Friday, 19 June 2015

The story behind the 'Memoirs of a Sai Student' - Part 2

Time and tide wait for none


The blessing (or rather the lack of it) for the manuscript on my birthday was a powerful prodding for me to not give up on the idea of a book of student-experiences. By this time, Swami had blessed my parents also to come and settle down in Puttaparthi after my father’s retirement. Thanks to my parents’ presence, I was relatively freed from my daily ‘maintenance’ chores. In the free time thus obtained, I made a humble beginning for the book of my life. I had no previous experience in writing a book. I did not know where to begin and how to proceed. I knew that when God gives a task, He also gives the strength needed to achieve it. I only had to start making the efforts and things would evolve as per His plan. Thus, I opened my first-ever personal diary and read through the first twenty pages. Then, I began to write whatever I felt. The beginning had been made!

{This is the concluding part of a story that is midway through its revelation. If you wish to enjoy the full story, please start from the beginning at Part 1 in the link below:

The story behind the 'Memoirs of a Sai Student' - Part 1 }


But then, the inspiration was soon put on hold because I got pulled into writing another book. Recency effect made me start writing about the recently concluded trip to Delhi and Simla. The desire to publish a book had gotten so strong in me that my mind was offering easy avenues to complete a book. I had elaborate notes and hundreds of photos from the recent trip. So, I thought I would make a ‘quick book’ out of it! At the same time, a plethora of activities began at Radiosai for the upcoming 85th Birthday celebrations of Bhagawan Baba. I got fully immersed in the making of the “Message of the Lord” - a 30-part video-serial on the life and teachings of Swami. There was also a lot of activity on the production of the grand musical - Prema Pravaham. Added to these, a plethora of cultural programmes at Sai Kulwant hall by devotees from all over the world, kept me on my toes and I literally had no time to sitting calmly and writing a book.

A screen-shot of the second episode in the Message of  the Lord serial. The 30-part serial
has been received very well the world over and can be accessed from the Radiosai site. 
2010 was over in no time and in flowed 2011. Before I could understand the implications of the grand drama that the Lord played, Swami had left the physical. It is impossible to describe what I went through and I am sure that most readers will be able to empathise with me. My world seemed to have come to an end. Everything that I held most dear, seemed to have been cruelly snatched away from me. No amount of tears shed seemed to assuage the pain my heart was reeling under. I did not know what to do. I just cried more.



Pain-soothing balm


Swami is the most loving and compassionate one. He will Himself bear great pain but He is unable to bear the pain of those that love Him and miss Him. In His own special way, He reminded me of what I should do to get rid of the pain and vacuum that had enveloped my heart. The answer came in the form of a memory...


It was something that Swami had told us at the conclusion of an unforgettable group interview during Ramadan in 2006. It had been a very warm and lovely session and so, it was not surprising that at the end, all of us prayed to Swami that we should always be close to Him. He had smiled and said that ‘nearness’ might not be possible all the time. But He also added,
Treasure and cherish all that you have received now. Keep contemplating on these moments and derive joy from them always. Be happy always.”


A memorable moment from the interview on Ramadan in 2006 where Swami advised us on how to be happy always
irrespective of His physical proximity.
‘Receiving’ from Swami is only one part of the blessing. Living and reliving what I have received is the way to be happy always. I had got my answer! Thus I started my blogging journey.



I began to relive the beautiful moments with Swami ever since I joined the school in 1998 via different articles. Recollecting them, reading through them from the diaries and reliving them brought alive my Swami in my being. The process of writing became cathartic, for all the sorrowful and fearful blood that was penting up within me. I would still shed tears now. But most of the times, these were tears of gratitude to Swami for the infinite blessings received. Though the occasional tears of sorrow from the pangs of suffering were there, they only egged me to recollect more and write more.


Since these writings gave me solace and joy, I began to share them with a few people whom I knew. Their response and support was tremendous and I got to know that reading those articles gave them similar catharsis, peace and joy. It was a win-win situation. And that was when I realized the magnitude of compassion of my Swami - He had ensured that my recollecting and writing would get postponed to a time when I would be needing it the most. How compassionate and selfless of the Lord! Even a book on His Glory is composed when the devotee needs it the most because, God has no needs. That is what Swami had told on the day the Radiosai studio got inaugurated,
“I have no need or interest in this. But Gopal (Gopal Srinivasan of the TVS Group) desires this and says that the devotees will be happy. So, I said fine.” {Aren’t we all so grateful to Swami for this boon called Radiosai? He did that also, only for our need!}


That was how I spent the first two years after Swami left the physical - writing personal experiences and anecdotes about Him. There were more than two hundred articles now and I was being called a ‘writer’. I prayed and told Swami,
“Swami, I am actually a typist because that is all I do.  You are the writer. I am doing it as my sadhana to overcome my pain and it is working. It is all your love and grace Swami.”


But apparently, everyone thought that I was a great writer. I began to get mails and messages from several readers asking me why I would not write an entire book? I was  convinced that it was Swami alone through so many readers who was inspiring me to compile the different articles of my experiences into a book. Of course there were many moments when the accolades I was getting made my ego take over. Again, I am grateful to Swami that at all such times, in His own sweet manner, through wonderful experiences, He showed me that He is the only Doer!


“Memoirs of a Sai Student”


Finally, when it came to actually getting the book ready, it was a fairly easy task because all I had to do was the aggregate the different articles I had already written. I put them in chronological order with a few additions made to ensure continuity. The Publications Division of the Ashram graciously agreed to publish the book as well. Everything moved on quickly and the printers also got the copies ready for an October release. That was when a problem arose.


It was the period of agitation in the state of Andra Pradesh with the demand for a new state of Telangana being made vociferously and riotously. In the bandhs that were being held on a daily basis, no transport vehicles (with a few exceptions) were being allowed into the state of Andhra Pradesh. There were blockades on all roads that led into the state. In such a situation, how were the printed books from Bangalore to be transported to Puttaparthi? I was told that the books might be released only after the bandhs were called off. It was at this time that Swami decided to step in again.


On the 10th day of the 10th month, the 10th of October 2013 to be precise, I got a call from Shastry sir of the Publications Division.
“Your book has arrived...” he said.
“Wow! But how?”
“Swami’s grace...”


That much, I knew! But even I couldn’t imagine what had happened. Very few vehicles were permitted across the barricades of the bandh as exceptions. One such vehicle was the van that brought flowers daily for offering at the Sai Sannidhi in Prasanthi Nilayam. The van carries flowers and nothing else. Making a rare exception, on that day, the van had also carried the first lot of the book - Memoirs of a Sai Student! I realized that even before I had offered the book to Swami, He had accepted it as an offering for, it had been transported in the special van that carried ONLY offerings to Swami!


I was beside myself with joy and gratitude and I shared this will everyone via a Facebook post. But the story did not end there. I was told by a Sai Sister -  "Keep a copy of the book with a pen in your altar. Tell Swami to sign a copy for you. I will also pray for the same."


I felt that apart from being a lovely idea, it was also a sure way to know that Swami was happy with the book. I placed a book with a marker pen beside it in the altar at home. It was the 12th of October. In the afternoon, I noticed that the pen had changed position - from the side of the book, it was now on top of the book. I was excited suddenly! I rushed and opened the first few pages. There was no signature.


I wondered how the pen had moved but there was no signature. Just as I was about to conclude that Swami did not want to sign it, I saw HIS SIGN!! It was unmistakable and I simply felt such gratitude welling in my heart.


Swami's blessings had been showered liberally on pages 8 and 9 of the book in the altar.
The amazing thing is that it is on page 9 that this happened and the photo there is of Swami looking directly at the reader. The heading says, "God is always watching."


All of us at home were simply thrilled. I needed no more proof that it had been (and will be) Swami all the way. I am just a pen. He is the ink and the author. My only job is to remember with humility what I am and pray that I am blessed with the privilege always.


None of us had imagined that Swami had another twist to add to this book and it would be the grand finale for its story.


Swami offers delightment and enlightenment


Within a few days of the book being released, a student who passed out from Swami’s college, several years my junior, asked me to send him a copy of the book. He was in Mumbai and he wanted to receive a book personally from me, he said. When he insisted a lot, I decided to send a copy to him. I asked him for the address and gave it to my father.
“Dad, could you pack and courier this book for me?”
He readily agreed. He put the book into a plastic cover and then put it into a large envelope reinforced with cotton threads. He sealed the envelope from all sides with opaque cellophane tape. This was the packet he sent to Mumbai via EMS Speed Post.

The packet containing the book which my dad posted for my junior. (This is the image taken after the packet was
returned to me. The story is coming up ahead... )
A few days later, I got a call from that junior.
“Aravind, what did you send in the packet?”
“What you had asked for - the book...”
“And?”
“And nothing else.” (I had not even put a letter along with the book.)
“Well, it definitely feels like there is something in the cover other than the book...”
“Open the cover and see what it is...” I replied.
“No! Listen. When the courier brought the packet, I was at work and so, my sister received it. I told her to place the packet at the altar. Now, when I came home, I saw vibhuti all over the cover! Also, it feels as though Swami has put something into the cover and I feel it is for you. I am sending back this cover for I feel you should be the first one to open it.”


I did not know what to say. Being a bit of a skeptic, I wondered whether there was anything fishy going on here. Not able to understand what was happening, I decided to wait for the package.


It was Thursday,  the 7th of November, 2013. I got an opportunity to share stories of Swami’s childhood with all the students in the University auditorium at Puttaparthi. At the end of that session, I was feeling very overwhelmed and full of love for Swami. That was when a teacher came to me and handed over a packet. It was the packet that my father had couriered for my junior. The even semester of the college had just begun and this teacher had returned after the vacation from Mumbai. The cover had got slightly worn (which is not at all surprising considering the way couriers are handled in India) but seemed intact.


I went home straight and gathered my parents and Pooja. Sitting in the altar, we cut open the sealed packet. A little cloud of vibhuti dust emanated from it! My monkey-mind began to immediately think of how someone could have put vibhuti into a sealed packet. As I said, the cover was reinforced with threads. But in between the threads, there were little holes in the cover.
“Maybe this vibhuti was injected into the cover”, I thought.

The two signatures on pages 48 and 169 of the book...
In an instant I knew I was wrong because there was vibhuti even inside the book! Several pages had vibhuti showered on them. Now, I rechecked to see whether the cover had been tampered with. It was exactly how dad had packed it. My parents had already exploded in joy along with my wife. Though late, I joined in the party! Then came a real pleasant shocker. On two separate pages of the book, were the signatures that I had craved for when the book had been released!


But that was not all. In the excitement of seeing the vibhuti and signatures, I had forgotten that the cover had felt heavy even after the book had been removed. It was with a tingling in my spine that I excavated a beautiful three inch idol of Goddess Saraswati from the cover. All of us were tongue tied and my mother had tears of gratitude for Swami. Saraswati is the Goddess of Learning and Swami sending that over in this fashion was just too much joy for me to partake.


The idol of Goddess Saraswati that arrived as Swami's
blessings along with the book. 
Final Climax


With God, when it rains it showers. Swami definitely knows how I seek 100% clarification from Him and Him alone in all matters - concerning the head or the heart. I have always done it that way ever since I got to know Swami and I do so even now. Though all of us were thrilled, somewhere deep within, I was trying to think how someone might have done all this to a sealed packet.


As I was lost in thoughts, I got a call from a classmate in Bangalore. I answered the call and he said that as he was travelling from Hyderabad to Bangalore that morning, he had Swami’s dream. As he narrated the dream, my jaw dropped down in awe at the divine magnificence. I reproduce part of the mail Raju sent me when I asked him after the call to type down the same for me.


Swami comes out of the interview room. Notices Raju and comes straight to him with a smile. As he nears, he accidentally trips over the long lens.  Aravind immediately pulls the lens aside and kneels up to apologise. Swami notices him and beams with a wide smile, says
“Aah veeda. (Oh! This fellow!)”
Raju smiles and in attempt to diffuse the embarrassment decides to say good things about Aravind to Swami.
Even before Raju could start , Swami (looking at Raju) says,
“Padakondu Ivvalsi Undi. Okati Ichhinaanu. Inkokati istunnanu.Inka tommidi Ivvali (I have to give him eleven. One I have given. I am giving another today. Nine remain to be given.)”


Raju assumes that Swami is referring to interviews. Smiles. Aravind too smiles.


In an instant I remembered the ‘first’ that Swami had sent - a mysterious materialization of a silver pendant of Lord Ganesha that I have recorded as Episode 4 in a separate article. Obviously, the Saraswati idol was the second He was referring to.


“What do you make of it Aravind?”, asked Raju.
I smiled.
“Have you got 15-20 minutes to spare Raju? It’s quite a long story...”

                                                           *************************

He is the script-writer. He is the director. He is also the producer and the one who casts the actors. He guides and even makes the actors act. Having done everything, He sits back and applauds the performance, giving full credit to the actors. This is not just the story of every convocation drama put up by the students in His divine presence but also the story of every life - yours and mine included.


The Memoirs of a Sai Student is available in ebook format on Amazon and as the paperback on the Sathya Sai Publications site.


If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy these articles:

1. A memorable journey in a time machine.

2. Being an apple of the eye for God

3. The Divine drama at Sai Kailash, Ooty and Chennai_8th July 2012 



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 http://aravindb1982.hubpages.com. If you wish to be added to my mailing list, please email me via this page with the subject "ADD ME TO MAILING LIST".)

14 comments:

  1. My God! Aravind, this is amazing! Only Swami can do all this! I have no words to describe the thrill I felt on seeing the Vibhuti, the signatures and the Saraswathi idol. Wow! You are such a blessed soul. Thank you for sharing this joy with all of us. I am very happy for you. I pray that Swami showers many more such blessings on you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really this is thrilling superb, Brother Aravind, it is only when we have full love, firm faith, this will happen as rewards/awards.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is an interesting observation. Thank you for sharing it... :)

      Delete
  5. Madhusudanvithal Nori19 June 2015 at 15:57

    Sairam Aravind, what a thrilling experience. You are blessed and gifted with words to tell HIS story as only you can tell, thouroughly enjoyed reading. Keep it up; Best wishes and Love....

    ReplyDelete
  6. we all know very well HE is the DOER.. Its simply HIS love concretising itself into IDOLS,,,

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear brother, this is really awesome.It is all swamis grace. Since I saw the saraswati's idol. I cant resist writing this , I recollect one of the incidents which happened to me in 2004. I was going to a conference in HongKong. As I normally write letters to swami and mail him, I wrote to him in the letter that he has to come in the form of lord ganesha and goddess saraswati devi and bless me. Then I went to Hongkong and came back. Nothing happened in Hong Kong but on my way back from HongKong, an interesting thing happened to me which was unimaginable. I was flying back to Hyderabad and my return ticket was such that I had a night stay in Malaysia. So, I was waiting at the airport for my shuttle and there was one another person sitting across me. I dont know who he was but somehow some conversation started between us. All of a sudden we started discussing about swami and suddenly he said that he has to give me somethingas he was instructed to do so. I was surprised and shocked. He took me out a beautiful goddess saraswathi's idol and gave it to me. I was really astonished. He said that he was praying to become a teacher in China and prayed goddess saraswati for 20 years and finally became a teacher in China. He said that he got several idols of goddess saraswati devi when he was doing abhisekham in one of the swami's devotees house in Madurai. He was having all these idols in china so far and in that trip , he wanted to take it to Australia as he being an Australian originally. When he was talking to me he said that the person in whose house he got the idol was instructing him to give one of the idol to me. By swami's grace that's how I got the goddess saraswati idol in Malaysia. Amazing ways are his leelas.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your whole story is a confirmation of -
    "yathra yogeshwara krishno
    yatra partho dhanur-dharaha
    tatra srir vijayo vibhuti
    dhruva neetir matir mama."

    Salutations on being a steady single-minded instrument of the Lord.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am left speechless! And goosebumps all over! So very happy for you, Anna! I also deem it a great good fortune that it is these writings whose source has been Mother Sai Saraswati herself has inspired me to write. Keep inspiring. Stay blessed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Goosebumps!! Dumbstruck!! This book has been a eye opener for me. It gives me immense pleasure to know how Swami blessed d book n rejoice on it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad that you enjoyed the book... :)

      Thank you for your appreciative comment.

      Sairam

      Delete
  11. Goosebumps!! Dumbstruck!! It gives me immense pleasure to know n realise how Swami has blessed d author n d book which was an eye opener to me. Sairam!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. completely bowled out brother... Last Sunday I finished reading this book cover to cover and am still buzzing with happiness that cannot be expressed in words and now... the story behind the book is out of the world experience.. bless you brother... Also the quote that a delay from our side is also his plans... what a revelation... By the way I am now reading the 2nd book (Capturing Divinity) and needless to say as I flip through the pages, I can feel the presence of Swami...

    ReplyDelete

Please do take some time to leave your valuable thoughts and feedback here. It will be an enriching read for me. :)