Being with Swami has always been very special for me, not only because He is God. For me, He is more of a loving mother, a caring father and an adorable sister! The five years in the Institute have been like five days – as if we came just yesterday and today, our academic association with the Institute is over. When I joined for my under graduate course in 2009, it was for the first time that I came to know about Bhagavan. My mother had been an ardent devotee of Shirdi Baba right from her childhood days. But our family was not aware of Sri Sathya Sai Baba or about Prasanthi Nilayam, apart from knowing the fact that there exists a Super Speciality Hospital which treats people free of cost. When one of my friends came to know about this Institute through his father, he immediately bought the prospectus of the Institute. He asked me if I was interested in applying for the undergraduate course there. I immediately told him, “No”, thinking the Institute may not be well recognized like Hans Raj College or Symbiosis. But the events that took place subsequently were all part of his Divine Leela… to bring me closer to Him.
The last date for applying for the Institute was 28th February, 2009. I was one of the few students left in my batch, who hadn’t applied for any College till then. So I was a bit apprehensive and uncertain what to do next. I called the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus Office of the Institute and inquired if I could still apply for the undergraduate course in Brindavan Campus or not. To my dismay, I was informed that the last date for applying for any course was over. As I was not quite well versed about the Institute, I didn’t feel bad. But Swami always waits for such moments when you give up and from there He takes over. My brother-in-law and his elder brother were alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School who had studied in the erstwhile Sri Sathya Sai School at Ooty, Tamil Nadu and then they got into to the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School at Prasanthi Nilayam. My brother-in-law had come to know that I was applying for this Institute. He called me up immediately and asked I was serious about joining the Institute. Something told me from inside that I should tell, “Yes”. What followed was just like a chain reaction. Suddenly, I got a mail of the application form from the Administrative block of the Institute which I was asked to fill up and send it the very same day. I did as I was required to do and sent it on 8th March, 2009. By the end of April 2009, I got the call letter to appear for the entrance examination. I did not do well in the written examination and I was sure that I was not going to make it. On the next morning when I saw my name in the list of selected candidates, I was shocked! Everything followed as usual and I was selected for the B.Com. (Hons.) course at the Brindavan Campus.
|Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Brindavan Campus|
In the same year, during Guru Pournima celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam, some boys were called for distributing Prasadam inside Poornachandra auditorium, where devotees were eagerly waiting for a glimpse of Swami. I took a box containing Prasadam and went inside the auditorium where we were asked to wait. I waited there for a while and then ran back to Sai Kulwant Hall where Swami had already arrived. I got a chance to distribute Prasadam for the first time inside Sai Kulwant Hall. Once the distribution was over and Swami was returning to His residence, I remembered that I had left my sitting mat and fan inside the auditorium. I rushed towards the auditorium to fetch them, thinking that the Seva Dal might bring down the shutters. But when I reached near the auditorium, I was amazed by the pin drop silence inside the auditorium. I cautiously approached one of the entrances, not knowing what lay ahead. As I entered the auditorium, I heard all the devotees chanting ‘Sai Gayatri’ in unison. The auditorium was suffused with the Divine aroma but there was no sign of Swami. One of my classmates present there told me that Swami was coming there. My joy knew no bounds as I was sure that Swami would give us individual attention since only a few of the boys distributing Prasadam were present there. Uncertain as His ways are, He entered the main stage and sat for a while. He then called a few of the boys to bless the Prasadam. I missed that opportunity as I was not wearing a full sleeve shirt. So another brother next to me grabbed that chance and ran towards the stage. Nevertheless I was happy that Swami had come there, blessed each one of us and gave us His beautiful smile, assuring that He was very happy. So a task by chance was converted into a chance to be cherished for a lifetime.
The Annual Sports and Cultural Meet drama presented by the boys from the Brindavan Campus had been a major attraction over the years. With successful dramas like ‘Bhakta Potana’, ‘Sant Kabir’, etc. it was time for ‘Bhakta Tukaram’ to be staged during the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet, 2009-10. By then I had come to know from our teachers, that no role, be it big or small, goes unnoticed by Swami. I got a small role of an untouchable from the village, who visits the Vitthala temple and gets ill-treated by the Sabhapati (village head). Till then, whenever we practiced that scene the boy who was playing the Sabhapati’s role would swing the stick in his hand towards me and it would lokk as though he was hitting me and I would fall down.
|Students with Sri Sathya Sai after the drama on Sant Tukaram|
It was 16th October, 2010. This was the first time I got a chance to sit for blessing on my birthday. During that year Swami used to take Akshatas (yellow rice) from a boy’s plate and put them on him and also on a few other boys who also would be waiting to be blessed. I was praying intensely that Swami should take Akshatas only from my plate without taking them from someone else’s. It might sound foolish and childish on my part to pray this way, but for Swami, any prayer originating from the bottom of one’s heart is dear. I was not aware of the power of prayer till then. Finally, when all of us were seated for His blessings, there were few boys from Higher Secondary School seated in front of me who wanted to get their projects blessed. Swami came there and started blessing their projects. I became worried that Swami might not take Akshatas from my plate. Then He moved slowly towards me and as though responding to my prayers, He took Akshatas with His left hand, He took the letter from my tray and blessed me! His mere touch on my head sent Divine ripples across my body. I took Padanamaskar and sat down with tears in my eyes. Swami continued with the regular round of Darshan and I was left wondering how a small prayer, made and forgotten long back was beautifully answered by the Lord. This small incident made me realise the power of prayer – a lesson for life!
This incident is by far the most memorable one and I cherish it every single day of my life. As usual, at the end of Akhanda Bhajans on Maha Shivaratri, Brindavan boys were given the duty to transport the vessels containing Prasadam from the South Indian canteen to Sai Kulwant Hall. We were ready by 3.30 am and the work was in full flow. After finishing our task at hand, Sri Gopinath told us that a few boys (around 35 in number) would be required inside Poornachandra Auditorium for distributing the Prasadam. Most of us knew that going inside Poornachandra meant losing a chance with Swami in Sai Kulwant Hall. But still, the required number of boys was available for distribution inside Poornachandra. We were all waiting inside Poornachandra from 4.45 am for Swami to come out. Around 8.30 am, Bhagavan finally came out.
We were getting ready so that once He gave the indication for distributing the Prasadam inside Sai Kulwant Hall, we would also start distribution. But to our utter surprise, one of the brothers working in Radio Sai came running inside the auditorium and started unrolling a carpet which was generally used when Swami came inside the auditorium. We were a bit confused as to what was happening. On enquiring, we were told that Swami had decided to come first to the Poornachandra. Our joy knew no bounds! The ever merciful Lord didn’t disappoint His devotees who were awake throughout the night inside the Poornachandra, just to get a glimpse of Him.
As Swami was ushered onto the main stage, we all lined up against the carpet in one single line. As Bhagavan was brought down from the main stage to a small makeshift stage below, my other batch boys were offering letters to Him but He did not take them. He looked very weak and lost in His thoughts. I did not give up and kept the letter in hand, praying that He should take mine. And there He was, right in front of me, extending His left hand towards me for the letter that I was holding in my hands. I could not speak a word, as usual, whenever Swami was in front of me. With tears in my eyes, I gave the letter to Him. But ever merciful that He is, He did not move on. He was waiting there and I seized the opportunity to take His Padanamaskar and only then He proceeded towards the small stage. At that moment, I was praying that time should stand still for me to behold that beautiful face for eternity! I just sat down and with moist eyes looked towards Him. He gave a beautiful smile looking at the devotees inside the Poornachandra Auditorium. Only a few seconds had passed when Swami began heading back towards Sai Kulwant Hall. I found myself lucky a second time, as He stopped in front of me but only for a second… I could only tell Him, “Swami, please come to Brindavan,” to which He didn’t reply and moved on. As soon as Swami reached the portico inside the Sai Kulwant Hall, indication for Prasadam distribution was given. When we started distributing Prasadam, it was very stunning as a few elderly devotees were touching our feet, telling that, “We could not touch Swami, for us you are Swami”. These words still ring in my ears, even though three years have passed! What was really memorable for me on that day was, when Swami was leaving Sai Kulwant Hall for His residence, there were very few letters that He had taken that day. And as the cameras focused on Him, I could clearly make out that He was holding my letter in His right hand. That was something I can never forget.
He reiterated the fact that for Him, each and every individual is important. At this juncture when we are going to face a challenging new phase of life, I hope and pray that He guides us, holding our hands.
- Tanmay Das
Student (2009-2014), Faculty of Management and Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently, Specialist at Standard Chartered GBS Pvt. Ltd., Chennai