of hours ago, but dining with Swami is always a privilege and pleasure. We chanted the food prayer and the lunch session began. It was over in a span of 15-20 minutes. Swami told us to get up and wash our hands. Once we did that, we all all returned to the dining hall and Swami seemed to be giving some final instructions. Many of the boys went and gathered around Swami’s table as He told that He would receive Aarthi and then come to the airport. Phaneendra was standing closest to Swami and thus, he became the interpreter. Accepting what he said, we all turned back and made our way to our rooms.

Swami issues final instructions as everyone gathers around His dining table.

Satyajit wheels Swami into the aircraft as Jagdish sits at the entrance.
Once we were packed up and ready, the bus took us to the airport. We cleared the baggage check and security check and waited for instructions about boarding the Kingfisher Airlines aircraft which had been chartered. Once again, we were a very distinct group at the airport- all in white dresses and subject to the curious stares of almost all onlookers. Whether people knew us or not, we received looks and stares. Those who knew us (a large number of devotees had also turned up at the airport for a last glimpse of Swami in Delhi) looked at us thinking,
“Wow! These are those lucky guys!”
Those who did not must have wondered who on earth we were! There was one smart aleck policeman who decided to have some fun with us. He made a mistake of picking Phaneendra for the same!
Policeman - (seeing the tag, with arrogance) - Oh! You are from Puttaparthi!
Phani -  (with a sweet smile) - I see that you have an awesome ability to read!
Policeman - So you have an airport in Puttaparthi?
Phani - Can an airbus land in a temple?
The policeman gave up! I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this little conversation.

All the crew members were barefeet.
It was quite sometime before we got our boarding passes and even more time before we got the instructions to get into the aircraft. Though it was the same Kingfisher Airlines flight, there were so many changes from the flight we took to Delhi from Parthi. Maybe the staff on board the Puttaparthi-Delhi flight had passed on instructions and information to these people. All the crew members were barefoot. They were welcoming us with “Sairam” instead of “Hello”. The music in the flight too was more of the “spiritual” type. We entered the flight and took our seats. By 1:15 pm, Swami’s car arrived and He came up the aircraft in a specially modified lift.

We had made plans for the return trip. It was originally CG’s idea and all of us felt that it would be nice to have a mid-air concert! CG, Raviteja sir and Nishikant sir had practised a piece involving the sitar, flute and tabla. They planned to ask Swami and perform for Him in flight! They wanted to be replacements for the gentle music that was playing in the aircraft.

So many of the Kingfisher Airlines staff made the best use of the Divine opportunity.

Before Swami’s arrival, all the crew members kept asking me to take their photos with Swami. They said that they had all got their pendrives ready to take home a memory of a lifetime. I told them to wait till we were in cruise mode and then request Swami for a picture. Swami came and took His seat. The initial in-flight instructions this time were not on the screens but were given by the crew in the traditional manner. ( Later came to know that Jagdish Kanadia had requested that all screens be disabled to preserve the “sanctity” on board!) AIP was holding out the newspaper, trying to interest Swami to read, even as the instructions were being given about the safety procedures.

The plane taxied down the runway and we took off. Once airborne, I removed the seat belt and decided to bide my time for an opportunity to go to Swami. I could see that the crew members too were waiting for the time when it would be apt to approach Swami. The break came in a very interesting manner. Swami was seeing all that the AIP was showing. After a while, He Himself asked why nobody was coming for taking photographs! Immediately, word was sent for us! The time was 2:25pm.

The happy news was conveyed and everyone put on the special topees and scarves that had been given to us at Shimla. Phaneendra was the first to come to Swami. Swami looked at him and seemed a bit puzzled at his attire. But soon He got used to the idea. Everyone came one by one, and I took photos. On the onward journey, many did not get a picture with Swami where both of them are looking at the camera because there were two cameras - the still camera and the video camera. Swami would sometimes look at me and sometimes at CG. This time however, we had decided that only I would be there. Thus, most of the people got “direct look photos” with Swami. Even Balaram sir and Anil Kumar sir wore the toupees and took photos. The crew members and security guards too had their share of Divine company and a photo with Him.

One the photo session was over, some of the boys requested Swami that a small music programme was ready and if Swami permitted, we would do it.

With CG on the sitar, Ravi Teja sir on the flute and Nishikant sir on the tabla, the midair concert began.

Swami was so sweet in His answer. He said that the plane did not belong to Him and so we should seek permission of the people in the cockpit! We indeed did that and the captain said that it would be a great privilege and pleasure for the entire crew. On board was a high ranking member from the Airlines and he said that he had cancelled his other schedules only to be on flight with ‘Baba’!

As always, Ashwath and PS were awesome and enthralling.
Thus, CG, Raviteja sir and Nishikant sir began their recital. The sitar had a pickup but there was no power supply available. (thanks to Jagadish asking for complete disabling of the TVs and power sockets!) They began to play a popular darshan music. I got up with the video camera and began shooting. This was such a lovely moment - a concert more than 18000 feet in the skies and with the Lord! Ah! It could just not have got better!

The weight in the flight seemed to shift to the front end as everyone came to witness the spectacle. Swami was intently watching the instrumentalists even as He signalled to Aravind Sai, asking him whether he was ready with a song. He nodded and I realized that Swami would not be stopping with just the instrumental piece. I began enjoying myself on the camera. I slowly zoomed on to His lotus feet that had been covered and protected by a lovely pair of leather slippers. Swami called one of the crew members who was standing behind me and asked him so sweetly whether His boys playing music would disturb the flight! He nodded a “Not at all” and Swami smiled.

Prabhakar's rendition turned out to be the icing on the cake.
As the playing completed, Ashwath and Sreenivas came forward and sat in front of Swami. Swami told them to start singing. Meanwhile, the crew members were all asking me as to how they would get their photos and videos. I was telling them to be quiet and that I would give them everything after the landing. The song began. They were singing “Raama Nannu Brovara.” Swami began to keep rhythm and it was beautiful to see His moving hands. At a certain point, Swami Himself joined in the singing and was immersed in the song.  I was amazed when He continued to sing the different stanzas in the song too.
“Wow”, I thought, “It's not only the zero stanza that He is singing! He is singing almost the whole song!”
Swami’s knowledge of Carnatic music and Thyagaraja’s songs in particular are no secret, yet it was amazing to see Him sing.

As always, this pair took Swami through the hills and dales of the song and Swami was totally engrossed. At the end, there was an applause and the duo rose. Now, it was like some game for Swami! He wanted to see who it would be who would sing next. The next pair was Ravi Bhaiya and Sai Krishna. Ravi bhaiya began with the Alaap,
Jiske Sar Par, Haath Ho Tera...” Soon the bhajan, “Sainaam Sumiran Jo Bhi Kare” began and everyone began to sway rhythmically to this popular song.  Right behind Swami’s seat, I could see Anil Kumar sir totally lost in the song and he was literally dancing! I was also lost in joy of the shooting.

The song speeded up and it was superb. Applause marked the end of the song and Ravi bhaiya and Lu sir got ready to sing the next one. Sai Krishna was now free since he had finished his part of singing and I sought his assistance in handling one camera - alternating between photos and videos. The elders began to say that it was landing time due now but the crew members said that it would take at least another 50 minutes.

Puttaparthi lay in front of us. This picture is taken from the North.

Harish Mani came with the harmonium and suddenly it was decided that a Telugu song, “Ninnugani Sharamani” would be sung. Sai Krishna returned to partner Lu sir. As they started singing the  line that said, “Once we reach your refuge, our lives are redeemed...”, Swami broke down. There were tears in His eyes. He was so moved and happy with the line and the devotion. It was a sublime moment. I continued to shoot. As the song was going on, Prabhakar came forward to sing the next song.  The song gained momentum for the finale and Swami was constantly crying. The boys were clapping and Anil Kumar sir was dancing, making circles with his hands. As the song concluded, Swami looked up and asked,
“What is the time?”

Swami wanted to ensure that we were not causing any inconvenience to anyone. I asked and the person behind me told, “Another half an hour”. I echoed the same to Swami but GV sir seemed worried that the flight would be landing in another five minutes and we were flouting aircraft rules. But the crew was all calm. Sai Krishna told Swami,
“They are saying there is enough time for one more song.”
Swami said,
“One more song then.”
Prabhakar and Aravind Sai began to sing, “ Kalyanam Choodamu Raarandi”. As they sang the glory of the holy marriage between Lord Rama and Mother Sita, Swami made corrections in the lyrics. The singers instantly incorporated the corrections made!

As that song was complete, we had a farmaish, a request from Swami. He wanted to listen to “Ra Re Choodaga Podhamu” and the same singers immediately and delightedly obliged Him. In that song, there is a line describing the wedding procession. Swami sang aloud that line along with the singers. Thus was described the order and composition of the wedding procession - the soldiers followed by the cavalry, then the sages, the elephants and the kings. It felt as if Swami was reliving the bygone days!  As the song progressed and reached the description of Rama and his sterling qualities, Swami became emotional. The song concluded and Swami told us to quickly go back to our seats.

This was when another incident occurred. The captain invited me into the cockpit to have a look at Puttaparthi from the skies. More than that, he wanted me to download their lifetime memories with Swami. As I went in, someone came and told me,
“You are being called outside.”

Prasanthi Nilayam as the Devas, Apsaras, Kinnaras, Yakshas - gods and demigods - see it from their heavenly abodes.

When I came out, I saw hostile glares from a few elders who thought that I was taking things a bit too far. But what was I to do? Swami was also looking at me. I just went ahead and told Swami, “Swami I am giving them the photos I shot now and getting back my camera.” Swami agreed and I went in. The captain promised me shots from the cockpit and so I left the camera with him and returned to my place. {Those pictures came out very special and were used in many presentations and documentaries later.}

As the aircraft descended, we could see that the entire road in Puttaparthi had been lined with people - devotees waiting for the arrival of their Lord. That was when I realized that it was only for us that 'a trip' had ended. For Swami, it is an endless and continuous process of blessing and interacting with His devotees. And now, He had a few 'new' devotees if I can term them that way (Since each individual soul has its own journey and nobody comes 'late' or 'early', how can one be an 'old' or 'new' devotee?). The members of the crew expressed their desire to have 'darshan' in a formal manner in the Kulwant Hall. A special vehicle was arranged for them and they must have been moved with the outpouring of love that Swami received.

The crew stood near the interview room and enjoyed a close darshan as Swami was welcomed back to Puttaparthi.

Even as Swami drove back to Yajur Mandir, I stood in a corner of the Kulwant Hall, unable to comprehend whether the last few days had been a dream or reality.


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  2. Excellent journey Sir. We felt that we have been travelling & residing with Swami in the entire episode. Thanks for sharing and hope you create some more opportunities to hear more about Bhagwan. Thanks & looking forward for more about Swami - S.Ganapathy

  3. Jaysaima and jaysairam brother Arvind... Hari Annata hari katha ananta..said by Tulsidas in Tulsi kruta ramayana...and Ram's devotee like us who leave far away physically from prashanti are that 'Sai Tulasi" who is sharing that' AmrutamayiKatha" which we always like to read and hear...eagerly.... one in Vrundavan one Gopi was singing...." Milane ko hiyara=heart tape= burnning.. vachan =saiword...sunanako= to hear... heart has a burnning sensation to meet you SAIKRISHNA and my ears are so eagar every day to listen more story of you. May sai bless you. a.s. Poonam p. Raval sse1 teacher usa.

  4. What an epic conclusion to this journey with Swami! The language, the urge to please the lord and the beauty in description all felt like as if Lord Hanuman was describing a brief few days with his Lord Rama...Your description certainly mirrors that..
    I can only request you to upload/share the videos that you've taken during this journey with us too..perhaps RadioSai is in the process of putting together the videos as part of a separate program? Eitherway, this was a blissful treat from start to end to say the least...Sai Ram

  5. Sai Ram Aravind, what a most beautiful end to have for a journey. I am filled with gratitude to Swami for allowing us to come along for the ride and enjoy it too. It's as if it's happening now instead of 5 3/4 years ago. I also loved the Gods eye view of Puttaparthi and Prashanti Nilayam. Wishing you, your family and other readers a Loving Holy Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Chandan Auntie.

  6. gracefully shared His grace. Swami bless u.

  7. Sairam!... Thank you with all my heart a detailed description writing on Delhi – Shimla trip. I am assured of re-living all those moments which by the grace of Baba, I was awarded as I was part of seva dal at Delhi. Being a first timer to any seva dal activity was not easy among a group of around 30 old timers, yet by grace of Baba, everything went off well and had a memorable experience for lifetime. We had been assigned duty to manage the entrance gate at International Sai Center, crowd management inside darshan hall and traffic movement at all road crossings when Baba used to visit his devotees houses in Delhi. I also consider it my as a blessing that I started reading from your first post (2012) so swami’s magic slowly grew on me. All the previous incidents I could mentally but not physically co-relate to and now as it's nearing completion I am reading which I can physically co-relate to too. In fact there is also one photo of me while doing seva in the darshan hall. Although my back use to be towards him (was told that seva dal members should not offer salutations at time of duty), yet in my heart I know all my mental salutations were accepted by swami. The picture of his divine form and his divine feet got etched in my heart. May he all have a holy and blessed life.
    One needs to have complete faith and devotion born out of unselfish love for Baba to live a life you and many who had the good chance of living with Baba had. No doubt you all have been the most fortunate. I had only a week of service at Baba’s feet to drink that divine nectar. Not being able to physically touch and kiss his feet ever would remain as a cherished desire, but still feel blessed that was able to get his special attention while doing seva at darshan hall, road crossings and at airport when you all were about to fly in / from delhi. Whenever Baba use to cross either on the road or the carpeted path in darshan hall felt he was only looking at me and I was so close to him, offering mental salutations at his feet.
    Sai chooses the right time to take a devotee into his fold. Have observed a marked transformation as i read your blog. Trust me, it has transformed me and I thank Swami for guiding you to write this blog. I shall read it daily to live and relive those sweet memories for lifetime and pass it as the most cherished memory of my kids. May we all enjoy in his divine bliss.

  8. Sairam brother Aravind... this is definitely a divine journey!!! Enjoyed every word of all the 17 parts... it was just like a live commentary... Thank you brother... Jai Sai Ram


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