Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami_Part 1


 - We gratefully acknowledge the writer Aravind B

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Monday, 18 August 2014

Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami

  Part 1   Part 2  Part 3


An introductory chapter on the Divine Romance

The Indian summer in 2003 was coming to an end  and giving way to a cool spring. But that made no difference to the sultry climate in the city of Chennai in South India. With the sea breeze plucking the beads of perspiration off his face, Vijaya Sunder ran towards his home. His calf muscles ached from the strain of running and his lungs huffed and puffed with exertion.  But he had a broad smile plastered on his face. The results of the state level (Tamil Nadu) grade XII exam had been declared and Vijay had performed exceedingly well. In fact, he had obtained the perfect result, a centum, in his favourite subjects - Physics and Chemistry. He was convinced that he had moved a step closer towards achieving his dream of becoming an engineer.

“Mom! Dad! Look. I am the state-topper in Chemistry and Physics...” screamed Vijay as he entered the home.
“Ah! Praise be to the Lord”, exclaimed the mother as she rushed out from her morning worship to hug her son.
“C’mon Mom! I wrote the exams and you give credit to your God!” Vijay couldn’t suppress the smile as he said that.
“Whatever you may say. Everything happens because of God.”

Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami
Yet another story of divine romance  between the Lord and Vijaya Sunder.
Vijay did not say anything to his mother. She was firmly entrenched in her devotion to god. In spite of the tough life she had lead so far, she found things to thank god for. But Vijay was not interested or bothered about god. He just didn’t want to be bothered by him or her or it - whatever God was. His philosophy was very simple - hard work fetches its rewards while the lack of it results in disappointment. He had worked really hard for his academic excellence and it was only natural that his results reflected that.

Vijay now showed the results to his father who did not say a thing. The tears in his eyes said everything - he was proud, happy and grateful. Vijay’s chest swelled in pride.
“Dad! I want to study in the best of engineering colleges and my marks will ensure a ‘merit’ seat for me.”
“Yes my son!” agreed the father and embraced Vijay. He would get ready now to withdraw the special savings he had made for precisely this purpose.

Like anywhere else in the world, to get into the top notch colleges, one either had to be rich in the intelligence department or had to be the child of a parent rich in the finance department. Finances had always been hard to come by for Vijay’s family. Vijay had been a late-born and his father had retired as a cartoonist at the Indian Express when he was barely 11 years old. On retirement, he had got about 4 lakh rupees (about $10,000 then) as his lifetime savings from the Provident Fund. That had been invested into two separate Chit funds, which are basically microfinance organizations. The interest amount was being used to pay Vijay’s fees and the father hoped to use th principal amount to pay for Vijay’s higher studies. The fees for the 4 years of engineering would be as low as 1.8 lakhs now since Vijay had secured a ‘merit’ seat. (A seat by ‘Management quota’ had to be bought for about 7 lakhs!) This was better than what Vijay’s father had bargained for.

A God-shattering experience

It was Vijay’s father who received the shock first. Chit funds operate in different ways, and there are also many fraudulent tactics practiced by private firms. The basic necessity of conducting a 'Chitty' is a group needy people called subscribers. The foreman—the company or person conducting the chitty—brings these people together and conducts the chitty. He is also the one who has the ‘power’ to commit fraud.

Much to the father’s consternation, he discovered that the foreman of the first fund had run away with the money! What a horrible time to get cheated! Thanking God for the wisdom to invest in two separate chit funds, Vijay’s father decided to pull out the money from the second investment. That was when his consternation turned to horror. At exactly the same time, the foreman there too had defrauded the subscribers and absconded! Within minutes, Vijay’s father discovered that his savings had dropped from 4 lakh to nil!

Vijay did not receive this news kindly. He slowly realized that there was no way he could pursue higher studies. To add to the pain was the fact that many of his classmates, boys whom he had helped in studies, had already enrolled themselves into engineering colleges. His mighty result had not got him any competitive advantage simply because he had no money to pay for the fees. The feeling of hopelessness soon turned into a rage. He walked up to his mother who was sun-drying vadagams (fried rice fritters) on the terrace. He began to pour out his anger copiously on her. He minced no words in saying how disappointed he was with his parents and how they had failed in their basic duty of educating him.
“Of what use it is, being a father and not being able to provide anything for the son.”

In his fury, Vijay had no idea of the harsh words he hurled at her. The mother patiently heard him out and just said one thing,
“Don’t worry. Just pray to God. He will take care.”
Then, she walked down to the altar.

When one is angry, the most benevolent and soothing advice too appears like fuel to the inner fire. Vijay could feel intense hatred in his heart for God now. The fact that he did not believed in his/her/its existence did not matter! He was simply angry. And as his mother began to wave the camphor and perform Arati, he felt blinding rage. He pulled the Arati plate from her hand and flung it to the floor. The mother was horrified. Then, Vijay’s eyes fell on the framed photograph of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba which was receiving the Arati.

This Baba had occupied the altar in his house from ever since Vijay’s memory served him. He had not bothered much about his parents’ devotion to a living person. In fact, Vijay had several times joined his classmates and friends in ridiculing him and gossiping about him. Suddenly today, Vijay felt it very unfair that the Baba was receiving all respects and devotion without giving back anything in return. He pulled the frame out of the altar and broke it. He destroyed the picture in his rage and cast it to a side. The mother stood still, a mute and horrified witness to the madness of anger.

Destroyed in seconds but rebuilt over years - the love story of Vijaya Sunder with his Swami
At that point in time Vijaya Sunder had no idea that he would be made to pine for a smile of that same 'Sai Baba'
whose picture he had destroyed in moments. 

Vijay felt exhausted now. He walked to his bed and collapsed in it, tears in his eyes. Anger, apart from demolishing one’s discrimination, also definitely depletes one’s energy resources. ( In fact, during His discourse on the 11th of August, 2000, Swami said, “If you get angry once, the energy gained by you from the food consumed over three months will be destroyed. Not merely that, it also boils your blood, which will take nearly three months to cool down. Such being the case, imagine what would be your fate if you lose your temper time and time again.”)

That was when he had his first darshan of Swami - in a dream. Bhagawan Baba was in a white robe trying to ‘touch’ him. But Vijay was resisting His touch. Baba asks him,
“Why are you making such a big fuss over such a small thing? You want engineering? I shall give you more than what you seek. Just be happy.”

Coincidences galore

Vijay woke up with a start almost. The dream was so vivid that he couldn’t help thinking about it. However, he finally concluded that his mind had played tricks on him when his brain was asleep! He tried to push the dream away from his wakeful consciousness.

That evening, a good friend and senior from school, Parthiban dropped in to say hi to Vijay. Vijay was in no mood to speak to his parents and so, he felt relieved to have got someone else to open up to. Without the slightest break, he poured out all his anguish and anger to Parthiban who seemed to be extremely calm, listening to him. It was as if he had come with the sole purpose to help him feel better! But Vijay was far from feeling better. He actually confessed to Parthiban,
“You know, I feel like placing my head on the railway tracks. The end will be quick and painless then...”

“You should take a walk with me.” That was Parthiban’s response. Not having any other option, Vijay walked with his friend. To his shock, Parthiban led him to the Sathya Sai samithi at Chromepet. Some music was emanating from the building that Parthiban led him into and everyone seemed to be singing bhajans. Vijay followed Parthiban and sat on the gents’ side of the hall. He felt eerie facing the picture of Bhagawan Baba that adorned the altar there. But, he definitely felt a calm descend on him too. He closed his eyes and continued to sit in the hall. He also began to enjoy the bhajans and the peace they brought to his tormented mind. An hour passed like five minutes at the end of which Parthiban told him,
“Tomorrow, I shall take you to a person who will help you. Don’t worry.”

Vijay wondered how anybody could help him other than by donating a sum of 1.8 lakhs and donating it fast at that. He had at best 2 weeks after which admissions would be closed in every engineering college.
The Union Bank of India branch that Parthiban took Vijay to.

The next day, Parthiban and Vijay walked into the Union Bank of India, Chromepet branch, into the manager’s office. The name on the board read ‘Mr. Narayanan’. As soon as they walked in, Vijay noticed a larger than life sized image of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba right behind the manager! Baba’s hands were raised in benediction. Narayanan heard out the story of Vijay’s plight and assured him of a term loan. He told him that he could get an education loan if he could promise to pay regular interest payment and repayment of principal once education was complete. Vijay just agreed. The brief meeting was over and within a week, Vijay got all the necessary papers assuring him of his loan! He was simply thrilled.

His first impulse was to call Parthiban. He was informed that Parthiban had left for the United States to pursue higher studies. Making a mental note to call Parthiban during his daytime, Vijay purchased a box of sweets to offer to Mr. Narayanan. When he walked into the Union Bank office, he was in for a surprise. The big picture of Baba was now missing and so was Mr. Narayanan. When he made his enquiries, all that he got was,
“Sorry. Mr. Narayanan is no longer with Union Bank.”
He had no idea whether he quit or was transferred. When Vijay called Parthiban in the night to express his joy, even he had no idea about what happened to Mr. Narayanan.

Vijay returned home totally struck by so much happening in a week. He began to feel ashamed and guilty about the way he had spoken to his parents. But they were simply stoic and  heroic. They had sold away all the gold and jewelry at home in order to ensure funds for day to day expenses and  for Vijay’s pocket money at college! Vijay enrolled at the Thangavelu Engineering College under the Anna University.

Memoirs of a Sai Student

Vijay slowly became a regular at the Chromepet Sai Samithi because he felt that there was definitely something going on in his life which was being orchestrated by Swami. (Yes, by now, he began to address Him as ‘Swami’ instead of ‘Sai Baba’. :)  ) The more he seemed to attend the Samithi activities, the better his life seemed to get. He began to coach and tutor students in science, especially in physics and chemistry. Word spread fast that Vijay was an excellent teacher and quite a few students enrolled for tuition under him. The money he earned was used to pay off the loan. At the same time, his mother also started doing some tailoring at home and added income to the family. Things began to get comfortable on the financial front. Vijay was happy. His academics at college also soared.

It was about this time in early 2006 that he came to know the term ‘Sai Student’. A certain Shyam Sunder, who was also part of the Chromepet Samithi, began to create waves there. Everyone seemed to look up to him in awe and great affection. And all this was because he was a ‘Sai Student’. Vijay was curious and so he befriended Shyam. The stories that he heard about life as Swami’s student in Puttaparthi simply mesmerised him. He could not believe that Shyam Sunder actually spoke and interacted with ‘God’. But Shyam was simply too humble and would never utilize the boasting rights that were amply available for him. One day, Vijay saw the videos from Shyam’s collection and fell instantly in love with the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. A resolve firmed within him that he had too enroll in this University to win a chance to speak to its Chancellor - his Swami! He made a prayer probably for the first time in his life-
“Swami, I want a chance to become a Sai Student.”

The first step had been taken. But he would have to wait for he had another year to complete his engineering.

In the meanwhile, Vijay began to discuss his options with Shyam. What should be the course to opt for? Should he choose the integrated BSc-MSc course?. Or should he choose the MTech course? What about doing MBA? Shyam smiled and replied,
“Join any course! How does it matter?”
That seemed so illogical to Vijay. Little did he know that logic is something that never helps one on the path to God.
“See, I am good in physics and chemistry... Should I not synergize?”
Shyam continued,
“Its all about getting into the University. That is all that matters. And remember that it is not your grades that will get you in. It is entirely Swami’s decision whether you get to study there or not!”

Vijay began to prepare for all three options by studying in the Samithi building every night. The conviction with which Shyam had told him about ‘Swami’s decision’ being paramount in him obtaining a seat made him jittery. He was a lad who loved to be in control. He did not like his destiny being in the control of some element beyond his control. That was when he reminded himself of Parthiban, Narayanan and the loan.
“Hope He chooses to take me”, he thought to himself.

Swami takes ten steps towards Vijay

It was late in 2006 that the Samithi convenor came to Vijay and asked,
“Vijay, the Kancheepuram district has been blessed with an opportunity to put up a play in the presence of Swami at Prasanthi Nilayam. They are all set. However, one of the volunteers helping in the movement of sets has taken ill and they need a replacement. Would you be able to travel to Puttaparthi and cover for him?”

Wow! Here was an opportunity and it had presented itself without any direct effort on Vijay’s part. Vijay realized that logic doesn’t work with God because He grants without reason. Vijay’s role was simple. There was a scene in the drama where the saint Adi Sankaracharya sings the Kanakadhara Stotram, a hymn that is believed to have the ability to banish poverty from one’s life. At the end of it, there is a shower of gold. Vijay had to hide behind the screen and shower gold on the singing Shankaracharya. It was a simple role and Vijay agreed to do it.


The Kanakadhara Stotram as rendered by M.S.Subbulakshmi

He had no idea of the shower of grace that Swami had planned for him. But then, at that time, he had no idea of so many things - of the storm that would start in his heart; of the complete neglect that Swami is capable of gifting His beloved; of the greatest gift that his father had actually given him without his knowledge; of the ultimate fulfillment in life that he would find in two years.

But that is subject of the next part of this story. At this point, just like our protagonist Vijay, it would be good for us to learn that logic is something that we have to leave outside the door before entering the sanctum of the Lord. Else, it will only dampen the experience.




 Part 1   Part 2  Part 3







anger, antharanga sai, destiny, emergency, financial mess, form boy, Love my uncertainty, mad monkey, Sketching artist

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