3 - Issue 10
By Dr. Voleti Choudhury
Over the decades we have all heard, seen and experienced the invincibility of Swami’s words. I want to share a photographic testimony to that by relating the following personal experience.
Sai Symphony Orchestra Takes the Stage
It was July 20th 2005 afternoon, the eve of Gurupoornima. The Sai Kulwant hall was filled to capacity and bursting at the seams and the crowd was overflowing into the adjacent walkways. There was an air of expectation and soon some fifty musicians arrived, 59 musicians to be precise. 34 on strings, 11 on woodwind, 8 on brass and 6 percussionists from 18 countries, from Argentina to the United States of America, were seated in a semicircle with the conductor facing them and ready to play. The back drop to this visually striking setting was a series of ceiling to floor hangings of larger than life colourful pictures of the various instruments they were playing that day.
Veda chanting started to everyone’s delight and Swami gave a beautiful Darshan and settled in His chair, commanding the entire gathering just with His radiating presence. After receiving Swami’s blessings the conductor started the programme. These conductors as a breed are very lively and full of energy but, Klauss Maurer is one of the most dynamic and animated I have ever witnessed. The result was a soul stirring symphony reverberating in the hallowed Sai Kulwant Hall in the presence of the ultimate musician our Avatar Sai.
A Musical Paean of Praise
The Sai Symphony Orchestra performed six favorite compositions of western audiences. The programme opened with Mozart’s overture to the opera The Marriage of Figaro, music conveying the musicians’ excitement and anticipation at being able to prepare and offer music at Swami’s Divine Lotus Feet.
Next, Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, the last movement, conveyed the power of determination to face and overcome life’s every challenge.
The Italian in Algiers Overture by Rossini was fitting for this Gurupoornima, as the audience could hear in the piccolo (the tiny flute), a musical representation of the young Krishna as He would steal butter (the hearts of the Gopikas) and play with His friends.
Dvorak’s two Slavonic Dances expressed a hearty and earthy strength and faith.
Moving back to Beethoven and his Symphony No.5, last movement, the audience felt in the music an exuberant declaration of victory over adversity.
The programme closed with the Jimenez Boda de Alonso, a piece with strong Spanish rhythms, expressing the musicians’ happiness and gratitude in being able to perform for Swami.
The feedback I received from the musicians was that they worked together in a spirit of perfect - unity in diversity. First and foremost during the six days of concert preparation was the musicians’ joy in being able to work in a spirit of love for the music and love for God. Although many languages were spoken, the universal language of the heart, hearts full of love, united the musicians and made the concert preparation so successful.
As if the power of the music has pervaded the ethereal sphere and melted the clouds above, there was a tremendous downpour in the middle of the concert as a most welcome background to this drought prone district. The rhythmic impact of rain on the roof seemed to melt with the music rather than being a noisy distraction.
Swami is Most Pleased with the Conductor
After the conclusion of this memorable symphony Swami was so moved, He held Klaus’s hand in His, in a most affectionate way and materialized a pendant and personally hung it around Klaus’s neck to the deafening applause of the gathering.
Since I retired from active practice of Cardiac surgery five years ago, two of my most enjoyable activities are traveling around the globe sharing my personal experiences of Swami and photography. Swami Himself is a most fascinating Subject for any photographer and the icing on the cake is the very colourful activities that regularly take place in His presence.
That afternoon was no exception and I was enjoying the music and having lots of fun with my newly acquired digital SLR camera. Suddenly I could see Swami beckoning me towards Him in my camera lens and I was quick and fortunate enough to shoot the gesture. Before I could realize, quite a few people brought me to reality saying discretely, “Swami wants you.” Very perplexed I walked over to Swami and He asked me to take some pictures of Him with Klaus.
Capture the Divine Conductor
Being in the spotlight in front of thousands and with unsteady knees, I started to shoot instinctively rather than with any imagination. Luckily my camera has a quick enough recovery time to keep up with my trigger happy nervous finger.
In the middle of shooting some half a dozen pictures in what felt like eternity, Swami decided to turn to the other side so the devotes on the other side also can see and experience my flight. So I had to quickly walk over to the other side and shoot another half a dozen shots. To my utter relief Swami raised His hand putting an end to my excitement, as I have just managed to overcome my uneasiness and actually was enjoying the Avatar’s command.
After Bhajans were over I was waiting near the Ganesha temple and one of the two boys who constantly accompany Swami, approached me very innocently and said, “Sir, Swami has told the conductor that He will give him tomorrow morning the copies of the photos you took this afternoon”. And before I could really surmise the situation he discretely disappeared.
It slowly started to dawn on to me the details of the predicament. This is Puttaparthi, not Bangalore or even Ananthapur. The pictures are in my memory card, it is 6.30 in the evening and where am I going to find a colour printer that can accept my memory card and print quality pictures worth showing to Swami. In these incriminating situations I used to panic but nowadays I start saying “Sai Ram”.
Desperate Search to Fulfill the Divine Wish
At this juncture I ran in to Rajesh, a computer engineer in the hospital and explained my problem. Rajesh remembered that a camera shop across the Ganesha gate possibly can help me and to my utter relief he decided to show me the place, which I would have never found myself through the labyrinth of staircases that one has to negotiate to reach any shop located beyond ground floor. The owner was very nice but he himself did not have the capability, but directed us to try the shop next him on the same floor.
Though the other shop was next door on the same floor, we had to renegotiate the same steps down and ascend another set of twisting, turning steps and finally landed next door which is an internet facility that I used to frequent and print some of my correspondence on a primitive black and white printer. Little did I realize that in the past few weeks he has installed a latest inkjet color printer and he also happened to have a high quality 11’X14” photographic paper. With that advanced technical help it was a breeze to printout two true to colour pictures of Swami and Klaus.
With utmost joy and literally floating in the air I drove home with the two pictures in a neat brown envelope.
Gurupoornima morning dawned nice and cool from the rain the day before. On the way to the ashram it dawned on me: how am I going to present the pictures to Swami with thousands of devotees and also He has a pretty tight schedule, as I recollected from my previous Gurupoornima experiences? Again I muttered “Sai Ram” many times during the whole morning.
Swami again gave an excellent Darshan and showered us with a one hour discourse. He was standing unaided for the first 45 minutes. Then He blessed a book release and moved around the veranda blessing a few devotees and then lighted the candle for the remarkable “Aditya” (Sun-God) decoration erected by the Italian devotees.
I was discretely following Him with my camera in one hand and the brown envelope in the other. As He was about to enter in to the interview room I impulsively stretched my hand with the envelope and said “Swamy, photos”. With a twinkle in His eyes, He stretched His hand and I gave Him the first picture. He was very pleased and immediately said, “Pen, where is a pen”.
I gave Him my pen and supported the photograph and He signed “With Love - Sai Baba”, in both the pictures. This all happened so quickly and I still don’t know where I mustered enough courage to ask Him,
“Swamy, do You want to give him the pictures, or you want me to”.
He said, “You give him the pictures”.
Of course the rest is history. When I finally located Klaus in the afternoon rush and gave him the pictures, he was visibly moved and speechless.
Dr. Choudhury is a cardiac surgeon serving in Swami's super specialty hospital in Prashanthi Nilayam
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Vol 3 Issue 10 - October 2005
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