Friday, 27 September 2013

God's pining for the devotee - story of Meerabai and Sathya Sai

(This is concluding part of an ongoing story. Please read this after you have read the part 1 entitled - Love between Meerabai and the Lord- from source and not by force.
Thank you)

Swami and Koustubh in a conversation in Kodaikanal in the
summer of 2007.
Kodaikanal Trip 2007 - Koustubh realizes his aspiration

Koustubh’s story at Kodaikanal in 2007 was little different from what it had been in 2006. As it had happened on the previous trip, this time too, Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) kept asking him to sing the Meera Bhajan, Darshan Deejo Aao, on a regular basis. And every time he sang, he longed to imbibe the love and devotion of Meerabai. That somehow, never seemed to be happening till a climactic day.

The evening bhajans had concluded and Swami was sitting with all the students in the small hall. This was the daily private session before dinner. He looked at Koustubh and told him to sing the Meera bhajan and Koustubh began. He closed his eyes and began to sing out the initial notes - Krishna... Krishna... These were the notes of Meera’s longing and pining and he tried to put in his best feelings and emotions as he sang them. Within, he felt as if Swami was gazing at him intently.

He opened his eyes and saw that Swami was indeed looking deeply into him. Their eyes met and Koustubh realized what he had been missing all this while. While his physical eyes had been closed and therefore blind to Swami’s gaze, his inner eye had been blind to the great love and longing that Swami had for him! In an instant, Koustubh realized that the Lord’s pining for His devotee was as intense if not greater than the devotee’s pining for Him. And here was his beloved Swami, looking with all love and pining, deep into his eyes. That was enough!

That was enough to well up tears in Koustubh’s eyes. Out of the blue, an eternal spring of love and pining sprouted in his heart. Once the devotee realizes how the Lord pines for him, reciprocal pining is spontaneous and instantaneous. The South Pole of a magnet is attracted to the North Pole of the magnet because the North Pole is attracted to the South Pole with equal intensity right? Such is the spontaneity of the ‘pining’ between the poles that one cannot say which is longing for the other.

As tears flowed down his cheeks, his vision became blurry. His voice choked and he was unable to sing. But he continued because his Swami was listening. As he wiped his tears what did he see? There were tears flowing down the Lord’s cheeks too! Those blobs of divine liquid were falling onto the robe and blotting it. That brought a fresh burst of tears from Koustubh’s eyes and those in turn did the same to Swami’s eyes. Would this beautiful leela end? Koustubh didn’t want it to for, in those few moments, he had realized the ONLY thing in life worth crying for and pining for. And when he was at the heights of his pining and crying for that absolute, he didn’t want things to come to an end. Swami was the first to wipe away His tears. He looked at one of the elders and said,
“Get me that gold-plated watch from inside. If I don’t give this boy something, he will not stop crying.”

Immediately, there was laughter. Koustubh stopped his song and his tears. Swami gifted him that  beautiful golden watch. Though he got the watch, the moment of great joy, blessing and divine peace when his gaze had met the Lord was over.

The Lord is as close to the devotee as the devotee is close to the Lord.
Logical right?
The Lord’s leela

In that single act, Swami had delivered another profound yet subtle message. A “golden watch” had stopped Koustubh’s tears for the Lord. When one is crying and pining for the Lord, the Lord gifts many a ‘golden watch’. We know that ‘golden watch’ by different names - wealth, relationship, career, fame. We often stop ‘crying’ for the Lord when that is given. Koustubh realized that in his life, he should never stop pining and crying for the Lord. He should never be satisfied with anything less than the ultimate blessing - the Lord Himself. Then only would he have become a devotee with the pining of Meerabai.

On His part, the Lord does this like the Divine Mother. When the infant is crying, the mother offers it toys and trinkets. The baby stops its crying and the mother continues with her work. It is only when the infant cries persistently, refusing to be placated by any toy or trinket that the mother stops whatever she is doing and picking up the baby, places it at her bosom. I felt inspired to be a ‘cry baby’ in that manner and always ‘cry Baba’.

Meerabai’s place in Sai’s heart

As stated earlier, almost on a daily basis, Swami heard Meera bhajans during the 2007 Kodaikanal trip. So, when He gave Rs.500/- to each of the students and told them to go shopping, one of them decided to buy a small Meerabai idol as a gift for Swami. The idol was small and cute and the boy was sure that Swami would like it.

Swami gifted the students with a session where He would examine what each of them had purchased. It is not as if He is interested in sundry shopping but He uses every opportunity to give chances of Divine interaction. At the end of half and hour, after all the boys had shown their purchases to Swami, Sai Giridhar went to Swami with the Meerabai idol. He showed it to Swami and Swami placed a hand on the idol. He then said,
“It is nice. Keep it.”
Giridhar clarified,
“Swami, this is a gift for you - Meerabai. Please keep it with you...”
Swami smiled and returned the idol. He then made a statement which I am sure enthralled the soul of Meerabai. Swami said,
Idi verum bomma ra, Meerabai naalone undi.” (This is only an idol. Meerabai is in me. She is not separate from me.)
There was a silence after that and everyone could only marvel at the saint’s devotion to her Lord.

Sai Giridhar shows the idol of Meerabai to Swami in Kodaikanal. 
The Meerabai drama

Swami’s penchant for Meera bhajans kept growing as days passed by and that was a great blessing for Koustubh. He kept singing the song Darshan Deejo Aao very regularly. The other members of MTV (Meera TV) also got many chances to sing for their Lord. Since Meerabai seemed to make Swami so happy, the students made sure that each and every programme they put up for Swami had at least one Meera bhajan in it. The same line of thinking inspired the students of the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School to put up an entire drama on the life of Meerabai.

The drama was scheduled for January 2008 and Sri Ram Mohan Rao, my wonderful English teacher from school, called me on my cellphone,
“Aravind... I am calling you because I need a favour.”
“I would be happy to do anything for you sir.”
“Our school students are putting up a drama. Would you mind going through the script and help in directing it?”

Soon, I was neck-deep in the drama which had been titled “Bhakt Meera”.

Going through the script, I realized that though the drama had some Meera bhajans in it, the song, “Darshan Deejo Aao”, about which Swami had spoken so much in Trayee Brindavan, was not present!  I immediately suggested that the song be included. Since it was a long scene, the screenplay had to be created. No points for guessing what I did! I opened my diary and went through the description that Swami had given about Meerabai’s pining. We planned a screenplay together. It was just as Swami had narrated with Meerabai banging her head at the threshold of the sanctum sanctorum during the climax of the song.

The scene was coming out well. The next question was - Who would sing that song? I immediately suggested that it should be Koustubh. But how could a male singer lend voice to Meerabai? That was a dilemma. In my heart, I was convinced that “Darshan Deejo Aao” was Kaustubh’s special since Swami had made him sing it so many times. So, I wanted him to sing. I managed to convince Ram Mohan sir and all the others too about the idea. When we rehearsed, many smiled and some laughed at the discrepancy of a male voice emanating from a despondent Meera. I just ignored it and thankfully, Koustubh too adopted the same stance.

The 31st of January 2008 saw the school students stage the Meerabai drama in Swami’s presence. Everything went on pretty well and then came the time for the final scene.

Final scene

Something totally different happened as the final scene began. This was a scene that had always evoked muffled laughter. But even as Meerabai came crying out to Krishna and Koustubh’s voice rented the air with the notes “Krishna... Krishna... “ the whole atmosphere got transformed. Everyone sat enraptured because their Lord, their Swami was in tears. It was as if He was unable to bear Meerabai’s plight! And when Swami was like that, nobody even noticed that Meerabai was singing in a ‘male’ voice. Everyone was simply lost in her devotion and the devotion being exuded by Koustubh.

Meerabai went to threshold, in front of Krishna and began to ‘bang’ her head. The song built up to a climax and it would be a matter of another 15-20 seconds before Krishna would make an appearance to grant Meerabai her soul’s longing. But Swami was unable to bear the intensity of her pining. Even before ‘Krishna’ could come to her, He called out,
“Meerabai... Come...”

The boy who was playing the role of Meerabai saw that his Swami was calling him. Leaving the temple, he ran to Swami on the dais and Swami waved his palm, materializing a beautiful gold chain for ‘Meerabai’. As He placed the chain around ‘her’ neck, the song concluded and everyone in the audience applauded. It was hard to tell whether the Lord had ‘chain’ed the devotee or the devotee had ‘chain’ed the Lord!

Of course, Meerabai went back to complete the drama and offer herself to Lord Krishna who made an appearance. The  narrative and details of this drama is captured in the 31st January section of Prasanthi Diary.

As I wiped tears from my eyes that day, I thanked Swami for giving me a chance to be part of this drama. I also expressed my gratitude for having got the opportunity to see what true devotion is. Swami went down from the stage to grant group photos to the students. Even as I was taking the pictures, I could see Koustubh from the corner of my eye. His face reflected supreme happiness and peace - something that comes from only from union with God.

(Below here is the video of a concert by students at Brindavan, Whitefield on June 23, 2013. In this concert, Kaustubh Pare sang his favorite Krishna song, the Meera bhajan.)

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Love between Meerabai and the Lord - From the source and not by force

Meerabai and Sathya Sai
Mirabai's love for Krishna is an ideal for how a devotee
must love the Lord.

It was a rainy day in the summer of 2006. The 11th day of May showered unexpected cooling drops on the simmering city of Bengaluru in India. As the gathering of more than 4000 people in the Sai Ramesh hall at Brindavan felt the coolness in their bodies, a gentle music filled the air, announcing the arrival of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The darshan and bhajan session was about to begin and everyone in the hall seemed to experience a cooling in their minds and hearts as well!

As I sat in the front with the students of the University, I was filled with joy and excitement at the sight of the figure in orange. Needless the say, the energy of the bhajan session went up several notches. Five bhajans later, Swami asked for the bhajans to be stopped. He beckoned to renowned singer, Begum Parveen Sultana who was seated on the ladies side. The ever-ready devotee that she is, she took the microphone and, saluting Swami, began singing. It was an excellent rendition which included a couple of Meera Bhajans (songs composed by the legendary devotee and singer, Meerabai). The session concluded after half an hour with Swami receiving the Aarthi.

That day, during the Trayee session, Swami walked into the jhoola room (the room with the ornate swing) and congratulated all the students who had accompanied the artiste during her musical performance. He called out a group of boys whom all the students had come to recognize as the “Meera Boys”. This was a group of students of whom Swami always asked for Meera bhajans to be sung. Each of the four singers had specialized in a song of his choice and every time, Swami made each singer sing his song. So numerous were the occasions when we had heard this group of boys sing their song that whenever Swami asked for them, the whispers that would go around were,
“Swami has switched on MTV - Meera TV.”
That was the code that the students had mischievously developed. But the fact that a ‘code’ had developed showed that Swami had indeed been very intent on listening to the Meera Bhajans on a regular basis.

Lord of the Rings in Trayee Brindavan

Even as Swami called these boys, He began to encircle His right palm. He materialized two rings in a go and gave one to a singer and the other to the boy who accompanied the singers on the tabla. Once again, He waved His palm and materialized two more rings for the two other singers. Then, another wave and another ring followed for the fourth singer. Each of the five rings fitted the ring fingers of each student perfectly.
“Perfect size”, Swami said with a gleam in the eye and all of us just smiled in joy and wonder.

Swami turned to one of the singers, Koustubh Pare, and told him to sing his Meera bhajan. Koustubh closed his eyes, sat comfortably and began with the Alaap, the introductory notes,
“Krishna... Krishna... Krishna... Krishna” in the heart-rending raga, Darbari. I was in tears as I heard those introductory notes after which Koustubh began the actual song,
Darshan Deejo Aao Pyare” (Dearest Krishna, Come and grant your darshan to me).
Even as he continued singing the song, something magical happened.

Swami told Koustubh Pare to sing the Meera Bhajan in Trayee Brindavan. ( Though the picture here is from Kodaikanal the settings appear very similar to Trayee Brindavan and so I have used it.)
Swami began to sing along with him - word to word! Swami also told the other singers to join in the song. It was a mesmerising experience. It is one thing for the devotee to sing out to the Lord, but to have the Lord reciprocate in the same measure with the same intensity is not something everyone gets a chance to see because the Lord is a silent lover and a silent worker. But today was a special day. Swami sang along,
“Life without you, for me, is like a lotus without water; a moon without the moonlight...How can I stay happy without seeing you my beloved?”

As He sang, Swami’s face became emotional. The intensity of feeling of the Lord for the devotee, Lover for the beloved and the Master for the disciple seemed to be echoed in His words. Ah! The bliss of that vision of the Lord pining for the devotee can never be suitably described. When that song was complete, Swami was not satisfied. He asked the other singers to sing the other bhajans as well. And once again, He was lost in those bhajans composed by Meerabai. I could not help thinking thus,
“Meerabai’s life is sanctified multiple times. She pined for her Lord and such was the intensity and love that she put into the songs that five hundred years later, the Lord seemed to be pining for such devotees. Blessed are you Meerabai...”

After those songs, Swami materialized two more rings for two more boys. It was evident that He was very happy. And it was clear that something about the Meera bhajans made Him so.

Meerabai’s matchless love for God

I remember on another occasion, during another Trayee session, Swami had explained beautifully to Koustubh the meaning and emotion of every line of the song which he used to sing. In fact, it had been Swami who had inspired him to compose the tune for that bhajan in the Darbari raag. He explained about the climax of the song in this manner,
“Meerabai feels that her life is worthless if she is unable to glimpse her Lord Krishna. She rushes to the threshold of the sanctum and begins to bang her forehead on it. She implores to Krishna that she is His servant forever and curses her mind and intellect that are blinding her to her heart where her darling resides. She continues to bang her head...”

As Swami explained this to Koustubh, He moved His head vigorously to show how Meerabai banged her head! He seemed to be totally lost in her devotion. He continued to say,
“Instead of death, she gets the vision of Krishna. She feels she cannot live without Krishna but even Krishna cannot live without her...”
And there is a tear in the divine eye!
I still remember, the very next day in Trayee Brindavan, a screening of the movie, Meera, with the legendary M.S.Subbalakshmi playing the lead role, was arranged. MS was an ardent devotee of Baba and Swami couldn't contain this double-devotee (Meera-MS) delight that the movie was. It was a moving session for all.

It made my respect and awe for Meera grow. I wished to develop an iota of her love and pining - something which even the Lord thirsted for!

As Koustubh confesses, many were the occasions when Swami had spoken to him about Meera’s pining. And on every occasion when he sang, Swami made it a point to tell him,
“You are singing Meera’s bhajan but you do not have those feelings.”

The force comes from the source and not forcibly

Such was Swami’s adulation of Meerabai that soon she grew into Koustubh's role model for devotion and pining. But try as hard he did, he was unable to plumb into the depth of his heart when he sang that Meera bhajan. And yet, every time he sang it, Swami would taunt him for the lack of feeling and intensity.
“You have to feel like Meerabai... You must have that intensity of love... It is not seen at all on your face...”

That was too much for Koustubh to take. He constantly prayed in his heart,
“Swami, you are the one who filled Meera’s heart with love divine. You must fill my heart too in the same way. Then alone will I be able to have that intensity.”

But at the same time, he put in his efforts too. The next time Swami told him to sing that bhajan, he began to contort and distort his face in a desperate attempt to build intensity and emotion. He was not feeling anything in his heart but he had to show intensity! So he literally ‘acted’ out the song. Everyone around were thoroughly impressed. Not Swami though!

“You got so many feelings on your face but there is not a single tear in your eye...”, He pointed out much to Koustubh’s embarrassment.
“Only if you feel like Meera, can you sing like Meera...”
That statement only redoubled Koustubh’s enthusiasm to develop along the lines of his role model. He began to spend more time dwelling on the meaning of the song. He related various lines of the song to his relationship with Swami.

In his own words,
“I developed an irresistible pining to become like Meerabai. Seeing how moved Swami would be, thinking of Meerabai, I too wanted to become dear to Him like Meerabai. I wondered when that would happen...”

This intense pining to develop a pining for the Lord had been a result of Swami’s constant taunts. However, the beauty lay in the fact that Koustubh had not got pressured to develop such pining. Swami’s taunts had only inspired him to become so. This is one subtle yet lovely aspect of Swami. He never tells anyone directly to do something and express disappointment when he/she fails to do so. Instead, He showers him/her with so much love that he/she gets overwhelmed. Then, Swami only states what He likes and dislikes. That is enough to make the student pine to do what He likes and keep away from what He dislikes!

His love is the reason why anyone gets inspired to do something. Nobody ever feels that he/she is doing something for Swami forcibly. Love is the Force that comes from the Source!

Koustubh had no idea then that he would be picked and chosen to accompany Swami to Kodaikanal in the summer of 2007. He had been to Kodaikanal in 2006 when Swami encouraged him to sing Meera bhajans. A second trip in a row was unimaginable for him. He had an even lesser idea that he would get his first opportunity to experience Meerabai’s love and devotion first hand during the trip. But as the saying goes, everything with the Lord happens at its perfect time.

Ready to go on to the second part of this beautiful story?

God's pining for a devotee: Story of Meerabai and Sathya Sai.

For all readers:
(If you enjoyed this and wish to subscribe to this blog, please go to the right hand side and choose the last 'box' which says subscribe. Another blog which I maintain with more than 200 articles on it is at You may visit that at your leisure. If you wish to be added to my mailing list, please email me via this page with the subject "ADD ME TO MAILING LIST".

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Death is the dress of life

The enigma of death

It was with a heavy heart that I rode my bike to the mortuary of the general hospital in Puttaparthi. 11:30 am had been the muhurtam (auspicious time) that had been fixed for the cremation. The person who had left the earthly abode was a very dear ‘uncle’ who had showered on me love like a father. He had occupied a special corner in my heart by simply giving me a large corner of his. And he had passed away peacefully in his sleep the previous night. It was a death that happened in a moment - very easy for the departing soul but very difficult for the souls left behind; souls which were donning the bodies of relatives, friends and well-wishers. I joined at the head of the funeral procession, singing bhajans and hymns. Soon, yet another body was consumed by flames as a beautiful life completed its sojourn on earth. 

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba often says, "Death is the dress of life". This means that 'life' is not ended by death. Death is that event when 'life' discards its clothes - the body - for new clothes. The 'old clothes' theory sounded logical till I began to wonder about infants and children that die. That would seem like a case of 'new clothes' being discarded right? Swami clarified this doubt for me through a lovely analogy from his discourse on 23rd May 2000. Swami says,

"While in Kashmir, you purchase some woolen cloth in order to stitch a suit. After return, you put the cloth in a cupboard, lock the cupboard, and then forget all about the cloth. Ten years pass and you are about to shift your residence. You are packing things for the transfer of residence. At that time, you discover the woollen cloth that you have stored away a long time ago. You regret that you have forgotten about this nice fabric all these years. That very day, you go to a tailor and ask him to stitch a nice suit for you. Soon, the suit is delivered. You wear this brand new suit and attend a wedding party. A buffet dinner has been arranged there. You bend down a little with the plate to help yourself. Suddenly you find that your suit gives way and gets a tear. [laughter]. You feel sad. You wonder, 'Brand new suit; how can it tear like this?' Yes, the suit is indeed new but the cloth is not new; it is old."

A funeral pyre on the banks of Chitravati in Puttaparthi - another dress change?
Ever since that September in 2013, I have been blessed to attend multiple funerals. 'Blessed' I say because there is something mysteriously magnificent about this enigma called death and it brings both fear and awe, dread and inspiration. While the ‘fear’ and ‘dread’ parts can be easily understood, one might wonder as to why words like ‘awe’ and ‘inspiration’ have been chosen for describing death. Smashana Vairagyam (detachment of the crematorium) is an automatic detachment that anyone attending a funeral experiences. The detachment overpowers the individual as a powerful reminder of the temporary nature of everything that we see around. In its wake, the problems that seem to torment us, differences that we promote, negative feelings that we harbour - all just melt away into relative insignificance. That is when one is lost in awe of the Creator and gets inspired to make his/her life worth something.

Of course there are other kinds of vairagya (detachment) that we automatically experience - Abhava Vairagya (detachment due to non-availability which is akin to calling grapes as sour), Prasooti Vairagya (detachment of a lady due to her labour pains at childbirth), Udaara Vairagya (detachment due to a temporary abundance which will disappear once the object of attachment becomes scarce) and Puraana Vairagya (the detachment one gets while listening to divine stories which I often experience when I pen down my articles) - but personally, I feel that the Smashaana Vairagya is the most powerful and poignant.

A Question

Every time I attend a funeral, a chain of questions form in my head.
“What kind of death do I wish to die?”
“How would I like to be remembered after I am gone?”
“How would I like to lead my life till my ultimate moment comes?”

The average lifespan of a human which is about 70 years is just a teeny weeny blip in the history of mankind. But all of us want those years to mean something - for ourselves and the world around. Answering the above three questions would also give us answers on what our lives mean for ourselves and for others. For each of the above questions, I have a little story to narrate for these are the stories I keep mulling upon when it comes to my thoughts on my death. They are powerful reminders on what we should do in life and give us a peep into the magnanimity and magnitude of God’s love.

Of course the answers to all the questions are linked to my God and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (my Swami). And if anyone dives deep into the questions, he/she will find that the answers have to be spiritual. For, as Swami asks during the Birthday discourse on the 23rd of  November 1975,
“How can you expect anything impermanent to give joy which is permanent to you (the body and mind) who are also impermanent?”

“What kind of death do I wish to die?”

It was the day of the festival of Onam on the 27th of August, 2007. Among the devotees who were awaiting the arrival of Swami on this special day was Mr.G.K.Raman. Mr. Raman, a long-standing devotee of Swami, was seated in the verandah of the mandir by virtue of him being the Sathya Sai Trust convenor in Tamil Nadu. He was also the director of Sundaram Finance Group. He had not slept well the previous night and that was evident from his swollen eyes.

A concerned person seated next to him told him,
“Why don’t you take some rest today morning? You can come for the evening darshan and programme...”
“I must have Swami's darshan. Then I will go. Swami will come at 8:30. Till then I will sit - it’s not a problem”, he answered with a smile.
The person was surprised at how Mr. Raman seemed to predict the time at which Swami would come. But then, his surprise soon grew into marvel as Swami made an appearance in the chair at about 8:30am!

Swami completed the darshan round and entered the portico where Mr. Raman was seated. Even as he saw his Lord, he bent forward in prostration - or that is what his neighbors thought. A few moments later, they realized that he was not rising back and a tap on his back made him collapse completely, all in Swami’s physical presence.
What a way to say goodbye! In the Divine presence of the Lord. Mr.Raman collapses and is tended to by
several people even as Swami enters the verandah. 

Doctors - the best in their fields from the SSSIHMS - came there immediately. They tried very hard, pumping at his heart and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Swami sat watching the whole seen quite steadily. The Veda chanting continued, the mandir was agog with devotees and yet the verandah was in a state of freeze. Nobody had witnessed anything like this before. 

A file photograph of Mr.G.K.Raman and his wife with
Swami - courtesy Radiosai.
I had a camera in my hand but could not pluck the courage to go closer and take a picture. Mr. Raman weakly opened his eyelids and saw Swami briefly before closing them peacefully. Swami then asked for a glass of water to be brought. He gave it to Mr. Raman's son to offer to his father. He told the students to start bhajans and said that there would be no discourse in the morning. Mr. Raman had passed away peacefully! This whole episode has been captured in the 27th August 2007 page of the Prasanthi Diary.

Now go back and read the statement that Mr. G.K.Raman made to the concerned neighbour in the verandah of the mandir to understand its poignancy. That is how I wish my end would come to me - with my full awareness, in the presence of my Lord and Master.

“How would I like to be remembered after I am gone?”

It was in 1995 that Mr. Nandedkar came to know of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He was attracted to Swami primarily because of Sai bhajans. “Sai bhajans” is literally a revolution that is happening in the musical and spiritual world. Sai bhajans encompass all kinds of devotion to all forms of God and also give scope for all genres of music. And that made a powerful impression on Mr.Nandedkar, a lover of music and an excellent player of the harmonium. His love for music and God found fulfillment in his devotion to Swami.

However in Abu Dhabi, where he stayed, he was not allowed to play the harmonium during bhajans because of a policy. The policy in the centre there was that unless a person was a regular for at least 3 months, he/she was not allowed to lead the singing or play an instrument. And so, he would go to any house in which bhajans were being held so that he could play and sing in the community bhajans. However, slowly, his passion and intensity paid off and he was allowed to sing and play in the centre too.

His love for bhajans became legendary. In fact, during the Akhand Bhajan (24 hours bhajan singing) he would volunteer to play the harmonium for the whole programme. One particular day in 2001, Mr.Nandedkar, was in his usual self, playing the harmonium. At one particular point during the session, he simply burst into a bhajan, singing the glory of Swami as the Divine Mother - Parthishwari Jagat Janani.

Everybody at the session swore that his singing on that day was something very special. Many were in tears following the bhajan. As the bhajan ended, many even wished that Mr.Nandedkar would continue singing and not stop at all. Like every other bhajan, the Devi bhajan also came to an end. As is the practice, Mr.Nandedkar had to hold the key for the next bhajan. But the same key droned on and on. When everyone looked towards Mr.Nandedkar, he was lying on the harmonium, a blissful smile on his face but no breath in his nostrils! He had completed his life along with his bhajan!

They say that the manner in which a person dies speaks about the manner in which he has led his life. In the case of Mr.Nandedkar, his death indicates the passion, beauty and devotion with which he led his life.
And that is how I feel I want to be remembered when I am gone - as a person who did anything he did like it was the last time he was doing it in his life! I am sure Mr.Nandedkar sang each bhajan as if it were his last bhajan and, finally, that feeling turned out to be true with Parthishwari Jagat Janani.

“How would I like to lead my life till my ultimate moment comes?”

Keya aunty has been an ‘aunty’ ever since she joined the primary school at Puttaparthi as the Hindustani classical music teacher. She has taught several batches of students including my Sai brother Amey and my wife Pooja. In fact, it was Keya aunty who was the major participant in Pooja’s heart-throbbing tryst with possible punishment.

She moved into her seventies and that was when she contracted cancer of the lung. But she was the least bothered. She did not take any medication or meet any doctor. She continued to sing and teach, placing complete faith in Swami. Life seemed to go on smooth for her till a fatal psychological blow struck on the 24th of April, 2011 when Swami shed His physical frame.

Keya aunty was shattered and suddenly, it seemed as though cancer was eating her away rapidly. She agreed to see doctors of all systems of medicine - Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda. Nothing helped but she was not bothered a bit. What bothered her the most was the question whether she would see her Lord once again. She kept praying to Swami,
“When will you come? When will I have your darshan again? Please lord... come to me.”

She grew weak and a nurse was appointed to assist and help her in her daily life. The nurse, Maria, felt that Keya aunty was deteriorating fast, day by day, and it would not be long before she left her physical body. So she made sure to attend to every little wish of hers. Thus it was that Keya aunty shifted from her home in South 3 (Prasanthi Nilayam) to the general hospital and then back again to her home in a matter of weeks.

Then came a day when Maria, on her way back to her home, suddenly felt an urge to visit Keya aunty. She took a detour to her room in S-3 and, when she entered, she saw that the patient was in quite a bad shape. She was silently lying on her bed, praying inaudibly. Sensing the probable arrival of the last moments, Maria and another helper girl too joined in the prayer. They began to softly chant the Sai Gayatri mantra. An hour passed this way when Maria was shaken out of her chanting by a sight that took her breath away.

As she raised her head, she SAW SWAMI - standing right in front of her. All her attention was on Swami but all of Swami’s attention was on Keya aunty. Even as He looked at her, Keya aunty’s face had a serene smile. It was amazing how she was ‘seeing’ Swami though her eyes were closed. The thought that arose from Maria’s heart was,
“Swami! How loving are you! You did actually come for Keya...”
At the very same instant, Keya aunty took two gentle puffs of air. Swami smiled. An instant later, both were gone. 20th of July 2012 was recorded as Keya aunty’s death day. But for Maria, it was the day when Keya moved from death to immortality!

That is how I wish to lead my life till my last moment arrives - in pining, waiting and loving my Lord, my Swami. I don’t know about what it will do to others, but these answers surely will make a world of difference to my life and give meaning to it.

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