Monday, 16 May 2016

ATP Diaries 1 - God waits for you ever so patiently

Date: 29th March 2016
Setting: Hostel Terrace overlooking the 'Lion Mountain' at Sri Sathya Sai Hostel for Women

V - Hey! Close your book ya, enough of acting like studying!
S - How did you make out? Well, what are you driving at? You mean to say, you want to do my favourite thing?
V - Go on! I give you the license to talk :P
S - You do the talking today, because you started it. I am in a mood to listen today.
V - (Out of the blue) I feel very new ever since I came here. I never thought I will fall in love God!
S - Not 'fall', but 'rise' with love for God! Phew, how many times to tell you V?
V - Okies, sorry. I never thought I will rise with love for God. Imagine a girl who hardly cared about God's existence in her life, now has God being the center of her life.
S - Well, I am not surprised for that is the way our Lord operates. But every time He operates in a different manner, giving different lessons. That is what I am waiting to listen to.
V - Do you remember telling me that God waits for His children and there is no patient mother like God. Didn't understand what it meant until it hit me on its own.
S - Uff!! V, will you stop building the suspense and tell me what is your's and Swami's love story?
V - It was our 1st semester and I was just not used to sitting for long hours. Sitting for something like Vedas and bhajans was still far from imagination. You know it well. It was one one morning darshan and I was trying hard not to be restless when I realized I was thirsty. Since I spotted a cooler in the Sai Kulwant Hall, I thought I could ask any of the LICs (Line-in-charges) to take me to drink some water. When I requested her to take me to drink some water, she bluntly refused and gestured to me to wait till Darshan got over. The worst thing was the grumpy face she made at me! My impatience coupled with thirst, anger and embarrassment made me shed hot tears. I did not want to cry but I just did! Trust me, I was so thirsty that I was ready to do anything to get a glass of water. Just anything!
In a fit of rage, I looked up at a photograph of Swami nearest to me and screamed inside, "People extol You so much and come from far and wide to seek Your grace. I have left my family and come here, which my roommate S calls Home, only to be refused something as petty as a glass of water. What Home is this? What Mother are You?
Even as I screamed these words inside my head, I heard a voice from that photograph which said, "You are grumbling because you were refused a glass of water and you are being made to wait for something as simple as quenching your thirst. Have you any earthly idea of how many times you have refused Me and for how long I have been waiting for you?"
My tears of anger and thirst now turned into one of gratitude, regret and happiness at the same time. The profundity of the statement hit me and I no more felt anger but love, not just love for Swami but for everything around me. I continued sitting and yes, by then I stopped throwing those rebellious looks at that particular senior. I sat closing my eyes, trying to just allow the sudden transformation to take place in me, I felt a pat. Guess who was it. The same senior who refused to give me water was right in front of me with a glass of water! I was in tears again..........
S - Tell me, do you even need a reason to cry? One cry baby only you are! Jokes apart, wow V! I remember seeing a changed you after that particular Parthi trip. Had no clue what had cooked then. Very glad you told me!
V - Since then the love story has continued and I hope and pray I will never have to keep Him waiting. (Looking at a lost S) Can we get back to our books now?
S - Sure, we shall. But wait a minute, did Swami speak to you in Telugu or English? I mean, did He really use the word 'earthly'? That's like wow!
V - (Throwing that you-will-never-change look) Understood! You are going to make a diary entry of this aren't you? By the way, yes, Swami spoke in English!
S - You made my day. Thank you V.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A day when our Lord swung joyously on the jhoola of our hearts..............

The dawning of 23rd November 2015 was what I had been looking forward to, ever since I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus. The day was a dream come true and how I wish time froze.

The evening proceedings of 90th Birthday Celebrations at the Sai Kulwant Hall concluded at around 7 pm and all of us looked forward to rush towards the Hill View Stadium to witness the fitting finale to our Lord's 90th Birthday Celebrations - Music Programme by the Prashanti Mandir Bhajan Group and the 'Special Event' as was announced the previous day. However Lord Varuna, the Rain God's participation in Swami's Birthday Celebrations deprived us of the magical evening we wanted to celebrate with our Lord. The Jhoola Mahotsavam was postponed to the next day evening, i.e, 24th November 2015. But the Anantapur Campus was to leave the next day morning after the morning proceedings in the Kulwant Hall. Now with such an announcement being made about the rescheduling of the Jhoola Mahotsavam, we waited eagerly to know of the change in plans of travelling back to ATP. Sadly, on reaching our dormitory, we were instructed to pack our bags and get ready to board our buses immediately after the morning Darshan.

And then it all started - What? My cribbing and grumbling! "How can people be very heartless and not let us watch Swami's Jhoola Mahotsavam?" Isn't the Birthday Celebration incomplete without the Jhoola Mahotsavam. How then can we leave our Lord to celebrate His big day all alone?" Eventually, I went on to say, "Let us see how Swami can peacefully swing away without us, His daughters!" I grumbled thus in font of a picture of Swami's in the dormitory where the music group of ATP stays. A few sisters joined me in the grumbling, if I may say so. Even as I spoke I realized I was grumbling too much like some grannies of the past. But what could I do? We were in so much pain and anger. Who else could we vent it on except on Swami? Two of us then declared, "We aren't packing our bags, come what may!" 
We grumbled like nobody's business! How else to pour out our agony? 

The rains had surely dampened the grounds of the Hill View Stadium and we had no control over it. But we wouldn't let the rains dampen our spirits. We firmly believed the Swami wanted us to stay back and that no human-made rules could come in between us and Swami. No other force could stop us from staying back for the next day evening except Swami Himself. 

We thus slept praying that we wake up to a miraculous announcement  that we could stay back for the Jhoola Mahotsavam. From the time we got up till the morning proceedings got over, we spent all our time in restlessness trying to get a clue of what might happen after we move out of Kulwant Hall. Should we pack our bags and get out? 

As I placed my head on the Mahasamadhi, I just had one thing  to tell Swami, "Swami! Please....Please really do something." and a drop of tear trickled down my cheek. Just as I packed the harmonium with a heavy heart (Girls too sang bhajans in the Mandir on 24th morning, so I had to pack the harmonium) and was about step out of Sai Kulwant Hall, few sisters asked the Music Group girls not to move out. To my shock, the whole of the Anantapur Campus sat down glued to the floor. Nobody budged. I quickly realized that we were doing a silent protest! All of it to demand permission to stay back for Jhoola Mahotsavam (My mind screamed in fury, "Who should give us permission to see our Lord? My heart cried, "We are very sorry Swami, but this wouldn't have happened if You were physically here. Your permission would be the ultimate. We have no option but to do this." A little later after all negotiations we got reprimanded for this 'mass indiscipline' (Well, I will never agree that it was indiscipline nor do I claim that what we did was right. However, 'indiscipline' was not the right term to be used.)

We dragged our way to the dormitory, not in sorrow but in contemplation as to what will be our next move! We are groomed saying that we are Swami's lionesses. How then can we give up and start crying! If we cry, then let those tears be only for Swami. With these thoughts as we arrived at the dormitory building, my heart sank when I saw the buses lined up to part us from our beloved Swami. 

Our only respite was prayers.
As soon as I entered my dorm, the music group's dorm, my senior who joined me in the cribbing the previous night looked at me and asked what was happening. Since we were in the ground floor, we stopped some sisters from coming down from upstairs with their bags. You know what that meant? We simply refused to board our buses! We knew it was a tense situation outside the dormitory building, with parents waiting without an idea of what was happening inside and teachers all confused, whether to support us or to go about doing their duty of asking us to board our buses. But nothing deterred us.  We called all the students into the music group's dorm and started doing bhajans.  A Ganesh bhajan, Araj Suno Mere Param Kripalu, Tere Siva Prabhu Koi Nahin Hai, Almost the whole dorm broke down as we sang Murali Manohar Asha Na Todo, Dukh Bhanjan Mera Saath Na Chodo. I almost ran out of breath while singing Dwar Khadi Hoon Main Dukhiyari.(Literally felt like a 'Dukhiyari' that day!) Unlike every other bhajan session, we meant every word we sang. We literally spoke out. Just as we were singing Sahara Do Bhagawan, our teacher who was in-charge of the bus arrangements, came in. I could make out that she too was teary eyed. She said, "I am sorry to interrupt you all like this. But girls, what are you all doing?" She couldn't speak further. I knew she resonated our feelings because she too was a student like us but she had no option because she was asked to persuade us to get into our buses. When all her coaxing and pleading were in vain she left our dorm. We continued bhajans. Just then another teacher comes in and encourages us to pray on because things seemed bleak as permission was still not being granted, instead our action only angered them. Again my heart screamed, "What is the big deal here? Is it a thing to be argued at all? Obviously, between classes and  Swami's Jhoola Mahotsavam, that too 90th Birthday, the latter is more important. Duh! Do we even need permission to seek out to our Lord? If only You were here....Sheeks!

My eyes were flooded. Hot streams of tears poured down. It was a mixture of pining,sorrow, anger, fear, anxiety, pangs of separation. Our prayers intensified in the next 25 minutes and so did the momentum of the bhajans and the tears.As we were singing Premamrita Barsao Baba..........

"You take 1 step towards Me, I will take a 100 steps towards you. But the 1st step should be yours." 

The miracle happened. Another teacher enters the dorm and says that we were now permitted to stay back for the evening provided we board our buses quickly as soon as we come back from the Sai Kulwant Hall and that on reaching the hostel, we should hit our beds fast and be on time to the College the next day morning. 

And then we broke down into tears again, this time out of gratitude and started the 'I Love You' song, Humko Tumse Pyar Kitna. 

After all that had happened, I was called out because my father was waiting for me all the while. That was when my classmate's mother tells me in Tamil, "Nice dharna, kids" ('Dharna' is a non-violent sit-in protest) What I told her is not just something I intended to tell her but something I intend to tell all the readers too. Let me make it absolutely clear that we were not against anyone here. We were not doing a sit-in protest against anyone. Instead, it was mass prayers that was all addressed to Swami. We did not do bhajans to protest against anyone in particular. We were demanding and pleading at the same time to Swami and Swami alone, because, it is only Swami's permission that we needed, to be there in His presence. 

That evening I did not sit on the ground of Sai Kulwant Hall, but I was flying.(Just like Ustad Zakir Hussainji said about his experience of performing before Swami.) I was not performing, but I knew we had earned that chance to be sitting there. He made us work for it. Even as I sat lost in the beauty of the Sai Kulwant Hall, a teacher who sat next to me said, "All of your devotion has been rewarded." 

All of us around the globe planned to offer many many things as His 90th Birthday gift - 90 hours bhajans, 90 spiritual sessions, Narayan Seva, Giving up certain ill habits, Taking up different projects etc etc. For example, we at Anantapur, had done Parayanam of Shirdi Sai Satcharitra, Tapovanam and many other sadhana, at an individual level, class-wise, room-wise etc. Definitely He was happy with all that. However, that last drop of devotion is what He wanted to squeeze out of us and I think that is one reason why He staged all that drama. He got His birthday gift - moments when He joyfully swung on the jhoola of our hearts, more so because every heartbeat cried out to Him, for Him.  In retrospection, I can feel some amount of gratitude to the people who played roles to perfection in  His drama. I learnt that day that pining for the Lord and making Him feel wanted is the best gift that one can give God. In fact, it is also the best gift one can give oneself!

Nextly, it may seem like we get chances to go to Prasanthi Nilayam just by the virtue of being a student of SSSIHL Trust me, if He wishes to throw you out, no force in the world can stop that but if He wishes to keep you with Him, no Tom, Dick or Harry can take you away from Him. It was a reminder that we had to yearn, earn and value every chance we got to be at Prasanthi Nilayam because Swami lived here, lives here and will forever live here. 

My Fairyland Forever! :)