Saturday, 24 May 2014

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 9 - Goodbye Hadshi, Hello Mumbai

A scenic pan of the entire Hadshi temple complex taken from the guest house.
On the morning of October 31 I woke up with mixed feelings. As I bowed down in front of the door of His room my heart seemed to cry out, "Oh no! It is over today!" The trip actually was not about to end and Mumbai still awaited Swami's arrival. But I was sure that one glorious chapter of this odyssey was definitely close to conclusion. Hadshi is so beautiful a place and the beauty had been magnified million times because of Swami. Leaving it would be painful.

We filed out of the Mandir towards our rooms silently. Only half of us who would sleep outside Swami’s door, were awake – the others were still sleeping. Those who had woken up had also woken up to the reality of the imminent parting from Hadshi. Nevertheless, with Swami, joy soon overtakes sorrow.
“Yes, we may be leaving Hadshi, but we would be doing this with Swami”, I said to myself. Swami is the One who adds joy and profundity to our lives anywhere and as long as we carry Him (or He carries us whether in life or in the physical realms as He was doing now), there is no need to feel despondent. Life with Him is bound to be good and memorable. Like they say, “Life with God is an endless hope and life without Him is a hopeless end.” And that is something which I hope to remember all life. All the joy and peace is life is in Swami - not in any worldly objects, money, name, fame, relationships etc. Everything becomes beautiful if I have Swami; else everything is so meaningless.

As the day advanced, we were told to pack our bags and get ready. After taking some snaps of the sunrise, I headed to the poolside where we were served steaming breakfast. Once I was through I decided to go to the guest house as someone had mentioned that from there one could capture a good view of the entire temple complex. Soon I landed there taking along both, the video and still camera, with Ganesh as my accomplice. We secured permission to go to the terrace for shooting.  A lovely breeze was blowing and that made me feel that I must come back to this place again. The temple looked beautifully set against the backdrop of the towering hills. Completing our shoot, we made our way back to the mandir and to the top to join the others as they waited for Swami to come. The time was 9:00am.

Twenty five minutes past nine, Swami emerged from His room. He immediately called Mr. Shivajirao Jadhav and discussed with him about the gifts' distribution that had been planned! Swami then moved amidst us and for the second time during the trip, waded through us and seated Himself against the southern wall of the room. Immediately CG, Raghuram, Gopi sir and Sai Dath proceeded to do Paadaseva. Mr. Jadhav was holding some covers in his hand and he wanted Swami to gift it to the boys. Swami took hold of one of them and gave it first to Gopi sir.  He actually wanted it to be opened.

Sivakumar "showing" Swami the use of a digital photo viewer.
(Dear reader,

If you have come directly to this post, I would like to egg you on to enjoy the full story with its history. Link to part 1 is given below and the link to the next part will be at the end of each previous part. Thank you.

The previous part which is Part 8 is located at the link given below in case you missed that.

Hadshi Mumbai diaries - Part 8 - The Vijayabhojanam or banquet of victory

Part 9 continues below)

So, out came the big polythene bag and the gift wrapping, and now was seen a box within which was a multimedia viewing device. Swami took this in His hand and slowly began to press the different buttons on it. Soon Shiv Kumar sitting nearby mentioned to Him that it needed either batteries or power connection to function. Swami smiled and next asked all of them to be distributed to the boys. As this went on I took a few pictures. The elders were given the idols of Vitthala-Rakumai too along with this gadget (it was a digital photo frame). I now moved to a better angle when Swami looked at me and gestured that there was no need to shoot. I immediately retired and sat down. With each passing elder, I tried to move closer to Bhagavan, and during this process I noticed Swami asking specially for Dr. Dash and gifting him too with these goodies.

After the elders, Swami presented His tokens of love to all those who had served in the Residence including the State President and the others. I was happy to see that Ravi Bhaiya had picked up the camera and was busy taking snaps. Swami had not told no to him right?  I began to massage His feet and was thrilled at this opportunity. This is what happens when you listen to Swami - even a denial becomes an opportunity!

Swami blesses Shashi, one of the youth members who was in His service at Hadshi.
Whenever anyone came forward to receive the gift from Swami, we would move back and once they left, would resume the Paadaseva; those were great moments. Swami now asked for sarees to be brought and called for the ladies of the Jadhav household. As He gave them away to the wives of the Jadhavs and their sister, He asked, "Where is your mother?" Swami was keen that she be brought up in His lift. And once she arrived, Swami presented a saree to her too, and to their father He gave a separate gift.

As the distribution ended, He enquired with each one of the Jadhav family if they had received the gifts of grace and was satisfied only when they showed Him the sarees and other items held in their hands. It was now 10:00 a.m. and Swami moved towards the lift. On the way Sudheendran presented a rose to Swami as it was his Birthday. Swami accepted the rose and blessed him.

As Swami neared the lift, the All India President clarified with Him if He would like go to a senior Indulal Shah sir’s house for lunch as planned before or would prefer to drive straight to Dharmakshetra. Swami said that He would go straight to Dharmakshetra. Having decided that, Swami moved down. As the lift door opened, He saw all the family members gathered around Him to do aarthi. It was a tearful farewell; whether those were tears of joy or sorrow it was hard to say, maybe it was more the latter than former. Swami was at his consoling best and He promised the Jadhavs that He would soon be back there in May and at that time; he would stay for 10 days.

The devotional final Aarthi. It indeed turned out to be the last one at Hadshi as far as the physical form of Swami
is concerned.
A multi-lamped aarthi was performed and there was a crowd around Swami with everyone falling at His feet for blessings. By this time, except for CG and I, all the boys were seated and ready in their respective cars. As was the arrangement, we jumped into the security car behind Swami along with Anand, Arjun and Harish. And then began our journey towards Mumbai.  

Earlier we had made our onward trip from Pune to Hadshi by bus, which though luxurious, was woefully inadequate to keep up with the pace of Swami's car. Therefore the ever thoughtful Jadhavs this time had arranged ten big cars to ferry the students and guests to Mumbai so that all could be part of the Divine convoy. Initially there were about 20 cars following the Divine car but soon this number grew and I guess at some point there must have been 100 cars in this grand convoy!

It was a beautiful drive as part of Swami's convoy to Mumbai from Hadshi.
The journey was lovely and it is an absolutely great feeling to be part of Swami's entourage. Being one of the two security cars, it had an added responsibility - to ensure that no vehicle came close to Swami's car. And Anand and Arjun were doing this with great √©lan. I turned back to see a huge stash of edibles and drinks in the car’s rear and my admiration for the ever thoughtful Jadhavs only increased.

Dear reader, I am sure you enjoyed the travel to and stay at Hadshi via this travelogue. Trust me, a better way to relive all these beautiful moments would be to enjoy the video that we prepared of this whole trip. Do make it a point to obtain your copy of ‘A Shrine is born’. It will be a purchase you will treasure and cherish! It is also available in Hindi, Marathi and Telugu.  :)

Even as He came out of the car, the first question was about
His children!
The Maharashtra police had been deployed who formed escorts in their region of control. Soon we entered the expressway and the average speed of the convoy went up naturally. Mr. Padmanabhan, at the wheel in Swami’s car, seemed to be taking the Lord at 140-160 kmh. Once we were within striking distance from Mumbai I noticed that sevadals on motorbikes surrounded our vehicles on all sides. By 1:50 p.m., we were at Dharmakshetra.

A sublime welcome with poornakumbham was accorded to Swami in the traditional manner. Swami drove up the hillock to Satya Deep and as soon as the door opened for Him to come out, He saw me. Immediately He asked, “Have the boys come?”
I was touched at His concern and said, "Swami some of us have arrived; the others will soon join."

His first thought was His students! Wow! The joy at my good fortune simply swelled. He then accepted the roses and other welcome items presented to Him and moved straight to the dining hall which was in a separate building by the side.

Part of the welcome for Him at Dharmakshetra.
Before this however, He moved into a small room where He could rest and refresh. Once Swami was out, all of us moved to the dining area along with Him. Swami was served lunch by Mrs. Sarala Shah. Mr. Keki Mistry and his wife were also present. Sitting there, my mind immediately flew to the memorable sessions we had had with Swami in Hadshi just a day or two ago. It was not that the dining hall here lacked anything; it was just the feelings that all of us developed for Hadshi and that was definitely because of the care and concern the Jadhavs had shown us.

Dining session in Mumbai.

A little girl offers a big rose to Swami after lunch.
After lunch Swami moved towards Satya Deep. On the way, Swami blessed many Bal Vikas children who had been eagerly waiting for Him. He accepted a rose from a little girl, smiled at another and so on, and finally moved into His Residence. Unlike Hadshi we were not allowed in this area and this made us miss that sylvan shrine even more.

We moved to our accommodation hall after lunch and wanted to definitely rest after of course ensuring that our entire luggage had arrived. CG's sitar had not come and he was understandably worried - more so because Swami had hinted about a students’ programme in Mumbai and he had been practicing diligently for it. We sought help for this from the younger Jadhav and he assured us that his men had noted that it had been missed out and had dispatched it in a special car. Thanks to his men, the sitar did arrive promptly by 5 p.m. CG was overjoyed and soon the melody of the strings was filling the air! They were all joyous pieces and his exuberance was very evident. We then made our way to Satya Deep.

Bal Vikas children given special priority to sit at Sathya Deep. Children have always occupied a special place in
His heart too!
As everyone seated there waited patiently for Him, CG and I went around and took some shots of this home of Swami at Mumbai. At about 5:35 p.m, Swami came down and He seemed keen to grant darshan at Dharmakshetra itself. The programme however was scheduled in a huge air conditioned hall at Goregaon where people had gathered from early hours of the morning. Swami therefore agreed to move to this venue. All the boys got into the bus and followed Swami’s car.CG and I once again got into the security car to shoot the drive as we moved on. For many people on the road, Swami's appearance was like a vision - an oasis in that concrete desert where, lost in the hustle and bustle of metro life, people had little time to think of anybody or anything else.

This drive seemed to be like the journey of life - some decide to follow God while there are a few who travel with Him; there are others who are deeply immersed in the world and are woken up to reality as God passes by them, touching their lives, while there is another large section which is blissfully ignorant. Thus there are the two ends of the spectrum – blissfully ignorant and wisely blissful. It is up to us to see where we fall in this continuum! In my case, I knew I was with the Lord heading towards our destination and I only prayed that the same happened in the journey of my life as well. 

A section of the ladies side of the crowd assembled at Goregaon NSE complex.

At 6:15 p.m., we were at the Bombay Exhibition Centre, hall No.1 at the NSE Complex. Even though the venue was massive, there were devotees bursting at the compound and the gates. A procession of students chanting the Vedas led Swami into the hall. There was a huge carpeted stage and the playback singer, Sri Sonu Nigam and his troupe awaited Bhagavan. As the car was being parked, Satyajit asked me to run up and down the ramp to see if it was strong and steady. I did so and after giving the thumbs up to him, I went back to shooting.

A section of the gents' side assembly at the same place. The photo is just to give an idea of the crowd gathered.
There were easily 40,000 people there as is evident from the photographs. On the stage was a large picture of Swami in the classic abhayahastha pose and the caption below read “The Creator and His Creation”. Swami came onto the dais via the ramp. And once He was seated the audience was thrilled into devotional fervour. Minutes later, Sonu Nigam came up to Swami with his wife and his little one. Swami blessed them all including the cute child. After this the performance for the evening began.

Sonu Nigam is blessed with an emerald ring after the concert.
“Sai Baba Bolo” was the first song. Even as Sonu Nigam rendered this melody from the film “Shirdi Ke Sai Baba” all eyes riveted on Swami, and the Lord too often turned to the sides to bless the devotees with His loving glances. Both, Swami and His devotees were indeed happy. Maybe, for the first time Sonu Nigam would have realized that he was not the centre of focus during his own concert!

In concert, sharing the same stage with the Lord. 
As this performance was on, Swami asked for Ashwath Narayan and seemed keen on a performance by His boys. Swami also had a short discussion with Satyajit about this and it was so humbling to see the value and importance Swami was giving to us! After five devotional songs, Sonu requested Swami if he could to render another which was not a bhajan but nevertheless had a profound meaning. Swami nodded and “Har ghadi badal rahi hain…”  from the movie, Kal Ho Na Ho filled the air. As this song concluded, Swami materialized a ring for the singer! He was all smiles as the Lord slipped this gift onto his finger.

After this was Mangala Aarthi and Swami then blessed the large congregation. By the time Swami left the venue it was 7:15 p.m.

There were salutations of glee as Swami blessed the crowd at the end of the programme.
All the students in the bus headed to Dharmakshetra while CG and I moved with Swami to the home of Mr. Indulal Shah. It was 7:45 p.m. when Swami reached the home, ‘Sai Darshan’. As everywhere else, a huge crowd had assembled there too to welcome Swami into the compound. It was not a large home but surely the heart of Mr. Indulal Shah is big! Swami first moved up to the pooja room through an improvised lift. He spent about 15 minutes at the shrine speaking to the family members in private and then came down via the same route to move to the dining hall. As Swami had His tiny dinner and blessed the family, it was already 9:00 p.m.

At the altar in the residence of Sri Indulal Shah.
All the while CG and I along with Harish, Arjun and Anand waited outside. Once Swami emerged He entered a small street by the side of the house that had been named after Him at Mr. Indulal Shah's request. The florally decorated concrete name board "Sri Sathya Sai Darshan Chowk" stood out in sprightly red and Swami did glance at it before entering into His car.

The area was named as "the place where Sathya Sai granted darshan"!
It was a 30-minute drive for the Lord from there to Dharmakshetra. When He finally reached there was a delegation of former students of Swami’s University who prayed to Swami to see a small video presentation. Swami blessed them with that opportunity and retired at 10:00 p.m. Even though most of us were exhausted and immediately hit the sack, it was the not the case with the music boys; they began their practice so as to be fully prepared for the performance the next day about which Swami had dropped ample hints.

to be continued in Part 10.

For all readers:

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  1. thanks so much, reading them all with great interest and beautiful photos!

  2. Bro, ur narrative skills r super. While reading, the reader feels that he too was present with u all.
    Keep going --- Ramamani , Vanasthalipuram, Hyderabad

  3. Sai Ram brother Aravind. Just wanted to share a nice Saincidence! I was at Sonu Nigam's concert in Houston, Texas USA last night and for some reason took out my phone and casually logged on to facebook and what do I see? Your post and pic of Sonu Nigam receiving blessings from Swami! Not only that, but shortly before I saw your post, Sonu Nigam said "Sathya Sai Baba" in between songs and my friends and family and I all heard it loud and clear (though we are not clear on the context)! It was the most random and unexpected thing. What an interesting leela!

  4. Super Aravindbalasubramanya , great narration .salutes to u.

  5. This quote really caught my attention and what a deep meaning within... “Life with God is an endless hope and life without Him is a hopeless end.”


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