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Spreading his Message: The Digital Dimension

 PRASANTHI DIGITAL STUDIOIn the inaugural issue, we wrote that things are beginning to happen that we never dreamt of. This article will take you behind the scenes and tell you how the Lord makes things happen, and quietly too, all in His own way of course. And there is a message behind it, which is that things will happen only when Samayam and Sandarpam are right, meaning the time and the circumstances must be right.

THE BIRTH OF RADIO SAI , SWAMI PRESSING THE BUTTONMany years ago, a devotee from America brought a team of about seven or eight people. The members of theteam seemed to be important, judging from the attention given to them in veranda seating! They of course also got an Interview. At that time, we did not know anything else; it was only later we learnt that the group had come with a view to persuade Swami to give His blessings to put up a radio station here in Prashanti Nilayam, as a part of a chain of radio stations the world over, spreading religious and spiritual teachings. We don't know if the general idea took off, but this we do know; no radio station came up in Prashanti following this visit, which means that Swami ignored the idea of a radio station at that time.

SHARING THE JOY CROWDS ON 23 NOVEMBER 2001Meanwhile, there were constant attempts to "talk Swami into" agreeing to have a web site and make that the vehicle for the dissemination of His Message. People said, "Swami, this web business is a great thing. All spiritual organisations have it. You must bless one for us also." Swami just smiled. But Internet addicts would not take the hint; they started their own web sites, many of which often became gossip and rumour sites! So much so, in one Discourse, Swami went to the extent of saying what we need is INNERNET and not Internet.

EMBRACING THE WORLD THE FOOTPRINTS OF RADIO SAIMany grumbled: "Swami does not understand how useful the Internet is. Why is He so much against computers?" Is Swami against computers as such? If so, how come there are so many computers in His hospitals? How come the Central Trust uses computers extensively for its administrative and accounting work? Would these computers have got in without His permission? How come there is even a Master of Technology [M.Tech] Course on Computer Science in Swami's University, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning? The answer is loud and clear. Swami is NOT against computers as such but their irrational and irrelevant use.

ON HIS WAY TO THE STUDIOCut now to September, 2001. One afternoon that month, a group of four people came from Bangalore for Darshan. Two were from overseas and two were from India. They seemed like important people because they were seated right in the front. Swami came out for Darshan, and these people were duly granted an Interview. Nothing very special in that since this sort of thing happens from time to time. But this time, there was something different. That became known a few days later when Bhagavan Baba announced that one of those who came earlier was Dr. Samara, the Chairman of the WORLDSPACE Corporation, and that he had offered free a radio channel on his satellite the ASIASTAR, for digital broadcast of Swami's Message, 24 hours a day. It happened just like that - no one here asked for it or even dreamt about it, and yet it happened because the time had come!

ON HIS WAY TO THE STUDIOIt was decided that the radio service would be up on Birthday, 2001, and that Swami would inaugurate the service that morning. All this was fine but no one here knew anything about broadcasting, and much less digital radio broadcasting via satellite! But now, we had to know all that and there was so little time left! That is how He always tests us; as He says, "Test is taste for God!" We here sure know what that means!

PDS INAUGURATION LIGHTING THE LAMP ( OF OUR HEARTS!!)So hurriedly a radio team was formed with just two people to start with, and hardly any equipment dedicated for this purpose. But living in Prashanti, we know how to improvise and come up with something or the other in the last minute. And thus it was on 23.11.2001, RADIO SAI came on the air when Bhagavan pressed a button in Sai Kulwant Hall, as a part of the Birthday celebrations. When Swami pressed the button, a message was flashed from the Mandir to Melbourne in Australia by cell phone - we had two cell phones just in case one of them failed! - and the person in the Melbourne uplink station of WORLDSPACE switched on the computer which then started sending a pre-recorded program to the satellite. That program was received by a receiver we had set up in the Mandir, and this signal was fed to the Public Address system. Thanks to all this, the people assembled in the Sai Kulwant Hall heard the inaugural program, which lasted seven minutes - we had arrived! By the way, when Swami pressed the switch, a big board that was kept in the Hall lit up and that was the symbolic inauguration.

INSIDE THE RECORDING ROOM WITH GOPAL AND OTHERSIn spite of all the announcements made, few really understood that the program that they heard that morningACTUALLY came via satellite from Melbourne and that it was a part of the Radio Sai activity. In fact, even after a year or so, many still did not have the foggiest idea about Radio Sai, though they had witnessed the inaugural function.

AUDIO RECORDING CONTROL ROOMGoing on the air seemed difficult, but once we were up, that looked like child's play; it was staying on the air 24 hours a day that proved difficult. In those days, we did not have a studio for recording or even proper microphones, and many would not believe that we got by using just a tie clip mike! But we went past this seemingly impossible difficulty of staying continuously on the air, and believe it or not, to celebrate our 100th day, we had a marathon 20 hour program covering the entire life of Swami. This program was entitled SATHYAM, SIVAM, SUNDARAM, and Swami heard a part of it on the radio installed in His chamber, the African trip part, to be precise!

DIGITAL VIDEO EDITING IN PROGRESSLooking back it all seems amazing and unbelievable, even to us. It just goes to show, that somehow things fallinto place and start happening, though we do not know how. We now move to the summer of 2002, and Swami in His own way, was bringing some other instruments of His into the picture; and the instrument that helped us to take a giant leap forward was Mr. Gopal Srinivasan, Director, TVS Electronics, a leading hardware manufacturing company in India. Brother Gopal was not only an ardent devotee of Bhagavan, but also an audio-video buff, and blessed with a keen desire to make his knowledge and resources available for the benefit of Swami's Mission. God has a way of recognising selfless desire calculated to bring Ananda to all, and pretty soon, with Swami's blessing, the building previously known as the EHV Building [where Mr. Hejmadi had his office and morning talks used to be given], was taken over for conversion into a modern digital studio.

SWAMI CREATES A WRIST WATCH FOR GOPALGopal and his dynamic team now swung into action. During the whole of summer while Bhagavan was away in Brindavan, carpenters, electricians, air-condition mechanics, sound engineers and what have you, transformed the old EHV Building into not a modern but a dream studio! And we who had worked earlier with just one computer and two tie clip mikes, were knocked out flat.

EVERY NOOK AND CONER OF THE STUDIO BLESSED!You wouldn't believe it; once a listener asked us, "Why don't you give a postal address? Some of us do not havecomputers, e mail and all that. How do we communicate with you?" And do you know what reply we gave? We said, "Sir, even people here do not know we exist! We have no room of our own. If we give a postal address, the Postman would not be able to find us!" We don't know if the listener was satisfied with the answer, but that was the truth!

SGH TEAM MONITORING THE LIVE BROAD CAST 23 NOV 2002On 29th August, all that changed. At last, thanks to Brother Gopal, Radio Sai at last had a home! In the morning, after Darshan, Swami accompanied by Gopal, drove to the new studio. There He was lovingly and ceremoniously received, and walking up the entrance, Swami set His Divine Feet in the Studio premises. We felt truly blessed, and it was a wonderful, moment for all of us. We can't exactly you how exactly we all felt, but you can get an idea of how happy we must have been by looking at the pictures that accompany this story. Swami was so relaxed and happy! He took His time to tour the facilities, asking questions here and there, and patiently saw all the things we were eager to show Him. It was funny, when you come to think of it - He it was who had made it all happen; and yet here we were trying to show Him what "we had done"! The Lord in His Infinite Love puts up with up all this and allows us to imagine we were the doers!

 RADIO SAI LOGOAfter walking round, Swami went to the main recording hall where He sat down on a chair that had been specially placed for Him. He then conversed in a most leisurely manner with one and all, in the process drawing attention to how Mr. Gopal had worked tirelessly to create these wonderful facilities. All this was being done in order to spread Ananda; spreading Love and Ananda must be the aim of one and all, and Gopal had shown how everyone can use his skills and endowments in his or her own way to be part of the Lord's Mission. As a sign of Divine Blessing, Bhagavan then materialised a Rolex watch for Brother Gopal! Some more remarks and advice, and it was time for Aarathi and departure. Swami had spent full forty minutes but it seemed like just forty seconds!

So finally, we had a wonderful studio. With Swami's blessings, it was named the Prashanti Digital Studio. Nice place, wonderful air-conditioning and all that. But we could not relax! More work and more challenges ahead! Birthday was fast approaching, and it was decided that on 23.11.2002, the first anniversary of Radio Sai, we would broadcast live for the first time! When we decided to go live on Birthday, we had little idea of the problems involved. Gopal and his team worked closely with us, as did Mr. Venugopal and his team from WORLDSPACE and Mr. Madhav Murthy and his team from S.N.Informatics [with whose help we are running the Radio Sai web site and our audio download cum streaming service]. Many things did not quite go the way we wanted, and our BP was going up all the time. We prayed furiously of course, but glitches kept popping up. On the morning of 22nd November, things seemed to work out well, and we did a successful trial "live" broadcast. But that afternoon, when we went live with the Convocation function, the broadcast had hiccups; it was not 100 % OK. A sleepless night followed, even as phone calls flew all over the place, from here to Bangalore, form Bangalore to Melbourne and all that.

Birthday morning. We assembled in the Mandir, where the Bhajan Hall had become our studio. 6.15 A.M., the hiccups were still there. Swami was due shortly and how we could we have this problem when He was giving His Discourse? We simply did not know what caused the problem, much less the way of fixing it. We just prayed. Swami came, gave Darshan and went to the dais. He started speaking. Believe it or not, the broadcast went through perfectly, not one single hiccup! Truly, it was miracle! The world simply did not know how thrilled we all were!!

The miracles seem to go on, for now we have four new developments. First, we now have a service to Africa and Europe, on the Afristar, as most of you are already aware. And this again we owe to Dr. Samara. Next, we have not only a web site of our own but also a download service that greatly benefits people living in Australia, New Zealand, and the America Continent, which are outside the foot prints of the WORLDSPACE satellites. Third, a TV channel [Sanskar TV] is now carrying our video programmes three times a week, and this time we are able to broadcast Bhajans sung in Swami's presence. This is something absolutely wonderful; earlier, video cameras were simply not allowed inside the sanctum but now, Bhagavan has graciously permitted us to video tape Bhajan programmes, so that viewers all over India can experience the Prasanthi atmosphere intimately - that is His Compassion.

Meanwhile, the ever-active Gopal, has created more new dream facilities involving high-bandwith connectivity and all that. Some of these are related to the new Information Technology Centre inaugurated by Swami recently - we carried a report on that in our last issue. Thanks to these facilities, we expect to soon telecast events over the web, web Darshan as Gopal refers to it. So wonders are happening all the time. Who knows, we might even have live telecast on Sivarathri night! Just imagine what an impact that would have!

Blessed are all of us here on the SGH Team, who have been given a chance to be associated with all these momentous events. We offer our reverential and most grateful salutations to our Beloved Swami for blessing all of us in this manner and to give us all a chance to serve the world in many different ways, using the tools of modern technology.
Jai Sai Ram.



Volume : PDS / 02 Date : SEPT 15 2003