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
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
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
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
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
Next >> - Chapter 2
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