Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye - I have no life without Sai (experiences of S.Ravikumar) Part 2

In Kodaikanal with Swami, 1992. 
Change of worlds

As Ravi completed his 5th grade at Ooty, his father received the shocking news. There was no way Ravi could continue his schooling in Ooty any more. The administration had started the school with grades 1, 2 and 3. Progressively, every year, they had added one more class. In 1981 however, they felt that it would not be feasible to add 6th grade to the school. Having enjoyed the beautiful proximity of Swami for 3 years, Ravi was now facing prospects of not being a ‘Sai-student’ any more.

{This is actually part 2 of Ravi's story. To appreciate it better, it is highly recommended to read Part 1 from the link below and then continue with this.

Well, that had his father restless and worried more than him. What was to be done next? Instinctively and intuitively, they went to Puttaparthi. Hope dawned there as it always does to those who look towards Puttaparthi as their first and last recourse. The Smt. Easwaramma High School had been inaugurated and running well and Ravi’s father decided to enrol his son there. There was one problem however - the school had the Telugu language as its medium of instruction and Ravi knew as much Telugu as he knew Mandarin or Hebrew!

A special exception was made for these children who had arrived from Ooty and the teachers explained in English as well. Also, the subject Telugu was replaced with another language, Hindi. So, Ravi's (and the others') academic difficulties were greatly reduced. On the whole, Ravi was happy in school because he saw many of his Ooty classmates there. (Apparently, many other parents too had turned to Puttaparthi as their recourse like Ravi’s father!) Ravi’s mother had mixed feelings - her little boy would be still staying away from her but now, he was much ‘closer’ to Swami since he was in Puttaparthi itself. Ravi had no idea about the difficulty that he was about to go through.

There was no Sri Sathya Sai Primary School or the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in Puttaparthi then. And so, all these children who enrolled into the Easwaramma School were accommodated in the college hostel itself. These were going to be the most challenging 2 years of Ravi’s life as he moved from a hostel where everything was done for him into one where he had to fend for himself completely! Forget the chores of washing his own clothes, Ravi had not got accustomed to even washing his plate and tumbler after meals. Fending for himself put tremendous pressure on him and that was when he began to get worried and restless. He began to lose weight and wonder how his little shoulders would bear so many responsibilities. Today, he realizes that it is only the searing heat and tremendous pressure that turns a piece of carbon into a diamond. Back then, he only felt the heat and pressure. Wilting under it, he felt weak and finally fell sick. For some strange reason, he had got severely asthmatic in hot Puttaparthi having flourished without any medical problems in cold Ooty. Asthma brought him down on his knees and confined him to his bed.

He wondered why he was doing all that he was doing? Why couldn’t he just go back home to his parents? He could not because
Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye -
He could not stay without his Sai. He thought of his beautiful days at Ooty - days when Swami was just meters away from his room door. How he missed those days!
Chain Na Aaye Mohe Chain Na Aaye
He was so restless without Sai.
Even as he felt thus, he could hear a rush of excitement from the room windows. Getting up from the bed, he went to the door. He could not imagine that his imagination of a few minutes back would transform into concrete reality. A few meters away from him was his Swami!

Swami came to him and enquired about his health. How did He know? Ah! What is it that He does not know? Just because Swami does not show that He knows on every occasion does not mean that He does not know. And yet, he was asked and so Ravi answered that he was not feeling well. The divine right palm went a-circling and lo, there was fragrant vibhuti in an instant. The vibhuti was bitter to taste but Ravi was all smiles. When it is the Lord who is gifting, what does it matter if it is bitter or sweet?

On several occasions, Swami blessed Ravi and gave him vibhuti but the episode in the hostel was like
a life-changer!
That was another lesson for life that made Ravi the epitome of calm and composure that he is today. If he could take everything in life as a gift from Swami, he would always be able to smile irrespective of whether it was bitter or sweet. It didn’t matter where he was - Ooty or Puttaparthi because Swami was with him in all places, in all worlds!

Living for God is true devotion

Ravi continued to sing in the bhajan hall, not opening his eyes even for a moment. He did not want to see the prostrate form of his Swami before him. Instead, he chose to ‘see’ Swami with his eyes closed. And that was when he realized that whenever he had sung the qawwali, he had always kept his eyes closed - even when Swami was physically present in front of him. He had done that so naturally till then and today he understood the divine wisdom behind his seemingly unconscious action. Swami wanted him to always search for Him within. Is that not what SAI stands for - See Always Inside?

But he wanted to see Sai outside too! Though his eyes were closed today, he could not help ‘knowing’ that Swami was not sitting on the chair in front of him. He might never hear Swami speak to him the way He had done always.
Why Swami? Are you upset with me? Are you ignoring me? Won’t you speak to me? I am ready to die for you if need be but please be with me always...

Mith Mar Jaye Tujhpe Hamse Na Roothe Tu
Zindagi Saump De Ham Charanon Mein Tere Yun
( Sai, please do not be upset with me for I am ready to die, to lose my existence, for you. I(we) offer my(our) life at your lotus feet.)

Memories galore flooded his heart. Memories in which Swami had asked him to sing on numerous occasions. One memory stood out vividly.

He was in grade 8 now and had got enrolled in the newly inaugurated Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School after 2 years in the Smt.Easwaramma High School. Swami regularly made him sit in the front lines and asked for him to sing a bhajan now and then. During the Dusshera festival of 1984, Ravi got a chance of his life.

He had picked up a new bhajan, “Brahmanda Nayaka Baba, Parthi Purishwara Baba.” When he had sung it in the hostel, everyone had got thrilled at the melody in the voice and the soul in the song. Ravi also thoroughly enjoyed singing that bhajan. But he never imagined what would happen next.

A live bhajan recording of Ravikumar rendering Brahmanda Nayaka Baba

The Dusshera Yajnam is conducted every year for the peace and good of the whole Universe (Brahmanda). And the deity receiving the prayers is the Brahmanda Nayaka (Master of the Universe) himself. That year, in 1984, as Ravi sat with his classmates in the Poornachandra auditorium, he got an excited summon. Looking up, he realized that Swami was calling him on to the stage. Trembling with excitement and with adrenaline rushing, he went up the stage to Swami. Swami asked for a mike to be brought. There was a rush on the stage and one of the college students requested a Veda pundit to lend the microphone in front of him. The mike was placed before the 13-year old. Swami told him to sing the bhajan,
“Brahmanda Nayaka Baba.”

Standing beside Swami, closing his eyes and praying for His grace, Ravi began the bhajan. The whole hall got enveloped in raptures of devotion. The following was simply terrific. But even then, the little boy did not get excited. He just wanted to make his Swami happy. He completed the bhajan and looked at Swami. He had definitely achieved what he had sought to do - Swami was so happy - and proud. Well, the ‘proud’ part is what I am inserting for Ravi never said that. He never accepts that Swami is ‘proud’ of him and it is my emotion that makes me use that word.

As he mentally leafed through that memory, one thing became very clear for Ravi. Swami had always wanted him to sing for Him - even at times when He seemed ‘upset'. He never wanted him to be silent. That was another powerful message for Ravi - never cease doing what you do for the Lord, even if the Lord seems upset or silent. He felt that even as he told Swami that he was ready to die for Him, Swami was gently reminding him that He wanted him to live for Him! Dying for God is relatively easy because it is a one time thing. Living for God, on the other hand, is a lifelong commitment and that is what Swami expects from each of us. We have to continue our ‘singing for him’ throughout life, irrespective of what happens. That is why Swami tells us,
“Living for God (and not dying for God) is true devotion.”

The qawwali comes alive

The qawwali of Ravi’s life - Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye - came into existence in 1988. Ravi had completed his schooling then and was in the 1st year of his undergraduate studies at Brindavan, Bangalore. A group of students wrote the lyrics for a qawwali and composed a tune for it. They wanted this qawwali to be offered to Swami during a music programme. Two singers were chosen to sing it in the Divine Presence. One was a 3rd year undergrad student, Rajendra Kumar and the other was Ravi.

They did sing it together. Swami seemed to like it too. That became evident when, months later, Swami again asked for that qawwali to be sung. This time however, it was during the summer vacations and Rajendra had gone home. Swami asked Ravi to sing it alone. The rest, they say, is history.

Ravi actually has no count of the number of times he has been asked by Swami to sing the qawwali. But he surely knows that Swami made several changes to the length of the song. It went through several iterations of ‘Divine editing’ before being accepted in its current concise avatar.

Ravikumar singing and dancing as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. During that drama, Swami asked Ravi to sing the 
same qawwali! Just imagine Chaitanya Mahaprabhu singing a qawwali! The qawwali was modified as
"Shyam Bina Raha Na Jaaye" and Ravi indeed sang it as a grand finale! 
After playing the role of Krishna's gopika, Yamuna.
Slowly, Ravi began to get opportunities to act in many dramas in Swami’s presence. Needless to say, his roles in the dramas, like in the drama of life, were inextricably intertwined with music. Those were days when there was no pre-recording of dramas and both, the dialogues and songs, were delivered live. Thus, most of the lead actors (who had to do singing) were all good singers. That was how Ravi got the chance to play the role of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a role that he performed with great devotion and elan.

I feel that the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu role was symbolic of the role Swami envisaged for His Ravi. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is considered as one of the main pillars of the Bhakti movement (Devotion revolution) and a pioneer of the Bhajan Sampradaya (tradition of singing bhajans as a means to achieve God). Ravi being given that role in the drama was also being given a hint about the role that he had to play in his life too - to become a pillar of the Bhakti Movement via the Bhajan Sampradaya. Ravi, as always, shrugs it away and says,
“Swami gives us the opportunity to play such roles so that we are inspired by such pure lives.”

Did I not say the same thing?

Ravi continued to sing the qawwali and it now progressed towards a change in tempo. From now on, it would move towards it’s climax. A thousand feelings coursed through Ravi’s heart and many in’sai’ghts began to dawn...

to be concluded in the next part

Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye - I have no life without Sai (experiences of S.Ravikumar) Part 3

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  1. Blessed are those who are touched by the Lord...Blessed indeed are those who write about the Lord...Blessed is the earth that holds them,the ear that hears them and the eye that sees them..(Potana,Bhagavatam Telugu)

  2. Not only his songs bring tears, his life does too! Fortunate to be even alive when such great souls are walking on earth! My only humble prayer is that you share many many more experiences from his life. There is a lot of hungry people out here.

  3. Absolutely wonderful! What a blessed soul Ravi Sir is. And what a divine voice. I am eagerly waiting for part 3.

  4. Ravi is not only a great singer, but a great devotee too. Everyone knows but still I thought I should share. He is known for his humility. Very kind to people and he has been living life from the teachings of bhagwan. Write part 3 and share many more experiences thus boy has had with swami. Waiting ......For lot more....aravinda god bless Ravi and you too always.

  5. His ability to transport the listeners to a Divine plane is amazing. As has been correctly mentioned Bro Ravikumar leads the modern day Bhakthi Marga.

  6. Ravi sir is an blessed soul & instrument of Swami.., Extremely Wonderful he is...!!

  7. I feel like a late comer to give my comment here...but I could not help as after reading second part felt some strange feelings which I would like to share here...first of all this part ends so fast.. I was enjoying..suddenly came at the point of 'to be continued'..felt like a punishment to wait for such soul stirring story though it was like a story which will be good if never ends. Ravi ji's life is like a rose which blooms slowly and offered his everything at His feet....And the portion where it says that living for God is more challenging than dying for Him. I feel that is point to be noted as if we die so early then what will happen of those tasks for which Swami granted this human birth? Will it not look like too selfish to have a desire for die at His lotus feet where we have to do a lot for His children with whatever possible way....So Raviji's singing doing that tasks for which Swami granted him such nectarine voice...which serve as a wonderful vehicle for us to connect our Swami so easily. Lastly we must thank Swami for bestowing His grace and gifting these souls like Ravi ji who is inspiring millions of singer and teaching us the true definition of Love for Swami on the other hand souls like Aravind bhaiyaa who is presenting these beautiful insights through every article and helping us to reach one step ahead towards our Ultimate Goal (Swami )

  8. really enjoyed reading part-2 of ravi Kumar's divine journey with beloved Swamy, from the tender age of 7, for more than 3 decades. The Star singer of Prashanthi Mandir bhajans,
    the most heard, the most cherished and the most blessed of all singers.It has always been a delight listening to Ravi's bhajans.! Such an enthralling voice!, soulful singing and divine melody flowed from his enchanting bhajans.Thanks Araving for giving us this beautiful experience of going through Ravi's great moments with beloved Bhagawan. Expect many
    more parts to follow.Eagerly awaiting the next part!

  9. i felt like a humble student witnessing Ravi ji encounters with divine Swamy.. Beautiful Narrative Arvind ji, i get to know the beautiful souls of God's creation. Please keep sharing .. God bless you

  10. Dude, u kidding .. keeping me (us) hanging for Part 3 !!! when u reckoned a 2-part one time, i thought it would be done by pt2. but there a part 3 ... that's good like in when you finish reading ramayan and then you realise there's luv-kush to get to but bad like in you need to get at least 3 hours sleep and u can only get to luv-kush tomorrow.
    Ravikumar = SimplyTheBest

  11. I remember one of the old devotee telling many years ago,how Swami called a small boy to sing during Dassara,and how the soul stirring Brahmanda nayaka baba was sung. The song is still soul stirring !

  12. A heart touching episode. Tears were rolled down when I heard the 13 years old Ravikumar's song. Our Swami only knows to chose His devotee. Sairam.

  13. swami bless u allways


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