An insightful account on the Project published in Sanathana Sarathi January 2006 issue...
SRI SATHYA SAI DEENAJANODDHARANA PATHAKAM
Smt. K. Geetha Paramahamsa
Are you studying in Class VII?” Swami paused before a group of 60 boys sitting in the south-eastern corner of Sai Kulwant Hall, and asked one during Darshan. It was around January 2004.
“No, Swami!” the boy replied kneeling down humbly before Bhagavan.
“What are you studying?” Swami asked.
“Class X, Swami”, the boy answered. It was, no doubt, odd, but nevertheless a fact. Swami had a hearty laugh before He remarked, “jumping and jumping up!” and moved on.
The boy, an inmate of the Children’s Home established by Bhagawan under the Deenajanoddharana Pathakam on 20th June 2002, was one of the seven boys appearing for the Class X public examination in March 2004. He is among the 62 boys that came to Bhagawan to share His compassion and benediction. All the seven boys passed Class X, six in first class and one in second class!
A few weeks before Bhagawan inaugurated the Pathakam, He had told at a meeting in Sai Kulwant Hall of His anguish and deep concern, moved by a press report in a Telugu daily, that a woman with her four children had committed suicide unable to maintain them and herself, on the death of her husband. Immediately thereafter, He instructed enumeration of destitute boys in the three Mandals of Puttaparthi, Kothacheruvu and Bukkapatnam. Over eighty boys with their relations came to Prasanthi Nilayam on 20th June 2002. Of them, only sixty-two boys (including two that have recently been admitted) with twelve mothers have stayed on to receive Bhagawan’s benediction. The youngest of them was only ten months old and the eldest was under thirteen in June 2002.
When the boys came from the dusty villages, they were looking shabby in dirty rags, and undernourished. Some had skin problems while several had problems with eyesight. All needed a haircut and bath, to begin with. As they were brought to Prasanthi Nilayam along with their relations, they were housed in shed No. 30 in the Ashram. Bhagawan came to the shed on that day and distributed new clothes and other accessories to them, as they had nothing to use.
While they were in the shed for about five weeks, the first thing they began to learn was Veda chanting. How could it be otherwise for the children of Veda Purusha? Now they recite Veda well. A few months later, Bhagawan asked late Sri P.V.Narasimha Rao to visit the Children’s Home (the complex to which the boys were shifted in July 2003). It was a surprise visit. When Sri P.V. Narasimha Rao went round the Home and listened to the recitation of Veda by the boys, he remarked, “simply enchanting!”
When the boys were shifted to the new sprawling complex on the Guru Purnima Day, 25th July 2003, Swami personally went there and boiled milk (boiling milk is a ritual observed by the house owner while house-warming). The new complex has a prayer hall, a spacious dining hall with a modern kitchen and stores attached. It has about 200 independent rooms with a toilet and a bath attached to each. A solar water heater provides hot water to all the inmates of the Home.
A few days after their moving into the new complex, they were in Sai Kulwant Hall for Darshan of Bhagawan when fruits were being distributed among all the devotees present. One of the students who came to the group of inmates of the Home, distributing fruits, offered a fruit to one boy Nagendra. “No, thanks”, the boy declined politely, “you have given me one already!”
“What a contrast to some among the grown-ups and so-called educated who pester us for more, even after getting their due,” the student wondered. That is the level of transformation brought about in the boys in a few days after coming into the fold of Bhagavan. Bhagavan knows whatever happens in the universe. Does He not know about what happens in the Mandir? He walked slowly to the boy and offered a fruit Himself.
“No, thanks, Swami”, he said, “I got already.”
“Doesn’t matter, take it”, said Swami, “I am giving it.”
“No, thanks, Swami”, the boy politely declined.
“What do you want?” Swami asked.
“Chaduvu (education), Swami!” the boy answered. Everyone was pleasantly surprised.
“I will arrange that”, promised Swami.
Swami again asked, “What more do you want?”
“Nothing, except education”, the boy answered.
Swami was pleased. He materialised a gold chain and put it around the boy’s neck Himself.
Swami followed up His promise promptly. A new school building with eight classrooms came up in the complex in just two months. Trained teachers among Seva Dal volunteers teach the boys. Besides, quite a few devotees of Bhagawan work there voluntarily.
Bhagawan inaugurated the new school building in February 2003. He went into each classroom, touched each blackboard and blessed it. The boys, who were then attending their classes in some rooms of the complex, promptlymoved into the new school building.“Till recently, we had no square meal a day and none to care for us”, an inmate recalls. “Today Swami has arranged everything for us. We are well clad and well fed. At the time of our arrival here, we underwent a health check-up, the first in our life. We get sumptuous breakfast, lunch,afternoon snacks and dinner, not to speak of frequent bouts of Prasadam Swami sends us – especiallyfruits, sweets, dry fruits, cashew nuts, biscuits and chocolates – all in baskets!”
Each inmate has six pairs of dress, two pairs of night dress, sweaters and rugs in winter, mattresses, pillows, bed sheets, shoes, chappals and what not.
“We enjoy all facilities here on par with the inmates of hostels of other Sri Sathya Sai educational institutions, may be better”, an inmate claims happily. “Not only that, we are given equal opportunities to stage cultural programmes like them on occasions such as the Convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Bhagavan’s Birthday celebrations, festivals like Ugadi, etc.”
Daily routine in the Children’s Home begins at 4.30 a.m. when the boys wake up and join Nagar Sankirtan. Jogging follows. On return, they bathe and sit for Bhajan. After breakfast, they go to school at 7.30 a.m. At 10 a.m. they have a few minutes’ break to have milk. At 12, they move for lunch. After lunch, they relax for a while, do homework, etc., and return to school by 2 p.m. They attend Bal Vikas classes between 4.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. when they go into their own spacious playground to play. After bath, they have dinner at 6.30 p.m., do homework and study up to 10 p.m. before they pray and go to bed.
The boys find time for hobbies such as kitchen gardening, painting,cultural activities, etc. They have been initiated into yoga and are now able to perform as many as 26 Asanas with ease.
Boys who passed Class X in March 2004 are now taking the Senior Secondary grade of the National Institute of Open Schooling. They opted for two subjects in computer science besides English for examination in April-May 2005. They will take examination in mathematics and accountancy in 2005-06 when they qualify for admission to the BCA Course of the Indira Gandhi National Open University in July 2006. The Computer Lab at the Home has eleven systems all local area networked (LAN). Ten other boys will take the Class X examination of the Andhra Pradesh State Board of Secondary Education in March 2006.
“We go for Darshan of Bhagavan in Sai Kulwant Hall on Thursdays and Sundays, and on every festival day by a special bus”, an inmate says, “and return recharged with His bliss.” “At the outset, we fell for the excellent food we were having for the first time in our life. Today we realise the more valuable things we receive here owing to His grace – motherly love and affection, good bringing up in value system and quality education tempered with spirituality. I do not know how many among the millions of contemporary students in the country are that lucky.”
Bhagavan pauses before the group of the boys during Darshan, and makes affectionate enquiries about their food, facilities, health, education, etc. As Bhagavan goes by the boys in Sai Kulwant Hall, most devotees feel that Bhagavan has utmost concern and compassion for these boys.
Bhagavan’s love and compassion for them knows no bounds. When the Class X public examination was approaching, one boy told Swami in the Darshan line, “I am not able to remember what I study, Swami!”
“That is education, my boy!” Bhagavan quipped, a comment on the present-day system of education in which we learn not much worthwhile to remember.
On 17th March 2003, Bhagavan went to the Home. It was the day on which the public examination for Class X commenced.
Bhagavan blessed the boys taking the examination personally, putting Vibhuti on the forehead of each of them. Parents see their children off to examinations. Here Lord Himself arrived to bless them and see them off to their examinations. What a blessed lot!
Bhagavan had set apart one lakh rupees for each of the boys at the time of launching the scheme. This will be gifted with the interest that it earns on the completion of their education and finding a placement for service. Bhagavan once explained, “This is only a token of what Swami gifts them, because they bask all the time in His Divine aura, enjoying His love, compassion and protection invaluably!”
Besides the boys, the mothers of some of them, twelve, live in the Home. Some serve as Ayahs to the boys, besides helping in the upkeep and maintenance of the Home.
One, Smt. Venkatalakshmi, had her backbone broken completely. She was in bed when she entered the Home. She underwent physiotherapy in Bhagavan’s General Hospital at Whitefield, Bangalore. It is just a miracle that she now attends to her work on her own. “I am having physiotherapy as advised. But my hope centres on Sai therapy – incessant chanting of Sai Ram”, Smt. Venkatalakshmi says, “It has paid off. Swami, in His abundant grace, has allowed me very good improvement in stages. Today I can attend to my work without support of others. I can even walk around using the walker. It is purely a Sai miracle that I am back on my legs.”
“Our best resource here is prayer”, says an inmate. “Whenever anyone of us has a problem, we all pray together for him, and Swamiresponds. When someone is ill, they take him promptly to the hospital for treatment. But, on our part, we pray for him, and he will be back soon in good health owing to Bhagavan’s grace.” It is no surprise that one boy is completely cured of cancer in the throat having undergone surgery twice in the Kidwai Hospital at Bangalore. A couple of boys have been treated of suspected tuberculosis with no trace of it. At least a dozen boys have had fractures of leg or hand on different occasions, but everything is set. More surprisingly, a dumb boy that came with his dumb mother is now able to speak and study, and is no different from others.
The boys have their own Homa Kunda – of all things! “Whenever they performed Homa (Yajna), there was rain. It is remarkable”, one teacher at the Home noted. “They do Homa with Sai Gayatri or do Ganesh Homa.” They celebrate festivals of all religions. The mothers have grown spiritually, beyond imagination. They do Sai Vratams, Sita Vratams, etc. They themselves feel that they have shed the vestiges of their earlier cantankerous environment of filth, squalour and slang.
“Our aspiration in life is clear”, an inmate declares. “We have, no doubt, ambition to come up in life getting good education and winning high positions. More than that, we aspire to shape into effective instruments of Bhagavan to perform His work on earth, as a member of the universal Sai family, imbibing human values dear to His heart.”
So moves on the caravan – SAI caravan!