Friday, 22 August 2014

Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami_Part 3

Unfolding of the Divine punishment

God is often seen as a Mighty Judge, sitting high above mankind, branding and separating people as good and bad; as noble souls and sinners. How very wrong this idea is! In fact, every part of the statement is incorrect. To begin with, God is not a judge. When you judge someone, you cannot love him/her. When God loves everyone equally, how can we ever criticize Him of judging? Every moment of Swami’s life is filled with pure Love. Where is the time and space for Him to judge then? The next part of the statement about Him branding and separating people is also false. He always exhorts us to be united - to see unity in the apparent diversity. Finally, the way God views ‘noble souls’ and ‘sinners’ is totally different from the way we view them. For God, every saint has a past and every sinner, a future!

Therefore, when we speak of God’s ‘punishment’, we have to understand the context properly. For instance, while the Government of India decided that the apt punishment for a murderer was a noose around his neck, Swami decided that the perfect punishment would be a rosary instead of the noose. And this is because Swami believes in finishing off the murderous tendencies rather than the murderer. That was the life story of Kalpagiri. So, when Swami says that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ done in the Divine Presence come back to you a hundredfold, He speaks not about reward and punishment the way we understand them, but of balance and harmony.

Vijay had no doubt destroyed a picture of Swami. And no doubt he had to ‘pay’ a hundredfold to set that right. But it would be totally wrong to consider that as ‘punishment’ the way we understand it. The way Swami made him pay back a hundredfold was so beautiful and uplifting.
{This is the final part of a story which has a lot of background. To enjoy it completely, please read it only after reading the first two parts which are at the links given below.
PART 1: Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - Part 1
Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - Part 2 }

“You destroyed an image of Me. Now you will have to make a hundred images for Me. That will be your punishment; that will be your redemption.”

So beautiful isn’t it? The way God ‘punishes’ us ensures that it helps us attain the ultimate goal of life at the earliest. His ‘punishment’ too is an act of supreme compassion and grace. That was what an overwhelmed Vijay discovered on his journey of a hundred ‘payback images’. Speak to him today and he will say that he wishes he could pay back a thousandfold! One of the earliest among his sketches was of Sri.N.Kasturi.

An unforgettable sketching spree

The picture of Sri.N.Kasturi on the Radiosai site which Vijay used as a reference to make his sketch.
Sri Kasturi is a monarch among the devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Those that are unaware of his devotion and contribution should definitely head to the comprehensive Radiosai article on Kasturi because that is exactly the place where Vijay too headed to get a picture for his sketch. When he showed the completed sketch to Swami, He gave him some professional advice.
“If you make the background a little darker, then Kasturi will stand out. You also need to shade a few age lines to get a better picture.”
Vijay just nodded in wonder. Swami then asked,
“Did you meet Kasturi's daughter? She is in Prasanthi Nilayam...”
Taking the cue, Vijay went in search of her after the darshan session. He located the house and explained to Mrs.Padma Kasturi the reason for his visit. She was thrilled that Swami had remembered her and she regaled Vijay with wonderful stories, travelling down memory lane. Vijay was charged with overflowing love for Swami.

The next time, during darshan Swami told him,
“Do you know that the Rajmata of Jamnagar (also known as Rajmata of Nawanagar) too has her house inside Prasanthi Nilayam?”
Vijay was quickly learning this divine game. He rushed to her house and found her grandson, Mr.Indreshwar there. He requested the grandson (an alumnus of the SSSIHL) to lend him a picture of the Rajmata. Sketching through the night, he managed to present Swami with the Rajmata’s picture during darshan the next day. Swami seemed pleased. He took the sketch along with Him to His residence after the bhajans. The next day, Swami made a thrilling revelation to Vijay,
“Yesterday, I was discussing with the Rajmata about you. I showed her the sketch you made and presented it to her. She was very happy.”
The statement was thrilling because the Rajmata had left the physical plane, years ago!

Apart from taking cues from Swami, Vijay also began to sharpen his intuition. He made a sketch of Smt.Easwaramma, the dehamata (bodily mother) of Swami. When he showed it to Swami, He proclaimed that she was an ardent devotee. He gave back the sketch to Vijay and added,
“Karnam Subbamma was like a second mother. She always welcomed my devotees with great love. She cooked for all of them as well.”
Vijay needed no more prodding. That night was dedicated to sketching Karnam Subbamma. The next day, he offered both the sketches to Swami and, this time, Swami accepted them.

Swami accepts the sketches of Karnam Subbamma and Easwaramma 
The second semester just flew by and the third semester of Vijay’s MBA life began. He was enjoying every bit of it because his hundredfold ‘payback’ was still on! Following his intuition, Vijay made a sketch of the affable Prof. Anil Kumar. Swami glanced at the sketch during the darshan and almost burst out smiling. He was so happy and that thrilled Vijay beyond measure. He knew for sure that Swami would accept that sketch. That is exactly what happened as Swami came to the dais. He called Vijay and asked,
“Who is this? Is it Anil Kumar?”
Vijay nodded. Swami then sent word for the professor. Completely unaware of what was happening, Anil Kumar sir came rushing to Swami. With a sweet smile, Swami asked,
Idi choosava nuvvu?(Have you seen this?)”
He then displayed the sketch to everyone in the hall. There was almost an applause and that showed the popularity of the professor. Swami then spoke for almost ten minutes with him before gifting the sketch.

Vijay feels fulfilled seeing the joy on Swami's face which reflects on Prof.Anil Kumar's face also.
Sketch of  Dr. John Hislop which Swami said didn't resemble him at all!
But it was not as if all the sketches were received with great fanfare and joy. When Vijay drew Dr.John Hislop, Swami frowned and said,
“Who is this? This is not Hislop. Hislop never looked like this!”
But even that reaction was joyous for Vijay. It did not matter to him that Swami criticised his sketch. He just enjoyed the interactions - praise and criticism were treated equally. That was how, even without his knowledge, Swami conferred on him the gift of equanimity. This equanimity coupled with tremendous persistence gave Vijay the strength to create sketches of all the faculty members in the MBA department of the Institute. He offered them to Swami on 21st August, the ‘MBA formation Day’ or ‘MBA Day’. Swami saw through dozens of sketches and blessed them all. He said,
“My blessings are there. Give it to all of them.”

Showing Swami the picture of one of the MBA teachers, Mr.Sairam
One day, Swami told him,
“Tomorrow Indulal Shah is coming here.”
Vijay knew why Swami was telling that to him. It was not as if he was some important member of the trust or he was an administrator. He was a sketch artist and Swami had just given him his next assignment.
The next day, as Swami got into the car, Vijay offered the sketch to Swami. Sri. Indulal Shah was seated nearby and Swami beckoned to him. Handing the sketch over, He said,
“This boy here, Ravi, made that.”
Vijay wanted to tell Swami that ‘Ravi’ was not his name. But he decided against it and kept quiet.

Swami presents the sketch to Sri.Indulal Shah while introducing Vijay as 'Ravi'.
Swami repeated the same ‘mistake’ once again. This time, it was when Vijay had made a sketch of Sri. K.Chakravarthi, the Secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. When he showed it to Swami, Chakravarthi sir was right behind Him. Swami returned the sketch and asked,
“Where is the other one?”
Vijay understood and swung into action. The next day, as Swami passed by him during darshan, he popped up with two sketches. He had added the sketch of the former Vice Chancellor, Sri.S.V.Giri, who was walking on the other side of Swami. Now Swami accepted both! He presented it to the respective subjects and said,
“See, Ravi made these paintings.”
Vijay thought,
“If Swami wants to remember me as ‘Ravi’, so be it. How does it matter if he remembers me as ‘Ravi’ or ‘Vijay’ or even ‘monkey’ for that matter? As long as he remembers me, it is enough.”

Both, Sri.K.Chakravarthi and Sri.S.V.Giri, are all smiles seeing the sketches made by Vijay aka 'Ravi'.
That was when he received a revelation about the Ravi name. It happened towards the fag end of his student days after he had completed and offered scores of sketches. It came as a pleasant surprise to him.

The Divine Icing on top of the cake

The acting warden of the hostel, Dr.Nageshwar Rao, summoned Vijay to his room one day. He asked him,
“Would you be ready to forfeit your vacation? ...Because Swami would like to take you along with Him to Kodaikanal...”
Vijay could not believe that such a question even needed to be asked. He nodded with great delight. That is all the confirmation that the warden wanted. Within a few days, Vijay was on the flight with Swami, headed towards Madurai and Kodaikanal.

(Prof.G.Venkataraman has written a detailed 7-part story of this beautiful Kodai trip. You can read it at The Kodai Festival 2009.)

A slightly blurry image of Swami presenting Prof.G.Venkataraman with one of Vijay's sketches. 
At Kodaikanal, Vijay made a sketch of Lord Dattatreya. In the sketch, he replaced the four faces of the Dattatreya with Swami faces. On that day, Swami delivered an informal discourse to the students. He said (the gist is given below)
“People talk about worshiping God not realizing that God is one. God is not having any one form because all forms are His. Nobody knows exactly how Rama or Krishna looked like. Their forms are all based on Ravi Verma paintings.”
Then, turning towards the students, Swami asked,
“Where is Ravi Verma? Ravi...?”
A light bulb glowed inside Vijay’s head and he rushed ahead.
“Ah! There you are Ravi...”
It was certainly not a ‘mistake’ that Swami called him as ‘Ravi’.  Vijay felt so blessed.
He had with him the sketch of Dattatreya and he showed that to Swami. Immediately, Swami sent word for Ratanlal Aunty.

Holding the sketch of Dattatreya visualised with Swami's faces.

The picture that the Polaroid camera ejected when Swami
promised to reveal who He was.
A word about Ratanlal Aunty. She came to Swami in the early 1960s and has been intimately involved in doing Swami’s work. She has been blessed with the opportunity to cook for Swami for several decades and it was her dishes that Swami relished before actually being admitted to the hospital in March 2011. Ratanlal Aunty had also been present in Swami’s entourage at Bandipur forest in 1974. Swami had promised the students then,
“I shall show you who I am.”
When one of the students took a picture of Swami with a Polaroid camera, the result was mindblowing. The photo showed Swami as Lord Dattatreya!

So, it was not surprising that Swami summoned Ratanlal Aunty and showed her the sketch. He then introduced Ratanlal Aunty and Vijay to each other. Vijay’s jaw dropped in amazement when Swami introduced him,
“This is Ravi. He makes excellent drawings. He has three pencils with which he creates his art. And he does it late in the night in the music college building.”
Tears welled in Vijay’s eyes as he realized that Swami had been with him during every moment of his efforts. Swami made a final ‘sketch-request’.
“Make a sketch of her”, He said, pointing to Ratanlal Aunty.

Ratanlal Aunty is gifted with a sketch.
Vijay made that sketch as soon as he could and presented it to Swami. Swami was very happy and He called Ratanlal Aunty again. He told her with great pride,
“See, I introduced you to this boy. He has made this. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Aunty accepted the sketch joyously. She now realized why Vijay had approached her the other day and asked whether he could take a picture of her - he had wanted a reference image for his sketch.


Vijay’s punishment was complete. Or so it seemed because Swami told him to join a job after the Kodaikanal trip.
“But Swami, I want to be with You. I shall do an MPhil and a PhD perhaps”, Vijay said based on the advice given to him by Prof.G.Venkatraman.
“Nothing doing. No need to do MPhil. You go out and do a job.”
Having enjoyed paying back his ‘hundredfold punishment’, Vijay was not prepared for this ‘real punishment’.
“Swami please...”
“No”, Swami cut him firmly, “things here will change in two years.”
That was April 2009.

Today, when Vijay looks back at that statement, his heart throbs madly.
“Swami knew that I was so attached to the form that I wouldn’t be able to take it when He left the physical in 2011. So, much before that itself, He prepared me by sending me away. At that time, Him telling me to take up a job seemed like a cruel punishment. But today, I know that whatever He did, He did it for my good only.”

Vijay definitely paid back a hundredfold for the act of destroying one picture of the Lord. But the infinite compassion of the Lord is such that his punishment in itself became his redemption. His punishment gave him memories for a lifetime. God never ‘punishes’ us in the way we humans comprehend. His ‘punishment’ too is a bounty of love, grace and compassion. What else is God other than these? Call it His blessing or His punishment, it is always Love and Love alone.

It is with this perspective that we should look at what Swami said in His discourse on Guru Poornima in 2001.

“Actually, one should never seek pardon for the mistake committed. One should be prepared to undergo the punishment. Only then can one be free from defects. When a person commits a serious offence, he is put in jail. He is released only after he undergoes punishment for the required period. Likewise, if you want redemption, you should atone for your sins and be prepared to face punishment for your mistakes. You should exercise control over the senses and see that you do not repeat your mistakes.”

Dear Swami, when I know that you are the ‘punisher’, what do I have to fear. Bring it on - a thousandfold if need be. I know it will only be a shower of Love. 

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these climactic multi-part articles of other Sai Students:

1. Sai Bin Raha Na Jaaye - No life without Swami (story of singer Ravikumar)

2. God's Grace makes everything possible - story of Vemula Praveen.

3. Kumar wins the greatest gift of life from Sri Sathya Sai (story of V Kumar)

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. Also explore the many 'previous articles' listed month-wise on the top right here, in the web version of the blog. Another blog which I maintain with more than 230 articles on it is at If you wish to be added to my mailing list, please email me via this page with the subject "ADD ME TO MAILING LIST".)


  1. As always, wonderful. Definitely, His ways are mysterious...we should simply surrender to His Will and enjoy....

  2. How beautiful is this post!!!!!
    What a lovely way of punishing one!

    Thank you for sharing this Aravind .God bless you!!!!Please continue these posts!

  3. :)

    Thank you for your wishes.... They are treasured always....

  4. Simply amazing bro! Beautiful sketches indeed! And how wonderfully Swami called him as 'Ravi'. Wow! The way you have brought out how even Swami's 'punishment' turns out to be an amazing blessing is a truly deep insight. Am sure only Swami has prompted you from within to write on these lines. This is truly one of your best blogs in recent times. Keep going, Aravind, and fill us all with the divine nectar of the Sai Bhagavatham.

    1. Thank you sis! Last night, at 12:30pm, as the words were typed, my eyes were flooded with tears...

      The typing went on furiously though.... That happens only when He writes.... And am grateful to Him for that...

      As any Bhagawantha Parayanam, the narrator and the listener - both are needed to complete the circle of bliss... Thank you for being a wonderful part of the circle

  5. Thank you Arvind for this amazing post..simply loved reading every word. You made my day.

  6. Another superb and touching episode...full of Swami's Benevolence! - and as usual, had the mystery element as well - "Raja Ravi Varma"!!! Thanks very much brother Aravind - now looking forward to the next one! Sairam.

  7. Sairam aravind garu, wonderful as always. Have tears in my eyes even as i am typing this. God bless you. You are doing a great service! Sairam

  8. Raghu Ketharam Iyer22 August 2014 at 11:19

    Ravi's sketches are wonderful, and so is your presenting/writing style.
    may SAI bless both of you & your families.
    Jai Sai Ram!

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sairam sis Aanchal,

      Glad that the article was a stressbuster for you. :) Swami is always like that - an ocean of calm and peace.

      All the best for your UPSC exam. After the exam, you could also check out my other blog where I am not so active. But still, that blog has over 200 articles.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Dearest Brother,
    Having to lose my parents 10yrs ago and being the only believer of Swami,I need not tell you who Swami mean to me. Believe me,it was only through your writing I gained back my faith and strength after Swami had left His physical body. I would arrive at the right time,to teach, to remind that I may feel lonely but I'm never alone and inspires me to do His work too.Tears would just pour reading your articles. You have no idea how your work is touching someone's life. May Swami bless & inspire you to write more. Please do not stop writing. Loving Sai ram.

    1. Sairam sister,

      While most of us revere our mother and father as God, you have been blessed to revere Swami as both your mother and father. I am sure that it is very difficult in the worldly sense, but a test is always administered basing on the level of the student. You are doing very well sister.

      Thank you for your appreciative and encouraging words.

  11. Sairam Aravind,

    If being closest to Swami and doing all that the Lord desires, is one way of punishment, then I would love to be Punished by our Swami Thousand Folds.
    Vijay Ravi, am sure would not have expected such an artist Punishment when he tore Swami's picture.
    Your way of writing is so enthralling which makes me wonder what mistake you have committed that Swami has gifted you with this gripping writing skill as a Punishment for you!!!
    All I can say is this........ Swami please Punish us all and am sure its going to be the best one for all of us.


  12. ...yep reaped the whirlwind while reading this. I cried like a tiny tot spanked...but ur rite, nws coz I luvd it. Thanks bro.

    My Sai Maa ur perfect :-).

  13. Can you please write part 4 of this Arvind bro?
    I am very curious to know what all Swami showered on this lucky boy. Please it is a request from me. Kindly write part 4 of Vijay's story.

    1. Thank you for your affection and appreciation. Well, I don't know what to say about Part 4. But since you ask, let me share a few details here.

      Vijay has got an excellent job. He is currently working as an asst. Vice President in a wonderful firm. He visits Prasanthi Nilayam to teach the MBA students. He is at peace and the financial difficulties at home are over. He no longer sketches actively now. That is why I wrote that sketching was more of the hundredfold punishment.

      If your heart wishes to know more, you can write to him at

  14. Suresh Chandrashekar22 August 2014 at 23:53

    Thank you Aravind. I enjoyed reading all 3 parts. I have no words to express and brought tears to my eyes as i was reading throughout. Sai Bless you for sharing it with all of us.

  15. If my drawings and paintings are a punishment I am very happy with that part there maybe many others simultaniously at work in my life the 100 x payback up or down is scary having my early background, no matter what is taught, or explained or read later in life,like after your age 65 , I still find what I was taught with great force early on , is very very hard if not impossible to route intellectually unless you catch amnesia - no matter how much one reads- the trust in it being all Love is lacking
    and words carry great power, that's the problem , we don't know what we did and in which life and so just ttake it and be grateful is what is being said and one wonders is it ever paid back or over-
    I loved the third installment best
    - granny

  16. Here's another thought that came up in mind. If the 'bad' done is itself rewarded with 'punishment' like this, I have absolutely no doubt that the good we do will surely be rewarded 100-fold by the Lord. Surely all the good I have done in the past will not be in vain. Swami knows every bit of all that I have done. I have done it only because I love Swami and because He likes us being good and doing good. I'm sure He will reward at the appropriate time.

  17. Jaisairam. Aravind you are great writer...and Vijay must be a divine soul. All sketches are amazing. Please share more sketches and more experiences of Vijay as part 4. Nice to see and hear how Swami handpicks boys as his students. All students are very blessed beings Sairam.


    1. Thank you for your affection and appreciation. Well, I don't know what to say about Part 4. But since you ask, let me share a few details here.

      Vijay has got an excellent job. He is currently working as an asst. Vice President in a wonderful firm. He visits Prasanthi Nilayam to teach the MBA students. He is at peace and the financial difficulties at home are over. He no longer sketches actively now. That is why I wrote that sketching was more of the hundredfold punishment.

      If your heart wishes to know more, you can write to him at

  18. Sairam Aravind sairam. I also go to chromepet samithi, and i am very excited now to hear that Vijay brother was also part of the same samithi in the past doing service before becoming sai student. Very nice depiction of Vijay brothers experiences. we are eager to know which other sketches did Vijay brother do in Swami's presence? What other cute experiences he had with Swami? Did he sketch other devotees like Satyajith? I know Vijay brother showed Issac Tigreet's sketch to Swami. What other momemnts of joy was Vijay brother blessed with? I never saw Vijay brother and i heard that he never came back to chromepet after becoming student, but heard about his experiences. Now more interested to know from your writings.

    1. Vijay is currently in Hyderabad with his parents. His parents shifted to Hyderabad even when he was a student at Parthi. That is why probably you did not meet him at Chromepet.

      Vijay has got an excellent job. He is currently working as an asst. Vice President in a wonderful firm. He visits Prasanthi Nilayam to teach the MBA students. He is at peace and the financial difficulties at home are over. He no longer sketches actively now. That is why I wrote that sketching was more of the hundredfold punishment.

      If your heart wishes to know more, you can write to him at

  19. Looking at vijay's face while talking to swami is so gripping. I have never interacted with swami in the physical plane, but for numerous darshans and many interactions in dreams. I can't help feeling morose that I don't stand a chance :(

  20. Excellent one! Great experiences

  21. thank you so much ,that was one of the most original stories about a devotee with Swami. It was full of unheard of, fascinating details about Swami and how he treats His devotees. I also liked the way it carried on over many years.

  22. Superb.....great article. Nice experiences. Lucky Vijay

  23. No words. Simply superb

  24. Sairam. This is a great Sai blog story to read again and again. Well written with good proportion of emotion, suspense,love-devotion-skill and storyline (sorry to call divine experience with these adjectives) Sketches are very good. Today while reading this again for the nth time, i think its Vijaya Sunder's devotion and dedication which took him closest to Sai, more than his talent. Not all talented boys get closer to Sai indeed, and I am very sure Sai sees a pure heart and gets it closer. The way Sai picked up Vijay for studying in his university, and then slowly holding his hand throughout the experiences were mindblowing. I think college was just a medium which Sai used to draw VIjay towards him. Lucky boy for he got the Sai love, which he wanted. Brother Aravind, you know how to make a reader read this again and again. Keep up! Om Sri Sairam.

    1. Sairam Donna,

      I sure felt warm and happy reading your comment. :) Thank you.

      And I agree that it is not talent that Swami looks for because talent is something that He has only gifted. Devotion and dedication lie in our efforts and therefore, those are what He looks for. Once those qualities are there, the 'called' get 'qualified' for whatever task He envisions.

      Thank you once again and keep me in your prayers.

  25. Awesome, this is great

  26. Sairam brother... amazing story and reiterates on pining for Swami...


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