|This is the story of the speech of my life... the story of my life with Sai in fact!|
Saturday, 12 January 2019
Footprints in the Sand?
Early into my teens, I had read the famous story of the footprints in the sand. For those who are not familiar with it, let me recall it briefly. A person dreams about his life as a walk with God on a beach. He therefore notices two sets of footprints in the sand. But to his dismay, he sees only one set of footprints in those parts of the beach which represent the most difficult times in his life. He asks God,
"Why did you abandon me when I needed you the most?"God replies lovingly"Child! Those times when you see only one set of footprints are actually the times when I carried you!"
In spite of knowing this story, there were times when I was convinced that I was absolutely alone in life. And I felt that the single set of footprints were definitely not of His lotus feet, but of my own weary soles! I prayed to God,"Swami, I just do not believe that you are carrying me now for I feel so much pain and depression. Is that how one feels when one is carried?"
This happened many times but like the proverbial passing clouds, everything would soon clear and days would get brighter. But then came the mammoth cloud, so huge that I felt this time the clouds were there to stay! It is about this 'climactic' period which I was made to weather that this story is all about. More than anything else, this episode seasoned my life with the realization of God's omnipresence and Swami's (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) love for me.
It was when I was doing my Masters programme in Chemistry at Puttaparthi that Swami gifted us students with opportunities to put up programs in His Divine Presence. These programs were mostly in the form of speeches (compilation of His teachings), spiced up here and there with songs, skits and dances. Some programs were based on special events while some others were actually Swami's special way of teaching some important lessons to us. Swami's encouragement was tremendous, so much so, that on one occasion I remember Him telling our warden,
"Why should I come and sit outside? There is no program today!"
And so, in that academic year alone, we had put up about fifteen program. In fact, it was Swami's enthusiasm towards us that ignited the large number of programs that were presented (and continue to be presented) in the divine Presence by various Indian states and other countries during their respective Parthi Yatras or pilgrimages. This was the setting for my life-changing episode.
Sorrows and disappointments galore...
Since I love public speaking and was involved in dramatics, I was often part of every cultural program that was being presented to Swami. I was doing well on the academic front and I was quite popular among my friends in the hostel. I did fairly well in games and was the shuttle badminton champion for that year. Why I am telling all this is just to show that one may seem to have everything in life and still be unhappy. My God! Why was I unhappy?
When I think back today, I cannot put a finger on the exact reason but I used to be very sad most of the times. And the major reason for this was my attachment to friends.What do I mean by that? Well, I thought that I was a fast friend to quite a few people. I went out of my way to help them and make them feel special. That was fine. The problem came when I expected them to treat me in the same way - that too in a manner I was expecting them to! And this expectation was very very strong. As a result, I used to feel very bad.
At this time, I decided that since God was my only true friend, I would look to Him for solace and support. I wanted to extend my arm of unconditional friendship to Him and wanted Him to extend His. I began to curb all my feelings and interactions with friends as much as possible and confided everything to Sai,the resident of my heart - my joys and sorrows, my successes and defeats. This came as a relief but still the disappointments and hurts from my friends continued.
(Today I know that it is not anyone's fault. The nature of the world is thus and the nature of the mind is thus! Nobody will ever understand me fully! How can they when they do not read my mind?)
Life went on this way and I am sure many of my friends wondered what on earth was I sad about. And I myself had no answer. The sadness was deep within and it was a kind of dissatisfaction in the search for some permanence.
Meanwhile in the mandir, speeches, songs and programmes by the students were on regularly. I even got two chances to speak in Swami's presence. They were like bright spots in the dark skies but I was in search of my sun - Swami as my dearest friend. One day, Swami asked in the mandir,
"Are there any boys who wish to speak?"
I raised my hand and warden told Swami that I was prepared. When I went ahead to take his blessings, I overheard Him ask the warden,
"Aren't there any other boys? This boy alone speaks always!"
That made me feel very bad. I was hurt. I gave my speech that day but resolved never to raise my hand to speak in His presence. I told my Swami in the heart,
"This is the last time I'll raise my hand. I extended my hand in friendship to you and you do not want me to speak in your presence!"
A childish reaction indeed, but that was what I felt then.