Om Sri Sai Ram
Dearest Sai Family
"Why would you think like that? Swami knows everything about you. In fact, He enquired about you many times. Don't feel upset." These consoling words from Sri.Kasturi are still fresh in my mind.
It was in the year 1977, during the second day of Dasara festival. I went up to Sri.Kasturi and said in a soft voice, "Sir, it seems you sent word for me through the sevadals. It seems Bhagavan asked me to give a talk in the Poornachandra Auditorium this evening and, as no-one could trace my whereabouts in the ashram, I lost this DIVINE chance. Sir! Please excuse me. How can you back an unlucky horse?”
Kasturi who was trying his best to pacify me said, "Do you think Swami doesn't know who is worthy to be His chosen instrument? He knows everything and He will do the needful at the right moment. Don't be upset. Be happy that you are at least in His Divine sight and thoughts. What else could anyone need?"
Let me explain to you what happened that particular day. Swami enquired about me from Sri.Kasturi, who in turn asked the sevadals and other officials to look for me in the ashram. The end result: I lost the rare opportunity to speak in the Divine presence on such a huge occasion. Don't you think I would not be disappointed by this? Prior to that Swami never spoke a word with me, never smiled at me, given no padanamaskar, not even a first row seat was in my luck. I used to think that this was BAD LUCK which was brought forward by me from my previous births. If at all I was lucky to get a first row, Swami would either skip that area or would speak loudly to a person who was seated right next to me and many a times materialise something or other for that person. Many of my friends, who already knew my bad luck would say, "Mr. Anil Kumar, we would sit next to you in the canteen or anywhere else, but not in the darshan lines.” Such was my reputation then.
After seven long years, finally when the DIVINE CALL came, I was not available. This would have been my first chance to see Him up close, to talk to Him, and to have padanamaskar. I was cursing my lucky stars. Sri Kasturi said, "Don't worry. In the evening darshan sit in the first row and see what happens."
FIRST CONVERSATION WITH SWAMI
Exactly at 4:50 pm, Swami came out for darshan. Blessing, talking with all the devotees and gliding along slowly, Swami came and stood in front of me and said, “Where have you been this morning? I sent people to look for you in the canteen and in your room. No one could find you. I thought of letting you speak this morning."
My whole body started shivering. Did my Swami speak to me now? Is this conversation, is this moment, is this day REAL or a DREAM? Is this the END of my 7 year BAD LUCK episode and is it the START of a new beginning?
After a few seconds of bombarding thoughts, I took some courage and said, "Swami! Please forgive me. I was in Sri Ammanna Sashtri's house outside the ashram. I was also joined by Podili Viswanatha Sharma, Purighalla Appa Rao, Sri Manchi Raju Surya Narayana Murthy. I was completely spellbound to hear the glory of Shirdi from Sri Viswanatha Sharma. This made me forget the time. That is why I didn't come into the ashram on time."
Our beloved Lord said, “No problem. Don't feel sad. Take padanamaskar" Just like a baby deer jumping onto its mother, I fell on His Divine lotus feet. I thought to myself, "Swami! What is it that You don't know about this world? How could you call me when I was not present? Why is it that I was not present when You called Me? Is this not part of Your Divine Leela, Swami?!"
Exactly after one year, in 1978, I got the Divine chance to speak in the immediate presence of Bhagavan .On that day, on prior intimation, I was made to sit on the dais. On the dais, Swami was seated on His throne and behind Him were Swami Karunyananda, Sri Kasturi and Sri Bhagawantham. As soon as Swami signaled me to speak, I went up to Swami and asked, "Swami, English or Telugu?" Swami replied, "Speak in English.” Our compassionate Lord also gave me a second chance during the same year's Dasara Celebrations on Vijaya Dasami day when He asked me to speak in Telugu. This was my debut in Puttaparthi.
In the year 1980, I got a telegram which said that I was appointed as the Zonal Convener of Andhra and Rayalaseema Sri Sathya Sai Organisations. Immediately I left for Puttaparthi. In darshan line, I said, "Swami! The Chairman of the World Council has sent me a telegram. I am very thankful to You. Please bless me.” Swami said, “I have personally appointed you as the Zonal Convener and the telegram was sent by Me." Hearing those sweet words, my heart jumped in joy. I understood it was all Swami's wish and that everything happens according to the Divine Will.
Time was passing by. It was in the year 1985 and Swami's Birthday celebrations were in full swing in the Sri Sathya Sai Hill View stadium. In the morning session of Swami's birthday, the then Chairman of the World Council, Sri. Indulal Shah, was reading the names of newly appointed state presidents. When it came to Andhra Pradesh (the state I was born in) my name was read out. There were cold shivers down my spine. I asked myself, "Is that me? Or is it someone else with my name?"
That evening, while the cultural programmes were on, Swami called me closer and asked, “What, Mr. State President! Are you accepting this offer?" I politely replied, "Why not Swami! It is Your Divine command. I will definitely follow." Stretching both His hands forward and holding me, He said, “Look, My protection will be stronger than iron fetters. Everyone will co-operate with you. Don't worry. Be expeditious and successful."
Those consoling and re-assuring words were the words of Truth, and everything happened exactly as Swami said. Every activity was personally monitored and done by Him. I don't own any vehicles except a bicycle. In those days, I didn't even have a telephone. By profession, I was just an ordinary professor. I was wondering if I would be able to tour the whole state, which was an expensive affair. I expressed the same doubt before my wife and she said, "Let's just assume that we have one more child. Just as we would spend on his/her education, clothing, etc., let's consider the organisation as a child ‘gifted’ by Swami and look after it with the same love and determination.” I took her words as a message from Swami and didn't look back since then.
During this memorable journey, there is no village or town that I haven't visited in Andhra Pradesh. Swami took me to every nook and corner of Andhra Pradesh. He made me travel in all modes of transportation. Those were the days when the communication and transport systems were in total chaos. I traveled for hours standing in buses and in jam-packed trains. I tried to compete with cranes by travelling for hours standing on one foot. I travelled on tractors, in bullock carts, and in horse carts. You name the mode of transport and I can assure you I have experienced all the rides!
Since 1979, Swami used to give me the chance to speak in the Divine Presence at least four to five times a year. Once there was a meeting in a place named Kurnool organised by the Sathya Sai Organisation. That night there was a very heavy downpour of rain. The bus stations and roads were transformed into lagoons. All the buses were cancelled. Expressing my inability to attend, I sent a telegram to the organisers. The next morning, there was this Inner Voice which said, "No, you shouldn't stay back. Go!" I thought that by the time I could reach Kurnool, it would be late and everyone would be heading home, so it would be useless to continue my trip to Kurnool under such circumstances. But the Inner Voice was strong and was telling me again and again to go.
Obeying the Divine command (the Inner Voice), I left for Kurnool. By the time I reached there, everyone was heading home after Mangala Arathi. When the devotees saw me, everyone was surprised. They started thinking: How come he is here when he had sent a telegram that he could not make it to the programme. Is he the real Prof. Anil Kumar or is Baba coming in Prof. Anil Kumar's form? Anyhow, everyone went back to the meeting hall and after addressing the meeting, I went back to Puttaparthi.
In those days, bhajans used to go on till 11 am. One Mr. Majeti from Eluru saw me and gave me a seat in the verandah. Swami came out for darshan and in His usual style said, “What, Mr. Anil! Did you think of skipping the meeting in Kurnool? See how I pulled you there. Swami's programmes will never get cancelled! Nobody can skip Swami's programmes." Of course I sat there with my mouth wide open listening to and looking at our All-knowing Lord.
Moreover Swami added, “There is one Dr. Krishna Rao who was the first sevadal from Kurnool. Holding a little torchlight, he safeguarded Prashanthi during the nights. By your absence, would he not feel disappointed?" Only then I understood the seriousness and importance of Sai meetings, and how our Omnipresent Swami watches us all during such Sai meetings and knows every minute thing about us.
There is one place by the name of Giddaluru in Prakasam District in Andhra Pradesh. Dr. P. C. Ranga Reddy was the district president then. A huge meeting was planned and I think it was held in Vivekananda College grounds. I was also invited for the meeting. On the same day, all the buses and trains were stopped as there was a huge political protest challenging the Governor's decision to remove the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sri N. T. Rama Rao from his office. His party, Telugu Desam Party, was protesting against this decision and the whole state had come to a standstill. I was wondering how I would travel under such tense circumstances.
The same morning, one sevadal from Giddaluru came to my house to take me with him. All my family members, who never said ‘no’ for any Sai meetings, were considering the ‘tense moments’ outside and asked me to stay back. When all the trains and buses were on strike, they didn't feel comfortable letting me leave the house. Understanding their sentiments and also keeping in mind the practical problems I would face in my journey, I went up to the sevadal and said, "Sir, there is no way we can go to the meeting in any mode of transportation. Please excuse me. I cannot make it." I remember his strong reply even to this day. He said, "There is no way we can cancel Swami's work. You are coming and I am taking you with me!"
Immediately, I packed a few pieces of clothing in a small suitcase and, unsuccessfully failing to convince my family members, I left home with the sevadal. Both of us sat in the train not knowing when it would start. Will this train reach Giddaluru? I was not sure at all. I had completely surrendered to Swami. The train started moving slowly, slower than a snail. Mr. Sathyam, who was accompanying me, stopped at every station and updated the people of Giddaluru over the phone about our whereabouts. To me everything seemed to be in turmoil. My mind was very busy with all kinds of thoughts. With much difficulty, we reached a station called Vinukonda. There in Vinukonda it was announced that the strike was called off. What more, the train picked up speed. In no time we reached our final destination, Giddaluru. In the station there were hundreds of devotees, old and young, men and women, all waiting to receive me. As announced, the meeting was arranged in a vast ground which was jam-packed by then.
From Giddaluru, I reached Puttaparthi. Our All-knowing Lord asked, "Did the meeting go on very well? After having your name on the invitation, devotees would have felt bad if you didn't turn up for the programme. Our (Sai Organisation) programmes are for everyone's spiritual development. They should start on time. We should be role models for everyone." Hearing all this, it was my turn to be surprised and speechless once again.
When I think of Giddaluru, I always remember this incident which happened long back. In those days, there used to be only one bus from Machilipatnam to Puttaparthi. It would easily take 17 to19 hours to travel from Guntur to Puttaparthi. Every time we travelled, there was a definite chance of at least two flat tires. On one such occasion, the bus stopped for lunch at Giddaluru. As we were all hungry, we rushed into a nearby restaurant and asked the waiter to tell us the menu in the restaurant. He said," We've got chicken biryani, chicken pulao, omlette, etc. Being pure vegetarians by birth, merely hearing those names made us run away from that restaurant.
Later, we found another Brahmin vegetarian hotel and got back to the bus after lunch. As the bus started moving, I looked through the window. The signboard for the first restaurant we went to read: "Military Hotel", which is a common name for a non-vegetarian hotel. But as we were hungry, we hadn’t bother to read the board.
Back in Puttaparthi, Dasara celebrations were under way. The stage was well set for Swami's Divine Discourse. In that day's discourse, Swami said, "In this temporary worldly universe, where will you find real happiness? There is a board written in this universe. The board says, “Momentary, unhappy" and if we look for happiness without reading the board it will not serve the purpose. For example, if the board outside a hotel says, "Military Hotel" we cannot go in and ask for idli, sambar or upma." This definitely was a message for me! This was yet another example of Swami's Omnipresence.
There exists a V.S.N. College in Visakhapatnam. In that college Sri G. V. Subramanya Sharma was the head of the department of Sanskrit. He was a very active member of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. He was an erudite speaker. His satsangs on Bhagavatham were matchless. If he started to talk comparing Krishna and Baba, the listeners would definitely transcend time and space listening to him with such rapt attention. He was a very close friend of mine.
One day, both of us had a memorable experience when we were returning from Sirisilla in Karimnagar District after attending a meeting organised by Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. We came to Kajipet railway station to take either Narsapur express train or Godavari express. Both of us had to attend college the next day. While we were waiting for the train, the station master recognised me and said," Oh Mr. Anil! I had to miss your talk because of my duty here. Come. Let's have coffee and talk about Swami."
When we talk about Swami, we always forget the time. With lots of enthusiasm we were talking about Swami. Meanwhile, the station master said, "Ok. Let's go now as it is time for the train to arrive." By the time we came out, the train had already come and left the platform. Sri Subramanya Sharma was very worried. He was wondering how he would go to college the next day. In fact, both of us were thinking along the same lines. Suddenly, the train which already crossed the signal light started to come back to the platform. We were completely shocked to see this wonder! Without inquiring how and why, we jumped into the train.
Afterwards, I went to Puttaparthi for some festival. That evening, Swami came up to me smiling and said, "You senseless fellow. Don't you know to come on time to the platform? You know, you would have missed the train that evening."
Once I had this beautiful experience. When I went to a meeting in Karimnagar District, the devotees from Adilabad requested me to attend a meeting in Ramakrishna Puram. That day was a bit weird as our car was interrupted many times throughout the journey. Getting a tip-off about some anti-social elements trying to dismantle the administration, the police were on high alert and our car was stopped many times to go through a security check. Every time the police stopped the car, they would see Swami's photo in the car and let us go. That scary drive had a happy ending as finally I reached home safe. After a few days, when I went to Puttaparthi, Swami came to me and said, "I have told you not to travel at midnight. Now do you know how many obstacles you had to face?" Thanking Swami for saving me, I fell at His lotus feet.
It was during the silver jubilee celebrations of Sri Sathya Sai Organisation. All of us were travelling in a van arranged by the President of Guntur District, Sri.Kovela Mudi Narayana Rao. On both sides of the van were two loud speakers, with Swami's quotes beautifully written on either side of the van, and above the van they had beautifully decorated the top with Swami's photos as well. We toured countless villages in this van. That day we were supposed to visit Palakollu village in West Godavari. Again we were in the middle of a strike. The public transportation came to a standstill. Ours being private transport, we managed to travel with fewer obstacles as far as Bejavada. There in Bejavada the strike was intense. They didn't allow us to travel even an inch further.
We were playing bhajan cassettes in the van. Everyone was questioning us as why we were travelling in spite of the strike. Some miscreants holding flags even tried to stop the cassette player in the van. Not knowing what to do and a bit frightened, we started singing within ourselves. Meanwhile, from nowhere, came this hefty man on his motorbike. He had a huge flag on his motorbike and had a very strong voice. It looked like he was their leader. He peeped into the van and looking at Baba's photo, he said to his men to let us go. Turning to us he said, "You may go now. No one will stop you. I will make sure nothing will happen to you. Come on. Start the van."
Due to the road blockade, we reached Palakollu a bit late. Those devotees who were going back to their homes, after seeing our beautifully decorated van which had bhajans playing on the loud speakers, came back to the venue. Even though we were hungry, we skipped our meal and went directly to address the gathering. While I was giving a talk, someone in the crowd passed a little paper which said, "Dear Sir, we have a wedding scheduled in the same meeting hall tonight. You would be doing us a big favour if you stop your talk now." When I read the letter aloud, someone from the crowd, in a typical Godavari accent asked, "What is it you are going to stop? If you want the wedding to be successful, you should have Baba's blessings. Mr. Anil Kumar, please continue your talk. They will make the wedding arrangements at the back.” I was surprised to hear this. I saluted and bowed down to their devotion.
In my 20 years of service as a teacher in Guntur, I spent all my weekends and holidays travelling to villages, spreading Swami's messages and sharing His love. I had to balance college hours, manage the travel itinerary and prepare for talks. My life was a perfect example of Swami's Divine will, where He can get the work done even through a very ordinary person like I am.
At this juncture, I recall yet another peculiar incident that happened years ago. After participating in some Sai programmes in the Telangana region, I reached the railway station only to know that I had just missed the train. I was terribly worried as I had to teach at the college the next day. So with no options left, I literally ran to the college directly from the railway station the moment I reached Guntur. Moreover, I was scheduled to teach during the first session of the day. When I reached the college, I noticed the gates were being locked. Curiously I inquired of the watchman as to why the whole campus seemed to be empty. He said that, as our students won the inter-college cricket match, the college management had declared a holiday today. It was indeed a great relief to me. I wished that our students won more matches so that I can allot more time for Sai activities!
On another occasion I was 'saved' as one of my colleagues was getting married. I prayed, “Swami, let all my bachelor colleagues get married soon, so that i will have more time for YOUR work.”
Many a time, mostly out of ignorance, we tend to think that we are the doers. We think that no one can be as perfect as we are. Ego elates us to think that we alone could do such great things, which are impossible for others, and we pride ourselves on our intelligence. Yes, it is natural. After all, we are humans. Further we may think that without us, those great things could not be accomplished. However, if opportunities were given, there are several others who could do much better than us. If Swami wills it, even a blade of grass will become a powerful instrument!
Once there was a meeting in a place called Ponnakollu village, organised by the Sathya Sai Organisation on their anniversary. But on the same day, I had to attend a meeting of State Presidents of Sathya Sai Organisation in Puttaparthi. I was wondering what would have been the 'plight' of the meeting in Ponnakollu without me. Finally when I went back, I came to know that three famous stalwarts of Andhra Pradesh, Sri.Karunasri, Sri.Madhavarama Sharma and Sri Amarendra attended the meeting, even though their names were not mentioned in the invitation card, and the programme was a grand success.
Swami's programmes will never stop. It is just that we would be losing golden opportunities by not attending them; but our absence will never make any Sai meeting smaller. We should always realise this fact: there are umpteen number of competent, talented, devoted and inspiring people ready to do Swami's work.
Another incident happened in the same Ponnakallu village. Many years ago, I attended the anniversary of the local Sai center there. To give enough time for the farmers to return home after a long day's work, generally such meetings start at 7 pm. While I was talking in the village, a big rich villager got up and said, “Have you come to propagate Sai Baba?”
I replied, “Sir, please don't misunderstand us. We are Sai devotees and we are celebrating our center's anniversary.” Later on, Ponnakallu village became a center which always came up with innovative and uplifting Sai activities. During a group photo session one year, Swami appeared to be seated on His throne in the photo, which speaks highly of their devotion.
Once I visited Donepudi village. It was too late by the time I finished my talk. Eventually I had to miss the last bus as well. With no options left, I slept in the temple that night and left for Guntur the next day. Similarly, after the meeting at Thulluru, there were no buses to go. Luckily I got into a tractor and reached Guntur.
Several years ago, I attended a Balvikas meeting at Rajahmundry. There was no train till midnight. I travelled by a lorry up to Eluru, from there by another lorry to Vijayawada, and finally reached Guntur by a state transport bus.
I have used all means of transport to carry out Swami’s work. I should keep up the promise I made to Swami. In the year 1980, during Dasara celebrations, after the Divine discourse, Swami took me to the first floor of the Poornachandra and blessed me with silk clothes, a safari suit and a shawl. Placing His two palms on my head He said, ‘Have a long life with a noble character. May you spread Swami’s message, touring throughout the State of Andhra Pradesh.”
How can I forget this blessing from the Lord of the Lords! After being blessed profusely, will I still have any strain? Will there be any irritation? Can I ever take rest? No. Sai's power is undaunted, unparalleled and matchless beyond comparison!
© Copyright Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju – Puttaparthi. All rights reserved.