It was 1974 and my family of four i.e my sister, I and our husbands set off to South India on a pilgrimage to the famous temples there. After a week of having completed visiting the temples, we were at the East West hotel in Bangalore for a day before leaving for Mysore and Tirupathi.
Tired after a long drive from Salem (In Tamil Nadu) we had dinner at the hotel. While walking towards our rooms for the night, we came across a small bookshop. As usual I walked into the shop and was greeted by a smiling shopkeeper who pointed towards a shelf. There, displayed very clearly on the top of the shelf was the book, “Sai Baba, Man of Miracles”, with Baba’s smiling face on the cover.
My husband and I had read about Sai Baba in the Times of India papers a few months ago. Intrigued and curious I took the book. The salesman was trying to recommend the book to me, when suddenly I heard, “I am not having that man’s book in my house!” It was my husband!! Stunned I turned to appeal to him, but he walked away from the shop. Embarrassed, I returned the book to the shopkeeper while tears filled my eyes. He looked pathetically at me as I left the shop.
The next day dawned, my sister and I were walking towards the car, when the same shopkeeper came running to me and said, “Madam, if you want to see Sai Baba, He is in Whitefield. It is near Bangalore. Talk to the driver!”
Delighted, my sister and I quickly approached the driver and informed him of our intentions to see Sai Baba. He assured us that he will get us there as he was also Swamy’s devotee.
Unaware of our conspiracy with the driver, the men were excitedly talking about Brindavan Gardens in Mysore and getting their cameras ready for clicking away pictures of the lightings in Brindavan gardens. Suddenly after a short drive the car came to a halt. The road was congested and impassable because of huge crowds, buses and cars. The police were guiding people to enter the grounds of Whitefield.
My husband called out to us, “Look at the words,’Brindavan’! What is this place?” In a jiffy, my sister and I scrambled out of the car and the next minute, we were in the midst of the congregation sitting in neat rows. Bhajans began and I couldn’t believe my eyes as Swamy appeared in His ochre coloured robe. His eyes were dark, soft and luminous. His face beamed with some inner joy. He walked to us swiftly and gracefully, gently waving His hands. Tears poured from my eyes and I saw His smiling face and within me I prayed to my Lord and God to forgive my husband for mistaking him to be an ordinary man and not God.
As quickly as He came, He moved to sit for a few minutes below the huge banyan tree and enjoy the rhythmic, loud and enthusiastic bhajans of the happy congregation. Then Swamy left us to check on the Sanskrit College that was being built next to His residence.
We walked to our car filled with great happiness. As the crowds dispersed we were astounded to see both our husbands moving out with the crowd. Once in the car, there was complete silence. My husband told the driver to go straight to Tirupathi. Why the change? I didn’t know, but that was our Mysore and Brindavan trip J
After Tirupathi, my husband and I returned to Singapore. We went to pick up our car which was left at Mr. Bala’s (our friend’s) place. We shared about our trip with the Bala family. Suddenly Mr Bala asked us if we had the opportunity to see Sai Baba. My husband immediately responded, “Yes, we saw Him in Whitefield.” Mr. Bala’s reaction was astounding as he practically shrieked with astonishment and amazement at our blessed opportunity. Mr. Bala had tried to have Swamy’s darshan thrice, but was unable to do so. Then he walked to his room and came out with a pile of books and said, “You are now on a holiday, read all these books on Sai.” Then he looked at me, took a book from the pile and said, “This is for you.” I got it only yesterday from a friend of mine in India. It’s brand new! You can have it as I already bought one last week from a book shop.” Thanking him, I took the book. Guess what?? Yes! It was ‘Sai Baba, the Man of Miracles.’
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I was completely lost at Swami’s love for me for even a simple thing like yearning for a book. I turned to look at my husband. His face went blue with shock. We thanked the Balas and left for home.
From then on our lives took a dramatic change. Our vacations were only Puttaparthi and Swamy in India. Our value system changed and we surrendered ourselves entirely to Swami’s Divine will.
Mrs Mani Palan
Note: Aunty Mani is a long standing devotee of Swami and along with her Sis Rani, she has been working as an active sevadal at the Moulmein Sai Centre in Singapore for more than 2 decades now.