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Sai Is Our Loving God

Text & photo source - copyrights:  Radiosai.org  Prasanthi Diary -  Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation - h2hsai.org .  - We gratefully acknowledge the publishers  Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation


Mrs. Vidya Srinivasan is the National Joint Coordinator of the Sathya Sai Education Program in India, having been associated with Bal Vikas implementation since 1972.


Mrs. Srinivasan grew up in what was then known as the city of Madras. She schooled at the city’s Churchpark Convent and later attended Queen’s Mary College from where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Science.

Currently, this grandmother of four spends her time between Chennai and Prashanti Nilayam. Along with her husband Mr. V. Srinivasan who serves as the All India President of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, Mrs. Vidya Srinivasan is deeply grateful for Bhagavan’s divine presence in her life. In this free-wheeling conversation with Radio Sai’s Mrs. Karuna Sarup-Munshi (RS), she shares how Swami captured their hearts and became the centre of their lives.

Journey to Sai Begins

RS: At the outset, can you describe your life till 1970 before Bhagawan entered the picture?

VS: We were married at an early age, in 1960. I was 18 and he was 22 and had just finished his engineering. We had a very busy social life in Madras till 1970. Inspite of that, my parents were connected with Shri Jiddu Krishnamurthy. I had attended several of his lectures and was attracted by his teachings and expressions.


My father, Shri Sethuraman, was a good friend of Colonel Joga Rao who was instrumental in bringing the family to Bhagawan Baba. In those times, there used to be evening discourses by Bhagawan and other eminent people such as Dr. John Hislop, which father used to attend in Whitefield. Then Swami would jokingly ask my father, “Have you gone to Jiddu or you’ll be going now after meeting Me?” And my father always used to enjoy that joke!

Soon after, I received the book ‘Man of Miracles’ by Howard Murphet from my father and I felt a deep attraction towards Baba. When the newspaper announced that Swami was visiting the city (of Madras) soon, there was a great desire in me to have His darshan for the first time.

RS: In January of 1972, Baba visited Madras, at the time of the fifth All-India Conference of the Sathya Sai Samithis. That visit proved to be a landmark in your life because your personal journey to Swami began around that time. Could you share some highlights from it?

Baba’s 1972 Visit to Madras

VS: Yes. Swami was visiting a good friend of ours in Madras, Mr. Tarapore, who at that time was the owner of Abbotsbury. He had arranged for lunch and a talk by Bhagawan at his house. Both my father and my husband had been invited. After lunch, Swami offered to answer any questions we had and my husband asked several of them. Bhagawan patiently replied to all of them and while leaving, He came close to my husband and said, “You come to Puttaparthi if you want Me to answer more questions!”


The next day, my father had called Swami over to his house. He arranged for a good gathering with music as we typically do, when saints or big teachers come home. And when Swami came, He just smiled and asked my husband, “Where’s your wife?” Then, He asked me, “Where’s your daughter?” I managed to find her. She was about five years old. Swami materialised a nice trinklet for her and said, “I will take care of you throughout your life.” So with Swami’s grace today, she’s a successful doctor. We all realise Swami’s grace on her!   

Regarding my other two children, I wanted them to join Bal Vikas. But as my elder son was already in his 10th grade, he couldn’t do. Swami, however, said he could join His summer course in Brindavan, which he did. There he did well and was blessed to speak in front of Swami. Just then his matriculation results were announced. He had passed with a state rank. When I told Swami about this, He looked at me and said, “What is that? He’s got a good rank here in the Summer Course. That is more valuable to him in his future life.”

We didn’t fully understand then what Swami was saying but later we realised how this statement came true in various forms. As our son tried to join the engineering course, he didn’t get a seat in Anna University of Chennai (formerly known as Madras) despite his state rank. He then went to Pilani but got dissuaded with the frightful ragging. So he went to Coimbatore for a bit but finally came back to Madras, by Swami’s grace. Later, he finished his engineering and went to Stanford. Now, both the boys are working for their father.

With Swami’s blessings, all three are good human beings today. While they were growing up, I never worried about their conduct because I always knew that Swami has given them the right values; I was always very confident about that.


Swami visited our insulator factory in Madras, where He laid the foundation stone for a Shirdi Baba temple. He was very keen to address the workers and they were all in tears and enjoyed the lecture. We were overwhelmed at receiving so much love in that one interaction.

RS: And it changed your life forever!

VS: Yes. Now there was no looking back for us at all, especially for my husband and me. Luckily, Swami had asked our family to come to Puttaparthi.

A Month Later - Visit to Puttaparthi

 RS: What were your fondest memories of your first visit to Puttaparthi?

VS: We reached Puttaparthi in the morning. Mr. Kutumba Rao received us and had arranged for a room. He also told us that Swami might see us in the evening. We were thrilled with this information.

I wished to buy a nice picture of Swami. But my husband said, “No! Unless I receive it from Swami, I will take no picture.” We had a brief argument over this before we decided to let the matter pass.

Then, that evening, Swami called us for the interview and Swami’s omnipresence was proved when He said, “Why were you both arguing so much about a picture? Here, I’m giving you a beautiful photo.” He materialised a framed picture of Shirdi Baba and Sathya Sai on two sides, and gave it to my husband and asked me also to hold it.

RS: Was that trip enough to firm up your faith?

VS: Yes! Of course! It has been in my puja since then. And when I go to Kodai also, I take it with me. When I come to Puttaparthi too, I bring it with me. Yes! It’s a very special gift from Him!

Involvement with the Sathya Sai Organisation

RS: Now, could you just walk us through some of the milestones in your growing association with Baba and the strengthening of faith from then on, because very shortly thereafter you and your husband became very deeply involved with the Sathya Sai Organisation?


VS: Yes. There was a meeting in 1977 or 1978 and, all the office bearers of Tamil Nadu had gathered, including the State President Mr. Achuthanandan. At that time, we had in Tamil Nadu a male state coordinator for Bal Vikas and the criteria had been made that all the state coordinators of Bal Vikas should only be ladies.

So, Mr. Achuthanandan decided I could fit into that role and he asked Swami, “Can I ask her?” He said, “Leave it to her as her choice and ask her whether she wants to do it.” And, to me, He turned and said, “He’s saying something. See if you can do it or like it.” I was given the freedom to choose without any force. It was a big responsibility and a challenge for me because I had never done the Bal Vikas syllabus before.

But, luckily, in our childhood, we had learnt a lot of stotras, shlokas, Vedas, and Puranas. But I knew that was not enough to teach children. All of us - the Balvikas Gurus - worked hard in Madras. We had a mentor in Mr. Rayan Iyengar, who ran classes for Gurus on Saturday mornings. He would always put the first question, regarding the previous lecture to me, saying, “You are supposed to be the leader. You better answer this question first.” So, I had to study very hard. It was like an exam for me.



RS: So, to become a good Guru, you had to be a good student first!

VS: Yes, very true. And, I had to face this situation with a lot of self-confidence that I never imagined I ever had.

 Sai Infuses Confidence

VS: Swami used to visit Ooty (a hill station in Tamil Nadu) in the summers. In the evenings, after darshan and outside interview, Swami would come in and sit with us. Swami would then allow us to ask questions. One day, I told Him, “Swami, I have this fear. How can I get rid of it?” He said, “Why do you have fear?” I said, “I really don’t know whether I can do all this correctly. I don’t want to do something wrong, especially when it concerns God.” Then, Swami said, “Don’t worry. Fear is only a bundle of thoughts.” Then, He again asked me, “What is fear?” Baba said, “Fear is nothing but a bundle of negative thoughts. How to you counter them? With positive thoughts.”

Swami continued, “Vishnu is the one who dispels and removes all fear.” And He materialised a vigraham (an idol) of Maha Vishnu, a small one, very beautiful and perfectly carved. And since then whenever I’m in any confusion or troubled, I always go and just grab it and keep it with me for a short while.

RS: And you feel more confident and calm?

VS: Yes, yes, very much. I don’t think I could have come to this position in Bal Vikas without Swami’s grace and the vigraham.

RS: So, the Vishnu statue gave you a lot of self-belief. And then began your husband’s growing involvement with the Sai organisation. Would you like to tell us about that?

VS: Yes. It was in 1985 during the 60th birthday of Bhagawan. My husband was fortunate as Bhagawan wanted him to become the State Trust Convenor. Although he was quite busy at his work, he took up the responsibility only because Swami had asked him to. There has been no looking back ever since.

Swami’s Surprise Visit to Kodaikanal


RS: We have read about Baba’s visit to your house, Sai Kripa, in Kodaikanal, in our e-journal Heart2Heart.It would be nice to know a little bit about that visit because I believe you have a lot of fond memories of Baba stay with you like a family member.

VS: Yes. That is very true. First of all, His coming itself was a real miracle, because until the previous day, Swami was in Ooty. Bhagawan had decided to build a model school for the children and He first started with the one at Ooty. My husband was also worried whether this school could be finished on time. So, he always sat at a distance and kept praying to Swami. And the rumour was that Swami was leaving the next day or the day after, back for Brindavan (Bangalore).

But then, suddenly, Swami looked at my husband and said, “Srinivas, shall we go to Kodaikanal?”

First my husband wondered at Swami’s words and then he said, “Why not, Swami?”

Those days, we didn’t have the cell phones to make instant calls. I was in Kodaikanal with the children and we were also planning to go back to Madras, as I thought my husband was coming there. My elder son is very careful with things and quite finicky about keeping things clean. So, we were practically packing up the house in Kodaikanal. My son was running high temperature and we had gone to see the doctor. Later we went to the lake when my cook came running there, saying, “Amma, amma! Swami is coming! Swami is coming!” I said, “What! How will Swami come to Kodai?” He insisted, “No amma! Aiyya rang up just now and said tomorrow evening, they’ll be here.” I was really surprised!



Despite the short notice, to have Swami come to Kodai …. that’s the best thing that can happen in your life! So, I just sat down and wondered, “What shall I do for a new bed?” because it was already six in the evening. But, the Spencers (departmental store) man was very nice. He came and completely furnished the room which I thought might be suitable for Swami, as this was a very old house.

Swami visited this house, those four years, till He moved to His new house in Kodaikanal - Sai Shruti in 1986. Every visit of Swami has been very memorable.

Ours was a very old house, the doors used to make noise. Sometimes little rats ran on the ceiling although not in His room. But there was a ladies room where people like Mrs. Ratan Lal would stay and they could hear it. Recently, when Swami was in Kodai, I believe he enquired from her if the rats were still running there!


During one of the visits, the day before leaving, He was telling me about this house, “See, you may give up all the other properties, everything here, but never give up this. This is a holy place.” The previous occupants of this house were three nuns from the Church of South India. They had been involved in a lot of charity work. And, one of them I believe was really devout.

In course of time, we had built another guest house adjacent to the old house. It had a first floor with a balcony. And Swami used to sit there for bhajan. Though it’s a little far away from the town, devotees used to come and we had bhajans. The boys who came with Him used to sing and all of us used to join including my  husband and children. The sevadals used to take care of the seating arrangements. We used to bring four sevadals from Madras and they had been with us for a long time. Swami used to jokingly say, “Why don’t you have changes in between?” I said, “Swami, they consider it a lifetime privilege to serve You and experience this proximity.”

He then said to the boys, “Don’t think this is going to be there forever. Soon, I’ll be very far away. This will only be a memory in your mind. Keep it; cherish it in your heart.” And, that’s what He told me too.

RS: And how true those words have come!


VS: Very much! Today, I think the only thing we can get is an eye glance. And that eye contact is what keeps us going.

Women Have True Devotion: Baba

One clear memory in my mind is this: Swami used to talk quite a bit about His personal life in the evenings, especially the women who had played an important role, like Subbamma Garu and His own mother Eshwaramma. He would tell us how with Venkamma Garu they would pick up wood from the forest for the fire. I mean, how ladies are very selfless. And Swami appreciated that a lot. He always said, “A woman’s bhakti is true bhakti.”

Swami Corrects Every Mistakes  

VS: During one of His visits, Swami was there for three weeks with a few students and some elders for the opening of the new guesthouse. In the mornings, when He came for breakfast, He would visit the old house and walk into the kitchen to see what was happening, just like a family member.

One day, while serving Swami, I was distracted and served rice in the reverse way, that is, from left to right. Normally, the method is to serve from right to left, or anticlockwise.  Swami immediately asked me, “When do you do this?” I said, “Swami, when we do the pitru kaarya… (ancestral annual rites)” Then, He said, “Don’t do that for anybody. It’s not nice. You can only do that on those special occasions.” His words spoke so much about His eye for detail.


RS: So, the way you were serving rice was the way in the Brahminical tradition people would serve only during that specific time when we offer respects to our ancestors on particular death thithi or death anniversary days.

VS: Yes. And, if the salt was not in right quantity, He would comment, “The salt is not all right.” He taught us the way to make rasam (a variety of South Indian soup), etc. – it was a very thought-provoking visit of Bhagawan and we learnt so much.

One day, I was wearing some fancy hair accessories and He said, “Just be your natural self. Always try to be simple. That is what matters.”

RS: Everybody is beautiful the way they are. We don’t have to follow every changing fad.

VS: Yes, that’s right.


RS: You’ve been associated with Swami for over four decades. That’s a long time for most people. You must have learnt a lot of lessons or received advice from Him on different things. Would you like to share that with our readers?

VS: Swami had decided the careers and marriages of our children, especially in the case of my first son. Once, when Swami was in Madras, my husband requested Him to visit a beautiful organic farm and Swami asked, “Is there any connection?” My husband said no. Then He mischievously said, “Who knows? You’re taking me. The connection might come. She’s the one who’s going to come as daughter-in-law.” Swami gave a sort of an indication that this girl (from the family that owned the farm) would become our daughter-in-law.

Swami graciously performed the upanayanam (spiritual initiation) for my younger son. He has always protected our family. Both the boys joined the family business. And my daughter, being a doctor, got married to a doctor and went off to the States.

He plans and we just need to follow


RS: So, the decision that your sons should join the family business, was that guidance received from Bhagawan?

VS: Like their father, the boys always used to take permission and guidance from Bhagawan. They were very particular about that. They would always ask us, “Did you ask Swami?” Only then, they accepted any decision.

RS: I understand that apart from the fact that Swami materialised a vigraha to give you strength and confidence, several years later, he also materialised a special Ganesha for your son and daughter-in-law. What was that about?

VS: Well, they had been married for quite a long time and they were anxious to have a child. And when Swami came to Kodai, when visiting our house, He materialised a Ganesha idol and giving them said, “Ganesha gives you what you want. Pray to Him. Do abhishekam in the morning.” The next year, she had a son.

He’s my first grandson but I have a granddaughter who’s older than him. When she was born and I had brought her to Puttaparthi for blessings, Swami came to us and asked me in Tamil, “Is this your child? You give it to the mother.” Then He enquired, “Have you named her?” I told Him I had as my daughter in-law wanted the naming ceremony on the 11th day and wanted me to choose the name. I thought ‘Smriti’ was a nice name, although ‘Sai Shruthi’ was in my mind but felt it was very common.

Then, Swami said, Buddhi ledhaa (Don’t you have intelligence)?” I asked, “Why Swami?” Then He asked, “What does Smriti mean?” I said, “It means ‘Veda’ in the past tense.” He pointed out, “Why do you want to name a young bud in the past tense? You could have given a name in the present?” Then, I said, “Yes Swami, I was thinking of ‘Shruthi.” Then, He said, “All right.” He asked my daughter to lift up the baby and said in the baby’s ears, “Shruthi, Shruthi, Shruthi”, then He told me, “Write to her in-laws saying that Swami has changed the name here in Puttaparthi and not you.” So thoughtful of Him! That is our Swami. They would know it was Swami’s decision.


He explained, “The word ’Shruthi’ means ‘intellect’ in the present, whereas ‘Smriti’ means ‘intellect’ in the past tense.” That’s the reason why He didn’t want that word. Swami pays attention to such minute details. Later, Swami went to my husband and said, “What is this? You’ve named the child in the past tense.” My husband said, “Not me, Swami. It is Vidya who did it.” Then, He said, “No, no. She knows the meaning. Only you didn’t say anything.” Swami protected me always!

A Memorable Experience as an SSE Coordinator

RS: You’ve been an SSE national coordinator for years now. If you had to pick one memorable experience that has really stayed with you, what would that be?

VS: The year 1983 was the ‘Year of the Bal Vikas’. And, all the coordinators throughout the country had made a good plan of presenting a music and dance programme ‘The Cosmos’ with 6,000 children from all the states of India. So, all the children were brought here. Participants of all the big states including Andhra and Tamil Nadu were accommodated in old sheds while the smaller groups from Assam and Manipur were put up in tents. But that year, there was a big cyclone in Vishakhapatnam and Puttaparthi also received torrential rains.


Suddenly, the whole place got flooded. The tents came down and the lights went off. The organising committee was worried about the safety of the children in tents. It could be very dangerous if the wires fell on them. We came running. But, surprisingly, one of them found that the main switch had been put off. We immediately realised that it was only the Divine Hands which could have done it. We were really in tears when we saw the children singing bhajans in candlelight with such faith that said, “How can anything bad happen to us when Baba is with us?”

They taught us a lesson in faith that day. Where we were worried for their safety, those kids JUST RELIED ON SWAMI! This incident, I still cherish in my memory.

A message was then was sent to Swami who was at that time in the old building, the Mandir, upstairs. He came along with Mr. Kutumba Rao to the Poorna Chandra Hall and said, “Bring all the children who are in the tents and accommodate them here.”


The children were very happy because when they formed a line and came in, they all had a nice darshan. Swami looked at them and enquired, “Are you all right now?” Our Chairman, Mr. Indulal Shah, asked Swami, “Tomorrow morning, we’ll be starting the conference. What shall we do?” Swami said, “First, find place for all these children to stay. Then, start the conference.” So, we took a lesson in that instance too about the need for clarity in priorities.

The sevadals and others helped us find places to accommodate all the children. The next morning, Swami came as though nothing had happened. We had the inauguration of the Bal Vikas conference on time. And of course, He enjoyed ‘The Cosmos’ program a lot. I am reminded of a very funny incident that happened then. The children from Tamil Nadu had made the model of the planet Saturn, a huge one with a ring around it. One child sitting inside the model said to me, “Aunty, there’s a lizard inside!” It was already so dark. I said, “Don’t worry! Just jump twice. The lizard will run away.”


Swami liked the program a lot. Later, He came to see all of them. As we were all concentrating on the program, we had forgotten about the photographs to be taken with Swami at the end. He said, “You should have planned properly for the photographs because such things can’t be done every day.”

 RS: Because you can’t gather up 6,000 kids and train them to do something so sophisticated.

 VS: “For posterity, you must have,” Bhagavan had said. Today, we have one or two distant-view photographs, when Swami got everybody around Him.

In that sense, the event gave us an opportunity to absorb several valuable lessons. People ask me, “What does your Bal Vikas really teach?” I say to them, “It teaches how to appreciate God in a better way and love someone who’s giving us so much love.”

His Silence Teaches Introspection


RS: Mrs. Srinivasan, many devotees see you and your family as being very close to Bhagawan. Both you and your husband hold important positions in the Sai organisation, and most people on the outside would think you are so lucky; you get so many chances to be close to Him. Yet, very few people know that this privilege comes with its own set of challenges.

One test that Bhagawan seems to put many so-called close devotees, people He has chosen for these responsible duties, is to force them into some sort of a self-audit mode when He appears to be ignoring them. As He puts it, “Much is expected of those to whom much is given.” Have you ever experienced such a phase and what does it take and what was the experience like?

 VS: Well, I do feel it’s a little personal but still He does that only to help you look inward. Because you start wondering, “Why isn’t Swami talking or even looking at me?”, “What did I do?” and so on. Definitely, Swami cannot be wrong; I have erred. But mistake have I done?” And you go deep into it so that you may hit on some points where you feel I have to correct myself. All this helps us to become better person, there’s no doubt about it.


This self-analysis is very important. Swami appears to be ignoring us or not interacting much with us. But, but the entire process, definitely improves our faith.

No matter what, I just come for Bhagawan’s darshan during all the functions. And I do know that Swami is walking past me, knowing that I am sitting there and does not want to show that He has recognised me. If we continue to be in His fold, then our life turns out to be a bed of roses, as Swami is there for us. That feeling is enough.

The picture of Swami is in our heart and no one else can erase it, unless we do so. I don’t think I would have done it anytime in my life. And even though sometimes, a person goes through that phase, Swami has a way to erase all that in a jiffy.

Swami Alone is Our Loving God

RS: When you look back at life, can you imagine what life would have been like if Baba was not a part of it?


VS: I’ll definitely say, but for Bhagawan, life would not have been what it is today. We came to Swami in January 1972. And since that day, my husband has had a strong faith. Swami went straight into his heart immediately. Sometimes, I used to analyse Swami. He always used to say, “You’re like a pendulum, going this way and that way.” But then, within two years, due to Swami’s grace I realised that He is God and He is everything in our lives. In fact, today that’s what both my husband and I were discussing. But for Swami, we cannot be contented and happy. And we hope and pray that we’ll be at His Lotus Feet always.

No matter what setbacks I suffer in life, He has always been there for me. To me, Swami is our loving God. I have observed over the years that for Bhagawan all are equal. He may assign work according to each one’s capacity but we all are His children. Even a gardener, the way He showers love and asks him his details, it’s amazing. I’m sure, soon the world will become what He wants it to be and we’ll be able to see it in our lifetime.

RS: Let us say ‘Amen’ to that. And on that loving note, I thank you very much for sharing your time and beautiful experiences with Radio Sai listeners. Sairam!


Text & photo source - copyrights:  Radiosai.org  Prasanthi Diary -  Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation - h2hsai.org .  - We gratefully acknowledge the publishers  Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation