Tuesday, 25 February 2014

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

God's Award: The only singer with the rare distinction of having sung during both, Baba's 60th Birthday and Baba's
85th Birthday. Here, Swami gives Ravi a shield in December 2010.

The qawwali nears completion

Time seems to fly very quickly when one is enjoying oneself. Every time that I have heard Ravi sing this beautiful qawwali, it has always felt too short. I am sure there are many that would have resisted the temptation to seek an encore because of two reasons:
1. It would look so undignified to do so in Swami’s presence.
2. The only way Ravi would do an encore was when Swami asked him to. In fact, the only time Ravi sings the qawwali is also when Swami asks him to.

Thus, every time the qawwali nears completion, one is always left wanting for more. On one occasion however, things took a different turn. I can never forget that day.

( The above photo collage video has as its background audio, the 13-year old Ravi's rendering of the immortal bhajan, "Brahmanda Nayaka Baba." The story behind it is so beautiful and thrilling and to know it, the reader must visit Part 2 of this story. Actually, this 3rd part is best read after completion of the first two parts which are presented in the links below:

1. Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye - I have no life without Sai (experiences of S.Ravikumar) Part 1

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

To enjoy this concluding part better, it is recommended that the reader goes through the beautiful scenes of the above two parts as well.)

It was the 21st of May, 2006. Summer vacations were on and the students who had decided to stay back and not go home were enjoying the wonderful Trayee sessions at Brindavan in Bangalore. When Swami used to be in Brindavan, staff members from the various institutions in Puttaparthi would travel to Bangalore on the Sunday holiday to enjoy a day in His physical presence. May 21st was a Sunday and the staff from the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences had come to Brindavan. Among them was Ravikumar too. After the evening bhajan session, all of us went into Trayee Brindavan. Swami arrived and sat on the jhoola (ornate swing). He spoke with a few people seated nearby for a few minutes. As soon as He saw Ravi, He asked,
“How are you Ravi?”

As always, the response was just a smile. Swami turned to a student and asked him to sing a song. As soon as that song was complete, He told Ravi to sing and the mellifluous notes of the qawwali filled the air. The next five minutes passed like a breeze everyone in the hall was devotionally charged. Swami smiled, looked at Ravi and said,
“Sing a high-pitched bhajan now.”
Krishna.... Krishna... Krishna...” began Ravi and followed it with the bhajan - Madhava Mohana Shyama Gopala.
“Nice, now sing another high-pitched song”, was the divine command.
Ravi responded with the Telugu song, “Namo Sathya Sai Baba.”
Swami now asked him to sing another song, one which everyone could follow and sing. Ravi waited for further clarification on the song which Swami wanted. Swami added instructions,
“The song goes high in pitch and fast in beat.”
Ravi was still silent. All of us began to whisper and mutter, guessing the probable song which Swami was hinting at. Swami then said that it was a qawwali. Sri.B.N.Narasimhamoorthy, the then warden of the Brindavan campus made a guess,
“Sai Ke Darbar Mein?”
“No, not that”, said Swami. Looking at Ravi, He again said,

Ravi smiled at indicated the pitch of the song to the harmonium player. He sat up straight, closed his eyes and began the song Swami was seeking:
“Mohabbat Ki Kami Dil Mein...”
It was the SAME qawwali that he had sung right at the beginning. So, that was Swami way of asking for an encore. As Ravi hit the high notes of the qawwali, Swami closed His eyes too and lost in a trance! Needless to say, the following was thumping and the whole Brindavan reverberated with the qawwali. Even as he completed the qawwali, Swami got up with a satisfied look. He asked for Arati! The session was over because Swami seemed to have felt that it was ‘complete’!

In the bhajan hall, as Ravi came to the last line of the qawwali, he hoped that Swami would get up and leave. However, Swami did not get up to leave this time. He continued to stay.
Man Mandir Se, Jao Na Sai...
Chain Na Aaye Mohe, Chain Na Aaye.
(Oh Sai! Please do not leave the temple of my heart. Without you, I will be restless, without peace of mind.)

Ravi at once realized that in his song, he was actually asking Swami to stay in the mandir - the mandir of his heart! His thoughts quickly travelled back to the day when Swami had apparently tested him.

Nearness or dearness?

Ravi had got delayed at hospital (where he worked) that day. By the time he reached the mandir, the bhajan had begun. He sat in the last row and sang no bhajans that day. After the Arati, Swami sent for him and asked him,
“Why did you not come for bhajans?”
“Swami, I came. I was late and so I sat behind.”
“So what if you are late? You should have walked up to the front and sat in your place...”
Ravi gave no response. He only smiled and shook his head to indicate that he would not do that.
Swami egged him on saying that it would not be a problem if he came front.

Now here was an opportunity of a lifetime. Swami was saying that no matter what time he arrived, Ravi could royally walk up to the front and sit near Swami. Anybody in his place would have jumped at it and why not? Was it not the Lord Himself making the offer? But Ravi stuck to his stance. He again smiled to Swami and mentally said,
“No Swami, that isn’t right. The bhajan session is always the most important and not me. The song is more important than the singer. The Lord is always the top priority and nobody else.”

Swami had read his thoughts. Though no words had been exchanged, a lot had been communicated. Swami had patted him, smiled and said,
“Good boy.”

Ravi definitely had given up the chance to sit near Him but had grabbed the opportunity to be dear to Him with both hands! And that is another important lesson - strive to be dear to the Lord. To be dear means to follow what He says - to do things the way He would like them to be done even when nobody is watching or even when the Lord permits you to ‘violate’ the norm! And that requires great wisdom, humility and maturity. But if one manages to do that, Swami gifts him/her with the greatest blessing ever - Himself.

A Mother of mothers

The most poignant memory of the qawwali for Ravi however remains the 27th of September, 2004. Having been diagnosed with serious illness, his mother had been bravely battling on the health front. Swami had stood as a strong pillar of support during these troubled times. In fact, Swami had told the legendary Dr. H.S.Bhat to take charge of his mother. Though a Urologist, Dr.Bhat had invoked his numerous contacts and Ravi’s mother was receiving the best possible medical care. A major surgery had been scheduled for the 27th of September, 2004 at the SSSIHMS specially for her (at Swami’s behest).

That evening, as Ravi sat outside the operation theater in the hospital waiting for his mother, Swami had sat on the dais in Kulwant hall waiting for Ravi! In between the bhajans, He even asked about Ravi and was told that he had not yet come to the mandir. As the operation concluded successfully, Ravi rushed to the mandir in joy. He was not sure if he would make it in time for the Arati. He actually just made it in time!

Swami, having received Arati, had just got up to leave. Ravi, as was his practice, walked in from behind and sat in a corner. Sri Nitin Acharya, who was assisting Swami then, saw Ravi from the corner of his eye. He told Swami,
“Swami, Ravi has come.”
Immediately, Swami beckoned to him and Ravi moved up to Him on the dais. Swami enquired as to how the surgery had been and Ravi update Swami with a smile saying that everything was fine by His grace. Swami sat back on the chair and told Ravi to sit in front of him, in the first line of the bhajan group. Looking into his eyes, He made a subtle movement. Ravi closed his eyes and began the qawwali.

Ravi’s heart was filled with gratitude at what his divine mother had done for his earthly mother. He had been so nervous and worried about his mother and Swami had quelled all his worries. At a time when it seemed that everything was wrong, Swami had indeed shown him that He was always by his side. The words flowed out effortlessly,
Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye.

When he completed the qawwali that day, there was pin drop silence and Swami seemed to be drinking deep into the beauty of that silence. In fact, when the priest rose to give a second Arati (for every session, as a rule, must conclude with Arati), Swami told him to sit down. As though carrying the beautiful vibrations of the qawwali, Swami just retired for the day without speaking a word with anyone else.
“Swami has that special ability - to make you feel that you are the world for Him. I felt it that day and I knew that He was the world for me!” completed Ravi.

The Lord and devotee share a moment through their eyes during the Prema Pravaham programme,
performed during the 85th Birthday Celebrations.

Parting thoughts - ones to treasure

Ravi’s parting statement reminded me of my own experience where I felt that I was the world for Swami. I am sure that each and every one has received an experience like this in some way or the other where Swami has shown him/her that he/she is the world for Him. Isn’t that the reason why we too join in the qawwali, singing aloud,
Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye
Chain Na Aaye Mohe Chain Na Aaye
Even as the qawwali gathers momentum, the singer climaxes into an Alaap,
Isn’t that so natural? When the heart is full, words are few but when the heart overflows, there are no words at all!

Little wonder that Ravi realized the secret of life through the song of his life. The song begins with an apparent mourning,
Mohabbat Ki Kami Dil Mein” (the absolute lack of love in the heart).
But it concludes with the state of ecstasy where there are no words because the heart is overflowing with His love and grace - Aaaa....aaa....

Sitting in the bhajan hall and singing the qawwali of his life in front of the goal of his life, Ravi realized that he would never ever feel a lacuna in his heart because his Sai was always there. He only had to turn inward and he would see that his Swami is waiting for him there. There was no need for a separate and special darshan session any more - every moment of his life would be a darshan session for Swami.

Is it any surprise that he rarely sings this qawwali any more?

...because he is internally singing it every day of his life.

After his final programme performance in Swami's physical presence, Swami materialized a gold chain for Ravi and
placed it close to his heart. A symbolic gesture indeed.

Wouldn't it be great to learn bhajan singing from this humble devotee of the Lord? Radiosai offers more than 150 bhajans taught by brother Ravikumar in its popular Bhajan Tutor page. Do check it out.

For all readers:
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  1. :) A Divine saga of communion.....No words...only tears of gratitude to this Lord and His drama and the actors within....! Thank you Aravind, Sai Ram.

    1. My pleasure and privilege too.... :)

    2. Tears rolled down while reading this article and they have just multiplied when I read this line “No Swami, that isn’t right. The bhajan session is always the most important and not me. The song is more important than the singer. The Lord is always the top priority and nobody else.” I am touched by humbleness of RaviKumar garu.

      The way he sang "Bhramanda nayaka baba.." bhajan is simply awesome. Goosebumps all over my body and my mood filled with ecstasy.

      My father made me listen to the quwalli song some years back explaining the significance. I still remember the mood in kulawant hall when RaviKumar garu was singing the song in April, 2011.

  2. So finally we got the concluding part of Ravi ji's article....I stopped all my work and rushed to read it... There I found the surprise and was speechless to hear 13 year old voice which can melt any heart! It has a unique capacity to win your mind and heart at a time...then I moved to read rest of the part and was enjoying those unforgettable memories one by one....it was like I've completely lost myself into the article....I could feel that intensity of the qawwali which has stolen millions of hearts and will steal millions in upcoming days. I think we are the most fortunate to have him among us and heard him live...As there are so many incident happening everyday in this world and they don't really matter for us..but what matter for us is to spend a little time with Swami's eternal love...Swami is like our universal mother....You cant imagine what's there in her lap if you have not experienced sitting into it...just sit in her lap for a moment and see the magic of Her immense love....All the universe is there in her Lap....Ravi ji experienced something similar that's why he does not need Swami's external darshan anymore as His every moment reflects that divine fragrance and through his song/qawwali we could have His darshan in our inner self...Try it out..tune into Sai Bina Raha na Jaye and close your eyes....See.....Sai is there in front of you!!! ..Jai Sai Ram :)

  3. I used to feel special when I happened to hear this getting sung during any of my visits. Would take it as 'special blessing' that Swami gave. :-)

    1. You are not alone in that line of thinking. Hundreds also feel the same. :)

      It definitely is a 'special blessing'.

    2. IIRC, There was a Fleeting moment.. interview in RadioSai with one of the students (Harish Mirpuri?) who was part of the team who initially worked on this song along with RK. There was a bit of story behind it.

  4. Exactly the same feeling we get when we hear Ravi Kumar sing: Happy but leaves us wanting more.

  5. I should not be reading your blog when I am at work. I always end up crying. I dont even know why I cry !!! Must be the pure joy. Sairam.

    1. Let me honestly confess that I too cry many times while writing these experiences. I feel that Swami is blessing me with the chance to experience hundreds of others' experiences and so the tears! Ah! This life is not enough just to count blessings.... You are definitely right about the "pure joy" theory. :)

  6. Absolutely fabulous! The innocent singing even at the age of 13 is simply too good. I was very moved to hear that rendition. Thanks for sharing that rare audio, Aravind.

    Ravi Sir is such a blessed soul. And it is indeed wonderful to hear bhajans or any other song in his mellifluous voice. They really transport us to divine heights. I pray to Bhagawan to always shower His abundant grace and blessings upon him, so that he continues to mesmerise us all with his voice.

  7. Tears rolling on my cheek... Manmandir se jaao naa Sai...

  8. Thanks for the nearness/dearness message.

  9. Thank you brother for constantly helping us to remember and savour the most beautiful experiences and amazing memories of swami and his most beloved students. The stories renders me motionless as I feel I too am reliving this beautiful memories with swami, as if Im there watching and experiencing this amazing moments.
    Thank you brother.

  10. Wow! That was Naadaamrutam to the ears. And loved the part where being Dear to Swamy has been emphasised. loved it loved it loved it so much. such people are called "Karanajanmulu" in telugu. You too are one brother Aravind. Thanks to brother Ravi, to You, and to our SWAMY. Sairam.- Sai Saraswathi.

  11. One of the best experiences I have read till now.
    Salutations to Sai and his 'voice'.
    Kudos to the narrator too.
    We were drenched in the Sai-Madhura-experience

  12. We are so greatful to you Arvind.Thank you so much.You have no idea what a great seva you are doing.May swami be your side always.Thank you.

  13. Hey thanks a lot for sharing his story anna. It was so subtle a love story between the Lord and Ravi sir. I remember during the Shivaratri of 2006, when Swami was apparently 'struggling' to bring out linga, he indicated Ravi sir to continue bhajans when it was already in full pace. Suddenly, bhajans stop and Ravi sir takes over! And as you said, some countless times, we have heard him singing Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye, yet everytime I felt like shouting "ONCE MORE!" :-D Thanks a lot.

  14. the pictures are amazing, Divine Love just overflows from them, they are truly touching. wonderful. Feel so blessed that you shared this story. thank you. Jai Sai Ram

  15. Sairam. when I finish reading each article by you, i tell myself, this is his best so far!! But your Ravi kumar story is a classic. Like all classics, it moves one to tears. Dear Swami,thank you for giving us Ravikumar and SaiAravind!!! visalam

  16. Barru -I was there in the verandah that day. It was the most beautiful moment for anyone to watch. Actually, Swami was waiting for Ravi the whole time. The bhajans extending to beyond 6:30PM those days was kind of unusual. And it was evident that Swami was waiting for Ravi since He had asked for him so many times. After Ravi came and Nitin told Swami, the scene was - Swami spoke to him and at the end of the conversation, His right arm was on Ravi's back and His left hand was holding Ravi's chin and almost pleadingly Swami asked him if he would be ok to sing. What a scene that was!!! Immediately Ravi jumped, went down, took the mike and the song that Prashanti Nilayam waits for each time flowed out.
    After the song, and after Swami indicated that Aarti was not required, He looked at Prof AK garu and said, "Can you sing like that?" Prof AK said, "Swami, if I sing the hall will become empty." And then Swami said, "Nene icchanu" meaning - "I gave (the voice to Ravi)".
    I had later heard Him say this again to V Kumar about Ravi during the RECONNECT which happened inside Bhajan Hall. Blessed is he indeed and blessed are we to have been contemporaries to witness such a great romance.

    1. @Venu - Thank you for this. I shall incorporate parts of what you said into the main body of the article! Ah! Touching scene indeed.... beautiful...

  17. Sairam. When I heard this song first time, I loved it and listen to it time & again. Little did I know the marvelous story behind it. Wow! Thanks for the III Part write up. Never can we win to describe Swami's miraculous ways, infinite love and greatness in mere words. But you have still woven magic Mr. Aravind! great! Sai bless you more..
    Well I have a query. I am very enthusiastically curious to know if Ravi Kumar Sir himself has composed the Qawwali and the bhajan "Brahmanda Nayaka Baba"? Pls let me know. Both are my favorites.

    1. It was a group of students who composed that qawwali. Ravi was one among the students present there.

      The bhajan Brahmanda Nayaka Baba is composed by a singer, Raviraj Nasery, from Mumbai.

  18. Sairam. When I heard this song first time, I loved it and listen to it time & again. Little did I know the marvelous story behind it. Wow! Thanks for the III Part write up. Never can we win to describe Swami's miraculous ways, infinite love and greatness in mere words. But you have still woven magic Mr. Aravind! great!
    Well I have a query. I am very enthusiastically curious to know if Ravi Kumar Sir himslf has composed the Qawwali and the bhajan "Brahmanda Nayaka Baba"? Pls let me know.

  19. the bhajan BRAMHANDA NAYAKA BABA is composedby sri Ravi Raj Nasery

  20. Ravi's melodious voice is indeed a gift from the divine. Being God's chosen singer - is there a higher honor one can aspire for? He was 3 years senior to me at college. I was a student at Brindavan and he was in PG(I think it was MBA) at Parthi. As a result I never had any interaction with him but whenever our paths crossed I noticed that he always had a smile on his face and a blissful expression. The hearts of the boys at Brindavan used to swell with pride whenever he sang because he was an alumni! His singing was legendary and he was the gold standard for any aspiring singer. I don't know if it is still the case but back then, there used to be an allrounder award for students who excelled in academics+sports+extracurrcicular activities. Ravi was honored with the award one year.
    I enjoyed reading about his journey in the divine presence starting from such a young age. I feel utmost respect for his humility, devotion, and dedication.

    I discovered this blog only recently and am coming across so many gems here written in simple, lucid, and above all, sincere, heartfelt language. Reading this blog, I am able to relive the halcyon days of my student hood at a special, most unique place. Thank you Aravind for a fantastic job - you are spreading joy, positive vibrations and good thoughts.


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