His Word, took a Form
"There are countless people in this country, who cannot
afford the huge costs of going abroad, and seeking a heart
surgery. The poor have no proper place to go to, for such
expensive operations, even in this country. Next year, we
are going to establish a fully equipped, modern hospital at
Puttaparthi, at the cost of hundred crores of rupees, where
all cardiac patients will be given treatment, totally free
of cost. Besides this, patients and their attendants will
be provided facilities for their food and stay, totally free
The first operation will be performed on the 22nd of November,
said it, without much ado. As though, He was merely stating
a fact. But, to the millions, who were gathered in His Presence,
on that 23rd of November, in 1990, it was a 'Historic Declaration'.
these Words, and the Action there from, would alter
the course of medical history of thousands of forsaken lives!
It would also give a new meaning to the lives of many men
and women, who would be Blessed to be chosen as Instruments,
to build, and serve the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher
He was an American philanthropist. For years, He had been
coming to Swami, and praying to Him to accept the resources
in his command, for any project that Swami wished to launch.
He thought that it was a noble idea, and his generosity would
surely make Swami happy. Much to his chagrin, ever time Swami
said, " I want your love not your money".
Tigrett started searching his heart to find out where he had
gone wrong. He was perplexed; after all, his offer was generous,
yet it was turned down. Slowly, his doubts cleared like the
morning mists that vanish with the sunrise. In Swami's own
unique way, he was made to realize that he had made this offer
with the feeling that he was the giver and that he was going
to be the benefactor of countless beings.
Tigrett was no one to linger around once he had understood
this error. He went back to Swami and said, " Swami!
There are thousands who yearn for a little part in Your Avataric
Mission, but are unable to do so for various reasons. So please
allow me to return unto You, what You have given me, on behalf
of those thirsting thousands." This was precisely the
change of heart that Swami wanted.
Still, Tigrett's offer was not 'accepted'. Swami told him,
" I don't want your money. You can build the Hospital,
which is going to come up in Puttaparthi. It should be ready
in one year."
The aspirant's path is not a bed of roses. Tigrett was stunned.
He pleaded with Swami that he was not a doctor, not even an
administrator, but a restaurateur. But Swami was unrelenting.
He simply said, "Go and start at once. I am with You."
Tigrett stepped out in a daze. The first
person he ran into was an eminent doctor. He told him of his
Divine dilemma. The two together gathered an enthusiastic
group of medical experts. In less than a week, they presented
to Swami the first project report on the Sri Sathya Sai Institute
of Higher Medical Sciences, delineating its objective, the
scope and range of its activities, and the mechanics of implementation.
Swami approved of the report and urged speedy action.
Tigrett wanted to return to the USA. Now, it was his responsibility
to get an architect and make the plans. Nothing but the best
is acceptable to Swami. He was carrying his concern into his
flight, from Bombay to London. Whom does he find in the neighboring
seat? It was Mr. Keith Critchlow, a world-renowned expert
in spiritual architecture. Tigrett lost not time in briefing
Critchlow of the Divine (Task) Master who wanted a Super Specialty
Hospital built from scratch and be fully operational in less
than a year. Critchlow was unwilling to take up the project.
Tigrett kept using his persuasive eloquence on the flight.
From sheer skepticism to full-blown enthusiasm, was the transition
Critchlow underwent, before the flight landed in London. Finding
this remarkable change, Tigrett decided to break his journey
in London. They recruited a team if draughtsmen an put them
up in a temporary office. Under Critchlow's inspiring guidance,
the plans for the hospital took shape within 4 weeks, blending
ancient Indian architectonics with modern functionality. Critchlow's
trained intellect could feel the hidden hand of the Divine
Master, who was sitting in a remote village in India, orchestrating
this complex project. He decided that he should go and meet
the Master face-to-face and hand over the plans to Swami.
They both came to Swami. Swami provided them with many 'suggestions',
from room reconfiguration and re-dimensioning to repositioning
of some facilities; and it appeared to them that Swami already
knew about the plans! Critchlow was, the least to say astounded
at the appropriateness and perspicacity behind these suggestions.
He gladly implemented all the changes.
an aside, Critchlow was telling Tigrett that the site of such
a glorious venture should be sanctified with a Mandala
puja (worship of the site), before the groundbreaking
ceremony. Swami asked them at that instant to go and perform
the puja on the same day. Critchlow was familiar
with the rituals and was describing the puja
to Tigrett, as they were driving to the site to perform it.
He added rather apprehensively, "However well we may
do the puja, the scriptures say that unless a Garuda,
the 'eagle vehicle' of Lord Vishnu, the puja
would not be complete." Tigrett refused to be drawn into
this new worry.
They reached the site. Critchlow surveyed
the bare expanse and chose a particular spot for the Mandala.
When, they reached that spot, they saw not one Garuda, but
five of them, standing, all in a row. Like silent sentinels,
the birds were watching the entire puja. When the two
men withdrew to a distance, they saw the birds take off and
fly over the Mandala in a perfect formation. Never
had Critchlow seen such a resounding confirmation of what
the scriptures describe as a rare sign of Grace.
Back in Prashanti Nilayam, Swami greeted them with a knowing
smile, " You had asked for one Garuda; I sent five. Satisfied?"
Thus the first Bhumi puja was done.
There was a lull in visible activity after the initial announcement
and the Bhoomi puja. When Swami went to Kodaikanal in April
of 1991, He took a few students and a few members of the Central
Trust with Him. One could see the concern of some of the trust
members about how such a huge project was going to be completed
in the remaining time. But Swami always made light of it in
His usual manner. While it was amusing to watch Swami make
fun of their discomfiture, it was also a great lesson for
all concerned - doing everything and yet not being part of
very revealing incident took place during one of those days
in Kodai. One of the trust members was very concerned that
adequate funds may not be available for a gigantic project
like the Super Speciality hospital and asked Swami about this.
Swami became silent for a moment and picking out a letter
from among those He receives everyday asked this person to
open it. To everyone's amazement, there was a cheque for a
half a million dollars, offered by a devotee at the Lotus
feet. Swami looked at us and said, "Whenever any good
work is to be done, do not worry about the funds; they will
be available." Swami has taught this lesson over and
over again during the next few years, as He took up several
noble, and often, gigantic projects for the benefit of the
Swami came back to Bangalore in May 1991 and the building
plans were finalized only then. Later on, the chief architect
Mr. Keith Critchlow, Director of the Prince of Wales School
of Architecture in London, confessed that, while he had thought
of many designs for a hospital, the inspiration for this particular
design came from Swami Himself. The hospital building is an
imposing structure that radiates warmth and peace. It resembles
two arms offering comfort to all those who come into its fold.
Swami had changed the initial 24ft high ceiling to a 14 ft
one (and thus from a single floor building to one with a ground
floor and the first floor) with a very practical suggestion.
He asked, "Isn't it going to be difficult to clean the
ceiling, if it is so high?"
was a meeting in Brindavan, where many doctors from India
and abroad, discussed the plans for the hospital project in
Swami's presence. Dr.A.N.Safaya, the Medical Director of All
India Institute of Medical Sciences was nominated as the Chairman
of this Committee. He was to become the Director of the Hospital.
Slowly, the contours of the hospital were drawn. In the first
phase the departments of Cardiology and Cardio-Thoracic surgery
were to be established. A major international effort was mounted
to source and install the most modem equipment for the departments
of Cardiology and Cardio-Thoracic Surgery. These included
equipment like Cathlabs, Echo machines, Heart Lung machines,
Cardio-Pulmonary resuscitation equipment, monitors, X- ray
units and many more. The building construction started in
late May 1991; and the functional areas, were to be handed
over by the second week of November. Highly trained and skilled
personnel, who were going to man the hospital, were to be
recruited; and trained, if necessary. Puttaparthi, being an
in a remote area, suppliers for all the necessary items like
disposable surgical items, drugs, chemicals, fluids, linen,
medical gases, etc., had to be identified and adequate quantities
stocked. Everything had to be done within a very tight deadline.
Swami also chose a few of His students to
work in the new hospital. He made all arrangements to get
them trained in All India Institute of Medical Sciences in
New Delhi and. Those four months in AIIMS got the students
prepared for working in a professional and highly specialized
environment. Writing to them from Puttaparthi, Bhagawan remarked,
Take care of your health by taking fruits and milk regularly-do
not bother about money, when the 'kalpavriksha' is
with you why worry." In the midst of all the Work, He
was still a Loving Mother to His children.
the mean time, the hospital was shaping up, at its own pace.
There were many obstacles to be overcome. The given timeframe
was a major constraint. The building was a massive structure
and nobody would have expected it to be completed in five
months flat. Close co-ordination among the various agencies
like the construction company- Larsen and Tubro, the architects,
the doctors, the equipment manufacturers was achieved by their
commitment to honor Swami's word - whether a heart- lung machine
had to be purchased and transported from USA, or the majestic
chandelier brought from Italy and hoisted up the central dome
of the hospital, or a design flaw detected and had to be fixed
- they were all done with the spirit of "prayer in heart
and song on lips." Sai was always there, whether in physical
form or otherwise, to solve any problem. While everyone had
their doubts, Swami was inspiring all concerned by visiting
the site daily and holding meetings with the planners, consultants
and administrators who came from different walks of life and
from different parts of the globe. Everyone contributed their
mite to make sure that a noble project like this with such
lofty intentions succeeded - that too in the given timeframe.
In the midst of all this activity, Bhagawan still had the
time to enquire if His students had their breakfast or lunch,
'whether the items were cooked properly - a beautiful activity
which He indulges in even today. To maintain this kind of
equipoise, in the midst of what was unarguably a very tense
situation, is possible only by the Divine.
a few days, the work was interrupted due to incessant rain.
Mr. Ramakrishna, the Head of M/s Larsen and Tubro, was asked
by elderly devotee, "Will you be able to finish the construction
of the Hospital, by November?" His reply was an insight
to the immense faith everyone working on the Project had,
in Swami. " We do become anxious when out work is hampered
by rain, or by delay in supply of building material, or by
the occasional unrest and anxiety among workers. But, when
Swami comes to the site and talks to us with a smile, in a
reassuring manner, all our fears are laid to rest, and we
get the belief that, we can do it!" said Mr. Ramakrishna.
As Birthday approached, it looked as if the hospital might
not be ready for operations on the 22nd Nov 1991. Never one
to fail in His Mission, Bhagawan was a picture of confidence,
instilling the much-required courage to everyone by His timely
counseling, cajoling and occasional commanding. Such was the
infectious zeal He had filled us with, that every one felt
like the small squirrel, that did its part in helping Lord
Rama build the bridge across the ocean. Everyone connected
with the Sri Sathya Sai Organization, did his or her bit.
While the students and staff of the Brindavan and Prasanthi
Nilayam campuses cleared the front end of the compound of
nearly thirty truckloads of cement bricks, the students and
teachers of the Anantapur campus helped in cleaning the operation
theatres, Intensive Care Units, Wards and corridors in the
hospital. Professors and senior consultants from AIIMS, who
had come to operate for the first few days, were seen carrying
chairs and cupboards on the days prior to the inauguration!
The Sevadal, one of the most dedicated wings of the Sri Sathya
Sai Organization, worked round the clock, side by side with
the hospital staff, in setting up the new departments, and
in maintaining the cleanliness of the premises.
Still, on 18th Nov, a day before the operating theatres were
supposed to be cleaned, fumigated and sealed, it looked as
if the whole project would be a non-starter. The monitors
were not installed in the Operation Theatres and ICU.There
was some problem with the Oxygen and medical gas supply and
even the Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) was getting interrupted
regularly! Even to this day, Dr.A.N.Safaya, the Director of
SSSIHMS, vividly recounts, those days, that tried and tested
his competence, resolve and faith!
target time and date of commissioning of Cardiology and Cardiac
Surgery wings of the hospital was 9:00 AM on November 22nd,
1991. Work was going on at the hospital site at a hectic pace,
throughout the day. All the men, the engineers and the newly
recruited staff were busy with work, driven by the motive
to get the project done, by D-day. I too was working with
the crowd, doing my part, unmindful of my time or position.
On 18th, midnight, I returned to my room in Prasanthi Nilayam,
tired, crestfallen, and slumped down on my bed. Suddenly,
tears started rolling down from my eyes and I was sobbing
softly, something I had never done before, in my professional
life! I was unaware of this breakdown, till my wife shook
me back to reality. I just told her that I had failed my Master,
my Swami, because there was no earthly way by which we could
open the hospital on the 22nd of November, as Swami had declared.
Catheterization laboratories and the Intensive care area had
to be readied before the scheduled date, and more importantly,
made sterile. Environmental sterility had to be tested, before
the surgeons could operate. Laboratories had to be geared
up. We had to have the Blood Bank functional with at least
30 bags of properly grouped and matched blood, ready for use
on the 'opening day'. " Nothing is ready, and I have
utterly failed!" I told my wife. I appealed to her to
pack the bags, so that we could run away to Delhi, rather
than lose face. My wife simply chided me, for behaving so,
and encouraged me to have total faith in Swami. She told me
to pray and then rush back to the hospital, to fight the odds.
She reminded me that this was Bhagwan's work, and it would
never fail; with His Grace, all will be completed, as per
Divine Decree. The next morning, when I rushed back to the
hospital site, Col.R greeted me joyously and said that he
had already sent the swabs for testing the sterility of the
Surgical Theaters! "Wonderful!" I exclaimed, "What
had happened during the six hours of the night, when I was
away?" A miracle. He informed me that everything went
on swiftly and smoothly. All the areas were now in the desired
shape, and were completely ready!
miracle indeed, it was, when, on 22nd November 1991, the surgeon's
scalpel touched the skin of the first patient, at 9:00 AM,
sharp, as predicted a year ago by Bhagawan, in His public
Declaration! On that day, when the Prime Minister of India
cut the ribbon and entered the magnificent central dome, accompanied
by Bhagawan, several Governors, Chief Ministers and Union
Ministers; it turned out to be the best setup, with the state-of-art
equipment, most modern fittings and fixtures, and was fully
functional. The set-up was one of the finest in the country.
Nay. Comparable to the best in the world. Who turned the tides,
between the 18th and the 22nd November? Swami did it; our
prayers and faith in Him, did it. I, along with thousands
who worked and witnessed the Inauguration that day, will testify
His Word had come true! Needless to say,
all the four open-heart surgeries performed on that Opening
day were a great success.
This was just the beginning
the best, was to come