Friday, 6 October 2017

An ode to a great servitor and devotee - Professor G Venkataraman - on his 85th Birthday

There are two ways to see the sun - directly and in a mirroring surface. Both of them give a measure of its grandeur, glory and majesty. So too, there are two ways to see God - directly and in a person who mirrors Divinity in his/her life. I know for sure that I have been lucky to see God walk on earth in the form of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. I am also lucky to have seen a person who mirrors my Swami’s divinity in his life. That person is Prof. G. Venkataraman or ‘GV sir’ as we all call him. And on the occasion of his 85th birthday today, the 6th of October 2017, I would love to share a few thoughts about this beautiful being.

A common sight in the Radiosai studios for a decade and a half - Prof GV at work. Even today, though he has
formally resigned, he continues to be an inspiration and guiding light for Radiosai which he fathered till it attained adulthood.


GV sir has tons of accolades and awards from his brilliant career as a scientist. The Government of India conferred on him the fourth highest civilian award - Padme Shri. But that will not be the subject of this article. This is about how GV sir has guided me personally to stay focussed on the path laid out by my Swami.

GV sir was directly responsible for me joining Radiosai and for that, I shall be grateful to him throughout my life. As a student in Swami’s college, I was incredibly inspired by him as he conducted our Awareness classes with the wisdom of a sage, love of a father and passion of a researcher. But it was only after joining Radiosai that I could get a glimpse of the multi-faceted diamond that GV sir is. On the day of joining, Swami called us, Dhananjay and I, to take padanamaskar. He then instructed us simply and clearly,
“If you want to make Swami happy, make Venkataraman happy.”
That command gave me an idea about the immense faith Swami had in GV sir’s abilities and commitment. When we told this to GV sir, he was frank and straight, camouflaging his humility with his humour
“Look here! I am not an easy person to please. That is why Swami warned you. You may make Him happy but I may still not be happy. I am glad that Swami told you to make me happy! Now, let’s get to work...”


Nothing could swerve his attention from working for Swami. He would often be the first person into the office and the last person out of it. Being three times our age, he also seemed to have three times our energies to do Swami’s work. I was lucky to be a part of multiple projects that GV sir took up, blessed by Bhagawan of course. From Prema Jyoti (an exhibition on Swami’s life and teachings) to Prema Pravaham (the last ever programme of the last ever Birthday Celebrations of Baba in the physical) to the Sri Sathya Sai Archives (an edifice to ensure preservation and propagation in the physical form of the eternal teachings of Swami), GV sir’s attention to detail and hard-working nature were evident.


The Prema Jyoti exhibition was the first project I worked on under his able leadership. When Swami approved his plan for the exhibition to be held during the Guru Poornima of 2007, he dived into the task right from the beginning of the year itself. Summer arrived and Swami was leaving for Kodaikanal. He summoned GV sir and told him to pack up and be ready to leave on the divine odyssey. GV sir requested Swami whether he could stay back and work in Puttaparthi. Swami insisted that he should accompany Him and so, the professor carried all his notes, papers and preparatory ideas along to Kodaikanal. I had seen hundreds who craved to travel with Swami but GV sir was among a rare few whom Swami craved for travelling with Him! On this visit to Kodaikanal, he worked on the exhibition and the next time Swami took him in 2009, he recorded a very detailed and enlightening account of the Kodai festival for all of humanity to enjoy.

Swami honored and blessed GV sir with a car. But that is among the smallest of blessings he has received from God -
the greatest and biggest being his large heart and razor-sharp mind. 


But it was not as if GV sir was a Karma Yogi exclusively. As he brilliantly presented in one of the Awareness classes, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga are three wheels of the tricycle called life. You cannot travel even if one of them is missing. You just have the choice and freedom to determine which should be your front wheel. Karma Yoga was definitely GV sir’s front wheel but it was backed and balanced by the wheels of Bhakti and Jnana.


GV sir believed that any good work is God’s work when done without any selfish interest. Swami, in fact, had told him on one occasion,
“Any good work you wish to do, you have my bountiful blessings.”

That is why, he never went back repeatedly to Swami to get approvals for each and every aspect. Once he got the signal from Swami, he would work from the first brick till the edifice was complete. And every time Swami has been there to appreciate the edifice built by hard work on the foundation of selflessness. The Prema Jyoti exhibition was no exception. As the deadline drew near, plans for a World Youth Conference at Prasanthi Nilayam during Guru Poornima were also drawn up. Swami had sanctioned the Poornachandra Auditorium for conducting the conference proceedings. That seemed to put all of the Prema Jyoti plans in quandary because the same auditorium was to serve as the venue! That was when GV sir said that he would pray to Swami.


GV sir would have his dinner with Swami everyday. We assumed that he meant he would ask Swami during a dining session. We were mistaken! One day, GV sir called my colleague, Sai Prakash, and told him,
“Swami has blessed our exhibition.”
Prakash was thrilled. He wanted to know how the topic came up during the dinner session.
“No! Not during dinner session. I kept praying to Swami in my heart. Today morning, when I made the prayer, the flower atop his picture fell down! That is the sign of His blessing. Now I am sure that God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”


That is exactly what happened. On the 13th of July, a Friday which was supposed to be an unlucky day (it was the popularly dreaded Friday the 13th), Swami changed all fortunes. He saw a few exhibits of one section of the exhibition and said that the Poornachandra Auditorium must host it. The Conference venue was shifted and a separate structure was erected to conduct it. Prema Jyoti, needless to say, was a huge success and the exhibition also went around India, being hosted in multiple cities and towns. That incident touched me to the core of my being. Swami always says that dearness is more important than nearness. GV sir was blessed to never take the proximity he enjoyed with Swami for granted. He enjoyed the rare combination of nearness and dearness.

The 13th of July 2007 - luckiest day for team Radiosai thanks to the Karma and Bhakti of GV sir.


And why not? His heart seemed to be made of pure gold. He always had noble thoughts and conveyed the same in his words and actions. One could possibly doubt the style and manner in which he communicated but nobody ever could doubt his noble intentions. Of course you would have disagreements and arguments with him. But you could rest assured that his face and expression was an index of what he felt within. He was never a person to play with diplomacy and politics - telling one thing in front of you and another behind. As a boss, he was always direct and you could always be direct with him. He would fault the failings and never the person. In case he had a grudge against you, he would call and tell you why and, if you rectified it, he would forgive and forget everything to start afresh. It felt so similar to dealing with Swami Himself!


There were many spontaneous acts of love too - again like Swami. Raghuram Bhat, an alumnus of Swami’s college was involved in an unfortunate swimming accident that rendered him a quadriplegic. His voice was a deep baritone and he was advised that Radiosai could make use of his voice. So, everyday, after the mandir sessions, he would be wheeled to the studio where he would put his 100% efforts to serve Swami to his best. GV sir saw this one day and made enquiries into who the lad was. When he got to know that Raghuram was making efforts for Radiosai, he said,
“It is not right to exploit him like this. We should employ him.”
As is the case with GV sir always, it did not stop with mere lip service. Within a few weeks, with Swami’s blessings, Raghuram Bhat was an employee at Radiosai where he continues to serve Swami at the time of publishing of this piece. He is possibly the only physically challenged person who is an employee (and not a part-time volunteer) in the ashram. GV sir’s spontaneous heart was definitely instrumental in this.


Personally, I have learned so much from GV sir about effective communication - writing and speaking. He always held the attention of the listeners even without narrating any experiences or stories. He would speak on the most scholarly aspects of Swami’s teachings in a manner understood by all. He would do this by linking every teaching to real problems faced by real people in the real world of the present! That was probably why he was called upon by Swami to deliver an extemporaneous public talk on dozens of occasions. And on such occasions, he would deliver a masterful and meaningful speech that many orators would find difficult to do even after hours of preparation!

Another extremely rare trait in GV sir - to stay in the background and always encourage Swami's students to take up
responsibilities and get opportunities. All whom have worked under him grew in every sense - in physical proximity to
Swami as well. (Pic taken in Yajur Mandir on August 9 2008).

That ability was not confined to just speaking; his writing was equally, if not more, masterful. His books have been sought after because each one is a masterpiece. Right now, one can access any of his multiple writings on the Radiosai site and realize what a prolific, wise and wonderful writer he is - be it his 30-part Quest for Infinity series, the 6-part musings on the Dharma Vahini, the 8-part Musings on Avatars and hundreds of other one-off articles that have flowed from the Divine through his pen or rather, his industrious fingers on the keyboard. Is it any wonder that any visiting dignitary, "VIP" or guest visiting Swami would be given a book authored by him as a take-away gift?

I must confess that it is his style of integrating the world with spirituality that I try to imbibe in everything I speak, write or communicate. That has been Swami’s teaching as well - never separate things based on the terms ‘worldly’ and ‘spiritual’.


Swami taught this lesson to GV sir in a sweet manner. Swami saw that the professor carried a pen that He had gifted in his pocket always. When asked about it, GV sir replied,
“Swami, I use this pen only for Swami’s tasks. Otherwise, I use a normal pen.”
Swami instantly reprimanded him and said,
“Why do you separate things as Swami’s and not Swami’s? Every work is Swami’s work.”


GV sir probably took that advice very seriously because that is evident in everything he takes up. It might be the ‘smallest’ of tasks but he does it as if Swami has asked him to do it. That is another trait I wish to imbibe from him in my life.

During the visit to Kodaikanal in 2009, Swami presented the professor with a sketch of his that a student lovingly
and respectfully made. 

As GV sir turns 85 today, I am filled with so many lessons and memories with him which are golden because they have been gilded with Swami’s teachings in many ways. I am grateful to Swami for having given me the opportunity to work under him, learn from him and get inspired by him. I pray that he leads a long and healthy life doing all work in the only way he knows to do it - as Swami’s work!

(Dear reader, you can convey your wishes to GV sir either in the comments below or by mailing him via listener@radiosai.org. )

40 comments:

  1. May Swami bless u sir, with happy long life so that devotees could have
    hear His words of wisdom through u! love&regards

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  2. Very many happy & purposeful returns of the day GV sir! Very happy birthday!

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  3. Sai ram Brother, it is such perfect, fullness Baba filled, Baba focused people, who are the light house for the ships of humanity on the seas of samsara

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  4. Beautiful post.... Happy birthday sir...

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  5. Indeed GV Sir is a sage born during our times to inspire us to lead the kind of life that Swami expects us to and also to exhort us to stay focused on Swami or the conscience within us always. He never minces words. I have always been greatly inspired by him.

    I had the blessing to meet GV Sir and talk to him just a few days after the 85th bday in 2010 when I was in Parthi. I was so overwhelmed that he spent nearly 1/2 hour talking to him and explaining his grand ideas for Radio Sai. He has always been a very great inspiration for me personally and is someone I look up to.

    I had sent him a very long mail him after I returned to Chennai and his reply to me was so touching and inspiring and that mail is something I will cherish very close to my heart forever.

    I can never forget one thing that he told me that day -- Nov 28, 2010. I told him I had just started doing some voluntary work for Radio Sai. He said "You must write for Radio Sai." I said, "Sir, I dunno if I will be able to do it. I am not all that great as you all at Radio Sai." He said, "You just pray to Swami and if Swami wills, He will write through you."

    That is so very true! I recently completed 7 years with Radio Sai as a volunteer. And I can easily see how true GV Sir's words are. I really have experienced Swami writing and editing through me in everything I work on for Radio Sai. I can really feel His guiding hand at every step. He thinks through me and even inspires in some wonderful ideas which come to fruition soon. Truly, Swami is the director of Radio Sai.

    In that reply to my mail, GV Sir wrote "God bless. I can see that you are a sensitive soul and nothing but good can happen to you, although destiny may bargain hard and extract a high price. She is a tough salesperson! But have no fear since He (Swami) is here."

    I really cherish those words as Sir's blessings to me and his valuable guidance to me for my entire life.

    Happy birthday, GV Sir! :) Thank you for being such an amazing soul and a splendid flute of the Lord. I pray to Swami to bless you with His infinite grace and blessings and good health always.

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  6. Dear Brother - My Loving Sairam. Thank you so much for the loveliest article. Thank you Swami for teaching and training us, to learn on "How to love you Swami and How to redeem and sanctify our life (This precious human birth)" from your most loving instruments of Love and Selfless Service. We Love you Swami. We Love you Respected Sir (Dear Sai Grandfather - Professor Shri G.Venkaraman Sir).

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  7. Respected GV Sir,
    'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' To You. MAY SWAMI GIVE You the Strength to guide us through the journey of life by being a BEACON IN HIS MISSION. JAI SAIRAM

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  8. Many Many happy returns of the day! GV Sir.. SairRam.

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  9. Sairam, Wishing GV SIR a very happy and blissful birthday...

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  10. Wonderful as usual. A wonderful tribute to the sterling man

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  11. Happy Borthday GV Sairam.
    May Sai bless you with all Shreyas in Life.

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  12. Sir, May Swami bless you and be with you till your last breath and keep you as his worthy and cherished instrument. I pray Swami to give you a healthy life without any major in-capacitance (as it happens when one turns old; we are coping with my father at 80, he has developed dementia and motor function disability). Sairam sir. Inspire us more with your experiences. -Ravi (vsrk@hotmail.com)

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  13. Thank you brother Aravind for letting us know about GV sir... fortunate you to be working with him :-)

    GV sir, wishing you many more happy returns of the day and may swami bless you abundantly and you continue to inspire us.

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  14. Sairam sir,Many more happy returns of the Day Sir.

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  15. SaiRam Sir,
    We pray to Bhagawan to shower His Choicest Blessings on YOU on this Auspicious Day. Many Many Happy Returns of The Day Sir.

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  16. Blessed to have known you Sir. You are an absolute rarity in these selfish and troubled times that we live in. Happy Birthday ! #HugeRespect

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  17. Happy birthday G.V.Sairam.May Swami be with u and shower his blessings for many more future deliveries in radio sai as a loving mother of the humanity as a whole. JAISAIRAM

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  18. Sai Ram Sir,
    Pray that our Lord continues to bless you with abundant good health andlimitless energy...u r a role model to many of us...your talks on Radio Sai are, as mentioned, absolutely easy to relate to...

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  19. Happy birthday Sairam. May Swami bless u with many more future deliveries to the humanity as a whole through radio sai. JAISAIRAM

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  20. Thank you so much for this wonderful write up Arvind. Proved to be a very inspiring read. Especially awe struck by how GV sir continued to pray to the swami in his heart in spite of close physical proximity. A yogi indeed! Very happy birthday to you GV sir. A blessed life indeed.

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  21. Respected GV Sir, May Swami shower you with his Love and Grace for you to continue to serve him and help us in following Sai path

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  22. Sairam, Warm Regards and Love to Sri G V Sir on his 85th birthday. Praying that he continues to be the Leading Light to all in this world, show the right spiritual path to follow during this life's journey.
    Dear Aravind thanks a lot sharing this Ode To G V Sir, with all of us. Sairam.

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  23. Sairam Sir.. A very Happy Birthday to U sir.. Also many many thanks for radiosai which has become a part and parcel of our lives.. So grateful to Swami for Giving us so many examples of people like who follow His Life.. His message .Wishes for good health Sir

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  24. Sairam Sir.. A very Happy Birthday to U sir.. Also many many thanks for radiosai which has become a part and parcel of our lives.. So grateful to Swami for Giving us so many examples of people like who follow His Life.. His message .Wishes for good health Sir

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  25. Namaskarams to the GreatVenkatraman Sir. Wishing him A Very Happy Birthday. And wishing him many more such Happy Returns.
    Ramachandran, Chennai

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  26. Sairam Aravind
    The Sun is rising in the Carribean and wish To GV Sir a Sai Happy Birthday from Swami's French devotees

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  27. Sairam Aravind
    The Sun is rising in the Carribean and wish To GV Sir a Sai Happy Birthday from Swami's French devotees. May Swami's blessings be...

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  28. Please convey our handfolded Pranaams and Birthday Wishes to GV Sir.
    From me and my entire family !!!
    Dr Anil Safaya

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  29. Happy Birthday dear GV Sir! May Bhagavan bless you always with lots love, peace & happiness.
    Love & Sai Ram
    Sumeet Tappoo

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  30. wow. Radio Sai team. i join you all to wish happy birthday to The ever great devotee and instrument.. puppet.. role modle .,, Shri venkatraman ji
    May Swamy bless Him with Good health for hundred years. and more .
    Loving pranams ..

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  31. Sairam. Many happy returns of the day to GV sir. On behalf of my family, I express our sincere gratitude to the RadioSai team for keeping us connected to Bhagawan 24×7. May our LORD bless sir with good health to enable him to continue with Swami's work for many more years!!

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  32. Respected GV Uncle,

    Pranams and Sairam! Wishes and prayers for a very happy and blessed 85th birthday.
    May Bhagawan's grace continue to shower on you! Jai Sai Ram!

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  33. Hari Krishna Prasad (Parthi name HKP)7 October 2017 at 09:03

    Arvind you are such a wonderful person. You are so positive and one can feel it in all that you do. This article has taken me down the memory lane.

    Obviously GV sir is a well known personality in Parthi and I’ve had one small anecdote with him that left lasting impressions of the gentleman he is.

    It was the year 1998 and I was in the interview room for my MBA and GV sir was the then vice chancellor. He apparently picked my application to give me a scholarship as I have submitted my fathers annual income to be INR 40000 per annum. In India since agricultural income is not taxed, it is generally not assessed correctly. The MRO gives a certificate basis some benchmarks. Anyways in the interview he figured that the income could be higher than what is stated and felt that there is some misrepresentation and therefore rejected my candidature itself.

    I’ve obviously held it against him not accepting it is Swami’s Will and it was probably my best year spent at the Lotus Feet doing some small service in the erstwhile audio visual trust. I appeared for the entrance again in the following year and this time I cleared it.

    On the very first day of (re)joining, Swami called all the students for the Trayee session. since I worked in the AV department of Brindavan campus I was already inside the compound of Trayee and I was asked to go ahead of the lines and I was seated right at Swami’s lotus feet. It was a feeling of gratitude, jubilance etc and I was ecstatic to say the least. GV sir was seated in his more or less regular place to the right of Swami. Even in such ecstatic moments, when I saw sir, I must confess I had a thought in my mind looking at him which almost meant like ‘what could you do? I had to come and here I am’ kind of arrogance. Anyways the session got over. I forgot about this thought and I wanted to sit in Trayee until I am asked to leave. As I was walking out of Trayee, I saw sir standing in front of Trayee and I wished him. He enquired my well being and asked me as to validate his memory if I appeared for the entrance the year before and was rejected. I nodded in confirmation and mentioned to him I am enrolled into the MFM programme. What came after that was a life lesson for me and I will never forget. He was the Vice Chancellor and in his larger scheme of things I am an absolute nobody. He said ‘I am sorry, I am the reason to get an years break in your career’ what he said next was even more humbling and only enlightened greats like him can say. ‘The fact that Swami ensured you are here in the course tells me that my judgement was wrong and I am sorry for that’. He had no reason to remember one candidate in the hundreds he would have seen and apologise for what happened an year before. In the people I met in my life so far, I can probably can count such people who have the humility to acknowledge a possible mistake, on my fingers.

    Sir, this is a very small instance to you but a life lesson for me. Please accept my pranaams ����

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  34. Happy 85th Birthday. GV Sir is a living legend. I wasn't a big fan of him earlier. It was more than 13 years ago, I remember during my days working in the Ashram, for some reason I used reviling language against GV Sir while talking over the intercom from the stores to a colleague in radio sai upset with something. GV sir meanwhile had picked up a parallel phone and listened patiently to my conversation and suddenly intervened and asked me to come and see him.
    I called a friend and told him that I am packing my bags as I am going to be fired as he is a powerful and respectful person in Ashram.
    I was ready for the worst and started to plan my next career move. As I entered Radio sai, GV sir came in and the conversation took a unexpected turn. All I remember now is that he did not speak from the ego, it was not personal. He did not show me the yellow or red card. It was pure common sense. He made me realise that I was out of line talking about my ex - vice chancellor in a derogatory manner and I need to respect the post . It was not about him and I shouldn't be talking about anyone in that manner behind their back. He talked to me about the work that's happening in Radio Sai ...etc I wonder how he could manage not taking it personal. Anyone else would have fired me or rather I would have fired myself if I were in his position.
    That's the reason I know personally, boys in Radio sai love working under him than anyone around . He is very authentic and does not operate from the ego or self importance. Even though he looks stern he is a vey kind man at heart. I am sure if by any chance he reads this comment, in his usual demeanour he will just brush it aside as nothing. I am sure the readers will understand it's beyond normal and it's something special. I recollect a famous book I read many years ago called "The four agreements- A practical guide to personal freedom ". One of the agreements was " Don't take anything personally ". He just embodies that. Happy 85 th Birthday Sir. I am a silent admirer and a fan of your life and work. Wish you great health and stay blessed - Amitabh Das Gupta

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  35. Professor G. Venkataraman Sir, we all know what Swami says about birthdays, but when you were born, God had something very beautiful and specific for you in mind - to serve and work for Him, our beloved Lord, the way you did and still do. I shall ask all the beautiful, twinkling stars on Puttaparthis night sky, that they bring you my best wishes for many more years in health and bliss. With Swami in our hearts and daily life and His name constantly on our lips here is a 'Westerner' who can tell you,that the work of Radio Sai for the devoted souls outside of Prashanti, shares, is so much enjoyed and appreciated. May the Love we are sharing spread it's wings....and may your days be full of bliss. With Love from a Sai Sister from Germany

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  36. We pray to swami to shower his blessings on you on your birthday sir. Who ever follows swami's teachings is the one who loves swami, and you are one among them sir. Sai Ram.

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  37. Ram Dharanipragada8 October 2017 at 00:05

    Professor GV sir, For about a couple of years I had to drive to Boston every week from New Jersey for work. What made the back and forth drive meaningful was listening to your interviews very nicely compiled in "Transformations of the Heart" series. I learnt so much about Swami and His life and His mission for which I am eternally grateful to you. May Swami bless you with many more years of doing His work!
    Sairam
    Ram Dharanipragada
    Princeton, NJ, USA

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  38. Loving sairam to Professor Sri G. Venkataraman,
    Our belated birthday wishes to you.May your humble and selfless service to Swami continue for many many more years. We were very fortunate to meet with Professor GV when he visited Sydney Australia. We managed to take a photo with you after you deliver a beautiful talk on unity of faith at the Sikh Mission Centre Sydney. We hope you will visit Australia soon.
    Thank you Aravind to your great service.
    Karuna and Renuka

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  39. Dear Aravind,
    Thank you for reminding us about such a great man and servant of the Lord. I would like to share with the readers this personal account, regarding wonderful Prof GV.
    In 2004 I had been at Swami's ashram for 2-3 years off and on. I had been volunteering in the canteen, but felt compelled to leave the ashram as I needed to get involved in some meaningful activities which engaged my mind and gave me more initiative.
    I made up my mind to leave the ashram in a week. But through a very mysterious leela of Swami I had to approach Prof GV (who was totally unknown to me) to pass on a message.
    I did so and Prof GV made some small talk and then sweetly asked me if I would be interested to find out more about Radio Sai and possibly help out. It was blossoming in those days, and needed some extra help.
    I readily agreed and was shortly hooked on the divine work which fulfilled all my wishes regarding spreading Swami's Teachings and sharing His Glory with devotees.
    I was able to mix and work with Swami's Students and gained untold blessings as a result of Prof GV allowing me to be there. He has always treated me so kindly and was like a mentor in so many ways. We had numerous fascinating interactions and I have always been in awe of his spotless hardworking character, his scientific wisdom and his grasp of Swami's Teachings.
    I spent six years volunteering at Radio Sai and they were truly golden years of my life. Of course this also enabled me to stay six more years at Baba's Lotus Feet - for that I am eternally grateful.
    I was lucky to meet him this summer after a gap of seven years and he was most kind to me. I shall never forget his warmth and friendliness.
    OM SAI RAM

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  40. Very happy to read this article. Thanks to Aravind brother. After reading the book, "The conversation between man and God" by GV Sir, whenever I go to parthi, I just search his books.. Reading his books, makes us climb many steps of spiritual ladder.. Wish you a very happy birthday Sir.. You are truly inspiration for many of us..

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