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.

During the course of the interview, the group coordinator mentioned to Swami,
“Swami Sonja here is a singer... and she sings only for you.”
“I know... I know”. The sweet reply was immediate. Swami looked at Sonja as if egging her on to sing.

There were so many people gathered and Sonja felt that it would not be right to break into a long song and take so much of Swami’s time. So she decided to sing a small Sanskrit verse which would also convey to Swami what she felt for Him.

Twameva Matascha Pita Twameva
Twameva Bandhuscha Sakha Twameva
Twameva Vidyascha Dravinam Twameva
Twameva Sarvam Mama Deva Deva

(You are my mother and my father.
You are my family and my friend.
You are my knowledge and my wealth.
You are my all, God of Gods.)

Even as she completed the first line, she had a doubt in pronouncing the second line. She looked at Swami and hesitated to sing. Swami smiled and to her beautiful amazement, Swami began to sing along. He was now doing physically what He had been doing all this while from within - granting the words and music to Sonja! It was a blissful experience beyond explanation as the Lord sang out to His devotee the same lines that the devotee was singing out to Him! Singing the last line of the hymn, Sonja stretched out her hands in devotion to Swami. Swami held both her hands in His in the most divinely sweet manner.

The 'darkness' in her life had actually brought Sonja closer to the light of her life!
The interview was the highest point in Sonja’s life. (But then, every moment at the Lotus Feet is the highest point isn’t it?)  She almost floated out of the interview room after the interview was completed. Even when she returned to Italy, she felt that she was flying not in an aeroplane but on the wings of joy and love that Bhagawan had bestowed on her!

Then came an unexpected fall.

Another dark night passeth...

As soon as Sonja stepped into Italy, she contracted a sore throat. What would otherwise be a minor problem for a couple of days began to grow monstrous in proportions. The throat only seemed to get worse and in a week’s time, Sonja was not able to sing at all. Another week passed and there was no sign of the throat recovering. Would she lose her divine gift as suddenly as she had got it?

Fear and sorrow filled Sonja’s heart once again. She did not know what to do now but to call out to her Sai Krishna from the bottom of her heart. She felt that her prayer, her meditation and her offering to the Lord had all been snatched away so fast. Was this His will?

It was just 20 days since her return from Brindavan, Whitefield, when she received another invite. The group of Italians with whom she had made the journey was now going to Prasanthi! Would she be interested in joining them again? Sonja did not have the voice even to say “Yes”, but she jumped at the offer. She reached  Whitefield because Swami was still there. When she made calls to her colleagues at work, she was unable to even give instructions.  But that was not her concern.  What mattered most to her was that she would never be able to sing out her love for her Swami.

With her group, Sonja followed Swami to Prasanthi but her heart was far from the ‘supreme peace’ that the abode symbolised. Her group coordinator asked her how she was. She broke down with tears rolling her cheeks. In a hoarse whisper she confessed,
“My voice is gone... I fear that I shall never be able to sing again...”
“Oh my God! If I get a chance to speak to Swami, I shall tell Him tomorrow...”
“Please don’t bother... Don’t bother the Lord of the Universe with a sore throat...”

The Lord of the Universe assumes that position because what means a world to us, means a world to Him too!  The next day, Swami directly asked the coordinator,
“How is your friend?”
“Which friend Swami?”
“The lady lawyer...”
“Oh Swami! She is not well. She has a problem with her voice...”
“I know... I know... She is crying and crying...”
Swami began to wave His palm in circles and out materialized the grey, fluffy ash.
“This is for her fears and her voice. I have given it to her and will not take it back.”

It took just a couple of hours for Sonja’s fears to melt away and her voice to get better! It was still a bit hoarse but Sonja was now sure that she would recover. The same afternoon, Swami called the little Italian group for an interview and as soon as Sonja entered the room, Swami looked at her and asked her how she was.
"Now happy Swami.”
Swami looked at her group coordinator, smiled and said,
“She is happy now...".  

An offering that is accepted

Sonja decided that she would record all the bhajans that were being inspired by Swami in the voice that Swami had gifted her. The first steps on a journey of several CDs was thus taken. Remembering Swami’s omnipresence and the beautiful moments at His Lotus Feet, Sonja decided to name the second album “Here... Now”. The title is also a reminder to the powerful Truth about how life should be lived - here and now!

It is not surprising that Sonja wanted to offer the newly-released CD to her Lord. The trip to Prasanthi was made in 2007 and Sonja spoke to her group coordinator, Mr.Ferrante. On behalf of the Italian group, he would be making an offering to Swami and he agreed to carry Sonja’s CD too along with him. Sonja gave him an extra copy with the desire that Swami would sign it as a token of His blessings.

Mr. Ferrante set out on his pleasant task. Sonja eagerly awaited his return. Just like a water droplet that begins its journey as a cloud from the ocean finds fulfillment when it returns to the ocean via a river, Sonja’s music and bhajans too would find fulfillment only when they reach their source. But it seemed as though she would be disappointed because Swami had directly said that such a desire (to get the CD signed) was a childish one when much more important things could be asked of Him.

Days passed and soon, it was time for her to depart for Italy. As she was getting packed to leave, Mr.Ferrante came up to her and said,
“I have something for you from Swami...”
He handed over the CD to her and said,
“Swami said that He wanted to have another look at it. He opened it and leafed through the booklet. Then, He handed it to me and said that it was His energy and blessings. He instructed that this CD should be kept near the other CDs before distributing them.”

Sonja was thrilled. This act of grace was like an oasis in a desert for her. With gratitude and joy oozing from her, she took the CD, opened it and reverentially leafed through the booklet. Yes! This was the same booklet that the Lord had leafed through! She placed the CD carefully in her hand baggage and left for the airport.

She was speeding in the taxi, two hours later, when the phone call came. It was Mr. Ferrante.
“Swami wants to know if you liked the joke...”
What was the joke? Sonja did not understand at first. But somehow, she knew it had to do something with the CD. She opened the bag and took out the CD. She froze in divine delight!

Swami had indeed blessed the CD with His signature... in His signature style! There was such a profusion of vibhuti that Sonja was struck speechless. 

Swami's 'signature' all over the CD case and inside also. This was Swami's 'joke' on Sonja!
She closed her eyes and mentally offered gratitude to Swami who had given her much more than she had dared to ask.

The fulfillment of the water droplet

Sonja’s dream journey had begun when her life seemed to get nightmarish. It had all begun with a dream in which she saw both her dearest ones - Swami and Krishna - as One, clad in the Pitambara (yellow dress). Wouldn’t it be poetic to culminate in the same grand manner? Trust the Lord to make the perfect plans and perfect endings to stories!

It was the Christmas of 2010. Sonja got the most beautiful opportunity to sing two songs in the Divine Presence on the 25th of December, 2010. She had picked a bhajan on Krishna and Sai - both her favourites.

Mukunda Murari Murari Gopal
Hey Gopal Sai Hey Sai Nandalal
Prasanthi Nivasi Nivasi Nandalal
Hey Antaratma Jyoti Hey Jyoti Nandalal.

Here is a short clip of her actual performance in the Divine Presence that day. Enjoy it before proceeding ahead.

The thrilled look on Sonja’s face becomes obvious when one realizes that Swami, on that Christmas day, actually came in the Pitambara, the yellow robe! The setting couldn’t have been more ethereal for Sonja - singing about her Sai Krishna in the physical presence of Swami who was dressed in the yellow robe. Her journey which had begun with the dream had found a fairytale fulfillment!

When God scripts a fairytale ending to the Divine Romance, one can only shed profuse tears of love and gratitude. In
this picture, Sonja accepts the two chocolate bars that Swami gifts her after her soulful rendering on Christmas 2010.
At that time Sonja had no idea that this would be Swami’s last Christmas in the physical frame. But the love of the Lord is such that once again He had given her a hint on how to proceed in life. The third line of the bhajan glorifies Swami as the resident of Prasanthi Nilayam. But at a deeper level, it also means that Swami resides wherever there is supreme peace (Prasanthi). As if confirming this, the fourth line goes on to praise Him as the ‘inner light of the Atma’(Antar Atma Jyoti). Sonja today realizes that that her Sai Gopal will have to forever be sought in her heart from where He can never, ever leave.

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  1. Madhusudanvithal Nori18 May 2015 at 15:45

    Sairam Aravind, thanks a lot for this 2 part narrative. Last year when we were visiting our daughters in US, we attended a satsang in Naperville centre Chicago and heard 2 devotees from Italy, one spoke and the other sang bhajans - if I am not mistaken it was Sonja Venturi who sang bhajans. Best wishes and Love...Madhusudanvithal Nori

    1. Sai Ram, Yes, I helped organise that satsang and it was Sonja Venturi in fact that sang. Such a beautiful memory, grown men were seen to shed tears. Loving Sai Rams

  2. Bro superb experience jst reminds me the tym wen i was supposed to sing bhajan in mandir n my voice was gone.....swami jst helped me recover my voice perfectly on the final day

  3. What a wonderful experience!!! Thank you brother....


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