Everyone is an apple of the eye for God
It was one of those moments when I had got lost in nostalgic reverie. Lying on my bed, I was recollecting so many beautiful moments that I had spent with my dear Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba). I remembered my first few darshans at Brindavan, Whitefield in 1992. Those were the days when I first started taking photos of Swami with a Yashica camera. So much had happened in my life after that and it was such a joy recollecting all the love and grace showered by the Lord on me. The thought that arose in me was this,
“Thank you Swami! You made me the apple of your eye. I never imagined that such good fortune would ever be mine... I am so grateful for this.”
Even as I spent happy time in company of my memories, the call for having lunch came for almost the fifth time.
“Aravind! Will you come and join us for lunch or should we begin without you?”
It was my mother and she always likes to dine together as a family.
“Am coming”, I screamed and woke up from my reverie. I rushed out of the room leaving behind my relaxes state and my dear bed. However, I could not let go of the thoughts that had been running through me. And so, even as we settled upon a sumptuous lunch, I looked at my dad and asked him,
“When you consider the relationship you share with Swami, what do you think of it?”
A gleam sparkled in his eyes. He began to mentally relive and cherish his memories with his Lord. After considerable consideration, he replied,
“I am the apple of Swami’s eyes! What more can I ask for?”
Hearing this, I was stunned! Both of us seemed to have had the same thought. The narrative that followed gave me another beautiful insight into the wonderful ways of the Lord. The insight I shall share later. First, I must share what my father revealed that day.
A memorable 18th ‘birthday’
In what could be considered as a ‘license to adulthood’, my father attained 18 years of age on the 22nd of May 1970. Though his birthday is actually on the 22nd of September, the earlier date had been given in school records to make him eligible for admission an year earlier. It was exactly on his 18th ‘birthday’ that Swami granted him an interview and materialized a silver ring for him. That, however, is subject of another story. Today’s story is about the day after that, the 23rd of May, 1970.
Swami had blessed a family with the rare opportunity to have the Upanayanam (thread ceremony) of their son done at His bungalow in Brindavan. Since the parents of the boy knew us (me and my eldest brother), they invited us also for the event. It was a gathering of nearly a hundred people in Swami’s bungalow and I was seated in the second row with my Rolleicord camera.
My father’s eldest brother is an ace photographer. Though he has toured extensively and intensively all over the country and to many parts of the world covering nature and wildlife, I consider his photography of Swami as his greatest achievement and privilege. He had been called for the above mentioned ceremony in the capacity of a photographer. And he had taken along with him, his ever-ready apprentice, my father! So, he was now seated as one of the guests as his elder brother was busy covering the event.
I too thought of shooting some pictures. I raised my camera and took a few pictures of Swami when He suddenly looked at me and said,
“There is no light here! How are you taking pictures.”
He was right. I had no flash and the pictures I was taking would surely be under-exposed. So, I simply put my camera down and sat seeing Swami. It was simply so wonderful to see Him from close quarters - and that too it was the day after my interview with Him!
God’s timing is always perfect
The Muhurtam (the perfect auspicious time) for the ceremony was still about an hour away. So, Swami rose from His seat and moved out. Time seemed to crawl and my father simply sat in his place waiting for Swami to come again. Have you noticed how time seems to fly when you are in the presence of Swami but it seems to stretch forever when you are waiting for Him? Weeks fly at a rapid pace when you are enjoying darshans daily but 2 years seem like 2 lifetimes when you are waiting to see Him!
The Muhurtam arrived and Swami had apparently not yet come. The priests who were present got a bit panicky. A few minutes before the appointed hour, Swami arrived and said,
“See! I am here. Not late, but in perfect time.” Everyone smiled. Who can deny the fact that God’s timing is always perfect?
The blessed boy
As the ceremony began and Swami blessed the boy profusely, I began to relive my own thread ceremony which Swami had performed in 1965. It was a flood of happy memories. From that flood came a stream of thoughts. I felt that the boy here was so blessed. When there were thousands gathered outside to have Swami’s darshan, Swami had decided to give His time for him! How fortunate! Even as I was thinking so, my thoughts were interrupted by Swami’s words,
“Hey! You are still here! You wanted to take a picture of me right? Come along with me.”
This was a bolt from the blue and my father rose to follow Swami. Swami went into the adjacent hall with my father behind. Then, He peeped into the adjoining rooms which were filled with people. He told my father,
“There are so many people here. Go out of the main door and come from behind. I shall meet you there!”
“Come in fast”, He called me.
I went into the room and Swami held me in a tight embrace. I felt so overwhelmed and I embraced Him back. Swami looked into my eyes and I looked into His. I wished that the moment would freeze forever. That magical moment was broken by Swami. But the words He spoke ring in my ears even today.
“Are you scared?”
“No Swami! Why will I be scared when you are with me?”
“Remember that throughout your life. You never need to fear for I am always near.”
Swami then continued speaking,
"See, there will lots of thoughts coming in the mind. Some will be dirty. Don't do anything about them. Let them just flow by in the same way as dirt flows away in a river. The purity of the river will not get affected..."
After that, He gently combed my hair and set it. He said something that convinced me of His nearness to me. He actually reflected what I had been thinking just a few minutes before.
“See! Thousands of people are waiting for me. There is also this thread ceremony that is going on. In spite of that, it is ONLY YOU that I am spending time with.”
I was left speechless. I was convinced beyond doubt that I was the apple of His eye. He continued to speak,
“Now come out. I shall fulfill your desire to photograph me.”
“Swami, but I do not have a flash. It is with my brother..."
“Go fetch it and come. Go fast now.”
As commanded, I rushed to my brother, took the flash. I did not tell him what was happening. I just told him that I would be back before Swami arrived. I ran to the back of the building. There was nobody there. I was wondering whether Swami would really come there. Even as I stood thinking, there was a slight noise and the door opened. And there stood Swami!
The most ethereal and beautiful photograph
Swami told my father to go out again and wait in the garden. He did so immediately. Swami came out through another door. It was such a wonderful and beautiful moment. It felt like the Garden of Paradise where man is in solitude with God! The rays of the morning sun and the mist that had not yet disappeared created a magical effect. Sadly, it was a ‘black & white’ film in my father’s camera because color films were very expensive those days.
However, as Swami posed and my father clicked, the image that came out is something that my family will cherish for centuries to come. And I know that my family across the globe too would cherish the same for centuries. Here is what Swami gifted my father.
As my father completed his narrative, I was struck by one beautiful and fantastic aspect of Swami. He has touched the lives of millions of people. And every person who has been touched by Him treasures the feeling that he/she is special for Swami. He/she is convinced that Swami has made him/her the apple of His eye. This omnifelicity is something that is only possible for the Divine. In our lifetimes, we can probably make a dozen people feel that they are very special for us. But Swami has done that to millions. Though He is considered as the Lord who arrived for the world, He means a world to each and every person He has touched. And each of those people consider themselves as very special for Swami.
This would probably be a good time for me to stop my rambling and allow the reader to get immersed in the joyful thoughts of how he/she has been the apple of His eye...
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya