"He is my swami"
Who has not heard of Prof. Kasturi – the famous translator of Bhagavan’s Discourses and biographer of the Divine life-story of Bhagavan Shri Sathya Sai Baba? Professor Kasturi’s style was inimitable and un-matched. He brought to life for millions of Bhagavan’s devotees’ the thrilling, exhilarating accounts of those early golden years.
One feels as if one is present on the occasion when one reads Swami’s biography Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram. He had a special Kasturi-touch – literally. It would be impossible however to bring Prof. Kasturi to the studio of Radio Sai! But we have a very special person with us today; one who has inherited his precious legacy – maybe not like that of the inheritors of the Tata’s, Birla’s (Popular business families of India) and such; but something richer and more enduring - Divine Grace and proximity.
Smt. Padma - fondly referred to by Bhagavan as Padmamma - is the privileged daughter Professor Kasturi. Less well-known by people generally, she has made her quiet presence felt in the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram for several years now.
Rajeshwari Patel (RP): Welcome Smt. Padmamma to Radio Sai Global Harmony.
Padma Kasturi (PK): Thank you Rajeshwari.
RP: Let us begin first by talking about your father. When did your father come to Bhagavan and how old were you then?
PK: We saw Bhagavan in 1948 in Bangalore; I was just 14 years old then.
RP: Tell us a little bit about your father’s early life – before he came to Bhagavan.
Early Years and First Meeting of Prof Kasturi
PK: He was born in the state of Kerala, in Tripunittura which is in Ernakulam District. He was from a very deprived family – he had lost his father when he was just four years old. His education was very poor and his grand-father wanted him to attend Vedic classes because he couldn’t afford him any English education.
But my grand-mother insisted that he should go through the English Education; so with the help of her brother, he studied up to the high school, and there he got his scholarship and thus he could graduate with Bachelor of Arts (B.A). Then he got a job in Travancore and he was married when he was just 14 years old!
RP: But his English is so excellent! I mean, the language in Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram and in Sri Sathya Sai Speaks is marvelous!
PK: Yes. Then he came down to Mysore for a job. When he was 21 years old, he got a job in a high school as a teacher; then he was taken to the University and he continued there, and after his retirement, he came to Swami and settled here – he stayed in the ashram for 40 years.
RP: So in which year did he come to Bhagavan?
PK: We met Swami in Bangalore in 1948, and in 1947, I had lost one of my brothers – he had a typhoid attack. My father was then very attached to the Ramakrishna mission. When he was in high school, one of his teachers was very impressed by Swami Vivekananda and used to talk a lot about him, from then on my father had become very attached to Sri Ramakrishna Pramahamsa.
RP: Now, who did not get influenced by Swami Vivekananda at their younger age!
PK: My father served as secretary for the Mysore Ramakrishna Ashram for 25 years. But then, after he lost his son, he was very depressed. My mother was a very ardent devotee of Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi, but they lost all hope.
How The Divine Prepared His Blessed Destiny…
After three months of my brother’s death, he met one of his old friends who was a devotee of Sai Baba. That person had come here for Dasara celebrations. After the function, he came down to Bangalore and gave us some prasadam and said, “There’s some Sai Baba in Puttaparthi. Why don’t you go there?” You will get some solace and peace.
But my mother didn’t like it, and rejected it saying, “No Sai Baba is going to help, because nobody helped me – not even my Tirupathi Rama! How can Sai Baba help me?”
But after that, somehow, my husband – Balachandran – was then a student, studying for IAS and used to come for tuition in the University with my father.
He was a distant relative and used to come there and they were already devotees of Sai Baba. So whenever he came, he used to talk about Swami. My father got little inquisitive and said, “This young man is saying so much about Sai Baba; let’s go and see!” Swami had come to Bangalore and so we went and visited Him there. In the very first visit, Swami gave an interview to my father!
RP: In the very first visit? Were all of you called?
PK: My mother, father and I had gone but we didn’t know if we should also follow him for the interview. He had called my father, so he went alone. And He said everything – about the death of my brother and his working in the college, and then He asked him, “After your retirement, you must come to Puttaparthi and settle down here.”
RP: So, after that first interview, what was his first impression of Swami? Did he come and tell you anything about how he felt? This was a command of settling down after retirement…
PK: He felt some Power; but he
didn’t feel that Divinity then; because at that time Swami was too young -
He only 22 years old!
PK: So he said there is something
wonderful in this young man. That’s all he felt.
PK: No. Not in the first interview. It all happened only after my marriage. Because when Balachandran was coming to our house from the University tuitions, my father and mother felt that it would be nice if we give our daughter in marriage to him – because he was very mild mannered.
“This is My agya!”
So they went and asked his parents but they were not willing. But through them, they made another alliance! It was almost certain that they would be coming. There is that formality procedure that they had to go through.
So one day – it was a Thursday – my father went to their house. All this was arranged through the Balachandran family. He asked them to bring the other family to our house to see the girl. But that time, Swami was in Bangalore and on that Thursday morning, He came in the dream of my father-in-law and told him: “Come to see Me immediately; I have arranged your son’s marriage!”
RP: So before this meeting could be arranged with that other boy, Swami had already changed it!
PK: Yes. My father-in-law took leave from work and went to see Swami. Swami said: “See, we have arranged for your son’s marriage. For the past six years they have been asking you but you have been rejecting it! She is a very good girl and you must go and get him married with that family. Her father is a Professor and their house is near Wilson Garden…” and He gave all the details! And then He said: “This is My agya (command)!”
RP: His command!
PK: Yes. So when my father went to their house, they said, “Swami has already arranged, so we should get them married!” My father was very happy when he came home. And the next day both our families went to Him - Swami was staying in Mrs. Nagamani Purnaiya’s house. We all went there and Swami called both - my father and my father-in-law - and said: “This is a very good alliance and you should get these two people married. The marriage will be celebrated here in Puttaparthi itself. You can fix up some date and come to Puttaparthi.”
RP: You had never been to Puttaparthi?
PK: No. So He asked my father to come once to visit Puttaparthi and see the place.
RP: So did he retire after your marriage?
PK: He retired in ’54. We got married in ’50.
RP: And since then he has been in Puttaparthi!
PK: Yes. My father and mother came to Puttaparthi and saw the place then.
RP: But in the intermediate period, before his retirement, did he have any meetings with Swami?
PK: No. Nothing.
RP: So even when Swami came to Bangalore he just went for Darshan?
PK: Yes, just for Darshan – not for any interview. It was only after marriage which was celebrated here.
RP: And of course it coincided somewhat with his retirement too.
PK: Yes. He came in ’54 and then he went back to Bangalore because he was appointed in the All-India Radio as an Assistant Producer. He came back in ’56 because the Sanathana Sarathi (Ashram magazine) had to be started.
RP: Then he passed away in ’87…after practically 30 yrs of retirement!
PK: Yes, after 30 years.
Divine Intimacy At Its Best
RP: Now, what was the relation between your father and Bhagavan like?
PK: It was very, very close – I could say like a father and son; and even friends. Swami used to like him very much. He would give him good food and would ask him to eat with Him, and also would take him with Him wherever He went on His tours.
RP: He was a translator in those early days as far as I remember – he went with Bhagavan to East Africa too; because that’s where I saw him!
PK: Yes, he went to East Africa and he followed Him on almost all the tours!
RP: And he was a really good translator too!
RP: You were saying that he was born in Kerala, then how did he learn the Telegu language?
PK: He learnt Kannada too and after coming to Mysore he wrote so many books in Kannada. And after coming to Andhra Pradesh, he learnt Telegu too.
RP: And he was so proficient that he could translate. He could easily translate Bhagavan’s poetic language too!
PK: Yes, it was a gift for him from Bhagavan!
RP: So pertaining to that intimate relationship, do you have any experiences that you could share with us?
PK: They were very close! When Swami had that paralytic attack, it happened when my father was there and my father was with Him through that entire episode. Also, when Swami was in Goa and had that appendicitis operation, father had to go to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and had booked everything for Swami to go with him!
RP: He was a witness to many of these momentous events in Swami’s life. He was very fortunate to be so close to Him and that is why he was such a good biographer too because he saw everything with his own eyes.
PK: Yes. Actually, when he came to Puttaparthi, Swami told him: “After retirement, you come and stay here and write my biography.”
RP: Oh! So He had commanded him already! So had he started taking notes then?
PK: Yes. Swami told him: “I will help you and will tell you who you must interview. The biography was ready but I think, it was published in 1964.
Prof. Kasturi - A Heart of Gold
RP: Now what about your relationship with your father?
PK: Since my father was a teacher, he was a guide too for us. Because my family was with Sri Ramakrishna, and since he had liked all those villages and harijan (deprived) colonies, he used to take all of us and the students to serve in the villages – like what Swami does - Grama Seva. At that time there was no feeding but he used to teach them about cleanliness and health all that. Also, if there was any dispute in the villages, he would help.
RP: Oh, so he used to go around door to door talking to them about health and hygiene?
PK: Yes. And he used to ask us children to play with those children so that they would keep themselves clean and the next day their mothers used to give them a bath and keep them neat so that they can play with us! Sometimes he used to bring the villagers and the people of the harijan colony to see the Mysore city!
RP: You were just saying that it was after your marriage, that your father virtually, physically came to Swami – even though he knew Swami since 1948. But do you think that it is your father essentially who brought you all to Swami then? He was already in the Ramakrishna Mission and he was very deeply involved with all those activities so it was a very natural corollary to that, that he should actually come to Swami!
PK: Of course! It was there.
RP: So what sort of an influence did your father have upon you?
PK: My father never liked these japam, dhyanam (chanting, meditation, etc.) and all those things because Swami was very much for these social services and feeding the poor. My father liked that because in the Ramakrishna Ashram too they did these Daridra Narayana Seva - Swami Vivekananda was very much for that too.
RP: So your father was very drawn to that ‘upliftment of the oppressed’.
PK: Yes. He liked those teachings of Swami a lot and was very attracted to that.
RP: So your mind must also have been shaped in that way.
PK: Yes, of course.
Divine Mystery Drowns the Professor in Bliss
RP: What were your reactions to some of the experiences that your father had with Swami? Did he come home and tell you about them? I have heard of an incident, in which Prof. Kasturi was asked by Bhagavan to get properly dressed for a photograph that Bhagavan was to take Himself – apparently for a newspaper article!
We were talking just a while back about the intimacy between the two of them; so anyway, as it turned out that it was a trick that Swami had played on him; because the camera was just a toy one! And Bhagavan had a hearty laugh at the discomfiture of Prof. Kasturi. Were you present then? Did he come home and talk about it?
PK: No. I wasn’t present here, I was in Bangalore.
RP: Any other incidences that you can tell us?
PK: Yes. I can tell you another incident. Formerly, Swami used to go in trance and give Darshan to some in some distant places.
And after He used to come out of the trance, He used to tell us all that happened there. But father was not very much satisfied – he was not very sure about all that Swami had said after coming out of the trance.
RP: Whether it was authentic or not?
PK: Yes. But once, when father was there in Swami’s room, Swami suddenly fell and went into a trance, and vibhuti came out of His mouth and hands. And after He came out of the trance, He said: “I had been to Dehradun because one Dr. Krishnamurthi – who is coming here to Puttaparthi – his mother had passed away and she was asking for My Darshan and at her last moment, I went and gave her Darshan.”
Then He started telling him who else was there and my father got interested and asked Swami if he could take down notes? Swami gave him a slip of paper and father took down notes as to who else was there and all that happened, etc.
Then Swami said: “A letter will come after 3-4 days and then you can bring your list and tally it!” Then after 4 days a letter came but He didn’t open it however! He sent word for my father.
RP: He knew all along that Professor was not very convinced!
PK: Yes! Then my father went up and He asked him to read both – the letter and the notes - and it was exactly the same!
RP: It exactly tallied with what Swami had told him!
PK: Yes! So my father was very much excited and came running home from the mandir shouting: “Anandam! Anandam!” (Bliss! Bliss!) I was there but I didn’t know what had happened to him! He said: “Oh! We have got Bhagavan! How fortunate we are! Bhagavan! Bhagavan!” He didn’t take any food – he was so excited!
RP: He was himself in a state of bliss!
PK: Yes! My grandmother who was there was very worried: “Oh! What has happened to my son?” When we offered him tea, he didn’t want that either! He said: “No! Bhagavan is here! I don’t want anything when our Bhagavan is here! We have got Bhagavan! Why do I need anything else?”
In those days, during the evening bhajans, Swami used to come in people’s houses. He passed our house and asked my grand-mother: “How is Kasturi? What is he doing?” She cried: “Oh Swami! He is not taking any food! All he is saying is: “‘We have got Bhagavan!’ I don’t know what has happened to him!” Then Swami said: “When the Truth is revealed, that’s what happens. So don’t worry! I will make him alright.”
Then after bhajans, He called him upstairs to His room and He joked with him and gave him something to eat and then He brought him down!
RP: Back to the plane of earth!
PK: Yes. That was a really great thing.
RP: What does it feel like to be Prof. Kasturi’s daughter?
Being Kasturi’s Daughter…
PK: Of course, I am very proud. My father led a very saintly life and everybody liked him and loved him; there was nobody who said anything against him. So to keep it up – as Kasturi’s daughter – it is very difficult. Because as soon as someone says: “She is Kasturi’s daughter!” everybody looks at me in a different way!
RP: Of course, they would! I think some of the nobility has rubbed off on you too. Now, what are your feelings of some of the changes that have occurred in recent years - what Bhagavan was then, and what He is now? Swami is no longer very accessible to us – He was so very accessible to all of you then – does this change hurt?
PK: Yes. Sometimes it hurts me – because I can say that for the past 25 years I didn’t get an interview or anything like that. But I am very proud of it; I am very happy about it – because the whole world has come to Him and they have all realized that He is God.
At that time, the intimacy was so much that I can say – at least for myself – that I didn’t feel the Divinity in Him. The relation was different then. He was like a family member – He used to come home and talk to us and play with the children…
“He is my Swami!”
RP: And yet, He was closer than a family member!
PK: Yes. But now, even though that intimacy is not there, just the way the whole world is craving to have a glimpse of that Darshan; that makes me proud – because He is my Swami!
RP: Who is being worshipped now by so many people!
PK: Yes. Sometimes I do feel bad that He is not accessible and that those days are gone. I do feel: “Won’t He call me ‘Padmamma’ once more?” I want to hear that sweet voice but it is not there! But I have to satisfy myself…
RP: How do you sustain yourself then? I mean during this period when you know that He is not accessible to us as He was to you – from what do you take strength then?
PK: You just remember all that happened and are happy with those memories.
RP: So you have a lot of memories, isn’t it?
PK: Yes. I have not forgotten those things even though I lived with my father for 19 years. I have forgotten so many other things, but with Swami – from all the interviews that I have got – I have a lot of good memories of all that. I can remember everything and even narrate everything. >>part 2>>
- Heart2Heart Team