Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning: Education for Life, not for living alone - By Venkatesh Iyer

Venkatesh Iyer with Sri Sathya Sai at Ooty - 1988

I joined the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School in 1982 as a raw, callous youngster from Mumbai. At the time of joining the School, it was more of a compromise due to a commitment I had made to my parents for spending two years at Parthi. But the subsequent five years at Parthi in the College, have probably been the best phase of my life and a period of profound learning.

During my B.Com years at Parthi, there were momentous occasions like the 60th Birthday of Swami, being a part of which was a learning experience in itself. During those three years, though I had no direct interaction with Swami, I felt His presence every day.

The first opportunity I had of seeing Swami at close quarters and actually being with Him as a part of the group, was in a group interview given to the final year graduates and postgraduates. However, it was the last two years of MBA, which really gave me the opportunity of interacting with Swami at close quarters. 

We were the second batch of MBA (1987-1989) and Swami used to shower His attention on us. Every Sunday used to be a special day, as Swami used to literally be a faculty member, calling us for His special ‘Man Management’ classes in the interview room. He used to always reiterate that His MBA was actually MMM and not MBA. It was the ‘Masters in Man Management’ course. I now realise how true this statement is. In all my 16 years of professional life, I have never felt inadequate when I compare myself with colleagues from renowned Management Institutes, as I have constantly felt and understood the importance of Man Management in corporate life.

I still remember one of those Sunday meetings in 1988, when Swami revealed the future, in His own unique manner; in this case, that of USSR. He asked us whether we could tell him, which was the most spiritual country in the world. When we could not arrive at the right answer, He replied, ‘USSR’. He said that even though the Communist regime did not encourage religion, individuals and families did believe in God and fervently prayed for freedom. He then said that it would actually happen and there would be no ‘USSR’ soon. And as we all know, this did happen in 1990, two years later.

I also remember fondly and with nostalgia, the 25 days we spent with Swami at Ooty and Kodaikanal. This was the facet of Swami we had only heard about from old students, but had never an occasion to actually experience. The first two-three days were formal, when we were in awe of happenings around us. But from then on, it was sheer Bliss. Swami made us feel so comfortable with Him as though we were with our parents or close friends. At the same time, we got regular glimpses of His Divinity, when He used to authoritatively talk to us about the Bhagavatam and the life of Lord Krishna.

Venkatesh Iyer and other students with Sri Sathya Sai at Kodaikanal - 1988

There was one personal incident I will never forget in my life. Swami hurt the little toe of His right foot and the pain persisted for quite a few days. He used to have a slight feeling of discomfort while walking. He refused to take anything to ease the pain. Naively, one day, I sent a tube of ointment through Mr. Radhakrishna, who was staying in Swami’s room, requesting him that he must insist on Swami applying the same to His toe. In the evening, Swami came out of His room with the ointment tube in His hand and as soon as He saw me, gave the tube to me, saying “This body does not need any medicines, your prayers are enough for healing any wounds”. Such simple words, but so profound in meaning! What really moved me was that after a year, when Swami was again in Kodaikanal with the next batch of students and I again had the opportunity to be in Kodaikanal for a Darshan, Swami apparently remembered the incident and narrated the same to the students.

How time flew past, I never realised and soon it was time for us to leave Parthi. Some of us decided to wait for Swami to tell us what we should do. After about two months, in July 1989, on 21st July to be precise, Swami called me and said that I must leave that very day if I were to get a job.

I came back to Mumbai and started applying for jobs, but for about a month or so I did not receive any response from the companies I had applied to. Then, remembering the date on which Swami had told me to go, I referred the newspaper of that date and found an advertisement that I found appealing. The post was of an Executive Assistant to the Managing Director (MD) of a medium-sized company. Though the job required work experience, I was immediately called for the interview and to my pleasant surprise, the first sight I encountered in the room of the MD was a large photograph of Swami. Needless to say, I got the job and continued to be there for ten years as an important part of the key decision-making team in the company. When I went to thank Swami after I got the job, He called me and asked me what salary I was getting. Then He told me, “You must not worry about what salary you get, you must deliver far more than what you get paid”. To this date, I have not forgotten those words and they have stood me in good stead in the last many years of my professional life.

There have been numerous instances when I have felt His presence in my personal as well as professional life in the last many years. I have never felt inadequate on any occasion in my life and whenever there were some apprehensions, I just had to remember Swami and the solutions seemed to flow in on their own. I strongly believe in the fact that if one were to perform one’s work as an instrument of the Lord, there is no task in life that cannot be accomplished.

- Venkatesh Iyer
Student (1987-1989), Department of Management Studies
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Prasanthi Nilayam Campus
Currently, Director – Corporate Strategy, Famycare Ltd., Mumbai

Source: Fragrance 2005 (80th Birthday Offering)

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