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.
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
Journey to Sai Begins
RS: At the outset, can
you describe your life till 1970 before Bhagawan entered the
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
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!”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
RS: Everybody is
beautiful the way they are. We don’t have to follow every changing
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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
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!