Saturday, 12 September 2015

Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 2 - Dinner with God

The Sri Sathya Sai International Centre

After 28 years on earth and in India, this was the first time I was visiting the country’s capital city. And I had spent the first hour there dozing in an air-conditioned bus wading through Delhi’s traffic-filled roads as the adrenaline rush of the morning faded. The fresh excitement of seeing Swami in Delhi kept waking me from my siesta and that was when I noticed how congested the roads of Delhi were even though they were broad.

A view of the reception that Swami received at the Delhi airport! Almost everyone in the vicinity who had the
permission to be on the tarmac was present there! (In the foreground is the lift vehicle via which Swami descended). 
It was past 6 pm when we reached the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre which had been filled to the brim. A few volunteers rushed to welcome us and make a way for our bus to enter the premises. I jumped down with my camera and followed the volunteers. Along the way, we were informed that Swami had blessed the gathering during the bhajans, received Aarthi and had retired for the day, while we had been stuck in a bus in the Delhi traffic jam! 

The first bhajans and Aarthi in the Divine physical presence at the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre.
Before entering the building, I saw my father and called out to him.
“Appa!”
He smiled at me and waved back to me.

{Came here directly? Part 1 is at the link below:


We were then led through what I thought was a maze at the end of which, was a small auditorium. From there, we arrived at a landing area with a lift which had been used by Swami to go to His room upstairs. We were told that Swami was waiting for the boys and that we should go to our rooms, freshen up and return ASAP. Our rooms were in the adjacent building. Thus, instead of taking the stairs to the top, we took the exit to the side of the lift. Coming out of the door I realized that Swami’s lift was actually right next to the place where our bus had parked! The maze-travel had confused me into thinking that the lift was very far. I was reminded of Kabirdas’ musk deer which roams the entire forest in search of the fragrance that emanates from its own navel!  Maybe this is how travelling towards God is - always simple but we travel through mazes and think it to be complicated!

The area where our bus came and parked. To the left is Swami's residence building to the left of which is the darshan grounds.
To the right is the building where we were accommodated.
A picture of the main entrance of the Sri Sathya Sai International Centre readying itself to receive the Lord. (The previous picture is taken when the gates have been opened. 


Three rooms had been assigned to us and they were in the third floor of the adjacent building. They were actually classrooms that had been converted into living quarters. Beds had been laid on the ground, dormitory style, and the rooms were pleasantly cool thanks to the air conditioning. The Hadshi experience had taught me not to pick a spot near someone who snores while sleeping at night. Tell me your company and I shall tell you how you slept at night - was my motto! Thus, I chose my neighbours carefully, deposited my baggage and freshened up.


As I came out of the building, I met Amma (my mother). She was happy at the close darshan that she had got and I was happy seeing her so happy. I assured her that I would somehow get passes for them the next day and I hurried on towards Swami’s residence. On the way, I met Mrs. Malvika Rai, her husband, Mr.Anil Rai and their daughter. It was nice seeing them and I remembered how they had wished me well and told me at Parthi,
“We pray that we see you in Delhi.”
I offered my gratitude to them for their good wishes and told myself that getting the blessings of elders in any endeavour would always bode well for anyone. We all ushered into the auditorium where we were formally welcomed to Delhi by Mr. Rasagotra. Swami had not yet come to the dining hall and this session in the auditorium was an extempore plan to keep us engaged while we waited.


A brief wait in the beautiful auditorium.
First-time dinner with God

View from the lift landing area. At the far end is Swami's room. To the left
is the dining hall. To the right of Swami's door is Swami's kitchen. To the right of
the lift-landing area are guest rooms. 
Soon, we were told to go up the stairs to the third floor. The lift-landing area on the third floor led to different zones. On its left was the hand-wash area leading to the dining hall.  Straight ahead was the corridor that ended in the front door of Swami’s room.On the right were a couple of waiting rooms. To the immediate left of Swami’s room door was an entrance that Swami could use to enter the dining hall. To the immediate right of Swami’s room door was a kitchen that had been set up exclusively for Him.


I was one among the first few to enter the dining hall from the wash area and I was thrilled with what I saw. At the far end of the hall, at a separate little table, sat Swami with His dining plate. His eyes were fixed on the door from which we were entering and it was evident that He had been waiting for us. Swami told us to take our seats at the dining table. The dining hall was about 20ft X 45ft. Swami was seated at His table at one end of the hall. There were two rows of tables and chairs opposite to Him. I quickly sat in the front seat, nearest to Him on his left.


Swami’s plate was full and He looked at all of us. There was absolute silence. I took a few pictures as Swami spoke to Phaneendra. Satyajit immediately signalled to me not to do so and I put the camera down. I now realize how awkward it would be for Swami when I take His pictures as He is sitting to eat. Personally, I have been embarrassed so many times by photographers and videographers as weddings taking pictures and videos as I eat. Now I was doing the same! One of the problems with humanity is the lack of empathy because of which we have different yardsticks when it comes to us compared to when it comes to others.

Phaneendra gets the blessing of Divine Sambhashan before dinner. (The food kept in front of Swami is more akin to
an exhibition. He hardly ate anything.)


Swami asked the elders also to come in. We vacated our places as the elders were coming there. The boys on Swami’s right side row also got up and began to move when Swami told all to continue being seated. Then, He told us to chant Brahmaarpanam, the food prayer. Immediately, Ravi Bhaiya and Aswath started the chant. Though I too started chanting, I was simply lost just looking at Him. Once again, Satyajit signalled to me not to stare at Him and so, turning away and closing my eyes, I continued to chanted loudly. Maybe this was the general practice when one sat with Swami to dine, I thought.


But I personally thought that it was rather funny to close one’s eyes in prayer when one's Lord was right in front to see. I remembered Swami's quote - “Pashyannapi na pashyati, mudho mudho mudho” - “Oh fool, fool fool! You see and yet you do not see!”

After the prayer, we all sat staring. This was Swami’s first trip to Delhi in so many years. The hosts, people cooking and volunteers serving had all changed. Being the first dining session, everyone seemed tentative on how to start serving in the Divine Presence. There was nothing in our plates and so what could we possibly eat? Ravi Bhaiya indicated to us to pick up the tiny silver tumblers into which buttermilk had been served and sip at it, giving company to Swami. I understood that I was to keep that little buttermilk cup filled with some liquid till the serving volunteers arrived because Swami would not be comfortable eating alone!


Swami broke a teeny bit of the chapatti and cutely put it into His mouth. He was eating so little and like a child. I was so fascinated. Making great efforts not to stare, I was trying to steal glances at observe the Divine leela of Swami eating. The thalis(plates) arrived soon and were placed in front of all the elders. Then the next plate was put in front of me. When a few more plates arrived, Swami told them to serve the elders first. Satyajit assured Swami that all the elders had been served. All the plates and cutlery were silverware and I felt like a king as they were placed before us. 

A sumptuously loaded food plate indeed!
Swami told us to start eating. The chapattis had not been served yet and so, we started by eating a little of various curries and breaking the papad (a crunchy) for the noise accompaniment. The fact that we were all eating seemed to make Swami so happy.


When Swami began to observe us, I felt it would not be much of an issue if I observed Him. He looked so sweet and cute. Like a little child He seemed more interested in examining the food placed before Him rather than in eating it! He was eating so slowly and so little. At times He also  seemed to pout and fuss! At such times, Satyajit was  like a mother telling the child what is good and that every dish should be be tried at least! Satyajit seemed to get a little pushy at times trying to ensure that Swami eats well. At such times, Swami made an angry face and pushed away the dishes. It was so sweet and childlike that I couldn't suppress my smiles.


Swami’s humour and tests


At one point Swami asked the Delhi State President (SP),
“What’s your name? Cheema correct? What is the meaning of Cheema?”
“Swami... ant...” was the reply and I almost laughed out. In Telugu, ‘Cheema’ is the word for ‘ant’. Calling himself, a 6’ 2” personality, an ant made Cheema sir also smile. He continued,
“Swami, first name is Jatinder.”
Swami then looked at Him and with all curiosity asked,
Tumhara wife bhi Cheema? ( Is your wife also Cheema?) “
Once again I made efforts and suppressed my laugh at the pun. Cheema sir nodded and smiled.
As the session progressed, Swami asked Prof.Anil Kumar,
“You did not get Aavakai (mango pickles)?”
The SP said that arrangements had been made for a lot of Avakai to be brought to which Prof.Anil Kumar asked,
“Why do you hoard it and not get it out then?”
Everyone burst into laughter and Swami too could not contain Himself. He joined in the whole-hearted laughter.


A fruit bowl was placed before Him and Swami began to examine and eat the fruits one by one with a small fork that was in His hand. He would examine every bit of the fruit that He was eating and it looked really sweet. We were almost done with the food when Swami asked me,
“Are you all comfortable in your rooms?”
I replied that the rooms were good and all beds had been neatly laid out.
“You got beds from Parthi? Or did they give you something”
It was Phaneendra who replied,
“No Swami! They have made all the arrangements.”
He seemed satisfied now. It becomes difficult to separate the host from the guest in Swami.


Presently, the pastries arrived. It was very tasty but Ravi Bhaiya who was sitting opposite to me said that he felt too full to eat any more. Srinivasan who was beside him, insisted that he should at least taste it. As Ravi Bhaiya put a piece of the pastry into his mouth, the grandeur of its taste hit him and he made an expression of great joy! Swami observed this and HIs face seemed to blossom in joy. He smiled and said,
“Keep eating!”


I was thinking that it would be so beautiful if we were to eat all the days with Him like this. Meanwhile, a sevadal member went up to Swami and offered fruits to Him. Swami said He did not want any more and when He was lovingly persuaded, Swami pointed to His fruit bowl and said,
“I already had!”
Then the blessed sevadal volunteers moved on.


After the pastries too had been consumed, Swami asked,
“Have you finished?”
I held my stomach and said,
“Yes Swami! I am full.”
“If you are done, go and wash your hands.”
I was about to get up when the boys sitting opposite to me indicated to me to sit. The elders should be the first ones to get up. That is the courtesy. I was being educated.
Swami again told me and Phaneendra to leave when the latter went to Him and said,
“Swami after the elders, we will wash our hands.”


Swami not only teaches us lessons but also puts us to little practical tests. Here was a test and Phaneendra passed it. I felt that too passed another test. I always believe in blindly doing whatever Swami says and I do not believe in analysing and interpreting Him. So, when Swami told me to leave, I right away got up. It was only when Swami agreed to Phaneendra and told the elders to leave first, that I sat down. The elders filed out soon.


Swami nodded and then we all got up . We went and washed our hands. By the time it was done, Swami had left. He had gone in. We returned to our rooms. A table had been placed in each room with tons of goodies to eat. The treatment was royal indeed! I requested and got VIP passes for my parents. The wonderful day had come to a close and the day's events and excitement had tired me. With joyous anticipation, I hit the sack and soon, was fast asleep.


A lazy morning turns hurried

(10th April 2010)
We had to rise by 4 am to take bath and get ready. A school building has sufficient toilets but very few bathrooms! There were only about three bathrooms for more than twenty of us and scheduling the morning ablutions was a must. I did not want to miss out on any action concerning Swami and so, I was one among the first to rise. Completing my bath and getting partially ready, I slept for a while. I woke up just after six to the pleasant strains of music emanating from the other room. I realized that the singers had started the Riyaz (singing practice).

Wearing the "Bhagawan's guest" badge, Prabhakar strikes a pose on the terrace of the building with the
 Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the background. 
It was an absolute delight to hear even the practice session featuring Ravi Bhaiya, Srinivasulu sir(aka Lu sir affectionately), Aswath and Prabhakar. Aswath, the most technically trained among them, was leading the practice. Was he a master! After a half hour’s treat to the ears, Prabhakar and myself thought of going to the terrace to witness the sunrise which we thought would be as grand as the one we saw in Hadshi. We embarked on another winding journey to find the route to the terrace. The kitchen was along the way and the appetizing aroma made us feel warm and happy. It was during this journey that we discovered a connecting link between our building and the one in which Swami was staying!

“That is something we should share with everyone”, we thought after we had taken a few photos on the terrace. Soon breakfast was done after which I got a frantic phone call from Amma complaining that the Sevadal was not allowing her in. I got her in through the gates and requested the Sevadal people that she be allowed in daily. Returning to the room, we awaited further instructions. 

Another view from the terrace.
Surprisingly (shockingly actually), nobody messaged us that Swami was moving down and to the darshan area at the International Centre. We all were lazing in our own little worlds, when we were told to hurry up and leave. Apparently, Swami had asked for us even as He came out! Ah! The world will forget you, but God is the only one who remembers. He will never forget you! We rushed to the main entrance of the Swami's residence building. We did not use the connecting aisle we had discovered in the morning because we hoped to beat Swami to the darshan area. Would we be able to do it?​


to be continued in Part 3 at the link below:


Delhi-Simla Memories- Part 3 - Sights of Delhi




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14 comments:

  1. Sai Ram brother Aravind!

    Its a great pleasure to read your blog and makes you feel really good. But reading this one raised my long pending query, as I was also in Delhi during the time Swami came to delhi. However, I or my family and many others could not enter sai center for we did not have the 'VIP Passes'. So this raises the question in my mind that while everybody is equal in Gods eyes why do we have such VIP passes? While you were there for your amma to ensure she could get in, there waited hundred other mothers who were not allowed in.. why this discrimination in the lords darbar. I ask this for I have seen my parents and many other cry and feel bad for they were not allowed to go in.. This is just a genuine question I had.. I hope you don't take it otherwise.

    Sai Ram!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can understand the question you ask. Well, I had planned to answer this is a much later part but since you have asked it anonymously (I would have appreciated if at least you had told your name and some identification), let me answer it here in brief.

      All are definitely equal in the Lord's eyes.... And Swami knows each heart. This "VIP" pass is not in consideration for Swami but for people. What do I mean by that? There are many people who have given up lucrative careers elsewhere to stay and serve in Swami's institutions. Just as the military people are given some prvileges by the government for the sacrifices they made, isn't it only logical that something like this is given? I see this question being asked about staff getting a separate faster queue in Swami's hospital at Puttaparthi. The staff have no other choice in Parthi. Just as a good company takes care of its employees more (in spite of customer being king because its the employee who serves the customer on behalf of the company), so too is the case in the Sathya Sai Organization also. I think its only natural and it brings some order.

      So too, when the Governor or Chief Minister comes, one cannot tell them, "All are equal; Go and fight for a place in the public." Because, in human eyes, all are not equal.

      But in God's eyes, they are. Though a minister sat in front, he did not get the chance to even touch Swami while a lady who was seated in the middle of the crowd with a sick child, got His attention and even received vibhuti from HIM. For that matter, my Amma too didn't get a chance of interaction with Him.
      You see, though she had a "VIP" pass, my mother did not get a chance to speak even a word to Swami.

      Swami finally decides who should get what. You and me cannot comment on who is deserving and who is not because we do not know the past, present or future of a soul. That is where the faith comes that the Lord knows best and He gives what I deserve. Nobody can take that away. I have lived with that faith all my life. Many times, I have wondered why is it that some students receive Swami's grace when I am no less equal. But I have complete faith in my Lord that I wont be cheated out of what I deserve. In fact, I get from Him more than I deserve when I surrender thus. It's nothing but lack of faith to think that somebody else can take away what I deserve.

      Hope its clear. If you have further doubts, please identify yourself. Don't ask anonymously. I am not comfortable answering anonymous questions.



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    2. SAI RAM Brother
      Excellent answer and completely agree with you. All that happen at human level cannot be equal and that's nature . Swamis love and grace flow equally to all.

      Jai sai ram
      Ramana


      Delete
    3. Thank you bro Ramana. Was it you who had asked the question in the first place too? :)

      In Sai love

      Delete
    4. Sai ram Brother ,

      I am not the anonymous I was just reading the comments and saw your reply to anonymous question and just shared my views.

      Jai sai ram
      Ramana

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    6. Also, Anonymous, you can look at an excellent share by Gowrisankar P blow in the comments. :)

      Delete
  2. enjoying d trip :) ... loved d diner session vd d Lord .. loved d way HE waited fr all of u ...n
    impresed by d way u ppl acted while Swami was eating dat u too were busy eating; though u had nothng to eat ... Love z lk dz- d othr person matters most ! ... while Swamiz concern were u, ur concern was HE ... enjoyed staring part.. n lastly ven all frgt to inform u abt Swami, HE
    himself askd fr all of u- touching indeed :)

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  3. Sai Ram Aravind,

    Very nice recollection. You and all the others are very fortunate to get this chance to accompany Swami on a trip of a lifetime!

    One question - are there any videos of the trip on RadioSai or any other website? If so, I would like to see them!

    Thanks,
    Anjan Sannidhi

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  4. saira brother ....it was like a beautiful dream in a dream

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  5. sairam brother.....it was like a beautiful dream in a dream

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  6. Mr Aravind, sairam. How r u? I hope by the grace of Bhagawaan you and your family members are fine. I would like to narrate an incident happened during  Bhagawaan s visit to Delhi. This is just  an addition to your reply to a query raised by some devotee. "He is working for SBI as AGM in one of the Branches of SBI in Delhi. His mother was cancer patient.  He came for Bhagawaan' s Darshan during Swamys visit to Delhi. He was quite far in the que and lost his hope to get the entry. He was praying to  Bhagawaan and chanting Sairam.  Suddenly he found a  VIP PASS in front of him.  Few Devotes encouraged him to utilise that God given opportunity. By showing the pass he could able to sit in front line and by the side of a minister. You know HE HAD EXCELLENT DARSHAN / BLESSINGS OF BHAGAWAAN on that day. I need not add that his mother s condition has
    improved. Recently he came from Delhi with his mother to Prashantinilayam and had Darshan of Bhagawaan.  It is one of the conclusive proof that all beings are equal to GOD. Even if human beings create disparity,  it will not stand in front of God s Sankalpa. The Sankalpa of Bhagawaan is final and it is DHARMA. Sairam, Regards , Gowrisankar: Visakhapatnam.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mr Aravind, sairam. How r u? I hope by the grace of Bhagawaan you and your family members are fine. I would like to narrate an incident happened during  Bhagawaan s visit to Delhi. This is just  an addition to your reply to a query raised by some devotee. "He is working for SBI as AGM in one of the Branches of SBI in Delhi. His mother was cancer patient.  He came for Bhagawaan' s Darshan during Swamys visit to Delhi. He was quite far in the que and lost his hope to get the entry. He was praying to  Bhagawaan and chanting Sairam.  Suddenly he found a  VIP PASS in front of him.  Few Devotes encouraged him to utilise that God given opportunity. By showing the pass he could able to sit in front line and by the side of a minister. You know HE HAD EXCELLENT DARSHAN / BLESSINGS OF BHAGAWAAN on that day. I need not add that his mother s condition has
    improved. Recently he came from Delhi with his mother to Prashantinilayam and had Darshan of Bhagawaan.  It is one of the conclusive proof that all beings are equal to GOD. Even if human beings create disparity,  it will not stand in front of God s Sankalpa. The Sankalpa of Bhagawaan is final and it is DHARMA. Sairam, Regards , Gowrisankar: Visakhapatnam.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Videos were also shot. As of date, the Shimla part of the video has been released as a Sai Blossom documentary Product in 5 languages. Work on the Delhi part will begin shortly.

    ReplyDelete

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