Who could possibly write the story of the Eternal Bond of Love between Swami and His students? Perhaps Lord Ganesha could be the right choice. Yes, Lord Ganesha was already into a secret mission to present something unique to The Lord on His 85th Birthday.
This was the opening scene from a thematic drama presentation by the grateful old students of Bhagawan who assembled in large numbers for yet another “Home Coming” in Prasanthi Nilayam. For the Alumni nothing else could have been more apt than reliving some of the most cherished moments of their days with Bhagawan.
It all began in the fag end of the in the year 2000 when the Alumni (men’s wing) of the erstwhile Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning decided to regroup celebrating the New Year in His presence in Prasanthi Nilayam. And Lo! Their Beloved Swami was more than reachable making Himself available for the privileged folks. And thus came into being the renewed exercise called Alumni Meet, celebration of joy in His physical presence.
Statistics available indicates that there are over six thousand five hundred students (boys) passed out over the years from the two campuses, Brindavan and Prasanthi Nilayam ever since the inception of the same in the year 1969 and 1978 respectively.
After successfully regrouping and presenting themselves during the New Year Advent for several years, from 2001 onwards, this year, there was a greater thrust to organize an all-alumni meet. This thrust has helped bringing together more than 1000 students to the holy portals of their alma mater that has given them invaluable tips before certifying them of men of character to go out and serve the world.
From the data made available at 2 pm on Dec 31, over 1011 students have registered for the Alumni Meet 2010. The complete statistics indicates that the 1011 students are accompanied by 409 mothers, 394 fathers, 371 wives, 503 other relatives and 298 children taking the total tally to over 2900. …More enrolments are expected as many students would be arriving on the 1st Jan morning.
For the alumni it is time to rejoice. As they regroup they revisit their old cherished memories, reliving them together, as they lived in the campus for many years taking invaluable tips at the Lotus Feet of their Beloved Swami.
What are their perceptions and how do they view this regrouping exercise? “Home Coming? How does one describe the journey to Your Feet? Wonderful memories revived…scenes of Sai interacting with students and devotees, the learning, the growth and more…At the end, it is stillness, peace and gratitude to Lord, Swami, Ma…” says Ravi Mariwala, and MSc, MBA from 1991 batch, who later served SSSIHMS from its inception in 1991 to 2005.
“It is the greatest good fortune of the Sai Alumni to assemble at Bhagawan’s Divine Lotus Feet in the 85th year of the glorious advent of our Lord. We are filled with joy and are extremely grateful to our Beloved Bhagawan for this most golden opportunity” says, Gandhikota V.Sanjay, an MBA from 1990 batch, currently settled in New York, working as Director, Investment Management Group.
For Jitendra Punjabi, another MBA from the 1991 batch, currently serving as Strategist for Emerging Asia, Capital Group in Singapore, it is something most unique. “It is the most unique Alumni Meet anywhere in the world, where the students are drawn Home only by the love of their beloved Mother Sai. The interchange of love is the core of the meet as the boys relive the most precious days of their lives at the Lotus Feet”.
For most of the students it is a humbling and overwhelming experience as shared by Abhimanyu Kaul, who finished in Masters in Commerce in 1990 and currently working as a Values Coach cum Trainer in Canada. “It is a humbling and overwhelming to be part of this unfolding of Avataric Mission. I feel extremely grateful to be a Sai student, a designation which we cherish more than anything else in this life”, said Abhimanyu sharing his view with us.
…And someone from the recent batch, K. Ravi Kanth who passed out from Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 2007 currently pursuing his graduation along with ICWAI, it is something equivalent to greatest good fortune. “Being with Bhagawan is the greatest fortune in my life. He has chosen us giving us nectarine love. His love is ever effulgent in our heart of hearts”, said Ravi Kanth.
The senior most enrolment has come from 1970 batch at Brindavan while number of recent pass outs joined the group making it a unique one with flexible range. Facilitating the enrolment and awareness process the students had launched a Sai Students official website, www.saistudents .org requesting the folks across the globe to register to update the details on the meet.
And each and every prayer at every step in the run up to the meet has been heard and responded by Beloved Bhagawan. The folks have been accommodated in the Brindavan Hostel in Prasanthi Nilayam while their counter parts have been allotted the Anantapur dormitory, inside the ashram. On 31 Dec morning the entire bunch of students have been taken to the Chaitanya Jyothi Museum as commanded by Bhagawan.
Earlier, on 30 Dec, Grama Seva was conducted in three chosen villages attended by a huge chunk of boys. Out of the three villages, one village was earmarked exclusively for employment purpose, wherein they have received over 850 applications. Health and hygiene, medicare, veterinary care etc. were part of the service activities apart from awareness programme, covered in the village during the Grama Seva.
And for the regrouping en mass, no presentation could have been better than reliving their own precious most cherished moments in the hallowed portals of their alma mater, Sri Sathya Sai University.
Idiye…Prema Bandhanamu, an Eternal Bond of Love, a drama depicting the cherished moments of the lives of students in the precincts of Prasanthi Nilayam, based on actual stories was the drama for the year 2010.
The drama revolved around the story of Alumnus, Karthik who represented the entire student community.
The story began with the devas celebrating the Ganesh Chaturthi in the heaven. Upon completing the rituals when they were ready to immerse the idol, the Elephant Headed God came to life conveying his disagreement to the immersion. He further made it clear to the devas that he had an important task to perform as he was making a presentation for the Lord on His 85th Birthday and the same would remain to be a secret.
Even as Lord Ganesha blurted this out, there appeared Sage Narada, who happened to overhear the conversation. Ganesha was displeased as it was quite sure that his secret would no more be a secret. Narada, further pointed out that Ganesha’s second tusk also was missing which according to him made it explicit that Ganesha was writing something quite secretly.
Lord Ganesha hurried out of the picture before Narada could find any more clues. Lord Ganesha was chased by devas and Sage Narada.
Ganesha who was still pursuing the task, most inadvertently bumped into the Monkey God Hanuman resulting in falling the bundle of files Ganesha was carrying. Hanuman, having got the clue already, was happy to reveal that he got the right information about Ganesha’s secret venture. Ganesha was further perplexed as His Big Secret seemed to be already leaked. As Hanuman requested to divulge further details, they saw a group of Alumni, came for the 2010 Alumni Meet, walking towards the hostel.
Here starts the story of Karthik, the protagonist, who reminisces about the wonderful time he had as a student at the hallowed portals of his alma mater, Sri Sathya Sai University. As others hurry for the Alumni Meet, Karthik chooses to drop into the hostel to relive some of the cherished memories.
Lord Ganesha recognized Karthik and points out to Hanuman who recollected that how Karthik, a poor boy from a remote village, had joined the hostel ten years ago.
One day when Hanuman was watching from the hill top in the Hill View stadium, he saw the boy weeping before entering the Mandir but was surprised see him coming out happily after the bhajans. What remained a mystery to Hanuman was cleared by Ganesha as Ganesh was already on the portico at Prasanthi Nilayam, which helped him to grasp the story in detail.
It was Karthik’s birthday and the boy was sad that he could not celebrate the same as he belonged to a poor family and thus could not afford to distribute sweets. Omniscient was Lord of Parthi, after distributing Ladoos to all in Parthi walked upto the boy and said, Ladoos were distributed celebrating his own birthday.
Hanuman was moved beyond expression and was lost in pondering as to what’s the secret behind the bond of Love between Swami and His students.
The next scenes were a link from Ramayana to the present day wherein Lord’s Rama’s “plight” at the time when the bridge was to be constructed was compared with the students’ dedication to contribute their might towards His project.
In the Treta, the monkey with the dedication and devotion could win Lord Rama’s heart and thus could bridge their way to Lanka to win the battle. Similarly, Karthik, upon coming to know that Bhagawan was embarking on a mighty hospital project that needed money, offered a Rs. 100/- claiming that for one whole month he washed all his clothes on his own, saving the money for the project and that Bhagawan should accept the same. A beaming Bhagawan answered that his Rs. 100/- contribution was much more than 100 crores as the act was prompted from heart with great feeling of love for Bhagawan.
Next was the turn of Lord Yama who was on his usual rounds. He also wanted to contribute his might to Lord Ganesha’a endeavour. Yama had something interesting to narrate.
Yama narrated the incident wherein Karthik, who had a severe asthma problem was saved by Bhagawan stopping Yama from putting the noose around the boy’s neck. Having surrendered to Swami, Swami responded to the prayer calling the diseased boy to the mandir, leaving a hapless Yama failing in his task. Yama said, Swami had taken the disease upon Him saving the boy. Yama was more than grateful and relieved that he did not put the noose around the boy and thus avoid repeating a folly similar to that he had with Markandeya.
Here appeared Narada, the wrecker-in-chief, who was responsible for leaking out the Big Secret of Lord Ganesha. Ganesha was badly displeased. To Ganesha’s surprise, Narada had an episode to add in Ganesha’s work-in-progress book. He could cull out the story as He was always on the move. The story was all about Karthik’s post Parthi days, where in he was called for an interview by a big firm.
The interview panel, upon hearing the name of Sai Baba started mocking at him and the institution, alleging that it teaches spirituality and not practicality and even wanted to know what Sai Baba has given him…a ring…a chain…or watches?
It was the right duty for Karthik to respond and he retorted: “Respected gentleman…I must answer all your questions, for it is my responsibility to respond. Sir! If I am not mistaken, you are a graduate from a premier institution and president of many honorable business groups. Perhaps you are also from a very well to do family which could afford to educate you universities abroad, a far cry for most of us in this country. As for me, I am a poor farmer’s son from a remote village where people do not even know the letter A of the English language. If the son of a poor uneducated farmer of this soil can…stand confidently in front of you…with the education may be even better than many applicants here…and compete with the students of the best of the universities in India, for an honourable job in a respected organization as yours, it is this ability that Sai Baba has given me”
“Yes, He has not given me a chain or a ring… But they are too petty even to discuss, compared to the gift of free education, self confidence and self respect that He has given not only to me, but to many students like me who cannot afford to college education”
The group was more than convinced about the university and promised to call him for next round of interview.
Another episode from the life of Karthik was the story of surrender. In a desperate situation wherein he was caught between his duty to his office and his love and promise to a group of orphan children, Karthik, true to his conscience call, decided to take the risk of losing the job to make the orphans, who were close to his heart, happy. To his utter surprise, his adamant manager who denied him leaves to complete an urgent presentation, came and congratulated Karthik for the wonderful presentation that bagged the company a prestigious project. Karthik was wonderstruck soon to realize that Bhagawan donned the garb of Karthik to present Himself to present the presentation!
The current batch of students were feeling sad that it was already January and they would be leaving the portals soon, and of course wanted Karthik’s advice, to stay ‘fit’ in the society while being away from ‘Home”.
Karthik relived the words of one of his teachers before leaving the portals, who advised the students to “carry the memories of the place…of the people and of Beloved Swami” “It is Swami that you must carry in your hearts and Prasanthi Nilayam is there where Swami is; without Swami there is no Prasanthi Nilayam”.
Karthik reminded the wards about the great good fortune; the blessings which even Gods of Highest Heaven would be craving for. He rained words of accolades for the place and the institution urging the folks to make the best out of the given opportunity.
By now Ganesha lost hopes of chronicling the eternal love story between Swami and His students. He sounded pessimistic that if the story of one student could go to this extend without covering full, it would be an impossible task to chronicle the saga in words.
…And Hanuman had a final word…as many students have assembled in Prasanthi Nilayam for the Alumni Meet, expressing the love and devotion to Swami, it would be apt to collect their letters and offer the same to Swami.
Hanuman, Narada and Ganesha started collecting letters from the students which was finally taken to Lord in Physical…in a box wrapped with Love!!!
It was a unique way of presenting bringing in characters and gods to testify the greater love of His grateful students. And it was not that easy for the folks to come up with a perfect show, recounts Madhusudan Naidoo, an MBA from 2003 batch, who was one of the mainstay behind the evening’s wonderful presentation. Best advantage of the modern communication was taken to make organizing of the show a success. As students who enacted were belonging to different parts of the country, the finalized scrip were sent out to identified casts through email with voice over recording, done at Bangalore, uploaded for the folks to do self-rehearsal sessions. The conceptualization was finalized only on the 13th and in a record time, these folks coming from various parts of the country could set themselves to fit the bill to make it grand presentation, says Madhusudan while adding that the boys could get only three practical days of rehearsal in the run up to the final session on 31 Dec.
Before the beginning of the presentation the entire crew assembled in the bhajans wherein Bhagawan blessed the folks, instilling greater confidence, while interacting with the group.
Innovative LED backdrop setting enabling effective projected transitions, colourful costumes, enacting with dexterity, crafty dialogues interspersed with humour and colorful dancing to the tunes of melody made the presentation a most unique one Prasanthi has ever witnessed.
And a word of praise from the Chief Organisers for the entire ashram team, from the level of Secretary, SSSCT to the level of helping boys who with all out love and dedication to Swami, helping and encouraging the boys every bit to make the show a grand success.
Thirty nine boys, coming from different parts of India participated in the drama ably assisted by over twenty-five boys behind screen with an additional force of over 20 from outside. The drama was conceptualized and directed by Madhusudan Rao Naidoo, MBA, 2003 and Ranganatha Raju, MBA, 2005 jointly, who have excellent proven track record of greater artistic skills, learned and later honed in the portals of Sri Sathya Sai University.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Ashok Chavan who has come to celebrate New Year in the Divine Presence was also present during the drama presentation.
Team Alumni has been camping and working as different departments in the run up to the meet, keeping themselves busy with various tasks for the last couple of days. The double decker auditorium next to the Book Centre has been witnessing frenzy of activities, that included registration, prasadam packing, decoration, drama and song practice, apart organizational and strategic planning.
As the old was wearing off and the New was slowly emerging, the grateful students of Bhagawan have the message for the New Year in no uncertain terms, and it was their all out love and dedication for their Beloved Mother Sai!