Volume 6 - Issue 09
SEPTEMBER - 2008
By Mrs. Sangeeta Bhadriraju
I am very fortunate, for I came into Swami's fold early in my childhood. I recall waking up to the melodious resonance of the Suprabhatam rendered by my father while my mother hummed bhajan tunes. Our family conversations were always centered on Swami. While my parents were all the time actively involved in Swami's work, one day my father decided that he wanted to work for Swami.
He responded to a job posting for a lecturer in the Sri Sathya Sai University in the monthly newsletter Sanathana Sarathi. By Swami's grace, he was selected and asked to join immediately. But even before my father could join the Puttaparthi campus, Swami asked him to work in the Whitefield campus. My father was very happy to take up the position as the Head of the Department of English at the Sri Sathya Sai University, Brindavan campus in 1987.
Growing Up On Divine Campus
Soon, our family moved to Brindavan ashram, in the outskirts of Bangalore city. We lived there happily, basking in Swami's warmth and love. The residents of Brindavan await Swami's arrival every summer with the eagerness of the proverbial chataka bird waiting for the first drop of rain. And what wonderful days were those! Every evening Swami would call us into His residence at Trayee for an evening session.
I was very fortunate to sit and watch Swami conversing with us in His inimitable ways, and sometimes playing the cymbals during bhajans. I was always the last one to enter the heavenly abode as I had to wheel my mother into the main hall of Trayee.
On many occasions Swami held the door open for me as I gently wheeled in my mother's chair for the Trayee sessions. And on days when I was sad, Swami would come and instruct me to distribute sweets to the guests. This would not only be a pleasant diversion for me, but would also buoy my spirits up greatly.
My mother suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory arthritis of the joints. Despite various treatments with different systems of medicines, her condition continued to deteriorate gradually. She suffered excruciating pain, but always bore it with a smile; nothing ever wavered her faith in Swami even for a moment. She was very alert mentally and continued to provide loving guidance to all of us.
Sai, Our Refuge in Times of Woe
In the summer of 1992 my mother became very sick. Every day, Swami would talk to her, sometimes in Telugu and at other times in Kannada or Hindi. Just before leaving for Kodai Kanal that year, Swami came to my mother and asked for me. My mother also suffered from spondilitis and hence couldn't turn her head to look for me. Swami knew exactly where I was seated and gestured me to come up. As I rushed forward, He waved His Divine hand and showered vibhuti on my mother and gave the remaining vibhuti to me to apply on her later.
In a few days, Swami, as expected, left for Kodai Kanal, but my mother's health continued to deteriorate. My father was busy with the preparation for the summer course that used to be held in early June every year. When Swami returned from Kodai Kanal, my father wrote to Swami informing Him of my mother’s poor condition. Finally, she had to be admitted in the hospital as her kidneys began to malfunction. At this point, we were very worried. On May 24 my mother passed away in her sleep at about 2.30 in the afternoon. When Swami was informed, He immediately responded saying He knew about it.
Swami, then, enquired from my father about our religious rituals which had to be performed for my mother's last rites. The next day, as my father was waiting for Him at the college auditorium Swami came straight to him and showered His love profusely. He advised him to be courageous, assuring that He would completely take care of the children, and also promised to talk to us soon.
For the next thirteen days, like a Mother, Swami sent us food daily. We were verily receiving holy prasadam from God Himself! Every single day, He showed concern and enquired from my father what rites had been observed that day. He also said He would organize a Narayan Seva (poor feeding) in her memory on the thirteenth day, which He did. Before the session started in the canteen that day, He came to all of us, took aarthi and spoke consolingly with much love.
Swami Becomes Her Divine Mother
A few months later, Swami promoted my father to the position of Principal of the Brindavan campus of the Sri Sathya Sai University. Soon after, my father had to attend a meeting at Puttaparthi and on that occasion Swami asked my father if I had come along with him. When my father answered in the affirmative, Swami told him that He would talk to us the next day in the morning. It was the auspicious day of Vara Lakshmi Vratam, a very important day in the South Indian calendar.
The next day Swami called us to the interview room as promised. Once inside, Swami lovingly introduced my father and me to the others present in the room. I was overwhelmed when He asked me to sit next to Him; I was speechless. Next, as He was talking, He waved His hand and asked the devotees, "What is the time?" Swami then Himself answered, "It is 7:14". And the next moment there was a gold watch in His hand which He presented to my father. He then asked me, “What do you want?” But words failed me. I kept looking at Him with awe writ large on my face.
My hands were full pressing His Lotus Feet gently. Swami then materialized a diamond ring! "I want to give you a Vajram (diamond),” He said, and asked "Do you know what is today?" I said, "Swami, it is Vara Lakshmi Vratam day.” Swami said, "No, Maha Vara Lakshmi Vratam". He then placed the ring on my ring finger. I thought to myself Swami gave such a beautiful ring but it is so loose. The next moment Swami looked at me and said, "Do not worry; the ring will fit you in course of time." And just as He had said, subsequently I did put on weight. Today, the ring is a perfect fit!
On that day auspicious day Swami also promised me that from then on He would be my Divine mother. He also told us that He would look for an eligible groom and get me married. He promised to be at our side all the time and blessed us profusely. Even today, fifteen years later, every word that Swami uttered echoes in my ears. Such was the profundity of His assurance!
Years have passed by. But Swami has not forgotten me. He asked me to go to the United States of America to further my studies. I kept going to the American Consulate with my I-20 forms and returned disappointed to Puttaparthi to tell Swami that I didn't get a visa. When I told Swami the same in 1993, He said, "You will get in January." But, it did not happen.
During the same period Swami would often banter me saying my husband was sitting in the men's side. Once, in Brindavan Swami was distributing sarees to the sevadals and I was doing security duty. Swami came up to me and said, “Your husband is sitting on the other side!” And my to-be husband was indeed sitting in the darshan lines waiting for blessings from Swami as he was planning to go to the USA for Residency training. At that time we were not yet married and did not even know each other. No detail however escapes the divine gaze. And only later I realised how every word of Swami, even though spoken in jest, is actually filled with meaning.
The Divine Match-Maker
In 1996, with Swami's blessings and guidance my wedding was fixed. Swami seemed so excited. He announced in the Trayee session that "the Principal's daughter is getting married. I am very busy…” He told my father that He was looking for a good day to talk to all of us. On March 22, He called all of us for an interview. All my Sai sisters doing security duty were more excited than I was.
On that day, Swami called us in along with the Venkatagiri family, who were His very old devotees. Swami once again introduced us to the royal family and told them that I worked very hard doing security duty. He then said, “This girl does not have a mother…that is why I have told her, ‘Hereafter I am your mother’."
He then briskly walked into one of the inner rooms and returned with a beautiful pattu or silk wedding sari. He put it on me to see how I looked, just like a mother would do, to her daughter. He complimented me and then walked towards my father and materialized the sacred mangalasutra (holy pendant) tied to the wet yellow thread as if dipped in thick turmeric water. He carefully put it in an envelope and then slipped it into my father's pocket.
And then, He once again looked at me, lovingly. He was not done yet with materialisations. Next, He waved His divine fingers, and lo and behold there was the most beautiful necklace with a very unique design; I had never seen that anywhere. Then, He took us inside and advised me like a loving mother as to how I should behave in my new home and what He expected from me; He wanted me to live by His message.
Just as we were leaving the interview room, Swami suggested to me that I should come back with a son and a daughter, and that is exactly what happened. In a span of two years, I went back to see Swami with a son and daughter. Swami, of course, made fun of me in the darshan lines asking me how many children I had.
Till this date, Swami, my dear mother, has not left my side. I feel His presence all around me. We are so fortunate to be His students and His loving daughters. Recently, in the Southeast Sai retreat He made us feel His presence through all of the sisters who were present in my home. Most of them were people whom I had never seen before, still we could share so much love with each other, and that was all possible only because of Swami. He has bound us with His overflowing Love. He has given us so much!
Prayers to Sai Result in Healing
My brother and his family (wife and two daughters) live in Florida. His older daughter suffers from atopic dermatitis, a skin condition caused by allergies where there is severe itching, leading to skin breakdown and infections. She has been miserable for over two years and had not been to school for over a year. As a result, she was very frustrated; my brother tried both homeopathic and allopathic medications, but nothing seemed to work. When my father visited Puttaparthi recently (July 2008), my husband sent a letter to Swami through him making a fervent appeal to the Lord to intervene and help the innocent child.
My husband often quotes a poem from Gajendra Moksham. This is an episode in the epic Maha Bhagavatam where an elephant is trapped by the crocodile and fights for his life for over one thousand years. Finally, after exhausting all of his own strength, he makes a final appeal to the Lord acknowledging Him as the only omniscient and omnipotent God, and surrenders his own ego completely. The merciful Lord then immediately intervenes and saves the animal from the eternal suffering.
This is what was going on in my husband’s mind when he made the emotional appeal to Bhagavan in the letter. My father has since then returned from Puttaparthi and I am told that my niece's skin is fast returning to normal! She has stopped itching and is sleeping comfortably. In fact, she is getting ready to go school this year. It is only the merciful divine mother, the omnipotent "doctor" that can do this.
Swami goes to any length to save us and be with us; His love knows no bounds. And all He expects from us is to be noble human beings. Let us all make a fervent prayer that He may grant us the faith and strength to live up to His expectations, and gives us more opportunities to be the instruments of His message.
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Vol 6 Issue 09 - SEPTEMBER 2008
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