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'Are You a Doctor?'

Dear reader, in this ‘Window to Sai Seva’ section, in every issue we bring you inspiring stories of service done by seva teams from all over India and the world. However, in this issue, we have something different. It is not so much on service but on an instrument of Swami who has been selflessly offering his time and energy for the poor and needy. What drives an eye surgeon from the USA to travel thousands of miles every year to spend three weeks serving in Swami's Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi? How different is the experience? Here is a persoanl account from a person to whom hundreds owe their eyesight.

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan
Dr. Sanjeev Dewan

In 2001, during one of his visits to Prasanthi Nilayam, Dr. Sanjeev Dewan, an eye surgeon based in Canton, Ohio, USA, was sitting on the veranda in front the Bhajan Hall, eagerly waiting for Swami's darshan. "Baba walked into the veranda and as He passed, He glanced at me and said, 'Are you a doctor? You are a patient'", Dr. Dewan said. “I knew the significance of Swami's words. I nodded and said, ‘Yes, Swami, I am the patient and you are fixing my illness.’"

Dr. Dewan, a 40-year-old visiting eye surgeon at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS), Prashantigram, feels that since he came to Swami's fold, the transformation that Swami had desired has been taking place in countless ways. Every year, Dr. Dewan takes a break from his busy practice back in the U.S. and heads to SSSIHMS for three weeks, where he treats the patients - and himself gets 'cured'.

The Qualifications of a True Doctor

"I am not a complete doctor. A doctor has to be wholly desireless, selfless and compassionate. The transformation is taking place in many ways," he smiles. A disarming smile, which has the warmth to put even the most edgy among the patients, at ease. Apart from his smile, what patients notice as soon as they enter his room at the Hospital is a cheerful man in a lilac blue apron, with Ohio Eye Alliance embroidered on the left side. Dr. Dewan's parents had migrated from Pakistan to India during the partition. The family later got settled in the U.S. in 1956.

It is a delightful story how Swami brought Dr. Dewan into His fold. As he tries to remember his first encounter with Bhagavan, one can see his sharp brown eyes getting wistful as he searches his memory. His head falls back and he looks remotely at the white wall facing him in his room.

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan

“I am not all that good with the details”, he says breaking the silence. He, however, remembers the picture of a 'man' his wife had placed at the location of their marriage ceremony, which took place in Buffalo, New York in 1992. "During our wedding, Seema had kept the photograph of Sai Baba at the place where the wedding ceremony was to take place," he says. "’Who is this man?’ I had asked. ‘My Guru,’ was her answer.”

Mrs. Dewan has been an ardent follower of Baba since she was seven years old. She has visited Puttaparthi on several occasions and also authored several books on Swami, the first one being, "Sai Darshan".

"I did not have any reservations about having the photograph of Sai Baba at my wedding, but somehow was not impressed with the 'man'" says Dr. Dewan and continues, "It was several years after our marriage that one day my wife said, ‘let us go to India and visit Puttaparthi’. I somehow felt like accompanying her. But I told her, ‘we will stay only for a day at the ashram as we have other engagements’."

It was in 1995 that Dr. Dewan visited Prasanthi Nilayam for the first time. "We got down at the Puttaparthi airport, after taking a connecting flight from Bangalore. It was as if some invisible hand was taking care of all our concerns. As soon as we descended from the aircraft, a person volunteered to guide us to the ashram. We hesitated, but he took us along and made adequate arrangements for our stay. Only after we felt comfortable inside the ashram, he left," Dr. Dewan recollects. He told us that he worked with the Indian Airlines. That was all we could gather about him, Dr. Dewan adds. 

The Numinous Attraction of Divine Love

When it was Bhagavan’s darshan time, the family quickly reached the hall. "I sat far away from Swami, somewhere in the multitude of devotees. As I saw Swami walking among the devotees, I felt drawn to Him. Something overcame me. I wanted to be close to Him. ‘Why cannot I be close to him?’, ‘Why this distance?’, I kept asking myself. That night I was almost in tears," Dr. Dewan confesses. "Then I told my Seema, ‘all right, we will stay for two days more!’" Now, Dr. Dewan chuckles.

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan

The next day Dr. Dewan visited Bhagavan’s birthplace, where now stands a Shiva Temple and lies at one end of bustling Puttaparthi town. "During our visit Mr. Bhatt was the temple priest. He took us with him to his home and started narrating stories of Baba, I could not be satiated. Acknowledging my interest, Mr. Bhatt went from one story to another. Yet I wanted to hear more." Soon Dr. Dewan was visiting Prasanthi Nilayam along with his family of five every year.

The Gift of True Vision

In innumerable ways, Bhagavan helped the Dewan family in their difficult times. One of the doctor’s three sons, 12-year-old Karan, was suffering from isotropia in one eye, which is an in-turning of the eye which makes a person cross-eyed. Due to his condition, Karan used to wear glasses.

Dr. Dewan says that during an interview granted to his family in the year 2000, Swami looked at his 12-year-old bespectacled son and told him: "Boy's eyes are weak", He then paused and added, "Glasses will go". It is sometimes difficult to understand what Bhagavan means. But soon enough, Dr. Dewan was to witness the manifestation of Swami's infinite grace.

"We went back to the U.S. and one day Karan came to me and said, 'Dad, I see everything blurred when I wear glasses, but when I don't, everything looks perfectly clear'. I thought he was joking. I specialise in paediatric ophthalmology, so I took Karan to my clinic and tested his eyes. His eyes were perfect. They had healed!" Dr. Dewan says, his eyes aglow with happiness reminiscesing this amazing miracle. "As Swami said, the glasses went," he adds, jubilantly.   

Working in the Temple of Healing

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan

"I always feel that we are just instruments in His hands. I have experienced so many wonderful things here. The first time I came to the Hospital I was awestruck, as it looked more like a temple than a Hospital”, he says.

On his first visit, a large number of people with specific eye disorders, whose treatment was Dr. Dewan's expertise, suddenly arrived at the Hospital. "This is Swami's grace. And this happens on every occasion any visiting physician arrives at the Hospital.

People may think it might be because the message spreads through word of mouth. But on many occasions the visiting physician might be visiting the Hospital for the first time. This has happened too many times for it to be just a coincidence.”

“Also when I come here, my efficiency suddenly increases. I am able to treat more people here than what I do back home in the U.S.. When I return my efficiency drops,” Dr. Dewan chuckles. "I believe it is Baba's grace!"

He adds that on several occasions he had come across cases which he had never seen during his practice in the U.S. “Working here also helps me to gain new insights into several rare cases. I take back the experience with me to America”, he adds.  

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan

According to Dr. Dewan, in India he finds more cases of nerve palsy than back in the U.S.. He explains that there are three nerves which control the movement of the eye, and nerve palsy leads to abnormal movement of eyes. "Many cases coming to the Hospital are of such kind," he explains.  

Dr. Dewan had also yearned to teach, which he is able to do now during his present visit to the SSSIHMS. "I wanted to teach and now Swami has fulfilled my desire”, he says with a smile. “Teaching helps a doctor to remain abreast with the latest developments in the field of medicine. I have to answer questions, which are put to me by the resident doctors, so I have to strive harder to learn and then teach the same. This process helps me to be a better physician myself.”

An Aspiration for Peace

Speaking about the transformation which has come about in him, Dr. Dewan says that his experiences with Bhagavan have helped him to re-align the goal of his life. The goal has now changed to peace and unity. “I have a yearning to speak less and accept more - and to serve without desire.”

"It is difficult to explain to my colleagues where I go off to every year for three weeks. They think I am taking off to some beach," he chuckles. "They find it hard to imagine that I am taking off to volunteer in a Hospital, which lies in a remote corner of India and treats patients free of cost," he adds.

Dr. Dewan says he tries to explain to his colleagues that it is not a holiday but an experience that takes a person to a different level. He tells them that when he started visiting the Hospital he realised how much people appreciated the work that he was doing. "The fact that I was able to serve was itself highly rewarding," he adds.

During an interview granted to Dr. Dewan and his wife, Seema, by Bhagavan, Dr. Dewan had asked Swami, "Why this separation between You and me, Lord?" "No separation, no separation." Bhagavan had affirmed.    

Sai Seva Dr. Dewan

“Before I came to Bhagavan, I used to ask ‘God, where are you?’ I don't ask that question anymore”, Dr. Dewan ends the conversation with a satisfied smile, to continue doing what he loves the most – serve patients in Swami’s Hospital.

- Heart2Heart Team

To access all the previous issues of Sai Seva, please click here.


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Vol 6 Issue 10 - OCTOBER 2008
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