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  Volume 3 - Issue 9
SEP 2005



The tale of how there was a deluge of Sai Seva after the deluge of relentless rains
that shattered Mumbai on the 26th – 27th July, 2005.

This story is organised in five parts after a small introduction. Part-1 talks about the devastation in Mumbai, Part-II highlights the reasons for the catastrophe, Part-III will inform you about the undying spirit of Mumbai, Part-IV will deal with the most important of all, the Service rendered by Sai workers and finally, Part-V will give you interesting stories of how Swami came to the rescue of Mumbaikars.



“As we spent seven days, attending various medical camps, dispensing little bottles of pills, the immensity of the calamity hit home - the long lines of people waiting patiently for medicines to save them from the deadly epidemic that was breaking out in the wake of the rains, the smiles on their faces as they received a few kilos of grains, and their gratitude as they clutched new pieces of clothing. But what struck a chord was the spirit of selfless service with which the Sai volunteers worked – their energy, despite conducting camps day in, day out for two weeks was an inspiration!”

This is what Dr. Agarwal, who was there for a week in Mumbai as Swami’s special envoy after the disaster, to serve along with the Sai workers there, had to say.

And our Lord Sai watched over them,” Dr. Agarwal continues, “as they doled out pills after pills, bottles after bottles of medicines without bothering about their personal needs, the risk of contracting disease, or whether it was time for them to eat a meal. Their attitude was, ‘Whatever we do is not enough, so keep on working….working harder.’ And so they did, with Swami’s Name constantly on their lips and a silent prayer in their hearts for Him to overlook their human errors and ‘to take care’ and so He did...

Yes, He did. And in so many beautiful ways. When the city often touted as the Shanghai of India turned into a city of distress and despair, the Sai workers submerged themselves in the ocean of service - the above description is only a drop. They were busy alleviating pain and bringing smiles on the faces of the affected and the anxious. Medical camps were on for days and nights, week after week, simultaneously with other service activities.

Before we give you more thrilling stories of how the Sai workers reached out to every corner of Mumbai, and more interestingly, how our beloved Swami rescued them and guarded them every moment, let’s have a quick look at the city of Mumbai on the 26th of July 2005 – the day the never-at-rest-for-a-second city of India, stumbled and came to a total stand still.

Part-I : Devastation In Mumbai

Mumbai Stops!

26 th of July - it was the day when the financial capital of India , which contributes over Rs. 58,000 crore (US$13.3 billion) in revenue to the central government of India every year was totally numb. Its citizens - shocked and shattered. Its infrastructure - pathetically paralyzed. It was a day of great trial for the populace of Mumbai.

What initially seemed as the beginning of a normal work day in the monsoon season was by the end of the day probably the most traumatic the people of Mumbai (Mumbaikars) had ever gone through. The mayhem caused by the unprecedented rains in the 24-hour period from 8.30 am on July 26 th to 8.30 am on July 27th, 2005 – an incredible 944.2 mm rainfall in the city’s suburbs which houses the majority of the city’s population - was unimagined and indescribable. It was truly frightening.

It broke the world record rainfall in 24 hours much of this falling within a 12-hour period, to the city’s horror. And as if this was not enough, the Arabian Sea was at a high tide at precisely the same period. It was like asking Vatican City (the world’s smallest state with only 0.2 square miles) to handle the business of New York and Washington combined.

As a result, everything dreaded happened. It was the city’s wildest unimaginable nightmare. Houses collapsed, entire suburban areas went under water and carcasses of bloated animals floated on the street.

Drainage water overflowed and mixed with the rainwater on the street. And rainwater hurled garbage and dirt onto the roads and lanes.

Hardly an hour since the start of the deluge and the ubiquitous cell phones of Mumbai, which never know what is rest or sleep, were powerless and dead. And just when Mumbaikars thought that it was the last of their problems, the lights went out. Large swathes of the suburbs were left groping in the dark (Power supply to several suburbs was switched off to prevent short circuits and electrocution).

…Some More Glimpses of the Havoc

A trip from Nariman Point, the city’s business hub, to Bandra, which usually takes 45 minutes, now took over 8 hours. Railway tracks between Ambarnath, Dombivili and Badlapur were under eight inches of water – one could have easily mistaken the railway station to be a river! The Lepers' Colony along the railway tracks at Dahisar was fully submerged.

A Mumbai-bound college teacher waiting in Frankfurt to board the Lufthansa flight LH-756 did not know what to do. The Mumbai airport – the busiest in the country - was searching for its air strip. There was now only a sheet of water. All flights were cancelled or rescheduled.

The city's lifeline - its suburban local train service - ground to a complete halt. It was a forced brake on the always-on-the-move life of Mumbai.

Jaya, like thousands of other Mumbaikars, walked for hours until she found a cab. The cab only took her a partial distance. After further wading through neck high water and walking through slush and mud, she finally arrived home after 27 hours of effort.

Another Mumbaikar, Pramod, stayed back in his office until the next day. On finally reaching his home he found his house and the surrounding area submerged. His family's whereabouts were unknown. He walked back for hours searching for a vacant room in a guesthouse.

Residents of the suburb of Thane, who were working in the city, started getting calls about their homes being flooded since the morning but could do nothing…they were stuck in the island city…many parents did not know where their children were…and the list goes on. Every Mumbaikar has a unique harrowing tale to tell of the trials of that day.

And the damage was not restricted to Mumbai alone. For example, at least 100 people died in their sleep at Jui village in Raigad district of Maharastra, when a landslide hit 43 houses at 8pm on the 25th July. And as many as 12 villages in Sangli district were inundated and over 6,500 people evacuated as the waters of the River Krishna rose above the danger mark. And in Kolhapur district, 40 villages were marooned. And so on goes the depressing story.

To sum it up, according to a leading Indian weekly -

1,000 people died in the state of Maharashtra of which Mumbai city alone accounted for over 400.

200 billion rupees was the loss in Mumbai alone, let alone the other parts of Maharastra.

15-20 billion rupees worth of preliminary insurance claims were filed in the immediate aftermath of the floods, the figure kept increasing every passing day.

Part-II: Reasons For The Catastrophe

hy the Mayhem in Mumbai?

Yes, the destruction and the damage was depressing and demoralizing, to say the least. But, “Why Mumbai?” as some Mumbaikars started asking once they were back home and life was somewhat normal.

“Was it only the coincidence of exceptionally heavy rains and the high tide?”

Some remarked, “OK… it poured like mad, but why did the water take so long to recede? The sea is just next door!”

“Was it all the anger of the Gods? Was it a purely natural disaster? Is there anything more to it?” Mumbai’s inhabitants were seeking answers.

The answer is: Yes, there is certainly more to it. In fact, a lot more. And there are many lessons to be learnt too.

What Swami Says About Such Calamities?

First and foremost is this: God never punishes. He cannot but only help. It is the flaw in our actions that is responsible for our miseries. As Swami said on Sep 25 th, 2000 ,

“The world is losing its ecological balance, as man, out of utter selfishness, is robbing the mother Earth of her resources like coal, petroleum, iron, etc. As a result, we find earthquakes, floods and such other devastating natural calamities. Human life will find fulfillment only when ecological balance is maintained.”

If you have read the first line carefully, you will notice the words ‘utter selfishness’ of man – that is the catchphrase, the bottom line. The fitting example of the Mithi River , which flows through the centre of the island on which Mumbai City is located, is probably, by now, well known as it was widely reported. But we cannot resist reiterating it here for it is representative of what went wrong.

Once a River, Now a Drain

The Mithi River, once used for transportation and fishing, is today only a filthy stream, thanks to the people who use it as an open drain, the factories which dump industrial waste and garbage unchecked. Besides unauthorised hazardous is also waste dumped into it by all and sundry.

The Mithi River once acted as a natural safety valve carrying excess rainwater into the sea and absorbing seawater at times of high tide. It was nature’s gift to Mumbai. But today the situation is pretty dismal, you will see. In the words of Prof B. Arunachalam, eminent geographer and author of “Mumbai by Sea”,

“Mumbai, in its hurry to grow and add support systems, has been tinkering with nature. Thus, when the Mumbai Airport work began in the 1950s, the authorities had no hesitation in diverting the natural course of Mithi River . Some of the worst hit areas (the Kalina area) during the recent rains were situated along what should have been the Mithi River course."

Even the spanking Bandra Kurla complex was built on land reclaimed by diverting the Mithi River. And Mumbai paid for this flagrant indifference to nature when the Mithi River overflowed, carrying with it all the filth dumped into it.

In all the areas around the existing route of the river the water rose suddenly and to a staggering 15ft! People trapped in cars drowned. Even those on top of buses were scared. And the ground floors of many housing colonies were inundated. The greed of builders and developers and the blind eye turned by successive governments to the violations of the coastal zone regulations was something that was highlighted beyond a shadow of doubt by this patently avoidable and self-inflicted catastrophe.

In violation of these same regulations, 7000 acres of mangroves had been cut down for construction activities by private players in the Versova-Malad belt. And flouting every line from the rule book, buildings had been constructed within 500m of the high tide line. We know the important role woods play in containing water and keeping soil intact, and thereby preventing floods and landslides.

Mumbai’s 150 Year Outmoded Drainage System

Then, of course, is the much talked about drainage system in Mumbai, which stands as a symbol of the city’s pitiable infrastructure. You cannot expect a 2 year old to carry a 100 kg load on his head and that is what the 150 year antiquated Mumbai’s drainage system was asked to do. And as expected it collapsed.

It was equipped to carry only 2.5 cm of rain every hour. The 94.4 cm of rain on July 26th naturally beleaguered it beyond limits. And the size of Mumbai’s population, which had more than doubled in less than twenty years to 16 million, actually made mockery of the old and tired city drainage system.

The woes of the average citizen were compounded as the government had declared a two-day holiday. Thus, the state machinery’s response was delayed and the common man was left to fend for himself.

The bomb-blasts that rocked the city in 1993 were, no doubt, a man-made disaster. The Mumbai demon of a deluge too was to a large extent, man-made, if seen in a proper perspective.

If only the Mithi River was allowed to flow its natural course, if only people respected plantations and forests, if only the drainage system was upgraded well before time, if only a proactive disaster management programme was up and running, then probably it would have been just another beautiful, refreshing rainy day for Mumbai citizens.


Part-III: The Undying Spirit of Mumbai

The Undying Spirit of Mumbai

Yes, Mumbai drowned but the spirit of Mumbai soared.

“The first-hand experiences of various people we met were an eye-opener,” says Dr. Agarwal, “People who had lost absolutely everything of their own (except the clothes they had on) were happily helping their friends and neighbours and that included strangers. We had never encountered such unity and solidarity amongst people. Later we learnt that this is the ever living spirit of Mumbai – unbelievable until you witness it and experience it in action yourself. Well we did!” And instances to prove this are galore.

John D' Souza, 54, an orphan brought up by a convent school, was tragically washed away while rescuing schoolchildren - that is, after he was responsible for saving 10 lives. And as a Mumbai resident recalls, “I still remember an incident when there was no one to dig a grave in the cemetery. John was the only one to help us; he dug three graves. Even the police of the nearby area respected him; they were also present for the funeral.” His funeral, no wonder, was attended by more than 200 people.

Amol, who reached his home after wading for 23 hours through water recollects, “One instance that brought a smile to my face was when I saw an old lady, who was completely drenched, standing near the Sion flyover and distributing biscuits to passers-by. I was touched and was motivated to walk further…and then in Maitri Park , I saw a bhaji pav (a Mumbai delicacy) vendor, giving bhaji pav to the tired and hungry passers-by for free… I would like to remember it as a day when I saw the undying spirit of every Mumbaikar."

And Theresa, a school teacher, who at the risk of her life almost broke her neighbour’s door to save their little daughter from drowning. It is a day, she says, “which I will never forget for the rest of my life.”

Then there is the story of five men who got down on their knees to open a gutter, removed the dirt, cleaned it and ensured the water drained away. This was just when the water had invaded into the ground floors of buildings in St. Baptist Road and was climbing up the stairs. These men guarded the open gutter in turns, for three whole days to ensure nobody fell into it and also made sure that it remained unblocked by debris.

There is also the story of Hemant who broke open the door of a clinic to save all the workers and a mentally challenged boy who were trapped inside. He thus saved at least 6 lives.

The stories of such unexpected Samaritans are many - people going out of their way and opening their doors for strangers, serving hot food, drinks and giving shelter when their own ground floor is flooded; citizens opening their toilets for the public; young boys risking their lives to save people stranded in buses and trains; and people enthusiastically distributing fruits, biscuits and water to anyone and everyone who was stranded.

Every cloud has a silver lining and this was Mumbai’s silver lining. And this has been the case whenever disaster has struck this vibrant city – its citizens have demonstrated amazing bravery and stirring sympathy. It was as if the whole city was actually one family united by common suffering.


Part-IV: Sai Seva in Mumbai

The Deluge of Sai Service

Inside this big family was the small but significant Sai family who just like other good-hearted people took every opportunity to serve their fellow brothers and sisters.

Way back in February 1966, Swami had said,

“Life is best spent alleviating pain, assuaging distress, and promoting peace and joy. The service of man is more valuable than what you call ‘service to God’. God has no need of your service. If you please man, you please God. When you serve man, you serve God.”

And the Sai devotees in Mumbai did just that.

Dr. Asha Damodaran who coordinated a lot of service activities, says,

As soon as the programme of relief work for the deluge affected areas consisting of medical camps, food and clothes distribution was announced at the Navi Mumbai Zone, there was another deluge – a deluge of Sevadal workers wanting to contribute in whichever way they could. There was a sea of people (Sevadals) of all ages, both sexes and from various strata of society at “Sai Prem” our Navi Mumbai center wanting to help in which ever manner they could.

In fact, it was disappointing for some not to be included in the medical team. Food packets, clothes and medicines started pouring in. Sevadals were busy without any thought for their own health, comforts or convenience. It was indeed heartening to see all this.”

Offering Food Packets, Offering Love

And so, within two days after the Terrible Tuesday of 26th July, Sai devotees organized themselves into different groups and panned out to every accessible area of Mumbai which needed help and care.

Their focus was first to provide food. Food packets containing mainly rice, pulses, sugar, turmeric, wheat flour and other small items like candles, and a match box, etc. were made.

Food Packing in Progress in Worli...

More than 1,500 food packets were produced and distributed in one day, thanks to 50 Sai volunteers who worked the whole night in “Sai Prem”, New Mumbai, putting together all the items into neat packs.

The food packing area was later shifted to Worli, Old Mumbai, for ease of distribution as it was closer to the affected areas. And here again, 50 Sai workers worked from nine in the morning to twelve in the night for six continuous days, preparing 12,000 food packets.

Dr. Asha, recalling the initial days after the deluge, says,

“Physical ailments like respiratory infections, gastro intestinal infections and of course, skin infections due to feet being immersed in water for hours were common. There was no epidemic of malaria or dengue or leptospirosis at that time. But there was enough emotional distress, people having lost their loved ones, fees kept for the child or money saved for medical treatment, all their possessions having been washed away or water logged. There were some not so poor, who felt embarrassed to seek social help as their every possession had been washed away and they did not have even a change of clothing. A sympathetic ear and a kind word were indeed helpful then along with the food packets, medicines and clothes.

And the Sai workers did not merely distribute food packets, those packets were, in fact, tokens of love, carefully packed and lovingly presented. From each region of Mumbai a dozen volunteers carried these packets of love and reached out to every shattered slum and every affected small lane of Mumbai to give, nay, offer it to the hungry and the deprived.

Food Packets distribution in progress...

Sai Medical Seva in Time Saves Nine

As important as food was medical attention to the affected people. In the initial days after the deluge, as Dr. Asha mentioned, there were only respiratory and gastro intestinal infections, but the epidemic was germinating. The outbreak of leptospirosis and dengue epidemic was one of the most terrible aftermaths of the tragic Mumbai rains. While leptospirosis was contracted from rat urine in water, dengue was caught from infected mosquitoes.

And here the Sai Organisation of Mumbai played a very proactive role.

To take this head on and prevent the spread of the epidemic, the Sai Organization conducted numerous medical camps spread all over Mumbai. Free medicines and injections were supplied and devotee doctors moved from one place to another with their teams to provide help and treatment.

It is a well-acknowledged fact that the administration of epidemic-preventive injections and medicines like Anti-Typhoid and Tetanus by Sai workers is what prevented the epidemic from taking alarming proportions in many areas of Mumbai.

There were medical camps conducted in Kalamboli, New Panvel, Palshet, Gadeshwar, Shiravali, among several other places. Just to give an instance, here again we have Dr. Asha Damodar, who was very much involved in the camps, giving us insights into the Seva done,


“We went deep into the tribal areas of Yermal and Bannechivadi and conducted our camp inside a small hutment with just 4 (one doctor and 3 sevadals) of us. We managed to attend to over 150 patients. This was a really needy place as the nearest primary medical facility was a minimum of one hour walking distance, with broken roads, no transport facility and of course no money to pay the doctor’s fees.

There was a lady ill and pregnant, paralyzed below the legs having been beaten by her husband… there were men suffering from high fever and others suffering from loose motions and vomiting. Nobody bothers about these people. But for Swami’s help who could have helped these people in far off places? Needless to say the villagers felt grateful that we thought of them. We developed good rapport with them. As much their poverty hits you, their addiction to alcohol and tobacco saddens you. There is so much to be done in these areas.”

The Sai workers did a lot - not only for the people of these areas but for the entire state of Maharashtra .

In the Navi Mumbai zone alone, more than 2,500 patients were attended to during the first week of August. The number was much more in the Kurla-Kalina region, the most affected area of Mumbai, with 50 doctors working round the clock. The numbers keep adding up when we include all the major zones where Seva was conducted in the entire state of Maharashtra.

Doctors and Sevadals in action during medical,camps...

The Incredible Make-Shift Hospital

Dr. Janaki, a very dedicated devotee doctor, who was the motivational force behind several camps, comments,

“Can you believe it? The whole of Kalina area was submerged with 6ft of water, but in my hospital (Prashanti Medical Centre) in the same area, there was not a drop of water! All the patients were safe and the expensive instruments were just fine! True to its name, it had become an abode of peace.

The very next day itself I felt as if Swami is just instructing me to do things. All our volunteers converged and began our series of service activities. We went to the worst affected slum areas distributing emergency medicines, food, clothing and blankets in our ambulance. All our doctors, volunteers and paramedical staff were delighted, to say the least, to see smiles back on the faces of the affected people.

A week passed, and the affected people started having fever and many were dying due to lack of medical facilities. All the hospitals were full. And so, through His inspiration, we hit upon the idea to start an emergency ward. It was not going to be easy; in fact, we were wondering will it come about? It did happen. But it was not because we got some brilliant ideas, but because it was He who arranged everything for us. Unbelievably, in one day, a well equipped mini hospital was ready. It was now open 24 hrs a day and there were doctors, nurses and paramedical staff stretching themselves beyond limits to attend to anybody who came at any time of the day, whatsoever. We also gave many preventive medications like Tetanus and Typhoid vaccines. By His grace, there was no shortage of medicines or dearth of resources.”

So, that was the story of how Dr. Janaki started the new makeshift nursing home in Kadamwadi, in east Santa Cruz area of Mumbai. At least 800 patients were treated in six days from the 17 th to 22 nd August here and more than 650 typhoid injections were administered by Dr. Janaki’s team.

In the make-shift nursing home...

Dr. Agarwal, who saw Dr. Janaki at work, says, “It was a demonstration of our Lord’s most important teaching being put into practice – Love all, Serve all”. If you ask Dr. Janaki she replies, “I am not the doer, it is He.”


A Day of Intense Seva

Though there was Seva going on right from day one of the tragedy, on the 7th of August, the Mumbai Sai Organisation, organized camps on a very large scale after making a very comprehensive survey for almost a week. On that day they organised medical camps simultaneously in eight principal regions of Mumbai, namely, the regions of Sion Wadala, Chembur, Mulund, Bail Bazar, Malad, Kandivili, Borivili and Dahisar. More than 8,000 patients were rendered medical help by devotee doctors who were ably assisted by hundreds of Sai workers.

While this was going on about 6,000 food packets were distributed simultaneously to all needy people in these regions. In Pandharpur zone, 4,000 rotis (pancakes) with sabji (curry) were distributed continuously for 24 hours on this day, apart from the service done on other days.

On the same day in the Kurla-Kalina region, where people only had four walls for a house and had lost all their possessions, utensils, appliances, clothes, books, etc. - whatever was necessary - were distributed to the affected people. And all the 650 schoolchildren got blankets, bed sheets, mattresses and notebooks.

One Sai worker said,

“The distress stories of dear ones being lost, some people being miraculously saved, of people losing all their possessions, were indeed heartrending.”

And to give them emotional and spiritual strength, Sai workers gave them Swami’s photo and Vibhuti as Prasad while asking them to have faith in God and prayer.

The Sai Workers and the Bankers

One important fact that must be mentioned is this: working in tandem with the Sathya Sai Seva Organisation was the HDFC Bank – one of India ’s leading private banks and the State Bank of India (SBI) – India ’s largest bank.

These corporate giants not only contributed generously to the Maharashtra Sai Organisation but also joined hands with the organization in all its endeavours.

In the words of Ms. Sushma Barve, a SBI officer who distributed food packets along with the Sai workers, I am proud to be an employee of State Bank of India now after this opportunity to work with the Sai Organisation.

And in fact, it was the SBI who approached the Sai Organization first, offering huge amounts because of their tremendous trust and confidence in Sai workers.

HDFC refused many other non-governmental organizations, and sanctioned a big amount solely to the Sai Organisation. For, in the words of Mr. Puri, MD of HDFC, If I give Rs. 100,000 to the Sai Organisation, they will put another Rs. 10,000 to see that the Rs. 100,000 is spent judiciously”.


Seva Beyond Mumbai

The damage, as we know, was not restricted to Mumbai alone, and Sai Seva too went beyond Mumbai. There were medical camps conducted in Dasgaon. In Mahad Taluka, where 50 people were buried alive and many houses destroyed due to a massive landslide, the Sai workers constructed temporary housing for all the unfortunate people in the Kosabi/Rawalgaon area.

In Sangli-Satara zone which included areas like Sikli, Sanwad, Danwad, Bastewad, Kurundwad, Chitrapur and Rajapur, medical camps and food grain distribution were held for four days from 6th to 9th August, 2005 . Additionally, much relief activity was carried out in Pandharpur.

How the Sai Workers Served

The passion with which the Sai workers served, the kind of areas they visited - the most filthy and dreaded slums - the smile with which they went about doing their work and the way these volunteers were received, was something to be seen to be believed.

It was not for ostentation. It was not for personal glory. It was done with the one aim of serving Sai. The Sai who is within each one in distress.

Swami says,

“Be alert to the call everywhere, at all times; be ready with a smile, a kind word, a useful suggestion, some well-informed help, a pleasant reply. Look for chances to relieve, rescue or resuscitate… Service to society is the primary duty. Concern for the welfare of all is devotion.”


For the Sevadals of Mumbai, it was their duty, their devotion and worship. It was very heartening to see Sai workers who were once upon a time slum children now serving the citizens of Mumbai non-stop day and night. These were the children adopted from a slum by a Sai worker years ago and now groomed into respectable citizens. Once upon a time on the receiving end, these workers were now serving the citizens of Mumbai with great sincerity and devotion to Sai.


In the words of one service coordinator,

"Our sevaks experienced sheer Divine Presence when food packages were being distributed from door to door, as the people welcomed them as if it was Swami at their doorstep. Truly, when nature hits thousands, God’s Grace saves millions."

When humanity is faced with tragedy, it is God’s opportunity to provide solace and succor. Those who are lucky enough to serve alone know what an exhilarating experience it is to be an instrument of the divine. And those 'helped' always remember the touch of the divine that came to them in their pain and time of acute need.

Ask any Sai worker and he (or she) will tell you - Sai was always with him (or her). In fact, one Sai worker recounts,

“Along with the medicines we gave them Swami’s photo and Vibhuti and asked them to pray fervently and sincerely when in distress. And on our next visit, some villagers reported that the dangerously rising water level receded after they prayed to Swami.”

Indeed, Sai is there everywhere for everybody ready to help. The Sai devotees know it better than anybody else. And every devotee has an account of how Swami saved his/her life and property. Take the case of Mr. Aklekar, for instance.

Part-V: Sai Comes To The Rescue

Sai - Their Saviour

When Mr. Kumar Aklekar realized that the deluge was endangering his family in Andheri, he rushed home. He sent his children to a place of safety higher up the building, while he and his wife, Sheetal stayed back in their home. As the waters in the flat rose, they moved their television, computers and other valuables to higher floors within the premises. The roads were already flooded. There was more than 5 feet of water. He could see his car submerged. The water had climbed up to nearly three feet inside their flat. He and Sheetal sat on the kitchen platform the whole night praying and reciting "Sai Gayatri" (a Vedic composition on Sai). The water was gushing into their flat. It did not look like the rain would ever stop.

The room had a life size picture of Swami placed three and a half feet above the ground. Sheetal mentioned to Kumar in a frightened tone that the water level should not rise to touch Swami's photograph. The water level started rising further. They were tense and terrified. The water initially rose but then stopped to their utter disbelief. It stopped just three inches below Swami’s life-size photograph, which as we know, was three and a half feet above ground level. This was all the more miraculous as the water rose five feet in their neighbour’s home on the very same floor!

The Aklekars spent the next two days cleaning their home from the residual mud. And to their great surprise and joy on Thursday (the third day after the deluge) Swami assured them of His presence at all times as Amrita (holy nectar) started dripping from His photograph, as if to say, "I am always here, why fear!"

The Stunning Case of Dr. Janaki

The case of Dr. Janaki is even more stunning. In her own words,

“On the 26 th of July, as I returning home from my clinic, I saw the road in front was flooded. I took a detour and that did not help either. Every road was submerged. I was in the car and saw the water rising in the car inch by inch. At this moment… I felt somebody telling me to get out of the car. I obeyed the divine command instantaneously and I stepped out of the car.

And as I had abandoned the car, I saw a gentleman standing right there with an umbrella as though waiting for me! He was kind and took me inside a hall on the first floor of a building. I realized later that it was St Stanishlaus church. When I looked back, my car was nowhere to be seen. In a minute, it had become submerged into the flood.

The fathers in the church were very nice and served me with food and drinks. By midnight rains had reduced. I thought of walking back home. As I stepped out, the water was still up to my shoulders. I started walking and it took me 2 hrs to reach home that night. It was as if Swami was holding me in the dark and guiding me all the time.”

But the story does not end here, the best part is, as Dr. Janaki says,

“When I went to pick up my car which was submerged in water for two whole days and switched on the ignition - hold your breadth - it started! The most miraculous thing I have ever witnessed,” she signs off.

Truly, when you do God’s work, God does your work much more efficiently and effectively that you would have ever imagined and looks after every need.

Many depended on Swami and cried out for help on that terrible day and everyone has a moving tale – some heart-warming, some inspiring, some stunning, some illumining - to tell.

How was Gayatri Saved?

Let’s now hear what happened to Gayatri Nambiar, a former Bal Vikas (EHV for children) student of New Mumbai.

Currently studying for her Chartered Accountancy final exams, Gayatri had been for an audit at Vashi, in New Mumbai. It had already started raining heavily when she left the office at about 4.30 p.m. for her home at Dadar (central Mumbai). She silently started praying to Swami. It was not going to be easy to reach home safely. Praying and depending on Swami was something that had been inculcated in her since her Bal Vikas days.

She went to the bus stop but found no buses running. Her journey home would normally take one and a half hours. But what was she to do now? Caught in this terrible predicament, she could only think of her beloved Lord. The Sai Gayatri was on her lips now.

A few minutes passed. A car stopped in front of her. The owner, to her surprise, offered her a lift. The car was going towards her home, she found out. A few others also jumped in taking the kind offer. The roads were pretty bad and Gayatri’s silent chanting became only more vigorous. They traveled for nearly half an hour. After that the car just did not move. In front was a flood and a terrible traffic jam. The car lay stranded on top of a flyover at Ghatkopar. The only option was to walk the rest of the journey.

Meanwhile, at home, Sujana, Gayatri's mother, was worried. There was no way of getting in touch with her daughter (Gayatri did not carry a mobile handset). She found out that Gayatri had left the office. Sujana switched on the Sai Gayatri cassette and started praying continuously and incessantly. She started writing in the Nama Likhita book (writing the Lord’s Name with remembrance).

Gayatri had to wade through chest high water for nearly four hours. Every moment she cried out for her Lord and felt Swami's calming and protecting presence. All throughout the journey it was as if Swami was with her every moment. On seeing her at home at 8.45 p.m. , her mother broke down. She bowed and thanked Swami profusely.

Gayatri knew neither swimming nor was she familiar with the route. The danger was formidable. Ask her today and she will tell you that it was Swami’s Name alone that helped her overcome that perilous journey. In fact she reached home quicker than many others. Her father, who had to travel only half the distance from the same direction, could only return on evening of the next day!

There are as many stories of Swami’s protecting hand and His omnipresence as there are stories of destruction and despair. Mr. Pillay’s story is yet another vindicating this premise.

God Is Great

Mr. S.B.R. Pillay and his family live on the ground floor of Brindaban Society, a residential housing complex at Thane, a Mumbai suburb. They have a small temple for Swami made of wood (3 ft x 3 ft) mounted on top of a storage cabinet. And Baba’s chair was there beside it. In front of this were Padukas (divine sandals) blessed by Swami six years ago. The Padukas were on a steel plate, which was placed on a wooden stand, 3 inches above floor level, and the stand was draped with a thick silk shawl. They were the family’s object of faith and devotion for many years.

When the downpour in Thane was at its worst on July 26th, the complex began flooding. Mr. Pillay, like many other Mumbaikars, was stuck in his office that night. He stayed there the next day too. There was no way he could have moved. He managed to reach his wife and daughter by phone, that too with great difficulty. His daughter told him that the flat was flooded. He asked his wife and daughter to save their belongings and move them out of the reach of the flooding waters. One precious item, however, was completely forgotten by the family - Baba’s Padukas.

On 27th July (the second day) the surging waters had entered their home by 4.30 p.m. All the hundreds of flats on the ground floor of their complex were flooded. At 5.30 p.m mother and daughter locked the house and went to another Sai devotee’s house on the first floor of a neighbouring apartment.

After the telephone conversation with his family, Mr. Pillay suddenly remembered about the Padukas. But there was no way that he could contact his home. No infrastructure in the city worked - electronic or otherwise. He was sad, helpless and crestfallen. He spent a sleepless and tearful night in the office and lamented over his forgetfulness. He could only pray to Baba and ask for His forgiveness. And he did this fervently. He did not want the dirty floodwater to touch the divine sandals at any cost.

On 28th morning (the third day), Central Railway begun operating some trains. He rushed home. At 10.30 a.m. with great trepidation he opened the door. The entire room had been flooded up to 8 inches. He could see the water mark on the storage cabinet beside Baba’s chair. But, not a drop of water was on the steel plate on which the Padukas rested! The cloth below was fully wet but the Chandan and Kumkum (turmeric and vermillion marks) on the sandals were intact. Incredibly, the Divine Padukas which were kept 3 inches above the floor were saved from the near foot high water level.

He just closed his eyes in disbelief. The Lord had heeded his prayers. Overwhelmed, he did not know how to express his gratitude to his dear Lord. Mr. Pillay, now convinced more than ever of Swami’s protecting love and care, notes, "My Loving Swami seated in our hearts and in our homes is actually the one who runs the show. This I feel is a great lesson in Sai worship for all of us. God is Great – Allah Oh Akbar. Jai Sai Ram!"

An Opportunity Unparalleled

Mumbaikars were hit by nature, nay, hit by atrocities they knowingly or unknowingly had been committing towards nature which only boomeranged when nature could take it no more. They were confronted with loss and desolation, but at the same time they experienced God’s grace and His benediction.

There were lessons to be learnt and parables to be taught. Probably this could be delayed no longer.

When sea water hits the rocks on the shore, the rocks only become more polished. The populace of Mumbai, which is as diverse as India’s populace (you will find a part of every state, every region, every religion and every dialect in Mumbai) though shattered, shone with a golden light – the light of solidarity, the light of social unity - which could come about only because Mumbai was twisted, turned and tamed. Just like, as Swami says, pure gold that has to go through the fiercest of fires to dazzle and delight with its jeweled beauty and delicate workmanship.

Mumbaikars suffered, true. But there was also the Golden Helping and Guiding Hand of the Lord. As Dr. Asha Damodar, a long time Sai devotee, vouchsafes,

“None of the Sai devotees to the best of my knowledge were affected despite having worked in such miserable circumstances and having taken upon themselves such dreaded tasks. They served with amazing zeal and the youth sacrificed their well earned Sunday rest for doing Seva.”

The calamity, as somebody said, gave the best possible chance for Mumbaikars to learn the lessons of life and one lesson might be what Swami stated many years ago,

“Man is suffering because he cannot rid himself of the greed for sense objects and sense pleasures. He knows that he has to give up whatever he earns and collects, sooner or later; but his attachment waxes instead of waning as the years go by.”

Whatever be the pros and cons, gains and pains, of the disaster, most importantly, it gave an amazing opportunity to serve, to care, to love and thereby enjoy. As one doctor put it, “May we get more opportunities where we will be useful to the people and in that manner, please our dear Lord Sai.”

- H2H Team

We would like to thank the following persons whose inputs
and contributions greatly helped in the making of this article:

Sri Ramesh Sawant, Sri Mukesh Patel, Sri Sudhir Joshi, Dr. Agarwal,
Dr. Mahesh Goklani, Mr. L Ganesh, Dr. Janaki, Dr. Asha Damodar
and Sri Darshan Kulkarni.




Vol 3 Issue 9 - September 2005
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