The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - 15th August 2004 - Part 1
The surprising 'instruction'...
Turning through the pages of my diary, I come to an episode which the Master chose to teach many lessons for life. The timing and occurrence of this episode which spanned almost a week was centered around the 57th Indian Independence Day on the 15th of August, 2004. Some of the lessons that I learnt through this episode (which I hope to remember whenever I need) are those of conflict resolution, expanding one’s heart and following one’s heart or inspiration.
The sequence of events are so thrilling that the writer is tempted to rush to them at the earliest. But one cannot hope to enjoy a 3 course gourmet feast as fast food! And following the pattern of a 3-course meal, let’s start with the sizzling starters - that which sets us up for what is to follow.
It started with one of my classmates, Ranganatha Raju (RR) walking beside me as we made our way to the Institute in lines. He said,
“Aravind, I had Swami’s (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) dream last night.”
“Oh wow! That’s great and nice to hear. But why are you telling me about it?”
“...because there is a message in it for you...”
My ears perked up. I was very eager to listen to what Swami wanted to tell me through his dream.
“It is about a drama to be staged on 15th of August...”
“You mean the Independence Day drama?”
It was tradition for the senior-most students of the hostel to put up a drama in the hostel on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day. That drama meant a lot for the seniors as they would showcase their best acting skills, construction skills, music skills, dancing skills - you name it.
“Yes! The Independence Day drama. I think Swami wants us to stage it in Sai Kulwant hall!”
“This is crazy! It has never been done before”, I replied.
In a few seconds before he spoke his next line, a hundred thoughts filled my head -
The I-Day drama would have many scenes from the Indian freedom movement. Those would invariably show the brutality of the British invaders and the heroic life-sacrifices of many Indian patriots. These would not be appropriate for putting up in Sai Kulwant hall (the huge public meeting hall in which Bhagawan Baba meets with the thousands that gather daily), in Swami’s presence! Again, what about some of the dances and songs which had a jazzy or a 'fast' feel to them. How could we put those up in Sai Kulwant hall? The light-effects, sound effects and a hundred other effects that were possible while doing a drama in the hostel (where they had been done year after year for more than a dozen times) were not possible in Swami’s darshan hall.
The rapid flow of my thoughts was interrupted by RR’s next statement,
“Swami said that He has given you the theme for the drama. So, I thought it would be best if we discuss and think of how best to execute that theme.”
I was in a daze now. I was confused.
“Are you sure that you saw Swami in your dream and He told you all this?”
“Do you think I would have the courage to come and talk to you this way if I was not convinced?”
“Listen Raju. I promise that Swami has not given me any theme for a drama to be put up in His presence for Independence Day. I don’t know how you should proceed.”
“When Swami says that He has given, He has given. You have not recognized it yet. Think deeply about it and please tell me as soon as the theme gets concretised.”
Resolution of the 'mystery' theme
With that, we entered the assembly hall of the college where silence was a compulsory thing. I was doing some serious soul-searching throughout the prayer session. There were hardly 9 days left for the Independence Day and was Swami expecting us to conjure a programme of a quality which could be put up in His presence in the mandir?
I take Swami’s dreams seriously always. And today, I also see a kind of connection between me and RR when it comes to Swami’s dreams. In fact, it was in his dream that Swami answered me so fantastically during my profound Suka Nadi experience.
A whole day passed without much luck. The next day, as I was taking a shower, a single thought kept pounding against my heart. It was saying,
“In Sanskrit, ‘independence’ is denoted by Swarajya. Find the meaning of this word.”
This kept going on within me and it seemed as if I would not be able to do anything else unless I answered this voice. When I discovered the meaning, was I excited!
Swarajya is constituted by “Swa” and “Rajya”. While the former means “Self”, the latter means “Rule”. And here, ‘Self’ stands for the inner self, the Atma or God within. So, true ‘independence’ is when the Atma or Self rules.
Independence therefore is In-Dependence!
The way in which the inspiration had manifested, I was convinced that it was Swami who had provided the ‘theme’ for a drama. I rushed to RR and told him the sequence of events. He was excited too. He was also firmly convinced that it was Swami who had provided the theme. The story flow we arrived at, was like this:
1. August 15th 1947 was the day India attained independence - freedom from the British rule - which was purely in the physical sense.
2. We have to attain the next level of independence which is freedom from the chains of poverty, corruption, immorality etc. which bind us.
3. We can be truly free only when we achieve the final level which is Swarajya or rule by the Self.
In the course of our research while making the drama and presentation we came across another amazing point. Swami refers to India as Bharat and an Indian as Bharatiya. Swami’s definition, however, is so different from ours. He says,
“The land where the 5 human values (Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-Violence) are practiced is Bharat. And the person who practices these 5 is a Bharatiya. So, being a Bharatiya does not depend on one’s geographical location. It depends on one’s values.”
We felt that we must mention this also. It would make the Independence Day celebrations global and universal and not restricted merely to ‘Indians’!
At this point, we called a few more like-minded classmates and discussed the program. Everyone was excited and soon, a beautiful drama had taken shape. We thought that it was time to share the same with the whole class, enlist its support and start preparing for this added and new programme. We did not have the slightest idea of the opposition that we would meet!
Even as we explained the concept to the class, there were protests.
" We have already allocated resources (human and material) for the hostel drama. How can we accommodate this now?"
“Please do not try to force ‘spirituality’ down people’s throats! It gets nauseating. It is of no use preaching spirituality like this everywhere.”
“Independence Day has been a hostel programme and a way for all the senior students to showcase their talents. Let it be that way because there is no way we can do two programmes on the same day - then justice will not be done to either of them! We can make a programme for the mandir later!”
“Such a programme has never been done in Swami’s presence. How do you think we will get the permission to do so?”
The way things went, we now had to now choose between preparing for the ‘traditional’ hostel programme (with its 100% probability of happening) or preparing for the ‘radical’ mandir programme (with its 50% probability of happening). A vote was cast by the 120 students of the class and it was 60-40 in favor of the programme in the mandir.
The problem with democracy is that the majority decides everything! Though the vote said that the mandir programme should be planned, we had a huge 40% of the class unhappy with the decision. Instead of agreeing with the majority, they went about attempting to convince the ‘opposition’ about the hostel programme and increase their support-percentage! Thus it was that two programmes were being prepared simultaneously - one for the mandir by 60% of the class and one for the hostel by 40% of the class. (Aren’t these exactly the problems in a democracy!! :) )
Both ‘parties’ were racing against time to get the programmes ready. The preparations were impaired by the fact that we were a disunited class trying to achieve something that had never been done before - 2 programmes in the same day! The ‘hostel team’ suffered a handicap - most of the better actors and speakers were part of the ‘mandir team’. The ‘mandir team’ was not problem-free - most of the skilled artists who would make the sets for the drama and help in the costumes were part of the ‘hostel team’.
We often had discussions, debates, arguments and conflicts between the two teams. But as these happened, not a word of it was allowed to leak outside the class. The teachers were not aware of this happening. Both the teams had put up their proposals to the warden who had taken them up to the vice-chancellor. They were amazed at our confidence and our class’ track record at putting programmes convinced them that we would be successful this time also. The vice-chancellor sought permission from Swami for the mandir programme. It was granted and we were all tense. Though the vice-chancellor and the elders were praising our class, they were not aware of the severe disunity problems plaguing us.
This was the setting when we began our practice on the 10th of August for programmes on the 15th of August - one in mandir and one in the hostel.
And with that, the sizzlers and appetizers of the 3-course meal have been served. The main course was to be a memorable feast with all tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy! But the dessert was a lip-smacker and a real cooler. And that was because Swami physically got involved in both of them.
Go over to Part 2
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