Saturday, 30 May 2015

What is the greatest gift in life? Life experiences of Kishore Madhamshettiwar_Part 2

A God who is also an intimate friend

Having experienced Swami’s omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience, Kishore instantly accepted Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba as his Sadguru and God. The prophetic words of his Guru, Malhari Baba, seemed to have fructified - Sathya Sai is the Paripoorna Avatar (the Absolute Descent). It is wrong to compare Him to Rama or Krishna because such a Descent has never happened nor will it happen... When the time comes, you will meet Him...

On September 24th, 1987, a holy Thursday, a National Symposium on Values Orientation in Higher Learning had been scheduled at Prasanthi Nilayam and several Vice-Chancellors and prominent Indian educationalists would be participating in it.  

A file photo of Swami delivering a discourse during the National Symposium on Values Orientation in Higher Learning.
Several Vice Chancellors of Universities attended the same.
Preparations for this symposium were on in full steam and Swami personally supervised every aspect involved. The MBA boys got the privilege of assisting with the preparations. A few days before the D-Day, Kishore was enthusiastically digging pits for the poles which would hold up buntings and other decorations. He was in the grounds adjacent to the college building. It was hard work and he was sweating it out. His clothes were almost dripping wet and were soiled with mud. That was when Swami’s car entered the Institute premises. All the students seemed to line up to enjoy this unexpected bounty. But not Kishore! He was a strict believer in duty being God and, so, he continued digging. From the corner of his eye, he could make out Swami’s car halting near him. The window went down and Swami asked,
Kishore Kidhar hain (Where is Kishore)?”

{Who is this 'Kishore' to whom reference is being made? If you are wondering this, it is evident that you have missed reading the first part of this story. Come back here after having read that for a more fulfilling reading experience...}

Apparently, Kishore was quite a common name and another student with that name stepped up. Swami immediately said,
Tum Nahi! Varanasi Kishore... (Not you! The Kishore from Varanasi)”
Kishore stopped digging now. His wife, Gargi, was from Varanasi and the couple had stayed for 3 months there before joining Swami’s University. So, he was sure that Swami was now referring to him. He moved reverentially towards Swami’s car.
Tumhara Wife Kidhar Hain (Where is your wife?)”
The students from all the campuses had arrived to Prasanthi Nilayam for the symposium. So Kishore said,
“Swami, wife is here...”
Wife ka naam kya hain (What is your wife’s name)?”
Kishore felt embarrassed to take his wife’s name in public. This is the Bharatiya Maryada (Indian respectful tradition where the wife and husband do not take each other’s name in public). But Swami prodded him on,
Bolo... Bolo... (Tell... tell...)”
Softly and hesitantly, he said,
“Swami, Gargi...”
Sharm Nahi Aata Itna Logon Ke Samne Wife Ka Naam Leta Hain (Are you not ashamed to tell your wife’s name publicly in front of so many people)?”

Swami began to smile and Kishore realized that it was a sweet prank that his Chancellor was playing on him. Looking into each other’s eyes with the deepest love was so magical. Kishore understood that Swami was Sadhguru and God no doubt, but He was much more also.
“Gayatri... Gayatri... Gayatri...” Swami said before driving away and Kishore was left wondering as to what He meant. 
Whatever He might have meant, Kishore knew that he had fallen in love with God. He wanted only Swami and nothing else.

{Much later, in 2007, Kishore had visited a Nadi reader. This was the Agastya Nadi and while identifying Kishore’s leaf, the reader got all details right. Kishore was impressed. The only error came when the reader said,
“Your wife has two names...”
“No way! She has only one name as far as I know...” Kishore had replied.
“Here it says she has two names... Gargi and... Gayatri. The latter is a name bestowed by God.”

Seeking direct Upadesh (Instruction)

Kishore was desperate to get some Upadesh from Swami - some spiritual instruction which he would strictly adhere to. In order to be ready to receive it, he prepared himself thoroughly. He would never speak unnecessarily. He would mind his own business and not interact with anyone when there was no need. Gossip, timepass, idling time, mocking and back-biting were words completely absent in his dictionary. Added to this, in just a span of a few months, he seemed to have developed an irrepressible desire to serve Swami in any way possible. The symposium gave many such opportunities.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

What is the greatest gift in life? Life experiences of Kishore Madhamshettiwar_Part 1

An ‘accident’al realization

Kishore Madhamshettiwar rose from his bed early in the morning and began to get ready for the 350 km drive from Moga to Delhi. It was early in March 1986 and this would be a defining trip in the 27-year old’s life. He had received a marriage proposal and this would probably be one of his first visits to his to-be bride’s home. Two of his juniors from work (Kishore was heading the Condensed Milk Division of Nestle in Moga) also wanted to go to Delhi and they would be joining him for the journey which would be made in Kishore’s faithful Fiat car.

(Those were the days when car-choice in India was restricted to either the Fiat or the Ambassador. The former was the “small car” and the latter was the “big car”!)

The Fiat or Premier Padmini on the left was the small car while the Ambassador on the right was the big car in those times. 
Before setting out on the journey, Kishore entered the building adjacent to his house. This building had the honour of acting as the residence to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba when He visited Moga in 1973 and had been converted into a shrine since then. (Sai Blossom has created a memorable DVD of this 1973 trip under the title - Love Flows North. ) Kishore wanted to pay his respects before the journey.  It was not as if Kishore was a devotee or follower of Baba. However, his family Guru, Sri Malhari Baba of Chandrapur (Maharashtra) had told him,
“Sathya Sai is the Paripoorna Avatar (the Absolute Descent). It is wrong to compare Him to Rama or Krishna because such a Descent has never happened nor will it happen... When the time comes, you will meet Him...”

It was out of implicit obedience to his Guru that Kishore paid his respects to Baba before embarking on the journey.

The only picture of Malhari Baba which I could procure. This is from the letterhead of a letter written to Kishore
by Malhari Baba. More about the contents of that letter will come later...
(Malhari Baba left his body on the 21st of March, 2011)
The drive was smooth and comfortable. Within a couple of hours, the Fiat car crossed Ludhiana, the first milestone on the road towards the national capital. That was when the speeding car swerved and toppled into an accident. Like some fighter jet, the car did a complete canopy roll but miraculously ended up upright on the road. Kishore turned to look at his juniors. They seemed fine except for the look of horror on their faces. They were staring straight at him, at his profusely bleeding head!

In the melee that had ensued during the canopy roll, Kishore’s head had apparently been struck by something hard which had caused it to open up and gush forth blood. He was rushed to the nearest hospital. The doctor glanced at him and exclaimed,
“Is this a human being or a living ghost? He is in terrible shape...”
Kishore did not understand what the doctor was talking about. He was feeling no pain. However, it was evident that he had suffered severe loss of blood. The hospital did not have the necessary facilities for complex surgeries. Without anesthesia, the doctor patched in fifteen stitches to stop the bleeding.(If a stitch in time saves nine, the doctor surely saved Kishore at least 15x9 = 135 stitches!) The doctor also pumped his body with 2-3 bottles of blood.

“You should rush to AIIMS (Delhi) or CMC (Ludhiana) for further treatment. What I have done is only a stop-gap one”, he told Kishore when he sat up on the hospital bed.

Kishore decided to disobey the doctor because he was not feeling “even a pin prick of pain”! What could be so serious but so painless? He decided to head to Delhi - not for the hospital but for the work he had set out upon. It was the pleas of his juniors that convinced him to turn back home. By that afternoon the Fiat found itself parked in Moga and Kishore entered his house. His sister’s siesta was broken and she came out of the room, rubbing her eyes.
“Brother, I had a very strange and vivid dream... Oh my God! What happened?”
“It is nothing much. There was a little accident and I got a small head injury”, Kishore replied, not wanting to create tension at home over something that was not even hurting him. “But tell me, what was the dream you were speaking about?”

Now the sister smiled. She said,
“You say it is a small injury. Listen to my dream... It’s amazingly connected.”
Then she began narrating the dream

A huge mountain had collapsed on Kishore and he had got buried under the huge debris. Out of nowhere, Sathya Sai Baba had arrived. Instantly, He dug through the debris and excavated Kishore who seemed absolutely unhurt. Baba now raised him up by the hand and poured life into the lifeless body. Baba then told Kishore,

Friday, 8 May 2015

It is darkest before dawn: Sonja Venturi finds light and purpose in life_Part 2

A new ‘career’ for Sonja

Every life has a divine destiny to fulfill. The goal is pre-determined. It is only the paths that vary. There are numerous ways to climb to the peak of a mountain but the peak itself is one. The path that Sonja had to take to fulfill her divine destiny was that of music. She could feel it, not just in her bones, but deep within in the core of her heart. That also, was Swami’s gift to her.
She realized that she was being inspired from within to exude music. It was now time to channelise them into words and tunes.

Sonja continued visiting Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi as often as she could. After her ‘angels choir’ experience, her ear and heart began to get more and more attracted to bhajans. 
{This is the second part of story which will make better meaning and sense if you read it after reading the first part. If you have come here directly, you could visit the link below to read the first part.

It is darkest before dawn: Sonja Venturi finds light and purpose in life_Part 1 }

Though the tunes won her over, she struggled to grasp the words. Again, Swami came to her rescue gifting her a Bhajanavali (book of bhajan lyrics) through a friend. Now, Sonja could get some idea of the lyrics and sing along the bhajans. She really loved this way of praying and found it easy to connect with her Swami in this manner.

Once back in Italy, she did something she had never done before. She picked up a harmonium and began to play on it. She tried singing the bhajans she had heard in Prasanthi Nilayam. Having enjoyed the bhajans there so much, she attempted to create her own abode of peace in the confines of her home. Even as she put in efforts to sing bhajans, Swami gifted her with a second present!

While the first gift had been the music ‘processor’, the second gift was an ‘output device’. Without her knowledge and in a most miraculous manner, Sonja noticed that the voice emanating from her throat sounded so different from what it had been all her life! It was no longer her voice but a different one, perfectly suited to singing! Sonja was surprised and wondered what had happened. Was she dreaming?

A friend walked into the room and exclaimed,
“What a voice  that is!”
There was nobody else singing but Sonja.
“ Oh my God! How beautiful you sound!”
Such was the beauty in her voice that Sonja had no doubts that it was Swami. How else could someone with zero music-training and zero voice-culturing create music and sing so well?

Sonja now began to interpret, rearrange and shape various bhajans using the inspiration in her heart. The bhajans acquired the romantic hues of Italy - full of deep-seated passion, love and energy. Those bhajans became Sonja’s prayer, meditation and offering to Swami and her Krishna. By now, Sonja had become divinely obsessed with these two forms of Divinity - Swami and Krishna.  She would laugh and cry, playing the piano and singing. This would be her way to celebrate and her way to battle loneliness. She realized that every emotion and feeling that arose in her heart expressed itself through this music that Swami had gifted her. And every emotion - good or bad; happy or sad - got sanctified because it was offered to Swami.

Divine confirmation of the story so far

The blessing of music seemed to be building up for a crescendo as Sonja made a trip to Brindavan, Whitefield in Bengaluru. The Italian group was called into Trayee Brindavan for an interview.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

It is darkest before dawn: Sonja Venturi finds light and purpose in life_Part 1

"The night is darkest before dawn." This is a cliche agreed. But there is a reason why it has become a cliche!
26-year old Sonja lay in her bed, writhing in deep pain. She was feeling sick, tired and very weak. She also did not seem to have enough energy to digest the food she was eating. A lot of things can go wrong in the human body. But as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, the stomach is the petrol tank of the car called the body. When that goes wrong, everything else also goes wrong. Deprived of the only source of energy for man - food, Sonja knew that she had to see a doctor.

She indeed saw, not one, but several doctors. She was a visitor at several hospitals. Multiple medical checks later, the diagnosis was incomplete and unconfirmed.
“Everything seems to be normal... nothing out of the ordinary...”
“Then why am I losing weight? Why am I unable to eat and digest anything? Why is my heart in trouble as well?”
“Errr... we could possibly do a few more tests...”

The tests themselves seemed to sap the life-energy out of her. She was now growing sick of these tests as well.

Sonja (pronounced as Sonia) Venturi, as the name suggests, was Italian by birth. Since childhood she always nurtured a passion in her heart which drove her to excellence in whatever she undertook. However, she always worked with a childlike innocence and genuine love which had not yet been extinguished by the ravages of adulthood. And that had led her to her present day condition.

Sonja’s condition was the case of an unsound body due to an unsound mind! The unsound mind was the result of her shattered faith in the world of humans and her tormented emotions from the lies and falseness of people around. Her profession seemed to teach her that a lawyer cannot succeed without becoming a liar and a woman cannot without becoming a ‘woo’man! The outright hypocrisy and subtle superficiality made her feel deeply sad. Values were apparently not valued while deceit seemed like the way of life. She had been unable to digest why the world was so fake and that manifested as severe indigestion. Her suffering body was a manifestation of a deep-seated heartache.

In other words, Sonja was a physical wreck because she was a mental and psychological wreck. And she had no clue as to where relief would come from.

The voice within

Sonja sat on the hospital bed hearing the same old diagnosis,
“There is nothing life-threatening that you are suffering from... But you will have to take medicines for a long time...”
Sonja turned away. She looked out of the window at the little garden that was beside her room.  All of a sudden, a little sound came from her heart. It was like a tiny bell ringing and Sonja heard a diagnosis that took her by surprise.
“You are your own problem”, the voice said, “It is not an illness. You are your own problem.”

Sonja realized that the voice was emanating from within her. She just knew that her problem was neither physical nor psychological. So, there was no way that any doctor’s diagnosis was going to cure her. The realization was instantaneous and the words spontaneously dropped forth from her mouth,
“Doctor, I want to go home.”

Sonja then tried to explain the reason for her decision. The elderly doctor seemed very interested in listening to her. But he appeared as if he was not understanding. He came closer and before Sonja could realize, he tried to kiss her. Sonja was now mortified. She firmly rejected him.
“No! I want to go home NOW.”
“That is highly unadvisable. There are risks...”
Sonja felt all of her strength returning for a moment that needed her to be strong. She did not want to believe anything this man said or did. She said very firmly that she was getting herself discharged. Her vehemence in itself seemed to push the cheapskate doctor away.

Sonja was out of hospital that same day. Though it was exactly her 26th birthday, Sonja did not know that it would mark the first day of a new birth for her even as she decided to meet the ‘strange woman’ that everyone used to warn her against.