Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sometimes things go horribly wrong before going right - a message from Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Na Bruyath Sathyam Apriyam

“Sometimes, things have to go wrong before they can go right.”
It was a lunch table discussion that we were having when my brother, Amey Deshpande, made this statement in a vehement manner. The lunch-time talk had started off with the sad state of affairs in the world today - poverty, war, growing population, global warming and so on. The conversation had then progressed into the decline of moral values and the rapid rise of selfishness and greed before meandering into the bleak future that seemed to be greeting humanity. That was when Amey had made that flow-changing and mood-uplifting statement. He continued on that line of thought,

“I mean, don’t you fall off the bicycle many times before you learn to ride it? Don’t we drown in water, gulping down lungfuls of it before we can learn to swim? So too, when things go down, there are lessons to be learnt. We have to put in efforts and learn those lessons rather than crib and cry about everything going bad.”

That made so much sense and all of us at the table nodded. The naysayers and the prophets of doom seem to delight in painting a bleak picture of the world. While they say that they are simply stating the truth, there is an important hitch which they conveniently avoid. Truth can be stated in two ways -
1. In a manner that inspires and provokes action OR
2. In a manner that depresses and makes one feel hopeless.

The prophets of doom adopt the second way though they too secretly hope that they will be able to stir and rouse people/things to change. When, at the lunch table, it appeared as though the discussion was headed towards depression and hopelessness, Amey had brought about a change in the entire line of thinking. That in itself had made all of us feel so much better. I could not help but think about my dear Master and best friend, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who always exhorts,
Satyam Bruyath; Priyam Bruyath; Na Bruyath Satyam Apriyam”,
This means that one should always speak the Truth in a manner which is pleasing to everybody. And if the truth is only distasteful/unpleasant, it is better to adopt silence.

Amey had done just that. He had changed the ‘truthful’ discussion in a direction that would yield results rather than just depress and make the situation look hopeless for everyone. But more than that, he followed it with the narrative of a very intimate and personal experience with Swami (as Bhagawan Baba is reverentially and affectionately called). His narrative was filled with wisdom divine and lessons galore.

The pain that was necessary to remove another pain

It must be said that Amey became a ‘form boy’ almost as soon as he joined the Primary School in Puttaparthi. For those that are not familiar with the student-lingo, a ‘form boy’ is one who seems to receive a lot of attention and grace from Swami - like Swami speaks to him almost during every darshan session, gives him interviews along with the parents, ‘knows’ him by him name and so on. The period of ‘form’ could last a few hours, days, months or years. So, while those that are not in ‘form’ try to get into ‘form’, those in ‘form’ try to retain it as long as they can!

So, Amey was a ‘form boy.’ Ever since
his ‘memorable’ first experience with Swami, he wanted to just be with Swami and dedicate his life to Him. And that seemed to be the precise direction in which he was headed. By the time he was in 8th grade, all the students and teachers knew him to be the ‘pet child’ of Swami. Amey had his appendicitis to thank for being instrumental in him becoming Swami’s pet!

Yes, you read it right! Towards the end of 1992, Amey had a severe tummy ache. That tummy ache soon was diagnosed as a swollen appendix infected with appendicitis. An operation to cut away the vestigial organ was suggested and Amey was scared. He got up and told Swami in the darshan lines that he had to undergo an operation. The moment Swami ‘got to know’ that he had appendicitis, the loving Divine mother in Him came to the fore. He gently patted him and assured him that all would be well. He called the doctors and told them that the best care must be taken of the boy.

Swami lovingly assures Amey that there is nothing to fear in an
appendicitis operation.
The date for the operation was set a day after Amey’s birthday on December 24th. The operation went on very well and the doctors treated the case like they would do for a VVIP because Swami was enquiring about his health on a daily basis. All said and done, it was a simple appendicitis operation and by the 31st of December, Amey was hale and hearty, ready to be discharged. However, before he was discharged, a strange request came to him from the nurses and doctors of the Urology department in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences - would he mind staying another day in the hospital and get discharged on the morning of the 1st of January?

The reason for this request was the fact that Swami would be visiting the hospital on the first day of 1993. The staff in the urology department rightly realized that if Amey was in the urology wards, Swami would definitely visit those wards! Amey agreed and Swami did indeed visit the Urology wing of the hospital. Thus, all the staff of the urology department enjoyed a special bonus of His darshan, sparshan and sambhashan (sight, touch and speech with Swami). The minute Swami left after His visit, Amey was discharged!

But that was not all. A white Mercedes car (registration number 8100) stood outside the hospital. Swami had sent His own car to pick up the boy from the hospital and take him back to the hostel! Needless to say, Amey was a hostel celebrity now and everyone spoke highly of his love, devotion and dedication to Swami without which it was simply not possible to enjoy the chances that he was enjoying. On the evening of New Year’s Day, Swami delivered a Divine Discourse in which He made Amey an example.
“See this appendicitis boy. He had to undergo an operation. He had to go through pain to overcome an existing pain.” (This exact sentence does not appear in the discourse link provided above because, as per the practice and policy, names and personal references are kept out unless they add to the message. Swami has Himself instructed that personal references are not important. The message is important.)

Swami also went on to advise the nurses on how they should take care of the patients and put caring for them even above having Swami’s darshan! Every nurse in the audience felt that Swami was speaking so because the ‘patient’ in His mind was Amey! That was the kind of love and grace that he was enjoying.

Stage serving and exhibition

The new year brought new chances for Amey. He was picked by Swami to be a part of the “stage-serving boys group” during the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet which was held on the 11th of January. That was another feather in his milestone-cap and Amey seemed to be on his way to smashing all previous ‘records’ of chances with the Lord at a tender age itself.

Amey being directed by Swami on how to go about serving the guests on stage - Sports Meet 1993.
Following the Sports Meet came another beautiful chance in the form of an exhibition which Swami attended. All the students of the school were asked to make ‘models’ which could be exhibited for Swami to see. Amey had made his exhibit behind which he had put in a lot of thought. Swami spent the maximum time at his exhibit when He came to see the 8th grade exhibition.

“Swami, this is the path to hell. The first part of the journey is filled with rose petals. That symbolizes easy gains, quick money and other such benefits which entice one to take the path. But later on, it is all suffering and misery symbolized by the thorns. The path to heaven is filled with thorns in the beginning, symbolizing the difficulties one faces when one is Truthful and Righteous. However, the later part of the journey is filled with rose petals to symbolize the peace and love that one receives by following the path. Swami’s picture in between the paths says that the Lord is the Sakshi Bhootam or the eternal witness.”

Amey explains his "heaven-hell" model as Swami listens in rapt attention. 
Swami smiled at the ‘wisdom’ of the little boy. He patted him lovingly on the head and expressed His appreciation. Once again, all the teachers and students were in admiration of Amey. In fact, after Swami left, Amey was also told to start preparing for another similar exhibition next year. Everyone felt that Amey’s model would once again, be the best.

These were how things stood when the final examinations for grade 8 were held and the annual summer vacation was declared. Looking forward to a happy vacation and a quick return therefrom to his dear Swami, Amey left for Muscat, to his parents. 8th grade had been a very fulfilling one for him. He had no idea of the storm that was about to hit him with the might of a devastating tsunami...

Things go horribly wrong

Amey was a hero at home, in his own country for everyone had heard of how close he was to Swami. He was looked up to even by the elders and was portrayed as a role model to all the youngsters. It was almost as if he had an invisible halo around his head! It was in these circumstances that Amey got into a rare argument with his father. The argument progressed and Amey was firmly asserting his point of view to his father. That was when the floodgates broke and Amey was caught horribly in the eye of a storm.

“SHUT UP NOW...THAT IS WHY THEY HAVE THROWN YOU OUT!” his father screamed at him. Amey did not understand one bit what his father was telling him. And his father was now in tears!
“Do you know, you have been expelled from Swami’s school?” he asked amid sobs.
Amey could simply not believe his ears. What was his father talking about? He was the ideal student, Swami’s favorite and the gem of his class. How could he be expelled?
“This is the letter that I have received from the principal. It says that I am required to go to Puttaparthi to collect your transfer certificate. You have been expelled because of three reasons:
1. Excessive and constant talk.
2. Unwanted contacts and friendship.
3. Medical problems.

You will not be going back to Puttaparthi! You have been thrown out of school. This has never happened to anyone in our family. Your mother and me have been looking out for good schools in the vicinity...”

Amey was not listening any more. Hot tears were streaming down his cheeks. He was in an absolute shock and did not know what to do or how to respond. Nobody came forward to hug him or console him because apparently, everyone was distraught. In one moment, his whole world had turned topsy turvy and from a hero, he had become a loser, a blotch in the family name.

“That was the beginning of the things going wrong that I told about”, said Amey.
“The beginning?”, I asked incredulously, “you mean to say that things went more wrong?”
“You bet”, said Amey, “I seemed to pummel down into a bottomless pit.”
“And yet, today you are here, where you are!”, I said encouragingly, ”how did that happen?”
“That is what I said in the beginning, that at times things have to go wrong before they can go right. In retrospect, I am grateful to Swami for all the beautiful memories and even for what seemed as rude shocks. The point is, just because things seem to be going wrong, it doesn’t mean that everything is lost. Going wrong is very much part of the Masterplan of things going right - like the failures which are considered as stepping stones for success. When I came to know that I was kicked out of school, I once again remembered Swami's statement during the New Year's Day discourse - that one pin is needed to weed out another bigger pain. I just hoped that this condition too would be the pain that is removing some greater pain that i would otherwise have to undergo."

Even as I prepared myself to hear the next part of his riveting story, I was lost in thoughts about the profundity of what Amey had just said.

...to be continued in an exciting second part. Read it at Moving away from God to get closer to Him.

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