First week of January – Sports Meet Practice sessions
The biggest event in the first month of any year in Prasanthi Nilayam is the annual sports and cultural meet, for it is this event that brings together all the students of Swami from the different campuses to Puttaparthi. In 2009, by January 6, all the students had arrived from Bangalore and Anantapur, and the different time slots had been allotted to various campuses for their practice sessions. And to make matters most beautiful, Swami kept visiting the grounds often to charge all the children.
Generally, when Swami decides to visit the grounds, it is a happy time for all around. The devotees get a scent of it and immediately rush to the streets and wait for Him. The flower mongers have a field day as roses to adorn the roof or bonnet of Swami’s car gets sold by the dozens. It is the same story for the coconut sellers too, as many a coconut gets liberated with a "release" in front of the car. The few students in the Mandir rush towards the ground, while the remaining ones are already there. There is often an elaborate escort to take Swami near the dais. And once Swami reaches the stadium, it’s more like an open menu of items from which the Lord chooses.
On the afternoon of January 5, the students from Brindavan and Anantapur had not yet arrived. Swami came to the stadium and a small carpeted-stage had been set up for Him in the D area in front of the Shanti Vedika. The sweet smiling Sai, descended from the car and sitting on the mini dais asked for the programmes to begin. And so, the items of the Prashanti Nilayam campus were on display. There was one item, the gun drill, with the art of defending oneself when one runs out of bullets as its theme. Swami appreciated the disciplined manner and straight rows, which were formed. As they displayed it more, however, Swami asked, "Are these terrorists? Why is there so much violence?" The message, though subtle, was very clear. Time and again we have seen how Swami, the epitome of everything positive, doesn't like the slightest thought or show of negativity. Swami clearly didn't want this item. However, after that comment, Swami continued to interact with the coordinator of that item and told him about the discipline and order prevalent there. The wonderful aspect of this anecdote is that despite the fact that these students had trained diligently for more than a fortnight, the item was dropped and later the boys enthusiastically picked up another drill termed as the "log drill" which was done using long pieces of wood.
Swami watched the other items such as the “wheels of death” and the motorbike formations. He called one of the bikers and asked, "How many people will be sleeping when you jump?" There was a look of anxiety on His face. "Swami, there will be none sleeping. The jump will be done without that." Swami seemed very happy at this. The gymnasts were not yet ready but they too got their chance in front of Swami two days later on another visit by Him to the ground. On that occasion, after the Anantapur campus had finished its presentation, Swami asked for the boys’ items. Everyone thought that He was referring to Brindavan. But when they came, Swami said, "I have already seen yours. Prashanthi Nilayam now." That was the gymnastic item that He had not seen. The boys were touched that He remembered! On January 7, which happened to be the Vaikuntha Ekadasi Day, the warden of the Senior Boys Hostel requested Swami to visit the hostel and have a look at the magnificently decked Ranganatha statue. Swami said that He knew it and He would visit at a more appropriate time.
Swami chose and blessed the torch vehicle, which was a lion. In this manner, He had a look at all the items. There was a mass electric-scooter event done by the school students, which brought a smile on all faces, and there were also some stunts on ladders that impressed Bhagavan. The Brindavan campus and Anantapur campus too got their chance in front of Him and they displayed all that they had prepared. The entire Anantapur sequence was a series of dances based on the creation of the Universe by the Lord, and topping all these were tough yoga exercise on moving auto rickshaws. The Brindavan campus put up its presentation too one of His visits. The lion dance, dragon dance and the martial arts items were all crisp and impressive. Swami saw the Primary school programme too in two separate parts - the skating and other related events in the Primary school campus itself and the other mass items on the ground. As He saw the skating, Swami made enquiries into the safety of the children. All the little ones also had the privilege of going up to His car window and chanting the Veda mantras even as He blessed them. The mass items by the girls, especially, were marvels of synchronisation and grace. At the end of the Primary sessions, Swami remarked that He was very happy and the children did exceedingly well.
On two separate occasions, Swami witnessed the march past too and once He saw the entire morning ceremony. What was so touching and wonderful was that, Swami Himself puts in so much effort during the practice sessions. Having perfected all items, He becomes the recipient on the actual Sports day. Swami also had a look at the stage decorations and the ground preparations. He noticed that the lamp posts lining the road had not been decorated with the flower bouquets and that took everyone by surprise for He had noticed such a small detail! But the prize was taken by another lovely episode. Swami said that the steps leading to the Shanti Vedika dais were very steep on the sides and so the primary school children, when they come up to gift Him the bouquets, should come from the gentler steps in front of the stage. Thus, the practice that had been on from so many years changed this year. Swami also said that the children should be waiting near the stage itself and mustn't come running all the way from the middle of the ground! Such is the concern of the Lord for His children!
And thus were filled the days with Swami being omnipresent even literally on the grounds. The Lord was taking more pains than anybody else for the grand event on January 11.
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