Wednesday, 4 January 2017

If you need me, you deserve me - Baba in Bahrain

“If it is okay with all of you, I wish to stay back. I’ll take care of little Gopal and stay at home...”
“But it is Patel, a close friend of Dwarkanadh. How can we not go?”
“You can go. I really don’t feel like coming”, Mrs. Pankajam Sundaram persisted, “do not force me to come along please.”
“It is okay if she wants to stay back”, her son in law, Dwarkanadh, interrupted, “My friend would not like to be the cause of discomfort for anyone. Plus, she may be eager to spend time with little Sai...”

The father in law looked at Sai Gopal and then turned to Pankajam,
“If he says so, then stay at home. But we may get late at night.”
“It is okay. Manama is a very safe city... and I don’t plan to step out of the house anyway”, Pankajam replied to her husband.

Mr Sundaram, Mrs Pankajam Sundaram with little Sai Gopal. 

Dwarkanadh knew that the main reason his mother in law didn’t want to come for dinner was because his friend was a “Sai devotee”. Pankajam was an orthodox and staunch follower of Vaishnavism and she considered Vishnu as the only supreme Godhead. She naturally didn’t want to be associated to a ‘person’ who was adored as an Avatar of Shiva! This was possibly the reason why she preferred to address her grandson as ‘Gopal’ leaving out the ‘Sai’ prefix.

Mr. N.R.Dwarkanadh, on the other hand, was a sincere devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In fact, a couple of years before in February 1981, he had founded the first Sai Samithi in Bahrain along with a few other devotees. When a son was born to him in February 1982, it was natural that the parents christened him with the prefix ‘Sai’. The doting grandparents, Dwarkanadh’s in-laws, had travelled from the Indian capital New Delhi to Manama to attend the boy’s first birthday. The father in law had taken to Swami the way a fish takes to water. But Pankajam had her reservations against dining at a Sai devotee’s place!

Thus it was on the evening of 17th of March, 1983, Dwarkanadh, his wife and his father in law left for the friend’s place at about 7:30 pm. Pankajam and the year-old Sai Gopal stayed back at home.

Unexpected visitor

Grandmother and grandchild spent a couple of happy hours in each other's company. Past dinnertime, the child seemed to get hungry. Pankajam fetched the feeding bottle and started giving milk to her grandson. Gopal contentedly settled with the bottle in his cradle, suckling at it with gusto. That was when there was a knock on the door.

Pankajam ignored it at first. She didn’t know anyone in Bahrain and so, the house could practically be considered locked as far as any visitor was concerned. However, the visitor was quite persistent with the knocking. Pankajam thought that it was her son in law’s cousin and his wife who were staying next door. They might have come to check on her to see that she was fine. The knocking continued and finally, Pankajam rose from the chair at the dining table. She walked to the door. She unlocked the door and opened it. Instantly, she realized that she had been totally wrong in her guess of who it might be. Her face turned pale and she instinctively moved to slam the door shut. So fast was her reaction that she hurt her hand in the process.

It was around 10 pm when Dwarkanadh, his wife and father in law returned home. They knocked on the door several times but got no response. When minutes of efforts yielded nothing, Dwarkanadh pulled out the duplicate key and opened the door. The trio was shocked at the sight that met their eyes.

Pankajam was seated at the dining table, pale with shock and almost fainting. She was sweating profusely. Her husband surmised that this sign in a cardiac patient was that of a heart-attack. So, he rushed to the room, fetched her pills and gave her medication that calmed her. Pankajam did not speak a word for a few minutes. As the colour returned to her face, she finally began to speak. That was when the colour began to drain from everyone else’s faces!

“Swami came home”, she said, “he came here and put vibhuti all over my forehead and left!”

Unfolding of an amazing tale

Nobody believed what she said. How could she have seen Swami in Bahrain which is thousands of kilometers away from the Avatar’s home country India? Everyone sat around her and calmed her. They told her to slowly narrate what had happened. It was the most extraordinary tale of their lives.

Around 9:30 pm (Bahrain time), there had been persistent knocks on the door. After a while, Pankajam went to the door and opened it. Through the few inches of open door, she saw Swami. He was standing there with the flowing robe and thick mop of hair. Thinking that this was some prank or someone in disguise, Pankajam tried to slam the door shut on His face. But Swami stopped her and told in Tamil,
“I have brought this apple for Dwarkanadh.”

This picture of Swami seated on the Jhoola, holding an apple in His hand adorned the wall in Dwarkanadh's home. It
seemed to literally come alive on that unforgettable night...

She saw the apple in His hand and stopped herself from slamming the door on Swami’s face. Swami then shifted the apple from His right hand to the left. He created vibhuti and applied it on Pankajam’s forehead. He then turned and disappeared as mysteriously as He had appeared. Pankajam was shaken. She stepped out. There was no trace of Swami now. Then, she shut the door and sat at the dining table, trying to come to terms with what had happened. Half an hour had passed like minutes when Dwarkanadh and the others had arrived and found her sitting shell-shocked at the dining table.

Dwarkanadh’s first thoughts were that his mother in law had suffered a severe bout of hallucination. As though reading his mind, Pankajam blurted out,
“Will I ever apply vibhuti?”
Now that was a very valid question. There was no way his mother in law, a staunch Vaishnavite, would apply the holy ash associated with the competitor-deity, Shiva. In her worst nightmare if she had to forcibly apply vibhuti to her forehead, she would apply it as three vertical line (like the Vaishnavites  do) instead of three horizontal ones (like the Shaivites do). Right now Dwarkanadh could clearly discern horizontal vibhuti lines.

Dwarkanadh called up the few Sai-devotee friends he had and informed them of what had happened. As per their advice, they performed Arati to the spot where Swami had stood at their door. It was late in the night by then and everyone decided to sleep over the happenings.

The picture from which Vibhuti began to "bubble out" from.
Divine confirmation

In spite of the magnitude of the miracle, the mind has an amazing ability to doubt and deliberate. Dwarkanadh had at home a large picture of Swami sitting on a jhoola (swing) holding an apple in His hand. He thought that this picture might have been the basis of his mother in law imagining that Swami brought an apple for Dwarkanadh. There was also sufficient vibhuti in their home to cover her forehead completely. There was no way to conclusively tell whether Pankajam had an experience or was imagining. After a couple of days, Pankajam too became aware of the suspicions that were being hurled at her, But she could do nothing to clear them.

Swami had probably decided to intervene and set matters straight.

There was a picture of Swami raising His hands in Abhayahastha at Dwarkanadh’s house. IN response to Pankajam’s prayer, vibhuti began to ooze out of the photograph. And this happened in the presence of several devotees from the Sai Center at Manama. As one of the eyewitnesses, Sri Suresh Deshpande recollects,
“It was a scene that I can never forget. You have seen how people blow soap bubbles. Vibhuti was bubbling out like that from the photograph.”

Awed by this, everyone seemed convinced that Pankajam had indeed been visited and blessed by Swami. The devotees coming to Dwarkanadh’s house began to increase and, in a matter of days, the strength of the Sai Center increased from a couple of dozens to a few hundred! Sri Vinod Passi who had also been responsible for setting up the Sai Center in Manama, urged Dwarkanadh to write about this miracle to Sri N Kasturi, the editor of the Sanathana Sarathi monthly magazine.
“Sanathana Sarathi accepts article contributions. You should share this experience with all”, he told Dwarkanadh.
Agreeing with him, Dwarkanadh penned down the episode and sent it across to Bhagawan Baba’s biographer.

In the meanwhile, another interesting development took place. Pankajam had a fatty tumour under her right knee which had been diagnosed by the American Mission Hospital in Bahrain the previous week as non-malignant. It was recommended to be removed surgically as it was causing pain. During the next visit to the hospital the doctors could not believe how a tumour of that size disappeared without surgery, hardly in a week’s time! It had disappeared completely after Bhagawan’s touch on her forehead.

The Ultimate confirmation

The mind also has a short memory when it concerns faith. Miracles began in abundance at Dwarkanadh’s home and vibhuti began to appear from several photographs. In fact, there was a picture of Shirdi Baba from which Udi, the coarser ash which Shirdi Baba would give from the Dhuni (fireplace), began to appear. Whichever home Pankajam went to, there would be vibhuti appearing from some picture of Swami there! In spite of all this, there was still some doubt on whether Pankajam had really seen Swami in flesh and blood. That was possibly playing on the minds of some devotees in Bahrain too because they were eager to see if the article would get published in the Sanathana Sarathi. (Those days, every article was published after getting approval from Swami.)

Another problem with the mind is the way on which it attaches importance to the wrong things forgetting the important ones! Instead of getting inspired that anyone and everyone could seek Swami’s presence directly, people would clamour with great enthusiasm for the bhajans being held at Dwarkanadh’s home because of Pankajam’s presence there! The finger is used to point to the moon. It’s only purpose is to indicate the moon. How foolish it would be if one refuses to see the moon and, instead, gets attached to the pointing finger?

In the April of 1983, Sri Suresh Deshpande was in Prasanthi Nilayam with his family. One morning, he paid a visit to Sri N Kasturi.

Interestingly, it was Udi that began to manifest from
the photo of Shirdi Baba.
“Oh! You are from Bahrain”, exclaimed the amiable professor, “we have received a report of an amazing miracle of grace that happened in Manama.”
Suresh was thrilled.
“Oh yes! It happened in the home of my friend.”
“Could you relate what happened?”
Thus it was that Kasturi heard the entire story as related by Suresh. Everyone was overcome with love for Swami. At the end of the meeting, Suresh asked Kasturi,
“Sir, will this story appear in the Sanathana Sarathi?”
“Ah! That is left totally to Swami’s wish. We receive so many such miracles from around the world. What He decides should be published is published.”

Suresh informed this to the devotees in Bahrain.

Imagine everyone’s delight when the July 1983 issue of Sanathana Sarathi carried an article titled, “Baba in Bahrain” narrating the experience of Mrs. Pankajam Sundaram! As Sri Suresh Deshpande says,
“For me personally, seeing the article in Sanathana Sarathi was more exciting that hearing the experience in Bahrain because this was the divine stamp of approval that Swami had indeed visited that home in Bahrain.”

Take home lesson - “take Baba home” lesson

On 29th March, 2004, Mrs. Pankajam Sundaram passed away in the city of Chennai. In the two decades following her experience in Bahrain, she constantly kept in touch with her Swami in her heart. She was ridden with several health problems and could not do much sadhana. But she always ensured the daily Arati to Swami and God seemed pleased with her efforts. She experienced many more manifestations of vibhuti  at her home. The final such shower came at the electric crematorium in Chennai as her body awaited its final fate - to be reduced to ashes. The family members observed profuse vibhuti on her face and feet, the only parts of the body which were exposed!

Waiting for my day to do this! :)
(Photoshopped image
 so please don't circulate as 'miracle pic'!)
Her life experiences show that God has been very kind on the Kali Yuga. One need not be a Yogi or a sadhaka with great austerities. Simple yearning (towards any form), loyalty (to the chosen name and form), sincerity and simplicity are enough to make Him manifest even when we have not asked for it. As Bhagawan Baba puts it,
“If you need me, you deserve me.”
That holds true even if we are ourselves not aware of us needing Him. When there is a need, the Lord manifests. If the Lord is not manifesting, that means there is no need! So, if I want to see Swami, I have to move from ‘wanting’ Him to ‘needing’ Him. Can I start ‘needing’ Him in my life every moment?

The take-home lesson from Mrs Pankajam Sundaram’s life for me is to take Swami home with me. It is very much possible because there is no place in this Universe that He cannot manifest and no time period that He cannot access. Till He decides to do that, I shall wait at home eagerly anticipating the knock on my door...

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  1. Sairam,

    Your post came at the right time for me. Thanks Sairam

  2. Thanks Aravind! Everytime i read your article, i shed tears profusely. Could feel Swami's love flowing through you!! Jai Sairam!

  3. Sairam Aravind! Touched by the reassurance of Swami's omnipresence. Such stories give lot of strength and inspiration! Thanks for Sharing.

  4. Beautiful and inspiring story/message. I am also in the same boat waiting to see Swami again through physical eyes :-)

  5. The reassurance from Swami "If you need me you deserve me" is something I hold very dear to my heart. And I experience it often. Why, even this blog post by you today is a perfectly timed response to my cries and prayers this morning as I sang bhajans for Swami. Seeing the photo of Swami as well as Shirdi Baba really soothed my heart as I just finished one saptaha parayana of Shirdi Sai Satcharita and have begun the next saptaha today. I was asking Swami for a sign to show that He has accepted the first saptaha and is happy with it and is blessing me to complete all the remaining saptahas that I intend to do. And He has immediately responded through this blog post today. :) Swami's infinite love and grace are truly unfathomable. It is futile to try and describe them in words. All we can do is experience Swami and His love and grace and shed silent tears of gratitude and joy.

  6. Sairam Brother,thankyou so much.

  7. I read and heard this many times, but still I love to read.

  8. Sairam Aravind and thanks for sharing this article. for me it is a lesson to do namasmarana at all times so that the ego is subdued and illusion of perceived world is rejected. looking forward to many more eye openers from your pen inspired by SWAMI.

  9. I read and heard this many times, but still I love to read.

  10. Sairam. .Swami you are always with us..Jai sairam

  11. Swami always with us. .He is our Master

  12. So touching....

  13. Would like to share a Sai Miracle...(also of the early eighties... Sai Samithi Goregaon unit, Mumbai.)
    One Mrs Komrubail, she was a staunch devotee of Swami but her husband nor her children, 3 daughters and a son did not believe in Swami. She was a very good bhajan singer and a harmonioum player.
    She conducted Bal Vikas classes, study class and there were monthly Thursday bhajans in her house.
    Once it so happened that her son Deepak fell very sick.. He was lying on the bed in the living room and there lo and behold Swami appeared on the wall of the living room.. Bust size.. Gazing at Deepak.. Needless to say he recovered.. But the form of Swami with the orange robe..those curly locks, the mole on the cheek... that form had appeared on the wall.. And the form stayed for quite a few days and then slowly faded away...(most of our Samithi members are a witness to the form that appeared since it did not disappear but was there for a few days).
    Deepak a tabla player, later participated in all Sai bhajans.
    Mrs Komrubail remained a staunch devotee to her last breath.

  14. I don't know if you remember this Barru, but 'if you need me you deserve me' used to be on one of those black stones that used to adorn the institute path. On the other side of the same stone was 'i di not ask that you earn me, merely that you need me' :)

  15. Sai Ram Please see below

    Sai Ram Aravind. I am not sure of the year but am sure the SSSSO UK can tell you. I believe it would have been the 1990's. At this the Sai Organisation used to organise yearly retreats at the location Newbury in a old convent school. It was a very old school but the setting was beautiful. Here the organising committee would go and meet the school authorities to prepare for the retreat a number of months before. This was a yearly occurrence. As per usual the committee went along one year. Each year at the retreat Swami pictures would displayed in great numbers but never Shirdhi Baba. One year after the committee met the school the care taker came over to the Sathya Sai Organising Committee. He asked the devotees if the man in the pictures, Sai Baba would be attending again this year. The committee was perplexed. Of course we all understand that Swami is Omnipresent but the committee did not expect this question from the school care taker.

    The committee said that Swami was our teacher but that He does not attend physically and hence the many pictures are out up. But they then asked the care taker why he was asking such a question. The caretaker related the following:

    The previous year there had been a retreat and after everything had been cleared away all the devotees had left the school. The whole event was over. The caretaker said that not too long after everyone had left a beautiful Mercedes had driven into the school compound. Out of the car The Mercedes came in the Sathya Sai Baba, with another man in a headress and beard. He asked the caretaker, where are my devotees I have come to bless them. The caretaker recognising Swami from the pictures at the retreat said that the event was over and everyone had left. After this both git back into the Mercedes and left.

    The committee members realised the Person the caretaker had seen was Shirdhi Sai Baba. They showed the caretaker a picture and he confirmed. The caretaker said that Shirdhi Sai Baba did not say a word only Sri Sathya Sai Baba spoke.

    After this the committee decided to also place Shirdhi Baba photos at the retreat.

    They also realised that without knowing the caretaker had been blessed even though he had not heard of Swami.

    Sai Ram I hope this helps. Thank you


  16. Divine bliss indeed on a Thursday morning. Couldn't resist keeping down my phone without completely reading fully Swamis Leela's. Thanks & Sairam.

  17. Its my favorite quote of my dear Sai... Although i have never seen Him... I just want to be with Him, forever. Om Namah Shivai... Om Namo Bhagwate Vasudevay ... Om Sai Ram ��

  18. Aum sai ram...lovely read, thank you brother A...
    How coincidental that I am born on 17th of March, 1983...thank you once again...JSR...

  19. Swami is every where. If he decides He will be surely there

  20. Sairam Aravind, very beautiful and inspiring articles indeed.

  21. Thank you so much sharing such inspiring experiences. Sai Ram


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