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From Baba, His Story
At Ootacamund in the Nilgiri Hills, when the Summer Course on Indian Culture and Spirituality for college students came to a close, Baba held an exclusive session with the student participants. He was then in an unusually jovial and reminiscent mood. He desired to thrill the students with an account of His early days at school, so that they might realise that His oft-quoted statement, 'My Life is My Message', was true even when He was physically emerging into boyhood, and even before He had announced His advent as an avatar. He related to them how He moved among his cousins and classmates, His teachers and comrades, and also the villagers of Puttaparthi, Bukkapatnam, Uravakonda and Kamalapura. He would exhort them to ponder over this chapter of His story and implant in their hearts the ideals He had placed before Himself even as a child. When the summer course of 1978 held at Bangalore concluded, students who had heard of the Ootacamund discourse pleaded with Him to disclose to them episodes of His boyhood days, at school and outside, in which He provided glimpses of His Leela (divine play); and Baba graciously revealed to them a few more incidents of the past which laid bare His mission and His divinity.
In the pages of Part I of this series, I have mentioned that even as a child of five summers, He had earned the epithets, 'Guru' and 'Brahmajnani', because He corrected and counselled the children who gathered around Him as playmates, and because His conversation and conduct were on a level of consciousness higher than even the adults who sought to guide Him. Even as a child and later at school, He was meek but morally fearless, abhorred violence, vengefulness and falsehood, and preferred simple living to gaudiness and ostentation. He could easily sing, dance, and compose hymns and poems, while other children of the same age were still struggling with the first few letters of the alphabet. He also demonstrated ready compassion for birds and animals. He avoided meat and eggs, and shed tears of sympathy when drought animals like bullocks were mercilessly beaten. He stood forth as the leader of a band of children to whom He taught the ways of God and the means to win His grace.
He stayed most days at the house of the Karnam (village accountant) where the mistress, Subbamma, tended Him with maternal care. Baba sought shelter in her affection in order to avoid the sight of slaughtering fowl in His family home nearby and to watch the Puja (worship) conducted by that Brahmin lady in the room set apart for ceremonial rites. Baba never played truant at school. Rather, He relished the company of children, whom He helped to get the best out of school.
Towards Upper Primary School
At Ootacamund, Baba narrated the story of a journey in a crowded cart drawn by a pair of bullocks from Puttaparthi to Bukkapatnam, and from Bukkapatnam to Penukonda, sixteen miles away. He was then ten years old. He and the other children could scarcely squeeze into the cart; a few spilled over. They were in the lower primary class and could join the upper primary school only when they had passed an examination which was to be held at Penukonda town. There were eighteen children in all, overcrowding the vehicle. Whenever the road rose to negotiate a bump or a hill, the bullocks could not drag the cart behind them. So the children were pulled out and made to walk up. There was also no brake to hold the cart in check as it rolled downhill and, as a consequence, the children had to walk the road downhill also! The children were sent to the 'distant, unfamiliar town' from their homes, after propitiatory prayers to the family deities, prayers that were also meant to help them pass the examination.
At Penukonda they stayed together, and the teachers who led them gave last minute lessons. Baba agreed to be in charge of the kitchen. Lunch and dinner for the party were cooked by Him and He did not demand or welcome help from anyone. This arrangement continued on all the three days of the examination. Baba had no time to revise His texts, nor could He attend the special classes held by the teachers. Yet, when the results were announced a few weeks later, He happened to be the only candidate declared fit to proceed to the upper primary school! The good people of Bukkapatnam, the village three miles away, warmly welcomed Baba into the school situated in their village, taking Him through the streets on a chair placed on a flower-bedecked cart that was drawn by caparisoned bullocks, right up to the doorstep of the school. They were all happy, even proud, that the 'wonder-boy' of Puttaparthi, already famous as 'God's Son', was attending classes in their school.
Baba was the cynosure of all eyes at Bukkapatnam. Though He seldom listened to the lessons and rarely opened His textbooks, He was hailed as the brightest pupil of His class. This drew upon Him the envious looks of the ones who trudged along with Him everyday from Puttaparthi. They often overpowered Him physically while on the Chitravathi sands and dragged Him along, ruffling His shirt and knickers and damaging them out of shape. When the Chitravathi was flowing, they dowsed Him with gusto. Baba said that He neither protested nor complained, but bore all this as the pardonable sport of ignorant youngsters. His refused to name any of the tormentors nor did He bear any ill will against them.
In those days every classroom echoed with the swish of the teacher's cane, which was busy falling on the backs or palms of the luckless little brats. When the teacher got too exhausted to inflict the punishment, this privilege was transferred to the brightest boy in the class. Baba said that one day the question presented before the pupils was: "Describe the glory of India." The answer had to be in English. The other boys knew little of India, and less of English. Baba, however, tersely but confidently replied, "Consisting of high mountains, large rivers with many branches and many plains, India is beautiful with all these grand contents." Baba then related to us details of the rest of this episode: "The punishment the others deserved according to the teacher was my slapping them on their cheeks. I was to hold their noses tight with the left hand and then give them the resounding slaps. There were about thirty students in the class, some far taller than me, and I had to climb upon a bench to fulfil my most unpleasant and unpopular duty. But I could not bring myself to slap them as forcibly as the teacher wanted and my blows fell softly on their cheeks. So the teacher was angered. He called me near and shouted, 'Did I want you to apply Haldi (turmeric, used as a cosmetic) to their cheeks? I asked you to beat them. I shall show you how.' He held my nose and counted the slaps he gave me, about thirty or so, before he stopped. I bore it all in silence, for a teacher should not be insulted or let down. It was my fault for having annulled, by softness, the purpose of the punishment he desired to inflict, however absurd the prize for my superior knowledge of Indian geography and history."
Baba disclosed that, being the monitor of the class, He was burdened with duties and clothed in authority. "I undertook to show the students and the monitors of other classes how a monitor should conduct himself. I would reach school a few minutes earlier than the rest. I cleaned the blackboard before the class commenced and often had to clean even the benches and desks," Baba explained. "Rama sat at the feet of Vasishta and attended class with other boys. Krishna, too, had Sandeepa as his guru, while Sudama and others were his classmates. When the formless, attributeless Divine Principle takes human form and appears among men, It has to conduct Itself as an agreeable companion and as an understandable example to contemporaries."
In His discourses Baba confirmed that He had 'willed' the incident at the Bukkapatnam school when the chair stuck to the posterior of Kondappa, one of His teachers. He confessed that His intention in reducing him to a ridiculous figure was not to avenge His having been made to stand up on the bench for hours. He had designed it only to reveal a little of His uniqueness, give a glimpse of His divinity, and to make the world around Him sit up and ask, "Who is this boy?"
When Kondappa's hour of teaching was over, he naturally had to vacate the chair for Mehboob Khan who was to take the next class, but he could not get up because the chair stuck to him. The boys suggested that the calamity had happened because Sathya was punished. Then Mehboob Khan, who loved and adored Baba, and who had glimpses of His divinity, revealed to Kondappa, "You do not understand. Raju is not an ordinary person; He is a divine boy and I have seen divine brilliance in Him many times. Withdraw the punishment you have given Him immediately and your own punishment will disappear." Then Mehboob Khan asked Baba to step down from the bench and Kondappa, too, could get up and walk away.
Swami narrated the events at Uravakonda (about thirty miles away from Anantapur), where He spent about two years with His elder brother who was a teacher of the Telugu language in the high school there. I myself visited Uravakonda a year and a half ago. There I walked along the long, broad verandas of the high school, hallowed by His footprints. I spent some times in the room which was once His classroom and sat on the same desk that had been used by Him as student - a bench-cum-writing desk, with a makeshift shelf underneath the incline of the top. Three pupils could sit on each bench with their books in the bottom shelf. I sat on the bench and imagined little Baba seated next to me!
Dr. Moinuddin, now a medical practitioner at Uravakonda, was with me at the school that day. He had been a contemporary and classmate of Baba. He said, "I was allotted a seat on the bench directly behind Baba, and I could tease Him by whisking away His cap. He would then implore me to return it to Him, for no student could attend class without a cap. I knew that Baba would not fight or complain to the teacher or whisk away my cap in turn; He was so quiet, soft and non-violent. So I would insist on His creating some sweetmeat for me - a Rasagolla, a Laddu or a Mysore pak. I was tired of taking sugar-candy. Baba would then circle His palm twice or thrice and produce for me my favourite sweets. But this invariably set all tongues dripping. So a general clamour would arise for a repetition of the act and the noise would bring in the teacher. Then, he too, would have his share before the lesson began." Another of His classmates, Sri Sitha Rama Rao, told me that Baba had confided in him that He would set the world right and establish the reign of truth in all lands.
I saw the tangled branches of the old dwarf trees right in the centre of the quadrangle. Baba had described to us how He used to play the monkey game on five trees in that quadrangle. Two of the trees have now been axed, but Providence has spared the rest. The monkey game involved two rival bands of primates. They crawled along the branches, then dangled without dropping, moving from one hold to another, trying to unnerve and to demoralise members of the rival band, until one of them was touched and declared 'out'. They snarled and growled at their rivals as angrily as they could. They swung and swayed, clung and clambered, slid and slithered. If they fell, they 'died' and were pronounced 'down and out'. They shook the branches with all their might to unseat the 'monkeys' of the opposite gang, loudly jeering and cheering all the while. If any of them slipped into the vocabulary of Homo Sapiens and revealed his true identity, he 'died' at that instant. Baba gave each one of them some sweets at the end of the game. Many like Dr. Moinuddin, who had once frisked and frolicked on those trees, are even today chewing the sweet cud of memories of the game.
The Scout Troop
Swami related in a discourse the story of His 'boy scout' days. "We had a physical instructor," He said, "who formed a school scout troop. He was very insistent that I should enrol, and though I, too, was eager to use the chance to direct the 'good turns' of scouting towards the path of Sadhana (spiritual discipline), I could not join because my family was too poor to afford the uniform and other contingent expenses. To make you aware of the depth of their poverty, I shall relate an incident: I used to attend classes everyday wearing the same shirt, for I did not have a second. Some of the boys who discovered this fact started laughing at me. They teased me on the way to school and back and, pulling at my worn-out shirt, they tore it. As I had no pin to even keep it together, I was forced to use a cactus thorn plucked from the fence of my neighbour's field to serve the purpose.
"Realising the reason which held me back from the troop, my chums were very sad. The boy who always sat to the right of me was the son of the chief accountant at the revenue office. He went to his father and persuaded him to make two pairs of uniforms comprising a khaki half-sleeved shirt along with khaki knickers. He rolled up one pair and put it on the shelf of my desk with a note that was addressed to me which read: 'You must take this and wear it. We are brothers, so do accept this from me.' But I was not happy, and decided to refuse this gift. I left the uniform on the shelf of his desk along with a note saying, 'If you wish our friendship to last, you must not indulge in such games of giving and taking material objects. When a needy person accepts something from another, anxiety lurks in his mind as to how he might return the favour, while pride enters and pollutes the mind of the giver over his act of charity. True friendship should be from heart to heart. If we build friendship on a give-and-take basis, the person who takes feels small and he who gives feels proud. Such friendship does not last. So I am not accepting the clothes you left on my desk and am returning them to you with this note.' The next day that boy pleaded, 'You can return them to me after leaving the scout movement.' But I did not agree even to that. 'I do not need nor seek help,' I told him. 'I seek only the chance to help and show others the best way to help. Besides, your father got the uniforms made for you - they were not meant for my use. I am Truth, as my name indicates. If I wear it instead of you, I will be setting Truth aside.'"
I am tempted to relate in this context what happened to a kinsman of mine about twenty years ago. He had bought in Rangoon, a Burmese umbrella, flat-topped, with a bright, garish-coloured cloth cover, as a birthday gift for his sister living in Bangalore. But as she refused to accept it, it was lying unused. Later his parents placed it before Baba as an offering. Baba told them, "Why do you bring Me stolen articles? This belongs to your daughter, whether she uses it or not." Anything offered to Baba must be 'ab initio' intended for and dedicated to Him.
At Uravakonda, I looked into the well from which Baba used to draw water for His home everyday and carry it, slung across His shoulder, in big mud pots. The well is at least one kilometre away, and Baba trudged the distance six times a day. The well, the only potable water well in the village, being very deep, He must have gone through great physical strain to get the pots filled. "The time spent in supplying water for the home did not leave me any time for other activities," says Baba. I was also able to see Mr. Mehboob Khan, the teacher who loved and revered Baba as a boy, and who had foreseen that He would one day become a World Teacher.
The house where Baba lived with His elder brother is now a jumble of mud blocks. We scrambled in and stood reverentially before the sacred spot where Baba had started sitting every Thursday after declaring Himself as the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai. Even as we were standing lost in reverie, an old resident of the village related a story of those years: "One night, a group of women from an adjacent village journeyed to Urvakonda by bullock-cart to witness a movie. They were huddled in a thick cluster in the cart. Taking advantage of the oncoming night, a woman unfastened a gold ornament from the hair of the woman sitting beside her. The loss was discovered only when the women alighted, but none suspected the other, since they knew one another well. Some suggested that the ornament might have got loosened by itself and fallen on the road, while others asked the lady to recollect whether she had worn it at all. Then an old man ventured to say, 'There is a 'miracle boy' here whom we can consult. He is the brother of the Telugu teacher.' As soon as they trooped in, Baba sighted them and said, 'Eh Janakamma! Give the jewel back!' The startled Janakamma did as Baba had ordered, her head bent in shame. Baba told the others, 'Go! Take her also to the movie with you. Repentance is enough punishment. Forget this lapse. It was your fault, tempting the weak-minded woman. I am sure she will not do it again, for she has been blessed by Me.'"
The Rocking Chair
Baba told the students how He had borne poverty and hardship in His childhood and youth, in silence and without complaint. There was a rocking chair in the house, upon which Baba sat one evening. When His brother's brother-in-law saw Him rocking Himself in the chair, he was very incensed and remarked, "Who gave you permission to sit on that precious chair and rock back and forth like a Maharaja! Get up and go out of here." Baba replied, "The day is coming when I will be a Maharaja sitting on a silver chair. You will live to see the day." This angered him all the more, but he did not pursue the persecution. About seven years later, the Rani of Chincholi, who could not bear to see her Swami sitting on a wooden chair, brought a silver chair for Him. But Swami did not permit the chair to be unpacked even during the Sivaratri or the Dasara celebrations. On the occasion of Swami's birthday, His brother's brother-in-law came to Puttaparthi. Then Baba asked him, of all people, to unpack the silver chair and place it in position on the dais of Prasanthi Mandir which was then ready for Bhajan gatherings. The man shed tears of repentance and asked to be pardoned. Baba soothingly told him not to worry. This was, perhaps, the only instance when Baba reacted, for He usually bears others' anger with remarkable indifference and restraint. He told the boys that He was ever alert to guard the honour and reputation of the family in which He was born, and to ward off the derision of cynics and carpers.
The General Stores of Kote Subbanna, from where Baba got His apparel and items of stationery in return for songs and slogans, was still there as I could see. It is now being run by Subbanna's grandson. Subbanna had once sought Baba's help for boosting the sales of his baby foods and Ayurvedic drugs. Baba agreed, and in return got from the shop the articles He most needed but could not purchase. The publicity value of Baba's lilts was great, for, as I was told by the contemporaries of Subbanna, when these were sung in chorus by several boys carrying placards advertising a product, it would be sold in no time. Venkama Raju, Baba's father, thanked Subbanna for the help he was rendering Baba, as a result of which He could replenish His wardrobe and get a few notebooks. Whenever a new product (like 'Balamrit' of Pundit D. Gopalacharlu of Madras) had to be introduced to the people of Uravakonda, it was done by means of such street music. There was a weekly fair at the town, and on such days, when the villagers from surrounding areas assembled, Subbanna had a heyday with his placards and his merry 'choirboys'.
Swami said that even as a boy He had been intent on correcting the vagaries, vices, defects and deficiencies of society, by means of ridicule and satire expressed in drama and poetry. 'Cheppinattu Chesthara?' which means, 'Are your deeds in accordance with your words?' is a fine example of His educative experiments. It exposed the hypocrisy of parents and teachers - an evil which children and pupils spontaneously absorb. So also today, Baba exhorts us to co-ordinate thought, word and deed. He tells us that when He spent vacations at Puttaparthi, He composed long lampoons in folk metres, on the evils of drink, the absence of literacy and the irresponsible accumulation of debt by the villagers. These songs were quickly learnt by the children who were taught by Baba, and were recited by them in groups in front of every house. Some householders were angered at this onslaught on their shortcomings and fixations, but many encouraged the boys to continue their reformatory task.
The village accountants also were a target of Swami's lampoons. There was one who prided himself on his 'Hitler moustache', on his watch with its shining strap and even on his Don Juan diversions. Swami told the students how he had composed a satire in verse on him and trained a band of urchins to parody his pomp. They stood opposite the door of his house and sang it till their voices turned hoarse. The butt of their ridicule came out to thrash them, but the members of the gang fled into the many lanes and could not be impounded. Such shout-and-run tactics were continued until he shaved off the horror under his nose, removed the leather-strap from his wrist and gave up his secret visits. Baba also wrote a play in Telugu entitled 'New Times', which revolved round a poet who was ignored and insulted while alive, but whose stirring poems provided his son enough ammunition for a rousing victory in an election a few years after the passing away of his father.
The house where Thammiraju, the teacher who persuaded Swami to produce the play entitled 'Cheppinattu Chesthara?' on the annual day of the school, still stands intact opposite a heap of mud that was once the house of Seshamaraju. It is indeed a thrice holy spot, for Swami spent many hours there with His teacher and his devoted wife, engaged in providing them precious glimpses of His Leela, while also playing with their son who was His own age. By merely calling out their names, He had made to appear on a wall of that house images of the Ten Incarnations of Vishnu and various other deities and saints revered by the teacher's wife. She wrote a poem about this incident in the monthly magazine published by the Sai Samaj, Madras. The house of Narayana Sastry, immortalised as the person who had witnessed the golden aura around Swami when He left home to 'carry on the task for which He had come', is almost adjacent to the place where Seshamaraju lived. Narayana Sastry had once the pride of his scholarship pricked by Baba when, as a little boy, Baba had questioned Sastry on his exposition of the classical texts. We could get some idea of the ecstasy that must have overpowered Sastry that day, when we met and heard Dr. Baronowski of the University of Arizona, who was wonder-struck and delighted by the aura he saw around Baba for days together at Brindavan; Whitefield, when He gave Darsan to the thousands gathered on the grounds there.
Swami told the students that He had seen what we would call 'hard days', at Uravakonda, though He was the favourite of the school and the town. He was the 'hewer of wood' and 'drawer of water' for the family of His brother. He collected dry twigs and branches from the hills around and tied them up into a head-load bundle which he brought home every two or three days. He drew water from a well, the only potable source, which was not too near. In spite of these and other exhausting chores, He was ever fresh and vibrant and full of infectious humour. His neighbours were anguished at His plight and entreated Him to write to His parents asking them to take Him away. Some even offered to write the letter themselves. But He told every one not to worry for He was happy that He could be of service. "Why are you bothered? I enjoy being useful," He would say.
I stood on the very dais from where Swami used to sing, everyday before the lessons began, the school prayers before the assembled students. It was from that very dais that, one historic morning, Swami had announced, "I do not belong to you henceforth. I belong to them who need Me and call on Me." Swami said that He came down the steps even before the congregation realised the significance of what He had declared. Then He walked to the house where His brother, the Telugu teacher lived. Throwing His books aside, He moved on to the edge of the town, where stood the house of Anjaneyulu, the government Inspector of Excise Revenue. Anjaneyulu loved and adored Baba. Perhaps he was one of those who needed Him and called on Him to illumine and liberate. But He did not enter the portals of that house. There are dozens of round, flat-topped boulders protruding among the trees in the open ground in front of that house. Swami sat atop a medium-sized one, right opposite Anjaneyulu's house. The congregation that followed Him from school had swelled now to a sea of heads all around. Anjaneyulu had a vision that the trek from school marked the inauguration of a World Revolution. So he had a Mantap (a commemorative structure) constructed over the stone, for it had to be marked out from the rest. Recently Baba permitted the good men of Uravakonda to purchase and take possession of the land around, and to erect a community hall for carrying on service activities under His inspiration.
Seated upon that boulder, Swami revealed that His devotees were calling Him and that He could no longer pretend to be a student or even a member of the Raju household. "I have My task to complete," He declared, indicating that a part had been accomplished while He was at Shirdi. He then directed the congregation to sing Bhajans (devotional songs) and to recite the name of the Lord. He stood forth as the Teacher of Teachers, whose message can liberate man from grief and greed. "Manasa Bhajare" He sang, "Guru Charanam, Dustara Bhava Sagara Taranam" (Adore in song with sincere devotion the feet of the divine teacher, for they can take you across the ocean of misery). Who was the divine teacher whose feet He was referring to? Those who knew Him (but they were only a few) recognised that they were in fact the feet of Sai. Swami was emphasising even in those early years that union with God demands communion with man. Swami saw the helplessness, the distress and the disease that sapped the happiness of people all around Him. He was moved with compassion. The candle was no longer under the bushel. Its light was soon to spread, bright and blazing, in every heart and home, school and sanctuary, village and town. Swami had made the clarion call to the entire world to clasp the feet of the Divinity which had condescended to encase Itself in human form, and to be saved from pollution and perdition. Those Lotus Feet which He presented in their magnificence that day, have walked on rose petals, snowy mountain terrain, rain-soaked slush, fair-weather tracks and sandy seashores, ever carrying consolation to grief-stricken people in all lands.
During the short time He was at Uravakonda, Baba had installed Himself in the hearts of both the old and the young. He had brightened their eyes with laughter and sweetened their ears with song. He was the bard and the boast of the school, the pride and paragon of the populace. Every family had some story to tell about His mysterious power, His love and His wisdom. So when He left home and school and talked of His task and of those waiting for Him the world over, their courage failed and their tongues were tied in unspeakable sorrow.
The Tiger Skin
His return from Uravakonda and the announcement at Puttaparthi that He was the Sai Baba of Shirdi, came when He was only fourteen years of age. But the villages around, and even far off Anantapur (forty miles away), knew of His being Sai Baba.
One day a jeep-driver crossed the river bed and walked the streets of Puttaparthi, trying to locate Swami. His master, a young English sub-divisional officer, had gone for Shikar to the forest on the other side of the Chitravathi, and while returning to Anantapur the vehicle had stopped right opposite Puttaparthi village. The driver did his best, as did the officer, to get the vehicle moving, but failed. The driver suggested that there was a 'Boy' at Puttaparthi who could materialise Vibhuti (sacred ash). Yes, "create, by a circular movement of His palm, the very panacea for all ills, even for the jeep!" Stranded halfway, the Englishman agreed and let the driver go to the village, while he himself sat in the jeep. The driver bumped into the Boy at last, but was astounded to hear Baba say, "I am coming, myself, to the jeep." He walked across the sandy bed, and on reaching the road, peeped into the vehicle and saw the carcass of a tiger that the officer had shot barely two hours ago. Swami's deep love for all beings could not tolerate animals being killed or tortured. He said, "I stopped the jeep at this place, for it is a mother, whose three small cubs are at this very time loudly wailing and calling out to her, that you are carrying. Go back! Recover those cubs and gift them to some zoo where they will be well looked after. And do not shoot wild beasts again, for they have caused you no harm. Why do you kill them, surround them and lay traps to catch them. Shoot them instead with a more superior weapon, your camera. That won't maim or kill them." The Englishman was at once enlightened, and he never carried a firearm again. Shooting wild beasts armed with a camera, he discovered, was far more adventurous and Sathwic (pure). He presented the orphaned cubs to the zoo, and when the tiger skin came back from the taxidermist, he brought it to Puttaparthi. Prasanthi Mandir was then under construction. He met Baba and placed the skin at His feet. Sakamma of Coorg pleaded with Him to sit on it in Yogic fashion, with a rosary between His fingers. She had a photographer ready. And Baba obliged, though He has never sat in Dhyana (meditation) or held a rosary!
A Book On Him
Smt. Nagamani Purnaiya has written a book in Telugu (later also translated into and printed in English), entitled, 'Divine Leelas of Bhagwan Sathya Sai Baba'. In the foreword to the book she says, "I have availed myself of every opportunity of witnessing His divine powers." The book describes more than 140 miracles, of which she says "more than 115 were witnessed by me with abundant joy." Nagamani Amma was the wife of Sri Purnaiya, the Chief Commercial Superintendent, Southern Railways, and the miracles she records were revealed at what is called the 'old' Mandir (temple) in the village, in the first few years after Swami's announcement. When the present Mandir called Prasanthi Mandir was inaugurated in 1950, the Mandir at the village became old! The miracles described relate to cures effected by the administration of Vibhuti created by Swami, and of raging floods subdued at His command. Baba revealed to her, "It is because of your faith and trust in Me that your bus could cross the river in spite of the surging floods." Swami created Tulsi (basil leaf) garlands, rings and pendants for personal wear. He also performed surgical operations. "One day I saw Swami throwing over the wall something like a banana peel," narrates Nagamani Amma. "Then He came towards me and asked for water to wash His hands which were red with blood. 'You had prayed to me to cure that man, so I operated upon him,' He said. That night I could not sleep due to my anxiety for the man, since he was operated upon without cocaine and in full consciousness. I was very troubled by the thought of the pain he must be suffering in the adjacent room, and so I stayed wide awake. At daybreak Swami called me and asked me to give the patient some surgical cotton. 'Go and give the cotton at once.' He commanded. When I went in, after hesitating at the door for a while, I found the patient eating a plateful of idlies and chutney. Swami stood behind me. 'This is not an operation by a doctor,' He chuckled. 'I have done it; so there is no pain caused, no rest required and no special diet prescribed. He can eat whatever he wants.' I was shown a long mark on the stomach but could discover no stitches. Swami said, 'The Vibhuti I created and applied on his brow acted as an anaesthetic. I created a Trisul (trident) and a knife for the operation. After I had finished, I smeared Vibhuti, and it was all over.'
"On another day, four men came to Prasanthi Nilayam with the intention of testing Swami," continues Nagamani Purnaiya. "When they reached Bukkapatnam, three miles away, they exchanged the wrist watches they wore, deciding among themselves to find out whether Baba would discover what they had done. 'If He is God, He should know,' they thought. Swami called them and said, 'I know why you have come and what you were talking on the way. One is wearing the watch of the other. I know that you have come to test Me, but this is a place for devotees. You can go back to where you have come from.' "
The Song He Made Them Sing
Baba had not only to encourage Bhajan and give a boost to the declining Bhajan Mandalis (groups of Bhajan singers) in the village, but He had also to compose Bhajans and Namavalis to satisfy the demand for new songs. During those early years He wrote quite a few. The four pillars of the mansion of Sai Dharma were first demarcated in one such song composed by Him when He was seventeen years of age.
With Sathya, Dharma, Santhi and Prema