It’s not easy to talk about something that’s so intensely personal. Something that’s an intrinsic part of who I am today. But talk I must, because the only way I can express my sadness, my strength, my awakening or the way forward is through my words.
If you believe in God, you must also believe that he sends you various signs that He is there, around you, with you and in you! But sometimes, we tend to ignore these signs even if they are staring at us right in the face! And that’s what exactly happened to me.
I must have been 10 years old when Appa’s friend placed a copy of the Sri Sai Satcharitra (the life of Shirdi Sai Baba) in his hands and said, ‘Please read and pray!’ That was the time when my mother was dying and we were swinging between hope and despair; between modern medicine and homeopathy; astrologer demands and family pressures. Amma passed away, Appa never read the book; but it was my hope and succor for the next seven years… my companion through happiness and trying times and never did I pass a day without reading a page from it. When I was 20, the book simply vanished and till now my brothers and I haven’t been able to locate it. Now, looking back, I take it as a sign to mean, ‘Don’t just read. Go out there and do something about what you think you believe in!’
Adolescence saw me as an impetuous and self-righteous young girl, constantly questioning many things. My close friend was an ardent Sai devotee and I used to have fierce arguments with her. Little did I notice those signs, the silent prayer before and after food; the love that emanated from her; the humility that formed a halo making me feel good… But all I could say then was ‘how could you?’
I went to Nagpur and my favourite cousin took me often to the Shirdi Sai Mandir there. I enjoyed the ‘aarti’ and the sights and sounds. There was belief, there was devotion, but there was no push, not yet.
It’s the year 2003 in Muscat. The editor assigns me to cover an event for the SAI Group – the first annual essay-writing and poster-making competition. The topics intrigue me, ‘Love All. Serve All’, ‘Help Ever. Hurt Never’. I go about doing my job, making new friends in the process. The plaque presented to me occupies a place of pride in the living room. And it stops at that.
January 2010. I’ve spent what could possibly be the worst two years of my life with the loss of the only surviving parent that ate into my very being. On my brother’s insistence, I make a week’s trip to India alone and revel in the love of my relatives and friends from my old neighbourhood. And I meet a family friend who later gifts me two books and sends me various email forwards and articles on Sai. At first I must admit I was amused by his insistence, but loads of respect stopped me from arguing. For the first time in life, I admit I did as I was told. And that was indeed the turning point in my life.
And things just fell into place after that. Our close friends here took me to my first-ever Sai bhajan. I was soon enveloped into Love, indescribable, limitless love. I discovered that until then, I had only been religious and for the most part, ritualistic. I had never been spiritual. As I read and read, interacted with the Sai family, and translated it by taking part in whatever activities that were possible, I discovered that I had made that transition that I call Part One of my life. My life had slowly made a change from ‘I’ to ‘Me’, with the changes I wished to see.
What was it that finally changed the course of my life? Love, loads of it, the understanding that God permeates through every being on earth, the selfless service, the firm belief that all religions are one, the discipline, the humility and much more. I went deep into the ‘shlokas’ I had recited all my life by rote and learnt their meanings, related them to life and passed them on to my child. I wandered aimlessly… but have now found a true path!
It’s less than a year now since my heart and mind has joined the Sai fold. I may not have had the fortune of seeing His physical form. But it’s He who has lovingly guided me from ‘I’ to ‘Me’ to ‘We’ to ‘Sai’. My life has come full circle. The scattered signs have now become a spiritual whole. And hopefully, it will make a huge difference to my life and of those around me.