Down the memory lanes, while making a journey to a sugary childhood, I fathom memories which touch core of my feelings. It was in 1976, when I was just eight years old and in the serenity of dusk, I loved to hear the conversation between my grandpa and grandmother. There they talked about a saint, whom people loved to quote as God incarnate in the name of Sathya Sai. They talked about his magnanimity. How he stayed inside a village in Andhra Pradesh and materialized happiness for the poor, disadvantaged, downtrodden and unfortunate ones. I was unaware then that a very complex future was unfolding and the same saint would play a decisive role in it saving our family from every downfall at the crucial junctures of our life. I thought that my aging grandparents were merely sharing a loving reference to one saint.
As the events unfolded in a future, steeped in the bitter conflicts of growing up and locked in hopeless dead ends, Sathya Sai materialized to take lead of things in a rather unusual way. While we rented our house to an engineer at the place which happened to be my father’s work place in a leading bank of India, we learned that he was an ardent follower of Sathya Sai. He stayed in our house for more than a year and during that time, our familiarity with Sathya Sai was born.
We saw the long portraits of Sathya Sai, on the walls of rented part of our house, hung along side the long dead saint of Shiridi, also known by the name of Shirdi Sai. The engineer, who stayed there with his family, disclosed in an animated discussion with my grandfather that Sathya Sai is the next incarnation of the dead saint. The usually reticent engineer, who lived in the portion of our house, remained merged in silent devotion to his guru-Sathya Sai. Often falling in bottomless devotion and crying for his guru’s company, he took every opportunity to go the monastery, situated at the other end of a thirty two hours journey by train. From him, our identification with his guru was born. We learned that Sathya Sai, the man in photos, in long white robe, lived at a place in far-off Andhra Pradesh. The place hidden in the scenic beauty of mountains was called Puttaparthi and the monastery bore the name “Prasanti Nilayam”.
We learned to sing “Bhajans”-devotional songs of Sathya Sai and my fascination for musical instruments was born. It was self-imposed inoculation that came from an unknown source and I began singing the mellifluous devotional songs. With our eyes spread in wonder, we saw miracles taking birth in a night long singing of devotional songs in the company of that engineer. The portraits of Satya Sai began materializing “Bibhuti”-holy ash and in the wee hours, the portraits were filled with layers of it. There was no body to explain the scientific yet uncanny formation of holy ash inside the inanimate portraits and while my eyes rummaged for the engineer, he was sitting and crying in the corner of the room, chocking within the sobs. In the morning, he sat in deep silence looking in the recess of ether with his back on the wall.
But as it was customary with us, soon differences arose with him and he vacated our portion in the house and went to live in a building, overlooking our building. But in our hearts, the magnetic attraction was already seeded and like the engineer, we began referring “Sathya Sai” as “Baba” meaning father. The man who left our house over petty differences in opinion forever left those devotional songs on our lips and it was as if the umbilical cord of affinity with our spiritual father was discovered.
Surprisingly the next tenant in the same portion of our house was also a diehard devotee of Baba. But his family is a different one. Unlike the engineer, the male guardian of the family was an eccentric; often found looking in the recesses of night and mumbling strange things and simultaneously calculating complex arithmetic with the digits of his fingers. But his wife was a smarter lady, absorbed in the words of service to Baba.
Baba said-“Service to humanity is service to God”. She left behind her toddler child to be present on occasions to help poor and needy.
As time passed on, her family vacated the house but thereafter our lives began an odyssey of travails and in which Baba remained our sole companion. In a nutshell, situations turned our existence upside down, where crisis came like arrows and we were nailed in difficulties wondering what to do. To explain our condition, I would take the analogy from the war of Mahabharat, where to save Arjuna, God showed his own bosom before the advancing of an arrow. The arrow that came to suck the blood of warrior Arjuna turned into a wreath of flowers and fell on the neck of Lord Sri Krishna. Such was the magnitude of the crisis-ridden moments, that horizons appeared darker everyday. My father remained battling for five years in a Police case and subsequent departmental inquiry. We were appalled at the turn of each incident that only brought heartbreaking conflicts and loss of money and years of labor. But as it is well said divine grace invariably casts the wonders of healing and unconditional surrender to divinity helps one find his umbilical relationship with divinity. In our cases, although we went through severe agonies; we were helped and saved as we uttered the name of Baba.
Sathya Sai remained the most popular spiritual leader after Pope. He devoted his life to the service of mankind. He built up university, hospital and other charitable institutions to render help to poor and helpless. He did not abide by the distinctions between caste, creed, religions, races and rich and poor. In an age, where everybody is embroiled in the conflicts between classes, Baba judged world as one and in his monastery, we used to mix with people from 116 nations across the globe.
There are people, who still criticize Baba despite his philanthropic work. I have personally seen people, who dared to call him a “magician”. My argument in such instances is transformation is the most magnificent magic in the world.
Have you not seen the magic when a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly? What a wonderful magic of transformation!!! The spiritual cocoon in Baba’s grace brings in its wake the ultimate makeover we are aiming for. Baba always laid most importance on the individual change.
HIG-1/60, BDA Colony, Kapila Prasad