Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami_Part 1


 - We gratefully acknowledge the writer Aravind B

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Friday, 22 August 2014

Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami_Part 3

 Part 1   Part 2  Part 3

Unfolding of the Divine punishment

God is often seen as a Mighty Judge, sitting high above mankind, branding and separating people as good and bad; as noble souls and sinners. How very wrong this idea is! In fact, every part of the statement is incorrect. To begin with, God is not a judge. When you judge someone, you cannot love him/her. When God loves everyone equally, how can we ever criticize Him of judging? Every moment of Swami’s life is filled with pure Love. Where is the time and space for Him to judge then? The next part of the statement about Him branding and separating people is also false. He always exhorts us to be united - to see unity in the apparent diversity. Finally, the way God views ‘noble souls’ and ‘sinners’ is totally different from the way we view them. For God, every saint has a past and every sinner, a future!

Therefore, when we speak of God’s ‘punishment’, we have to understand the context properly. For instance, while the Government of India decided that the apt punishment for a murderer was a noose around his neck, Swami decided that the perfect punishment would be a rosary instead of the noose. And this is because Swami believes in finishing off the murderous tendencies rather than the murderer. That was the life story of Kalpagiri. So, when Swami says that both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ done in the Divine Presence come back to you a hundredfold, He speaks not about reward and punishment the way we understand them, but of balance and harmony.


Vijay had no doubt destroyed a picture of Swami. And no doubt he had to ‘pay’ a hundredfold to set that right. But it would be totally wrong to consider that as ‘punishment’ the way we understand it. The way Swami made him pay back a hundredfold was so beautiful and uplifting.
{This is the final part of a story which has a lot of background. To enjoy it completely, please read it only after reading the first two parts which are at the links given below.
PART 1: Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - Part 1
Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - Part 2 }

“You destroyed an image of Me. Now you will have to make a hundred images for Me. That will be your punishment; that will be your redemption.”

So beautiful isn’t it? The way God ‘punishes’ us ensures that it helps us attain the ultimate goal of life at the earliest. His ‘punishment’ too is an act of supreme compassion and grace. That was what an overwhelmed Vijay discovered on his journey of a hundred ‘payback images’. Speak to him today and he will say that he wishes he could pay back a thousandfold! One of the earliest among his sketches was of Sri.N.Kasturi.

An unforgettable sketching spree

The picture of Sri.N.Kasturi on the Radiosai site which Vijay used as a reference to make his sketch.
Sri Kasturi is a monarch among the devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Those that are unaware of his devotion and contribution should definitely head to the comprehensive Radiosai article on Kasturi because that is exactly the place where Vijay too headed to get a picture for his sketch. When he showed the completed sketch to Swami, He gave him some professional advice.
“If you make the background a little darker, then Kasturi will stand out. You also need to shade a few age lines to get a better picture.”
Vijay just nodded in wonder. Swami then asked,
“Did you meet Kasturi's daughter? She is in Prasanthi Nilayam...”
Taking the cue, Vijay went in search of her after the darshan session. He located the house and explained to Mrs.Padma Kasturi the reason for his visit. She was thrilled that Swami had remembered her and she regaled Vijay with wonderful stories, travelling down memory lane. Vijay was charged with overflowing love for Swami.

The next time, during darshan Swami told him,
“Do you know that the Rajmata of Jamnagar (also known as Rajmata of Nawanagar) too has her house inside Prasanthi Nilayam?”
Vijay was quickly learning this divine game. He rushed to her house and found her grandson, Mr.Indreshwar there. He requested the grandson (an alumnus of the SSSIHL) to lend him a picture of the Rajmata. Sketching through the night, he managed to present Swami with the Rajmata’s picture during darshan the next day. Swami seemed pleased. He took the sketch along with Him to His residence after the bhajans. The next day, Swami made a thrilling revelation to Vijay,
“Yesterday, I was discussing with the Rajmata about you. I showed her the sketch you made and presented it to her. She was very happy.”
The statement was thrilling because the Rajmata had left the physical plane, years ago!

Apart from taking cues from Swami, Vijay also began to sharpen his intuition. He made a sketch of Smt.Easwaramma, the dehamata (bodily mother) of Swami. When he showed it to Swami, He proclaimed that she was an ardent devotee. He gave back the sketch to Vijay and added,
“Karnam Subbamma was like a second mother. She always welcomed my devotees with great love. She cooked for all of them as well.”
Vijay needed no more prodding. That night was dedicated to sketching Karnam Subbamma. The next day, he offered both the sketches to Swami and, this time, Swami accepted them.

Swami accepts the sketches of Karnam Subbamma and Easwaramma 
The second semester just flew by and the third semester of Vijay’s MBA life began. He was enjoying every bit of it because his hundredfold ‘payback’ was still on! Following his intuition, Vijay made a sketch of the affable Prof. Anil Kumar. Swami glanced at the sketch during the darshan and almost burst out smiling. He was so happy and that thrilled Vijay beyond measure. He knew for sure that Swami would accept that sketch. That is exactly what happened as Swami came to the dais. He called Vijay and asked,
“Who is this? Is it Anil Kumar?”
Vijay nodded. Swami then sent word for the professor. Completely unaware of what was happening, Anil Kumar sir came rushing to Swami. With a sweet smile, Swami asked,
Idi choosava nuvvu?(Have you seen this?)”
He then displayed the sketch to everyone in the hall. There was almost an applause and that showed the popularity of the professor. Swami then spoke for almost ten minutes with him before gifting the sketch.

Vijay feels fulfilled seeing the joy on Swami's face which reflects on Prof.Anil Kumar's face also.
Sketch of  Dr. John Hislop which Swami said didn't resemble him at all!
But it was not as if all the sketches were received with great fanfare and joy. When Vijay drew Dr.John Hislop, Swami frowned and said,
“Who is this? This is not Hislop. Hislop never looked like this!”
But even that reaction was joyous for Vijay. It did not matter to him that Swami criticised his sketch. He just enjoyed the interactions - praise and criticism were treated equally. That was how, even without his knowledge, Swami conferred on him the gift of equanimity. This equanimity coupled with tremendous persistence gave Vijay the strength to create sketches of all the faculty members in the MBA department of the Institute. He offered them to Swami on 21st August, the ‘MBA formation Day’ or ‘MBA Day’. Swami saw through dozens of sketches and blessed them all. He said,
“My blessings are there. Give it to all of them.”

Showing Swami the picture of one of the MBA teachers, Mr.Sairam
One day, Swami told him,
“Tomorrow Indulal Shah is coming here.”
Vijay knew why Swami was telling that to him. It was not as if he was some important member of the trust or he was an administrator. He was a sketch artist and Swami had just given him his next assignment.
The next day, as Swami got into the car, Vijay offered the sketch to Swami. Sri. Indulal Shah was seated nearby and Swami beckoned to him. Handing the sketch over, He said,
“This boy here, Ravi, made that.”
Vijay wanted to tell Swami that ‘Ravi’ was not his name. But he decided against it and kept quiet.

Swami presents the sketch to Sri.Indulal Shah while introducing Vijay as 'Ravi'.
Swami repeated the same ‘mistake’ once again. This time, it was when Vijay had made a sketch of Sri. K.Chakravarthi, the Secretary of the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust. When he showed it to Swami, Chakravarthi sir was right behind Him. Swami returned the sketch and asked,
“Where is the other one?”
Vijay understood and swung into action. The next day, as Swami passed by him during darshan, he popped up with two sketches. He had added the sketch of the former Vice Chancellor, Sri.S.V.Giri, who was walking on the other side of Swami. Now Swami accepted both! He presented it to the respective subjects and said,
“See, Ravi made these paintings.”
Vijay thought,
“If Swami wants to remember me as ‘Ravi’, so be it. How does it matter if he remembers me as ‘Ravi’ or ‘Vijay’ or even ‘monkey’ for that matter? As long as he remembers me, it is enough.”

Both, Sri.K.Chakravarthi and Sri.S.V.Giri, are all smiles seeing the sketches made by Vijay aka 'Ravi'.
That was when he received a revelation about the Ravi name. It happened towards the fag end of his student days after he had completed and offered scores of sketches. It came as a pleasant surprise to him.

The Divine Icing on top of the cake

The acting warden of the hostel, Dr.Nageshwar Rao, summoned Vijay to his room one day. He asked him,
“Would you be ready to forfeit your vacation? ...Because Swami would like to take you along with Him to Kodaikanal...”
Vijay could not believe that such a question even needed to be asked. He nodded with great delight. That is all the confirmation that the warden wanted. Within a few days, Vijay was on the flight with Swami, headed towards Madurai and Kodaikanal.

(Prof.G.Venkataraman has written a detailed 7-part story of this beautiful Kodai trip. You can read it at The Kodai Festival 2009.)

A slightly blurry image of Swami presenting Prof.G.Venkataraman with one of Vijay's sketches. 


At Kodaikanal, Vijay made a sketch of Lord Dattatreya. In the sketch, he replaced the four faces of the Dattatreya with Swami faces. On that day, Swami delivered an informal discourse to the students. He said (the gist is given below)
“People talk about worshiping God not realizing that God is one. God is not having any one form because all forms are His. Nobody knows exactly how Rama or Krishna looked like. Their forms are all based on Ravi Verma paintings.”
Then, turning towards the students, Swami asked,
“Where is Ravi Verma? Ravi...?”
A light bulb glowed inside Vijay’s head and he rushed ahead.
“Ah! There you are Ravi...”
It was certainly not a ‘mistake’ that Swami called him as ‘Ravi’.  Vijay felt so blessed.
He had with him the sketch of Dattatreya and he showed that to Swami. Immediately, Swami sent word for Ratanlal Aunty.

Holding the sketch of Dattatreya visualised with Swami's faces.

The picture that the Polaroid camera ejected when Swami
promised to reveal who He was.
A word about Ratanlal Aunty. She came to Swami in the early 1960s and has been intimately involved in doing Swami’s work. She has been blessed with the opportunity to cook for Swami for several decades and it was her dishes that Swami relished before actually being admitted to the hospital in March 2011. Ratanlal Aunty had also been present in Swami’s entourage at Bandipur forest in 1974. Swami had promised the students then,
“I shall show you who I am.”
When one of the students took a picture of Swami with a Polaroid camera, the result was mindblowing. The photo showed Swami as Lord Dattatreya!

So, it was not surprising that Swami summoned Ratanlal Aunty and showed her the sketch. He then introduced Ratanlal Aunty and Vijay to each other. Vijay’s jaw dropped in amazement when Swami introduced him,
“This is Ravi. He makes excellent drawings. He has three pencils with which he creates his art. And he does it late in the night in the music college building.”
Tears welled in Vijay’s eyes as he realized that Swami had been with him during every moment of his efforts. Swami made a final ‘sketch-request’.
“Make a sketch of her”, He said, pointing to Ratanlal Aunty.

Ratanlal Aunty is gifted with a sketch.
Vijay made that sketch as soon as he could and presented it to Swami. Swami was very happy and He called Ratanlal Aunty again. He told her with great pride,
“See, I introduced you to this boy. He has made this. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Aunty accepted the sketch joyously. She now realized why Vijay had approached her the other day and asked whether he could take a picture of her - he had wanted a reference image for his sketch.


Vijay’s punishment was complete. Or so it seemed because Swami told him to join a job after the Kodaikanal trip.
“But Swami, I want to be with You. I shall do an MPhil and a PhD perhaps”, Vijay said based on the advice given to him by Prof.G.Venkatraman.
“Nothing doing. No need to do MPhil. You go out and do a job.”
Having enjoyed paying back his ‘hundredfold punishment’, Vijay was not prepared for this ‘real punishment’.
“Swami please...”
“No”, Swami cut him firmly, “things here will change in two years.”
That was April 2009.

Today, when Vijay looks back at that statement, his heart throbs madly.
“Swami knew that I was so attached to the form that I wouldn’t be able to take it when He left the physical in 2011. So, much before that itself, He prepared me by sending me away. At that time, Him telling me to take up a job seemed like a cruel punishment. But today, I know that whatever He did, He did it for my good only.”

Vijay definitely paid back a hundredfold for the act of destroying one picture of the Lord. But the infinite compassion of the Lord is such that his punishment in itself became his redemption. His punishment gave him memories for a lifetime. God never ‘punishes’ us in the way we humans comprehend. His ‘punishment’ too is a bounty of love, grace and compassion. What else is God other than these? Call it His blessing or His punishment, it is always Love and Love alone.

It is with this perspective that we should look at what Swami said in His discourse on Guru Poornima in 2001.

“Actually, one should never seek pardon for the mistake committed. One should be prepared to undergo the punishment. Only then can one be free from defects. When a person commits a serious offence, he is put in jail. He is released only after he undergoes punishment for the required period. Likewise, if you want redemption, you should atone for your sins and be prepared to face punishment for your mistakes. You should exercise control over the senses and see that you do not repeat your mistakes.”

Dear Swami, when I know that you are the ‘punisher’, what do I have to fear. Bring it on - a thousandfold if need be. I know it will only be a shower of Love. 






 Part 1   Part 2  Part 3



If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these climactic multi-part articles of other Sai Students: '


anil kumar kamaraju, K.Chakravarthi, karma, kasturi, kodaikanal, Omnipresence, omniscience, punishment, ratanlal aunty, Sketching artist

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