“What if I had not joined Sri Sathya Sai University…” – By G. R. Sayee Prasanna

Sayee Prasanna with Sri Sathya Sai during the Prize Distribution Ceremony of the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet at Prasanthi Nilayam - January 2011
Marina Beach in Chennai is where I sat, on the brink of a wooden boat that looked rudderless and ravaged by a summer storm, as I mentally mouthed those words – “You have been provisionally admitted” under the official letterhead of Sri Sathya Sai University. It was that time of the year (May, 2008) when children only bothered about the approaching academic year. It was no different for me, except that I was to make a choice as to where my near future would place me. 

Coming from a family that was quite unaware of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I had no knowledge of the mighty Master who would be everything in my life. The invisible hand of my Master pushed me into the portals of Brindavan Campus on the façade of which was engraved the image of Goddess Saraswati in front, resembling a queen reigning amidst the green cover, decorated with Bangalorean flowers. But did all this move me to choose my destiny? 

The answer to that question and in fact, whether ‘My’ choices were ‘Mine’ at all came under severe trial as I stepped through the gates of Brindavan campus where my B.Com. (Hons.) programme was destined to begin. I entered the Sai Ramesh Hall for the first time, clad in spotless whites to take my place along with the other students for Darshan of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba (lovingly called ‘Swami’). How I wished I had possessed the blithe of that new-born to cry unabashedly, unmindful of the devotees and students gathered. On the dais sat the Lord in Orange with an unwavering smile and pleasing countenance. Those few thin strands of His crowning hair occasionally flinched to the breeze from behind as if a few thousand feathers were comforting my swivelling heart! That was really an unforgettable moment in my Life. 

Within a few days, the on-boarding batch was called for a ‘Trayee session’, where Swami patiently enquired the names of new-comers, discussed the menu of food provided in the Hostel, remarked on the perils of mosquito bites and to the packed veranda of boys, declared, “I do not want crowd, I want only my boys”. Everyone around sat visibly moved, be it the ones who had taken to His path or those who had seemingly stumbled upon the grand fortune of contacting love walking on two feet. 

Every student awaited his first ever interaction with Him. Every student dreams, rehearses, and may even use a mirror to correct his or her imperfections; before entering into imaginary conversations with Him. With students and teachers deciding to cause the least strain possible to Bhagavan’s physical health, the opportunity to exchange words became dearer. My first audience with the Lord came on the day of a drama entitled ‘Bhakta Pothana’, staged by students of the Brindavan campus as part of the then Annual Sports Meet. I played the role of Garuda, the mythical Divine vehicle of Lord Vishnu. 
Sri Sathya Sai with Actors of the Drama 'Bhaktha Potana' by Students of the Brindavan Campus - January 2009; Sayee Prasanna is on the extreme right in the front row with the costume of Garuda
As the play ended, Swami was visibly thrilled by the presentation and signalled for photographs. I was unremitting in my rehearsals for speaking those first words to Him. I went up the aisle with a pair of glittering wings, a swollen-golden beak, not to mention the shining bird skin much to the muted guffaws of public at large. But it helped garnering His attention. I sat kneeling expecting myself to deliver, but forgetting what I actually wanted to seek, I uttered, “Naa Unga Vaahanam Swami” (I am your Divine vehicle Swami) to which the Lord replied, “I know, I have been seeing”. With a satisfying smile, He indicated me to take Padanamaskar. Much later I could take the liberty to interpret that He needed none of my introduction and that He had been seeing me all along and will continue to guide my words and actions. 

In one such drama, enacted on the occasion of University’s XXIX Convocation, (2010), I was to be part of a scene based on His Chinna Katha, extolling the greatness of India and its citizens. I played Polonius, a Greek warrior-counsel in the court of King Alexander. Just before the commencement of the play, Bhagavan came to observe all the characters, correcting minor anomalies in costumes and overall presentation of characters. It is in such moments of deep ministration of Swami, we could relate to the narrations of the elders about Swami Himself directing, acting and scripting plays to perfection. As His eyes scrutinized gradually, it happened almost unnoticeably. 

He stopped right in front of me and my heart was beating so loudly that I almost feared that its hysterics were loud enough to shift Swami’s focus away from me. But He looked radiantly beaming into my eyes. His eyes broadened, brows widened, and with a noticeable shake of His head, He whispered, “Chala Baga Undi” (It’s very nice). Suddenly, the world, its people and the entire Mandir simply seemed non-existent and dissolved with only His face filling all that was void. I smiled at Him, for nothing else could have been a possible language to define that moment between the Creator and His creation. It was as if the Creator had taken a stroll in His garden, paused to observe a sapling He had planted two years ago, and now stood admiring His own efforts in carefully nurturing the plant to provide flowers fragrant enough to gladden His mind’s eye. 

My significant stay at Brindavan Campus was ending and paving way for entry into Prasanthi Nilayam, the valley of many springs in the year 2011. However, the fact that Swami had decided to withdraw Himself physically from the world threw an enormous challenge. While on one hand the throbbing town of Puttaparthi saw the world converge to pay their gratuitous homage to the Lord, on the other hand the university’s students, the ones Bhagavan often referred to as ‘His only property’ were still grappling with the loss, knowing not where to find sustenance. 

Swami says, “Love My uncertainty”. If man’s nature is to question, then it is perhaps in God’s nature to provide answers in ways only understandable to those who truly see Him in everything and everyone. It was a unique history that was unfolding as every single brick that He had laboured with, every sand particle that had kissed His feet, be it His students or stewarding elders, the air, wind and waters and all alike stood by each other with a resolve born out of faith in Him as they fought gallantly in the war against a mighty despondency that threatened to engulf the minds. His work, His words and His thoughts instilled the much needed inspiration. His Grace never seemed to diminish and in fact it amplified our stay limitlessly across Puttaparthi and beyond. 
Sayee Prasanna playing the title role of 'Margadarshi-ji' in the Convocation Drama - November 22, 2012
To me, an opportunity to be part of the team of students who spoke in Sai Kulwant Hall on the opening of the Bhagavan’s Maha Samadhi was as important as the roles I was blessed with: whether it was the protagonist ‘Margadarshi-ji’ modelled on Swami Himself, for the Annual Convocation Drama (2012) or playing the title role of Adi Shankara in the play ‘Shakara Digvijayam’ inspired by Bhagavan’s discourses on the life and message of Sri Adi Shankaracharya and performed during the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet 2013 in the Sai Kulwant Hall. All these were providing vital signals, conveying that Swami still held the reins for me as I had severe doubts about my own abilities to carry the life stories of such dignified characters. 
Sayee Prasanna playing the title role of Adi Shankaracharya during the Drama 'Shankara Digvijayam' by students of the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus - January 14, 2013
That was a grand opportunity of giving a talk during the Prasanthi Vidwan Mahasabha, which Swami spearheaded. Speaking on the potency of Lalita Sahasranama, its relevance and Bhagavan’s views on His Avatar Declaration Day, was undoubtedly a sign of His Divine presence. Growing up with only limited interest in theatre, writing or public speaking before entering the University and being a novice to spiritual living, it has been Swami alone, who continued to be the source of a thousand springs that continues to well up within. 

Today, I still visit the Marina beach and when I halt, I do not miss the sight of that wrecked boat which stood witness to my dilemma of choosing an ideal university. 
It now sits half-buried in the sands, being chewed away by salt-laden waves that recede every time only to pounce back. I ask myself, “What if…?” 

- G. R. Sayee Prasanna
Student (2008 – 2013), Department of Management and Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently Consultant, International Taxation and Transfer Pricing 
EY LLP, Chennai 

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