Monday, 7 September 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 1 - Hello Delhi

An excitement build-up

The aerial 'chariot' booked to serve as the Lord's carrier to Delhi. Here, the aircraft is seen parked in the Puttaparthi
airport with the Super Specialities Hospital seen in the background. 
Travelling with Bhagawan Baba to visit a place is an experience that can never be captured adequately in words. Yet, time and again, that very effort is made by those who are blessed to have accompanied Him during various visits. This serial too is such an attempt where I try to relive and share the beautiful memories gathered during Swami’s visit to Delhi and Simla in the summer of 2010.

Spending days in the direct physical presence of Bhagawan is like seeing a multi-faceted diamond. The observer sees His divine sparkle based on his/her own perspective. Now, that is the problem with trying to describe the days spent in the divine presence - at best it can capture only one perspective and a few facets of the Divine Diamond. But then, I feel that it would be a grave injustice to hold back describing those few facets out of fear of not being comprehensive and all-encompassing. So, with humility and love, I shall proceed with this magical travelogue. I have already written in great detail about the dramatic manner in which I got to know that I was selected for the Delhi-Simla visit.

I had only a couple of days to prepare for the trip with Swami. The excitement of being selected after such intense pining was unbearable. I wasn’t able to eat or sleep properly. I called my parents and told them about the complete change of plans. Well, the change was not so ‘complete’ because I told them to fly to Delhi as planned. Just that, instead of going to the Kumbh Mela, they would stay on at Delhi itself.   I called my sister and many others to obtain small releases of these excitement bouts! Swami Himself added to the excitement on the day preceding takeoff, the 8th of April 2010, during the darshan session in the mandir. After the bhajans got over and Arati had been taken, Swami continued to sit on the dais. He then said,
“Delhi boys.”
Slowly, from all directions, all the boys selected came forward and sat on the steps facing Him. Swami instructed that everyone should be ready, have breakfast and head to the airport. He also gave specific instructions to a few members. Looking at me, He said something very softly. Though I moved up to Him, I could not make out what He was saying. So, I just knelt in front of Him, smiling. Swami also smiled and agreed to my request of padanamaskar. I bent over the railings and gently kissed His feet. I must have looked like a giraffe bending over a fence to drink water but I didn’t care. Who cares how one looks when one is getting the opportunity to kiss those redeeming feet - the feet that promise to take one across the ocean of life (Dusthara Bhava Sagara Tharanam) as Swami Himself puts it?

The road was lined  with people who had come to wave goodbye to Swami. On the top right of the photograph
is the runway of the Puttaparthi airport. 
Swami’s magic works even before people meet Him

The 9th of April dawned very early for me. I was up even before the sun had thoughts of rising because I had hardly slept at night. Such was the excitement that it almost seemed like a whole day before it became 9:45 am when we were supposed to transfer our entire luggage near the Poornachandra auditorium! From where they would be picked and transported to the aircraft by a trailer tractor. By 11:45 am we too assembled at the airport, having finished a late breakfast. The yellow hospital bus ferried us to the airport where the preliminary checks and check-ins were done. Since the airport is not used regularly, special personnel had arrived to do these security duties. Thus, it took a little longer than at normal airports. It was almost 1:40 pm when all of us were in the aircraft, waiting for Swami’s arrival.

It was a Kingfisher Airlines flight that had been chartered for Swami. The entire aircraft was for our motley group! Some of us began to chat with our pilot and co-pilot. They were coming to Puttaparthi for the first time and hearing us speak, they soon realized that this would be an opportunity of a lifetime for them. They were thrilled and that was evident in the special gesture they showed towards us - allowing us to take pictures in the cockpit! 

In the cockpit! A nice photo-op for all of us because the pilot and co-pilot were moved to devotion for Swami.
(With Aswath Narayan.)
The satsangh with them continued and the co-pilot confessed that the crowds of people who had gathered to see Swami around the airport - on the hillocks, along the road, on trees  and at every other conceivable space -simply amazed him.
“We sit far away and are completely oblivious of Baba’s influence. It is so amazing. I never knew I would be piloting His plane. It’s a privilege, a great chance.”

Did I notice a tear of joy in his eye? I don’t know, but his feelings were a good indicator for me to share a few stories of Bhagawan’s love and grace. Time flew now and soon, it was time for Swami’s scheduled arrival. Sai Prakash (CG) and I positioned ourselves at the entrance of the aircraft, watching the Porte car which was serving as the Lord’s chariot.

Takeoff with Swami

Swami was wheeled into the aircraft on the carrier’s wheelchair that is small enough to fit through the flight door. As soon as Swami had settled in the first seat of the flight, Captain Sharma and his team (who take care of the airport in the most dedicated manner) offered their gratitude to Swami and sought His blessings. When this was happening, the pilot who had been overwhelmed with new-found devotion to Swami rushed and fell at His feet! I stood there taking pictures, lost in the beauty of Swami's shower of blessings and grace. I also noticed that the Divine Feet had been beautifully wrapped in sandals and took a picture of HIs feet. Ah! What a picture it is!

Those beautiful feet in sandals... Meditate on them and be assured of crossing the Bhavasagara...
After the pilot left, I asked Swami whether I could take a solo picture of Him and Swami said ‘No’. I walked back to my seat, happy to be sharing the aircraft with the Lord of my life. Soon, the Airlines owner, Vijay Mallya, came on the screens in front of our seats to tell us how it was his privilege to serve us as his guests.

Swami watching the screen on top where the safety instructions were being
delivered after a warm welcome. 
Swami too watched the screen. I felt that this was Mallya’s greatest good fortune - whether he knew and realized it or not, Swami was watching him! It is said that a look of the Avatar is enough to confer the greatest gift man could ever desire. In fact, when someone asked Swami Vivekananda whether he would have redemption, Swami Vivekananda asked him back,
“Have you ever seen Paramahamsa Ramakrishna?”
“Only once, and that too from a distance!”
“Then your redemption is guaranteed without doubt. Do not worry!” was the reply.

I was reminded of this anecdote as Swami watched Mallya on the screen and I have decided that I will tell the same to him if and when we happen to meet!
“Your redemption is guaranteed without doubt because whether you saw the Avatar or not, the Avatar has seen you!”

Even the safety procedures and rules were explained on the screen itself. The flight taxied down the runway and we had to reach the eastern end to start our acceleration for take off. Outside the window, we could see the adoration and adulation of the people for Swami. The blazing hot sun didn’t seem to matter as people of all ages and countries alike stood with bare protection, waving to the aircraft. That flight would never before have received such devotion I thought!

A few students and staff who managed to get close to the runway, wave to their Swami.
It was a bit tumultuous as we got airborne and as the plane vibrated, I looked at the shaking body of Swami. I was a bit concerned but well, from the looks of it, Swami was hardly fazed.

The flight was cruising. Lunch and drinks (of course ONLY non-alcoholic ones) were served. Our flight to Delhi would take a little more than 2 hours we were told. Once the curtains between the economy and the first class lounge were closed (and Swami hidden from our view), we all settled in our seats. There were about 120 seats for the 18 of us! I sat beside Ravi bhaiya and we had an interesting discussion on how we should be happy always and no matter what, happiness is an attitude and a decision. Looking outside the window, I took some shots of the beautiful cloud formations and it was so thrilling- the grey clouds interspersed between the white fluffy ones and it was as if God was continuously painting and repainting the skies for us. I had travelled many times by air but this seemed like the most beautiful journey. Everything that I was experiencing seemed to be bathed in a divine light. That is the effect of travelling with God - whether in a flight or in life. I prayed that I should always ensure Him in the front seat of my life’s journey as well.

An unforgettable journey

Offering hospitality to Swami was a great opportunity to all the crew members and they did it by always getting
on to their knees.
The seats in the flight were comfortable and each one of us had a screen in front of us. These screens would actually play movies of a wide range but that function had been disengaged as a mark of respect to Divinity aboard the flight - I mean who would want to watch a movie in the sanctum of a temple? The screens now displayed travel information and interesting facts about the journey we were undertaking. That held my interest for about 10 minutes before I began to itch to move near Swami on some pretext or the other.

One hour into the flight,( the minutes were dragging on... How come time flies when next to Swami and drags when away from Him? No wonder Einstein won accolades for his relativity of time concept!) CG told me that the crew members were interacting with Swami. The Hadshi-flight experience had taught me that this was the opportune moment to make our entry.With CG, I proceeded to the front and sure enough, Swami began to bless each and every member of the crew with namaskar and a picture with Him. The photo session then began.

The various crew members including the pilot (top right) get blessed by Swami.
As the crew members were done, the pilot and co-pilot also took their chance with Him after placing the aircraft on cruise-control mode. In between, when Swami was looking straight into the camera, I quickly zoomed in and took a few close-ups too. I was happy. It was then that Swami asked Satyajit,
“Can the chair go (back) there (where the boys are seated)?”
Satyajit replied,
“Swami the chair cannot move but the boys can come here.”

Swami agreed with a smile. So now, it was the boys' turn to flow to the front, one by one, and pose with Swami. This time, Swami was looking into CG’s video camera for most of the time and CG was so happy. I was getting slightly jealous and was thinking, “CG, your great chance is going to cost some of the boys a good picture with Swami because, while the boy is looking into my camera lens, Swami is looking at you!”

Some members of the crew were standing behind me and taking pictures with their cell phones.  It was amazing how even in the inner recesses of an aircraft, Swami had 5-10 photographers! Thus, there was also quite some movement behind me. Swami seemed to get distracted and He used that distraction as an opportunity to bless those fortunate crew members with loving glances!
When brother Srinivasulu came and sat next to Swami, He seemed to get quite emotional. It was such a beautiful scene and and a tribute to brother Lu’s perseverance. (He had joined the organization after waiting for 7 years on completion of his education. In his 25 years of dedication at the lotus feet, this was the first time Swami was taking him along with Him.) Such devotion naturally makes the Lord emotional I thought. Swami kept looking at him with such love as he reverentially bowed to His feet, took namaskar and left.

Swami blesses the accompanying members too. (Clockwise from top) Ravi bhaiya, Brother Srinivasulu, Prof. Anil
Kumar and Prof. Venkatraman. 
Sai Krishna (of the O Nesthama fame) asked Swami whether he could get a picture with Him along with his brother and thus fulfilled a long-nourished desire of his. The boys were followed by the elders and Swami blessed all with the chance. The security guards too had their pictures taken. After all were done, I called Jagadish and went to Swami’s side. I held out my hand and seeing it, Swami placed His hand in mine. I held it with both my hands as Jagadish took the picture. Then I bowed and kissed His hand. That was followed by kisses planted on both His feet.
I took the video camera as CG went and posed with Swami. After that was done, I indicated to Swami that the photo session was complete and Swami motioned with His right index finger for us to return to our seats.

Returning joyously to our places, I quickly copied all the pictures of the crew members on to a flash drive which they gave and they were all feeling so fulfilled. In another 20 minutes, announcements were made about the impending touchdown! I dozed off for a short while and was woken up as the plane hit the hard earth of the Delhi runway.

Hello Delhi

The whole flight seemed like a dream when I caught a glimpse of orange amidst the slightly parted curtains. The plane taxied to the terminal and there were hundreds of people on the tarmac waiting to catch a glimpse of Swami. That sight was reassuring because it told me that this was not actually a dream and that a magnificent trip had just begun! I offered gratitude to Swami for having been made a part of this trip

This was the beginning of a journey of great physical proximity for me...
As we landed, I told CG that the large number of "anti-camera security warnings’ issued everywhere, right from the studio to Capt. Sharma’s message at the airport, were simply not being followed. There were dozens of photographers snapping away and those without cameras were using cell phones. Swami’s car whisked Him away towards the International Sai Centre from the tarmac itself. In the aircraft, we realized that so many of Swami’s items had been left in the luggage compartments above. We garnered and gathered everything ( foot mats, suitcases and bags)and soon were in the terminal. Many people stared at us for we were two dozen people in pure whites. All others were in their true ‘colours’ and some of them were barely clothed! They looked at us as if we were some aliens from some unknown planet and for me, some of them indeed looked like aliens from some unknown planet! Tattooed people and weirdo-hairdo people trudged past us and I felt so special to be part of a ‘civilized’ world.

Seva dal members came to our assistance and in a few minutes we were in the air-conditioned Rai-school bus, headed towards the International Sai Center. Once again, I just shrugged away the slightly off-beat reception at the airport and dozed away. I heard later on that we were held up in heavy traffic. When I woke up, I heard a siren and soon realized that the siren belonged to our minibus and we were being accorded VIP status! Wow! I never had thought that I would one day be travelling in a Lal Batti vehicle. With God, anything is possible for anyone! I looked forward to the rest of the day.

to be continued in Part 2 at the link below:

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 2 - Dinner with God

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  1. Sairam Aravind, Thanks to Bhagwan to make me a computer literate that i could read such wonderful experiences with Bhagwan. Thanks to you awaiting your second part ......

  2. ...We are all made more closer to an avatar/
    Your karmic birth has its reasons/
    The more closer You are..the more we are too/
    Your experiences becomes our experiences too/
    Thank You and all Blessings.....aum sri sai ram....

  3. Sairam,
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful experiences with Bhagwan, and expecting part 2.

    1. Sairam. We are also Blessed by SWAMY for reading this wonderful article written byyou. We are also enjoyed with SWAMY the TOUR as if you were. SAIRAM.

      Pitchumani Sundaravaradhan

    2. happiness is an attitude and a decision. This is so true. Thank you very much for this wonderful article. I've heard Prof Anil Kumar's account and look forward to the rest of yours. This is the second time that I'm joining you all on this spiritual adventure with Swami. Loving regards.

  4. Thanks for sharing the precious moments with SAI!

  5. Kindly let us know where the various materialised idols/ items are.... and Arvind bhaiya please do disclose known facts about Premasai......


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