When, what used to be a Monologue became a Dialogue
It was the most auspicious Ugadi morning, the 21st March 2015; we were driving to Sathya Sai Vihar, Alike where I spent 6 memorable years of my schooling. I was eagerly waiting for this day for almost 2 weeks. Swami was visiting the campus to lay the foundation stone for PU block. I was thrilled and excited to "see" Him. I had heard that Sri Sathya Sai Saraswathi Trust, the newly established under the Divine Guidance was funding the project. Alike had not seen such a big project being taken up for a long time now and I was naturally excited about the prospect of my school getting a face lift. It is always a joyful feeling to see the school that has made you what you are now, scaling new heights.
Our car had entered the arch at Padibagilu and mom reminded me the song my younger brother would sing (as a kid) as they reached Alike when they came to see me on Sundays almost 20 yrs back when I was studying there "ANNA SHALE BANTHU.. ANNA SHALE BANTHU..”
It was festive atmosphere there as we reached the venue. But since people hardly knew anything about the 'subtle' form phenomenon except for those who are active on social media, I didn't feel they were there to have Swami's Darshan as such. But nevertheless, the crowd was huge. As per my estimate, it should be not less than 5000.
Swami's cavalcade had by then started from 'SAI NIVAS', His residence in Alike and was inching towards the venue. My heart was racing. Since this was my third encounter with the Divinity in subtle form, I had gotten used to the customs and etiquette. As Swami's white Mercedes got closer, the feeling was inexpressible, the same joy I had running behind the silver Toyota Porte.
After the foundation stone laying ceremony, Swami moved to the public meeting venue. All the while I was closely watching the body language of Bro Madhusudan Naidu and Sri B N Narasimha Murthy, since it was just a week after the TV9 "expose". I wanted to see if they were scared, nervous, petrified to face the public. There was absolutely no sign of any of these. In fact, Bro Madhusudan was peaceful; Narasimha Murthy Sir was brimming with confidence.
On the dais, Bro Madhusudan sat on the floor behind Swami's chair like any "form boy" would do. When it was time for the Divine Discourse, Bro Madhusudan was at the mike to communicate Swami's message. And the Discourse was sheer liquid grace, typical Swami wit, humour, examples, anecdotes, a brilliant oratory. Swami even declared He would next commission an auditorium for the campus after the completion of PU block construction.
After the programme Swami moved to the residence and I was running with the car, the exercise I loved doing the most even during Swami's physical days. It gave me a high like nothing else.
After a sumptuous meal, the sultry weather had made my parents very tired but they were hesitant to tell me if we could leave, but gave a subtle hint. I had barred my mom from getting her non-devotee neighbour friend to the programme because I didn't want any sort of distraction from the main purpose that we were here for, which is Swami.
By then the campus looked deserted and most of them had left. I tried asking a few people what the next programme was and none had a clue. We called a family friend (who we thought would know) and he wasn't answering the call, which meant it was time to leave. We drove about 5 to 6 kms away from Alike and then we got a call from the same family friend. When we enquired, I got to know there was going to be an Alumni Meet at 4 PM and Swami would address the gathering. I took a sharp U turn and reached the Main Prayer Hall at least 20 mins in advance.
As I entered, there were hardly a few people seated. I could have sat in the front row but then I chose to sit in the 3rd row at the edge of the red carpet where Swami would come walking. I was a bit nervous to face Swami. My brother was seated next to me. By the time Swami arrived, the hall was full, about 300 in attendance. Bro Madhusudan was trying to walk at the edge so he wouldn't have to walk on the red carpet put for Swami. When He came close to me, He looked at my brother and asked me, "Brother?" And I said, "Yes!" That was THE FIRST TIME HE HAD EVER SPOKEN TO ME! I was in for a pleasant shock!
The programme began. I thanked Swami for getting me back (on track!) and speaking to me. A speaker reiterated what was going on in my mind. NONE CAN BE HERE WITHOUT HIS WILL. Who can vouch for this statement better than me who almost drove 6 kms from Alike only to return to be spoken to by Him?! The meet concluded with a Divine Discourse and Arathi.
Swami started walking back on the red carpet. I quickly wiped my sweaty face with the already wet hanky, thanks to the humid weather, to look presentable. He came to me and called out, "Preetham". As the Vice President of DELL (who is sitting diagonally opposite to me) also an alumnus of Alike institution looks on, SWAMI TALKS TO ME YET AGAIN! I'm standing on my knees. He asks me, "What are you doing?" "Where is your father?" "How is his health?". And then says, "Come to Muddenahalli on Sunday. Bring your father also!" I ask Him, "Any Sunday?" He says, "This Sunday! ". I was on cloud nine!
All of us bought new pairs of clothes; I got a white Kurta for "the interview" of our lives! We reached Muddenahalli on the sacred Rama Navami, Saturday, the 28th of March. Swami had arranged a beautiful 1BHK home at SAI DHAM for our stay inside the Muddenahalli campus. We quickly freshened up for the evening Rama Navami functions scheduled at the auditorium. I with my brother Uttam Sai positioned ourselves strategically in such a way that Swami knew as He drove to the auditorium that we were there. Muddenahalli is the Prasanthi Nilayam of 60's, limited crowd as of now. Swami looks at us and signals, "Tomorrow!" After a soul-stirring musical treat in the auditorium Swami comes out to get into the car. He looks at me and again says "Come Tomorrow!”
The D Day was here, Sunday, the 29th March 2015. Anxious, excited & nervous, we were at the Anandam gate by 3 PM waiting to be "called" in. By 4 PM the "Alike Brothers" (the name Swami used for me and my brother) were asked to go inside and wait in the Anandam Bhajan Hall. The hall was filling up as we waited with bated breath. But the question kept lingering in my mind as I waited. Why did Swami call me OUT OF ALL! The social media addict that I am I was also thinking what my fb post should be after the "interview"! Who do I thank for the blessing? And then I felt it right to dedicate it to my grandfather and my parents. It was their good deeds which brought me to Swami and kept me engrossed for all these years in spite of all the ups and downs in life. As the clock was ticking, I was waiting for the big moment with patience and then came a boy at around 5:35 PM down from the Anandam stairs looking for ''Alike Brothers". We both rushed up the stairs, as my parents followed along with our domestic help who has been with us for almost 5 decades. The excitement I felt was incomparable, almost surreal. The first floor of Anandam had the opulence of a palace, the vibration so intense that I feared I would end up seeing My Swami right there in flesh. We reached the interview room where Bro Madhusudan was waiting to receive us; the simplicity of the Sai Boy is worth noting.
My first interview was when I was in the 6th grade, in the year 1993, as a student in Alike, Swami had called our class boys for a group interview. Swami had materialized Kohinoor diamond and we were thrilled to see the spectacle. But He had never spoken to me then. In fact, He never spoke to me as such though we have had our numerous eye-to-eye moments, Padanamaskars etc. In the year 2002, I had one of the greatest opportunities to serve Him in Trayee Brindavan as a 'Trayee Boy'. Our task was to keep the Trayee lawns clean, roll out the blue carpet for Swami when He came out for Darshan morning and evening. One week of beautiful darshan from very close range, where He would look at us, smile & bless. He had given me a White Safari suit piece with Rs. 200 and a blessing by keeping his hand on my head, a treasure of a lifetime. That one week changed my life forever. Even though I was born in a devotee family, the real addiction for Swami started after this week in Trayee.
There we were at our first family interview. Bro Madhusudan asked all the five of us to sit on the floor and he sat on the floor too with us. The floor had beautiful thick woolen carpet covering. A majestic chair adorned the room where Swami was seated in the subtle form. The setting was of a royal palace with walls swept in real turquoise, Victorian style furniture. Bro Madhusudan, the communicator made us aware Swami was seated on the chair in ochre robe, splendiferous. Bro Madhusudan kept looking at the chair as he communicated Swami's words. The first I ask Him was why He had called me OUT OF ALL when there were so many sitting and waiting for Him down who have done a lot of service. And Swami responds. It was the good deeds, the service that your grandfather had done to Me travelling all over the state, that had brought you here. Exactly what I was thinking when I was sitting down waiting for the interview. That stunned me! He revealed few private matters with us which I had never shared with anyone and by no way the communicator would have known. This meant no amount of "Swami does not communicate through mediums" logic could make an impact on me anymore.
Swami is much more than what you understand of what He speaks. You can't selectively pick His words to support your preconceived idea of Him. He always had a customized message to every individual. You can't force Him to fit in to your prejudice. The FAITH in Swami was purely based on personal experiences, but to assess the subtle form, we go the logic way. ISKCON claims Sathya Sai Baba isn't 'Bhagawan' because there is no mention of Him in the Bhagavatam. You know they are clueless because you have experienced His Divinity. But then we use the same logic to decide the veracity of the 'Subtle Form'. We are too scared to go and find out. There is a lot of mudslinging going on against Muddenahalli. Most critics are astounded, how could Swami go and settle down in Muddenahalli without their permission? This episode has made the usually sober 'Sai Devotees', aggressive. They did not react when BBC made false charges against Bhagawan or when wild allegations were hurled against Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust and His beloved Satyajit. The ones who did not want to fight GOD'S BATTLE are up in arms. Having said that, both for and against Muddenahalli folks are doing whatever they are doing for the love of Swami. Let us pray He gives us clarity.
It was about 20 to 25 mins of 'Dialogue' with Bhagawan. He called us Rama and Lakshmana and then further asked in a jovial manner who is Rama and who is Lakshmana among us. And He then said, he knew us for a very long time and we were not new to Him. I shared with Him my desire to drive His car and take Him for a drive to which He assured He would give me an opportunity someday. He asked me to come to Alike next time He was there, in return, I invited Swami to visit our home in Mangalore to which He agreed. In the end of the interview, He also said I could come to Muddenahalli whenever I was free. Swami materialized a gold chain with a pendant engraved with his beautiful face for myself and my brother and then assured my parents not to worry about anything since we were completely under His Grace. He also assured He would keep calling us like this to guide us. I asked Him if we could get a photograph and Swami retorts, you can't see Me, what will you click? :) May be He knew, I would Tom Tom the photograph on Facebook. Thus, what used to be a monologue had become a dialogue.
I would like to submit myself to Him and pray He keeps us in His fold forever. There is nothing that interests me more than Him.
Jai Sai Ram
With Love and Light,
Preetham Sai P V