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Love and Light

Blessings at a height of 30,000 feet

It was one of the evenings during May 1970, in New Delhi India, when I was about to leave my office for home. One of my colleagues in the office asked me, if I could be interested in attending a Sankeertan. Having been blessed to be born in a God fearing family and going to Keertans with my parents during my school days, I readily agreed and accompanied him.

We arrived in a beautiful flat in one of the posh localities of New Delhi known as Sundar Nagar. On arrival I observed that all the persons were sitting in a row one after the other in pin drop silence. There were separate queues for men and separate queues for women. They were all waiting for Sankeertan to start. I along with others sat in one of the queues on the men’s side.

The proceedings started with Three Oms.

First Lord Ganesh’s Bhajan and then Guru’s Bhajan were sung. The other Bhajans that followed, were in the praise of Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, Durga and other deities. All the singers were taking their turns, without any interruption and without waste of even a single minute. The Bhajans continued uninterrupted in a very peaceful and comforting manner. Finally, all stood up for Aarti and after Aarti, one by one, went up to the Altar to touch Swami’s feet in a very large beautifully framed picture. After distribution of Prashad, in a most orderly manner, we all dispersed quietly taking with us the uplifting spiritual feelings.

It was for the first time in my life at age 44 that I had participated in a well organised and spiritually uplifting Sankeertan without the physical presence of the Master. I came home a very happy person, as if, I had achieved something very great on that day. I shared my good feelings with my family, who got equally excited. I then started attending the Bhajans at Sundar Nagar as regularly as I could.

Just after three months of my attending the first Sankeertan, I was asked by my employers Life Insurance Corporation of India, if I would accept a transfer to their UK Office in London. After due consultations with my family and well-wishers, but with some reservations on my part about my future career (as most of the very important jobs in the organisation being in India), I accepted the transfer.

I was called to Bombay for a brief for my UK posting. During my week’s stay in Bombay; I started looking for any place of worship and prayers for Satya Sai Baba. However, on my enquiry each time I was directed to Shirdi Sai Temples. It was the year 1970. But it was Baba’s Will that someone told me about Dharmakshetra in Andheri. Not familiar with Bombay, one evening after office, I found my way to Dharmakshetra. I was able to join Baba’s Sankeertan. It was Thursday evening. After the Bhajans, Vibhuti was distributed as Prashad. I then approached the person in charge, if he could give me some vibhuti which can last me for sometime, as I was going to UK for four years and I shall not be able to get Baba’s Vibhuti over there. He very kindly packed some Vibhuti for me in a paper and handed it over to me.

It was on 8th November 1970 that I took a flight for London with my wife and three children. During the flight I, thought of Swami number of times, feeling sorry that I have left the country for four years without even knowing about Swami, and without his Darshan.

While thinking about Swami during the flight, I picked up from the various journals and newspapers kept in the plane for the passengers, a copy of READER’S DIGEST September 1970 issue published from New York. I came to my seat and to my surprise as I opened Reader’s Digest, I found an article on Swami with a beautiful photograph of Swami. I could not believe my eyes, and rubbed my eyes to be sure that I was not dreaming!

My joy knew no bounds and I could not believe that Swami would listen to my inner voice and bless me with His Darshan at a height of 30,000 feet. The sad feelings which one gets when one departs from one’s family for a long period of four years, all disappeared in no time. I felt that I could not think of a better luck than having Swami’s Darshan on my new posting which I was yet to join.

Having arrived in London on 8th November, I took charge of my office on Monday the 9th November 1970. The next day was obviously Tuesday, a day on which I have always been observing fast since I was 16 years of age. Before coming to London, every Tuesday I had been going with my family for prayers to Hanuman temple. (This practice I had continued even in Mauritius where I had a posting from 1958 to 1962). I therefore, asked my colleague in London office, if there was any Hanuman Temple where I could go and pray. I was told that there was no Hanuman temple that he knew, but he knew of one SITARAM who held Sai Baba Bhajans every Sunday at his house. I was amazed, felt extremely happy as I could not believe that Baba was already in UK. Immediately, a contact was established with Sita Ramji and I attended my first Bhajan on the second Sunday after my arrival in UK with two of my children. It was 15th of November 1970.

At Sita Ramji’s house we were hardly 10 to 11 persons (including ladies). Mr Sita Ram Ji and one or two ladies sang most of the Bhajans. There was not a single musical instrument, except Manjiras.

As it was November, it was decided to celebrate Swami’s Birthday. We were able to get a small Church hall in Pinner. It was extremely cold and I remember that we sat on the chairs with our coats and overcoats on and had Sankeertan for an hour.

My wife Damyanti was not able to join me for Bhajans at Sita Ramji’s house, as she had to look after my youngest son and also attend to household chores, as there was no domestic help available then.

I somehow, wanted to involve Damyanti in Bhajans, as before coming to London she had been singing Bhajans at All India Radio Delhi. She had also brought her harmonium to London. I therefore requested Sita Ram ji, if on one Sunday Bhajans could be held at my house. He readily agreed and informed all present there about the Bhajan at my house. Being in the Government of India organisation, I invited all my contacts from the Indian High Commission, Indian Banks etc.

That Sunday, we were about 50 persons attending the Bhjajan at my house. The Bhajans went very well with all the discipline and in the right format. Sita Ram ji was extremely pleased and after Aarti he approached Damyanti, if she could attend Bhajans every Sunday at his house in Pinner with the family. Sita Ramji was almost in his early seventies, and for Damyanti to refuse a request from such a person was not in her character. She called him Pita Ji (father) and readily agreed to be a participant in the Bhajans.

Next Sunday I, Damyanti and all three children went to Pinner. It was for the first time in early 1971 that Harmonium was played in Bhajans in UK. This practise of attending Bhajans every Sunday continued and we started getting involved more and more in the Bhajan activity.

One evening, Damyanti and I had a conversation in which we felt that we did not have any real clue about Satya Sai Baba. We had never seen him! We were not only getting involved more and more ourselves but we were involving our children as well. We felt that in case Satya Sai Baba is not what we were thinking and if later we discovered that He was a hoax ( kindly excuse me for this), like some of the Swamis in India about whom we had read in the Indian press, then neither our children would pardon us nor we would be able to pardon ourselves. We had therefore, a very keen desire to know about Swami.

As it was not possible for me to visit India due to my job, we decided that Damyanti would join Sita Ramji on his next visit to Puttaparthi. It was on Swami’s Birthday in 1972 that Damyanti accompanied Sita Ram ji and his wife to Puttaparti. And Swami, to who we had been praying so far, not only did not disappoint us but filled our hearts with eternal joy and happiness!

(To be continued...)

Balram Puri

Sri Balram Puri is one of the oldest devotee of Bhagawan Baba living in UK today. He has been involved in the development of the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in the UK since its very early days. He was instrumental in founding the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust in UK as per the divine instructions of Bhagawan, and actively served on it as a Trustee until his retirement recently.