The Fruits of Action - 1
It was the summer of 2002. Like some of the special summers before that, Swami had decided to conduct the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality. The venue, as always, was the Whitefield Ashram in Bangalore. It turned out to be the most unforgettable Summer Course for me because of the experience it gifted me. Swami used that period to teach me a powerful lesson about who He is. Without spending more time on the suspense build-up, I shall dive into the happenings of that fortnight. :)
For those that are unaware of what a Summer Course with Sathya Sai Baba is, here is a brief description. It had started off as a study of the Indian scriptures and value systems for a period of 15 days for the youth from various parts of India. Swami would take active interest in it and would address the students on a daily basis. The students were also blessed to hear different scholars and erudite speakers. As years passed by, attending a Summer Course was made a special privilege of only the students studying in the various educational institutions started by Swami. The format and schedule remained the same.
The Buddha Poornima celebrations happened towards the fag end of the Summer Course. It was the 26th of May, 2002. I was part of the audio team that arranges mikes for the programmes and ensures good audio from the various speakers hung in the hall. As part of my duty, I was seated right in the front of the hall, with the bhajan group. The programmes were being conducted by devotees from Nepal who had filled the Brindavan Ashram. This was a time when Swami had suffered a fall. As a result, two lifts had been erected - one on the ladies’ side and one on the gents’ side - for Swami to move up and down.
That gave me an added duty. I was told that if Swami goes up the stage by the gents’ side lift, the ladies’ side lift also should be up just in case Swami decides to use it. This synchronicity of the lifts had not yet been automated. Swami, on that day, completed His darshan rounds and moved up the lift from the ladies’ side. The lift on the gents’ side stayed down. Over the walkie-talkie I got an instruction, “Move to the gents’ side and raise the lift up.”
I was immediately in a dilemma. I was right in front of Swami. I also had a big camera in hand. Would it not be conspicuous if I rise and go? Would not Swami get upset at my ‘indiscipline’ of moving during a programme?
Even as I was lost in thoughts, I got another message, “The warden is here. He says that you better go and raise the lift up. In case Swami wants to go down the gents’ side, He will be made to wait otherwise.” Now, the warden of our hostel in Brindavan also happened to be sort of an administrative head of the Brindavan Ashram. He was considered as Swami’s ‘right hand’ person to execute various activities. If he was saying, I better do it, I thought. So, I just got up and walked to the lift. I pressed the green button that took the lift up.
Immediately, I felt a hand pull me down. It was a teacher and he seemed upset. He said, “You fool! Why did you get up and move? Swami was going on seeing you. He does not like such indiscipline. Now, just sit here and don’t do anything foolish.” I sat down at the lift, a little scared about facing Swami’s ‘irritation’. But my attention was on my Nikon 801s SLR camera that was on the floor, right in front of Swami. The bhajans were on and everyone were singing out loud. The Buddhist devotees sitting there were lost in the ecstasy of devotion and I was more worried. One swipe of an excited limb and my camera would be history! I sat with bated breath, waiting for the programme to conclude.
About half an hour later, Swami gently rose and received Aarthi. The final Aarthi song was sung and He moved towards the lift. It was the one on the ladies’ side itself. As He moved down, in accordance to the policy, I lowered the lift on the gents’ side also. ( This was in case Swami wanted to move up the lift again, from the gents’ side!) Swami instead, walked in the opposite direction towards the ladies’ side corner. From there He was about to exit the hall. At this time, I got up from my place and rushed back in order to safeguard the camera. And then, it happened...
Swami was a good 25 meters away. But, even from that distance, He seemed to see me. He re-entered the Sai Ramesh hall and came walking straight towards me. ( I immediately remembered the words of my teacher who had advised me to remain seated near the lift.) For the first time in my life, I had trepidation as Swami was coming near me. He was smiling and blessing the Nepalese devotees who had gathered. Seeing His smiling face, I felt slightly better. But as He came two feet away from me, His expression changed.
His face became red in anger almost instantly. He told me to get up and I rose on my knees. I received full ‘fury’ on my face.
“Are you a student?! Totally undisciplined! You are moving around like dogs and pigs do!”
Even as He was scolding me, I felt His saliva on my face - such was the fury. I was totally confused and I stammered, “Swami...er...warden....lift...”
“Yes! Warden! I shall throw you out. I don’t want a student like this.”
And immediately after this, He looked at the devotees over my head and gave them a broad smile. The red face was gone and so was the fury. I am sure that none of the devotees even made out anything other than the fact that Swami had told me something. He just turned and walked away. I was trembling in fear. I was so totally shocked and I had never seen Swami in that form ever. Even as Swami was exiting the hall, all the devotees gathered around me. Not aware of what had happened, they were congratulating me.
“You are so blessed that Swami came all the way for you!”
“Can you share what was that special secret that He came to share with you?”
I was lost for words. I was in tears.
“He is so overwhelmed! Leave him for a while to absorb the beauty of the experience!”
I just arose from my place and picking up the mikes, took them to the audio room that was backstage. From the room, I could see and even hear Swami moving towards His residence. The warden was there. As Swami neared him, he was all smiles. But I could see the smile fading into a grim expression and from that I could guess Swami’s expression.
Then, I heard Swami.
“That boy....About this tall.....He has a camera.....Is he a student?”
“Swami....I shall find out....”
( I knew that warden, from his previous such experience was simply playing it safe)
“Get him here this afternoon. I shall throw him out. I don’t want such boys.”
And Swami walked into the residence.
I returned to my room and was simply lost. I was in a daze and was thinking of what I would do now. In a few minutes, I was summoned to the warden’s office. I walked to the room and saw that the warden was meeting with some ‘big’ people. The minute he saw me, he dismissed everyone else and called me in. Somehow, this kind of VIP treatment at this juncture scared me even more.
“Boy! What did you do? How could you do such a thing?”
“Sir! You told me to go and raise the lift and I did as you said.”
“If I tell you to jump in a well, will you do it? You should have told me about your predicament and used your common sense!”
“What should I do now sir?”
“Swami has told me to take you to Him this afternoon and He wants to personally throw you out. Only prayer can save you. Keep praying.”
I felt like falling at warden’s feet and asking him to save me! I was like a drowning man clutching at the floating straws. I did not fall at his feet but asked him to save me nevertheless.
“Listen to me. Stand in a corner hidden from Swami’s view. Pray to Him that He does not notice you. Also pray that when He sees me, He does not ask about you. Only prayer can save you.”
I accepted what he said and slowly trudged back to my room. I just had tears and was also angry in part.
“I just obeyed my elders! Does not Swami know what I was doing? Why did He scold me that way? And now, if I am thrown out after my undergraduate course, what should I do next?”
With a loud thudding of my heart, I lay down on my bed.
( Read on with Part 2 )
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