|Ashutosh Pandit with Sri Sathya Sai|
It was in the year 2001, when Bhagavan for the first time referred to me as His student, to be precise, His old student. Bhagavan was making a visit to Latur (in Maharashtra) and I was there along with my family. My grandfather, Justice A. P. Misra (then Judge – Supreme Court of India), was a distinguished guest of Sri Shiv Raj Patil (former Home Minister of India) and Sri Vilasrao Deshmukh (late former Chief Minister of Maharashtra). We were blessed to have many interactions with Bhagavan during that trip. One such hallowed day, during breakfast with Bhagavan, my grandfather introduced my brother and me to Bhagavan saying, “Swami, they are my grandchildren!” and pat came Bhagavan’s reply, “Yes yes, I know them. They are My old students!” I was overjoyed and ecstatic.
I was a 12-year-old boy staying in the city of Mumbai, praying for an opportunity to study in ‘God’s school’ in Prasanthi Nilayam so that I could be close to Him and have His undivided attention; and here I was with the same God in front of me, telling me that ‘He knows me’ and that I was already ‘His old student’. I suddenly realised that I was already what I wanted to be; I was indeed very close to Him as I was His old student, and one whom He knew! At first, I definitely felt a sense of fulfilment. However, later a few thoughts started troubling me. “How could that be possible? I have never studied in His school. What did He exactly mean? Was He referring to the Bal Vikas background? Well, may be. I was a Bal Vikas boy for many years. That appears to be the closest possibility!” I tried to satisfy myself with an answer. But I knew there was something more to it! He had, for sure, established one part of the puzzle – That ‘I was His’! I was wondering when the other parts would be established.
In the year 2005, I applied for admission in the 11th Class of Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. In the course of my preparations, I was exposed to Bhagavan’s literature about His students. It was here that I chanced upon a declaration of Bhagavan where He revealed that His students had been with Him since Treta Yuga, as His Vanara Sena (monkey army). As I heard of this revelation, the true meaning of Bhagavan’s words dawned upon me. Yes, it was true. I had been with Him since eons. I was truly His old student – in Treta as His monkey, in Dwapara as His Gopi and in Kali as His student. As all other friends of mine were apprehensive of their chances of getting admitted, I suddenly knew that I did not have to worry. I was already admitted in His ‘Old Student’ quota! And as it was destined, I got admitted into one of the best schools in the country by merit and merit alone! (Second merit as disclosed by Bhagavan to Sri Kasturi Garu, while the prospectus of the school was being drafted, is the ‘merit accumulated over previous births’ which is a necessity to become His student).
It was my first stint away from home. True, our Hostel was home away from home, however, that year our Mother Sai was away in Brindavan as we arrived in Puttaparthi. With each passing day, I felt more and more homesick. I found a group of like-minded homesick people and our combined homesickness started having a multiplier effect. After one decade of yearning, I wanted to leave the school, totally convinced that I was in the wrong place. Grass was definitely greener on the other side. I wanted to be out of the school at any cost. However, I decided to give the place a try for seven days. Bhagavan finally arrived from Brindavan. Though I was seven days old as His student, He gave us such love and attention that I was back on track. During those seven days, He gave me opportunities ranging from a special class interaction to a personal interview which recharged me for the next seven years of my stay as a student of His Institutions.
I transformed from being an average student in a state board school at Mumbai, to become a topper in a CBSE board school in the very first unit test! From being someone who barely participated in sports or cultural activities, I started excelling in those very activities. How could all this be possible? It appeared magical. Gradually I realised there was a reason behind this magic. It was His pure love. Bhagavan was showering enormous love on me. I was extremely fortunate to receive His attention almost on a daily basis. Studies and punctuality which had thus far appeared burdensome now became enjoyable. I knew there was someone watching me closely and I had to impress Him with my progress. Now, there was a lot of motivation to excel. I also felt a strange sense of accountability towards Him. Additionally, the love that Bhagavan had given to the teachers at the school and the Hostel was in turn flowing to His students. When needed, teachers were like true friends and friends were like teachers. There was so much of love and mutual learning. The best of academics, sports infrastructure and cultural activities, all at one place! Wow! This was my dream destination.
While on Earth, Prasanthi is a planet by itself! Born to a family of lawyers, I also naturally sought to be a lawyer. However, there were no Law Colleges in Prasanthi and I did not want to leave Bhagavan’s institutions at all. This confusion had to go and it was Bhagavan who had to solve the matter. So one day in an interview, I eagerly asked Him, “Swami, after 12th standard, should I do Law?” and He replied, “Why do you want to do Law? Law is getting very low… Right now you study here. I will tell you what to do later”. I wondered, “What else if not Law?” But I was also relieved that I had nothing to worry about now, because, it was He who would write my story, and He did. He guided me during both my graduation and my post-graduation streams. He had taught me to surrender to Him! And with that I learnt the greatest lesson of my life. When we surrender to Him, life becomes beautiful. Every day becomes an adventure, and every moment, a life in itself!
In one of my examinations, I did extremely well with a score of 91%. My father was very happy and proudly told Bhagavan, “Swami, my son came second in the class!” Anybody listening to this would probably say ‘Very nice’, ‘Congratulations’, etc. However, Bhagavan’s reply stumped my father and later me. Just as the most loving mother would say, Bhagavan replied, “Ask him to study harder!” This worked wonders with me. I not only stood first in the next examination but also scored my personal best of 94%. This incident not only humbled me but also inspired me to stretch my limits and truly excel. I realised that one’s reach should exceed the grasp. He is truly a master psychologist who knows the secret formula of inspiring and motivating each and every one of us in different ways at different times.
Brindavan is the place to which I owe my career. Though I always had an inclination towards performing arts, it was here, while I pursued my B.Com. (Hons.) that my love and passion for ‘acting’ bloomed and blossomed to the next level at Prasanthi Nilayam during my MBA. It was here that the seeds of leadership and entrepreneurship were sown into my young mind. I can connect the dots now as I see why Bhagavan kept me here and not in a Law College. Had I been a student of law, neither would I have ever been a part of professional acting at Mumbai, nor would I have seen myself adventuring into starting my own online company even before I turned twenty five. And if I may add, had I not been in Prasanthi for so long, which would be the case had I left for Law, I may not have met my life partner. I had entrusted my story to be written by the Master Himself and He, I must say, has done an awesome job!
Prasanthi was a place where I grew from a being a boy to becoming a man. It was all about responsibility. Becoming the campus cultural captain was a rich training experience. However, at Prasanthi, efficiently managing a multitude of activities that had a tremendous impact value was a life-transforming experience. We did it all… starting from a short-film forum against all odds to organizing multiple class and campus programs for international audiences. Additionally, we were the senior-most when He left his physical frame.
We suddenly felt deep responsibility and loyalty, which the elder son would feel towards his younger brother/sister when His parents leave the world. Even before we could come to terms with our own loss we were made aware of our new responsibility. He ensured that we learnt even as He left.
Since dramas were a major part of my association with the place, let me end the article with a short experience of mine with the drama ‘Bhagawathamu’ which was the last drama staged in front of Bhagavan in His physical presence. It was my 1st year of post-graduation and for the cultural meet, we were informed that all the major roles would be allotted to second year post-graduation students and thus we should not waste our talent in the drama but go for other avenues. We were given a week to ‘think about it’. All the while, when we used to direct a drama we would tell all the actors that no role is big or small and that each one is as important as the other.
Now, was the time for me to ‘walk the talk’. I went to the drama coordinator immediately and conveyed my decision. I was ready to be a fanner beside the king but would not leave the drama group. I was emotionally attached to the stage where I would perform in front of my Lord. However, I surrendered to My Lord. Before the final cast list came, there was a house drama competition in which I played the central role. We lost the competition, but there was a surprise my Lord had kept for me.
The final cast list came. I was to play Krishna in the ‘Radha Mukti’ scene, which was the last scene of the drama. Interestingly, it was because of this drama in which I was not being considered for even a small role at one time, that I was conferred the distinction of being the ‘last human to play God in front of God’ before He left His physical frame. It was not always through miracles that Bhagavan touched our lives, but mostly through these small gestures that we truly connected with Him. It was these simple instances, which re-affirmed our faith that – Yes; Bhagavan was, is and will always be there to take care of even our innermost desires!
I entered the portals of Prasanthi with the faith that ‘I was His’. But slowly and surely this transformed into a more comforting feeling, rather, a corollary. It was not just that ‘I was His’; He was mine too. He was truly ‘My Bhagavan’! And to me the greatest achievement of Bhagavan Baba is not that He gave education, water, food, health, shelter and clothing to millions; but that He inculcated this feeling of ‘He is my Bhagavan’ in each and every devotee of His. All of us feel the same – He was, is and will always be ‘My Bhagavan’.
|Ashutosh receiving the campus trophy from the Revered Chancellor on Annual Sports and Cultural Meet Prize Distribution - January 2010|
- Ashutosh Pandit
Student (2007-2012), Department of Management and Commerce
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning
Currently, Founder, EventZbook.com, Mumbai.