Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.
The Green Benz car story
Sri Sai Surendranath belongs to an elite club that does not boast of more than a few dozen members. Being a student from the first batch in the college under the auspices of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, he enjoyed days, weeks, months and years of wonderful proximity to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He arrived into Swami or Bhagawan Baba’s fold as a child, completed his intermediate (in Brindavan, Bangalore) and graduation from the free educational institutions Swami had set up and got, what according to him is, ‘the greatest privilege’ of being a teacher in the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. To this day, he continues to be a commerce teacher there. But among all the students in Prasanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi, he is known as someone who was (shall I say ‘is’) very special - a person to whom Swami regularly spoke to for 3 decades, a tabla regular in the bhajan group for nearly 3 decades and a very jovial and loving person at heart.
And so, when one gets a chance to talk to such a person after a bhajan session at his home, one grabs that opportunity with both hands.
“Sir, you must share some of your experiences.”
“Oh! Do not pull me into that. I really don’t know where to begin and how to proceed. Swami has been extremely loving and kind.”
“Sir, please narrate the story of the Green Mercedes Benz car!”, I told him. I had heard the brief skeletal version of this story from a friend and was eager to get the story from the proverbial horse’s mouth!
“Green Benz... Hmmm... That was an interesting episode”, Sai sir smiles.
“Please narrate it then...”
“Not today. It is a bit long and let me gather the details. I will call you some other day and tell it to you.”
“Sure sir. But you must! In these days of physical absence of Swami, His stories alone have the capability of quenching the thirst for Him in our hearts.”
“Yes, it is only the name of the Lord and His stories which can substitute for His beautiful form. But come what may, do not despair. Know that with God, even a misfortune turns out to be a great blessing, in disguise that’s all! There is a reason for which He does anything and His word is never in vain.”
I felt very happy hearing that. I also eagerly waited for his call to come and the narrative to unfold. It happened within a week and here is what he told. (The order of narration of events have been changed to build up some suspense! hehehehe! There is some relish and joy in suspense- being in it as well as keeping it!)
Over to Sri Sai Surendranath...
As soon as I completed my MCom, Swami gave me the opportunity and privilege of serving Him as a teacher for commerce in the school. Life with God is so beautiful and in His physical presence, beauty gained new meanings! I was so happy and every day would open up doors to new possibilities and experiences.
One day, noticing that a colleague was sick, I decided to get some milk and bread for him from the only bakery that existed in Puttaparthi in 1986. I borrowed another colleague’s bicycle and wended my way to the bakery. On the way back, at the sharp slope after the Vidyagiri arch, I lost control. The handlebar twisted and I was thrown onto the road. It was a disastrous fall for both me and the cycle. My leg was twisted badly and I felt a warm gush on my foot. I saw that it was a very deep wound and the white of my bone was staring back at me. And then, I simply blacked out in pain.
I woke up at the Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital and the venerable Dr. Alreja (Swami’s personal physician) was there to enquire into my well-being. He told me,
“Your accident was very bad in terms of the injury you sustained. We have treated you and then, I informed Swami about it. He was very concerned.”
“Why did you tell Swami sir?”, I asked. I knew Swami would feel very bad and did not want to burden him with these trivial things.
“That is my duty. Swami has told me to inform him when anything happens to the students. He has also advised you to take rest. You needn’t attend the darshan and bhajan sessions.”
That statement was demoralizing. Not only was I physically handicapped, the greatest privilege of a student - darshan from close quarters - too had been denied for me by Swami Himself. But what could I do? It was my misfortune and I blamed it on some past karma of mine!
God becomes the good luck talisman and misfortune, a blessing in disguise
Swami was very concerned about my injury. And very soon, I realized the truth - when God is by your side, even a misfortune becomes a blessing. For, God is that Philosopher’s Stone which has alchemical properties of changing every moment into a golden one.
It was darshan time and I was in the hostel. To my pleasant surprise, Swami’s car arrived at the hostel. Swami had come to enquire about me. I went to the car with my crutches. Swami lowered the window and spoke to me. He did not want me to strain myself and I was overwhelmed by His concern. When I was feeling bad that I was unable to go to Him, He Himself was coming to me. And that, I feel, continues to happen - if we pine for Him and seek Him, even if we aren’t able to go to Him, He comes to us!
These visits became a regular feature and I was so happy. I felt special and blessed. Imagine Swami driving up to the hostel almost daily and stopping in front of it to speak a few words to me! A great blessing indeed! Even as I saw the glass on the car door being lowered, my spirits would rise and soar to the skies. I actually began to thank god for the accident that seemed to be blessing me with so many chances with my dear Swami. Definitely, the misfortune had become a blessing.
I realized that when I am with God, nothing is a misfortune. At worst, it is a blessing in disguise! That’s all.
It was the Krishna Janmashtami day - the birthday of Lord Krishna - in 1986. By then, though I had not completely recovered, I had been permitted to go to the mandir for darshans. Krishna Janmashtami in Prasanthi has a special and unique flavor. All the cows, deer, rabbits and, of course, Sai Gita, Swami’s pet elephant come to the mandir. Swami feeds them and then sends them back ‘home’. Later, He visits their home at the Gokulam (dairy farm) too!
This particular year, I sat on the sidelines, watching all that happened and missing being part of the action. I was happy that I was at least part of the festivities. Once the animal feeding and petting was completed, Swami sent them back to Gokulam. in a few minutes, He would be leaving too. So, all the other boys rushed to the dairy farm. I obviously could not. I had to wait for my transport, a cycle rickshaw’ and only then leave.
As Swami was about to set out from the mandir to the Gokulam, He saw me. He asked,
“How will you go to the hostel?”
“Swami, there is a cycle rickshaw which will arrive for me. I shall return to hostel in that.”
“No! Today, I shall drop you in the hostel.”
I was simply stunned. Swami walked a few steps ahead and summoned His car, the red Mercedes Benz. Opening the door, Swami entered the backseat and invited me to sit beside Him, at the window! Was I thrilled! He waited for me to be gently helped into the seat and then, the door closed. Radhakrishna was at the wheel. I could not believe my good fortune. Swami took me along to the Gokulam. There, He told me to wait in the car itself and also told Radhakrishna to give me company. However, as He went in to interact with the animals, I got out of the car. It felt very odd to be sitting in the Lord’s car when he wasn’t there!
Soon He returned and told me to get back into the car. We headed towards the hostel.
As we drove into the hostel, I saw the all the students and teachers were taken by surprise. They quickly gathered at the entrance seeing Swami’s red car drive in. The car came to a halt and Swami smiled at me saying that we ‘had arrived’. He told me to get off. I opened the door and as I stepped out, there were gasps of surprise followed by disappointment! This was not what everyone expected.
Immediately, they understood what had happened. Then, a few boys moved up to Swami’s window and began to request Him to visit the hostel. It was my good day today and so I chanced my voice,
“Swami please come to the hostel.”
“Ay Dunnapota! Keep quiet...” was His reply.
Then He turned to everyone and said,
“I did not come here to visit the hostel. I came here only to drop this boy. I am going back to the mandir now.”
Blessing everyone, Swami drove away. I was the cynosure of all eyes now. A dozen students came to help me into the hostel. Once the Lord helps you, the whole world also seems to jump in to help you! I was so happy. Maybe, I was even feeling thankful for having had an accident! Can you believe that? That is what happens when you are with God - there are no accidents. Even a misfortune is actually a "master"fortune!
As I sat in my room and closed my eyes to enjoy the episode that had just occurred, my memory suddenly was refreshed.
That was when I was hit by a recall that made my jaw drop open in awe.
And suddenly, scenes from years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. Excitement and gratitude welled within me and everything became so clear. It was as if I had been given a glimpse of the way His Masterplan works. Of course, He had taught me a lesson that God is the greatest good luck talisman and nothing can ever be a misfortune when one is with God. But, as always, He had ‘hit’ two birds with a single stroke. Ah! What a master-stroke it was!
Even as I sunk deeper into the revelation and the revelation sunk deeper into me, I was lost in bliss...
( Rush now to the concluding part of this experience )
© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya
Parmila singh on February 04, 2014:
Aravind your experiences is keeping us live with swami. And you are a blessed and are inspired. Love every article you pablish. Any any stories you tell
Thankamani on April 09, 2013:
Vow!!!! How lucky this person is to get soooo much love from our Beloved Bhagavan. Past punya karma!!!
DR.NIRANJAN PATIL09822216297 on April 03, 2013:
VERY NISE ,SAIRAM.
Parmila Singh on March 18, 2013:
Thanks Aravind for the beautiful story touching our hearts. I remember swami saying in his discourse ' My students are my prorerty and I will take care of them'The story has filled our hungry heart for swamis love
Raj on March 18, 2013:
You are a bad person !!!!!!!!!!!!!! putting us in suspense !!! Lol
kokila Vaidyanathan on March 18, 2013:
Wow!!!! Beautiful experience. .wouldn't we all love to get into such an accident. .can't wait for the green benz story...sairam
saisarannaga from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India. on March 18, 2013:
Why there is suspense again in the last para? Any way good luck for all the students and teachers from Swami's Institutes.
raolalita on March 18, 2013:
:) Mr. Happy's questions are always thought provoking.
I am sure you (Aravind) have written about, or could write about, what seeing Krishna's real swarupa (even briefly) did to Arjuna, and how even Arjuna was often blissfully unaware of seeing Krishna's REAL power, and enjoyed his proximity to the Lord because the Lord was his friend and relative, and,
b) I have heard that even our own Swami could be so strict and powerful that people would quake in their...err... bare feet. So, fear and awe are not that far away, even with this avatar, why past ones?
Is that accurate and could you elaborate on examples you might know - for Mr. H's sake? And our sake of course :) Thanks.
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 18, 2013:
Thank You for the explanation as well V.Sai Saraswuthi. I feel your love for the Man in Orange. I wish You all the very best - may Light always guide You.
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 18, 2013:
Thank You for the reply, Mr. Aravind.
The rickshaw photograph is beautiful, nice shot! And I have never seen one of those before, interesting.
Regarding the part about "man can only feel awe and even fear" "if the Supreme Spirit descends in all might and grandeur" ... without trying to be funny here: has it ever been tried out? Or is there some written story about this "awe" and/or "fear", from some past time?
The whole thing made me think of sorcerers who keep to themselves for much of the same reason. I do wish to be clear in that I am not comparing the Man in Orange with sorcerers. I was just thinking how Power tends to strike Fear in some people, or jealousy and such things ...
Well ... can't say I don't speak my mind LOL
Thanks You for the conversation. I always appreciate it.
All the best!
V.Sai Saraswuthi on March 17, 2013:
Thank you brother Arvind.
It reveals the 'Love' of Swamy towards his devotees ....the 'concern' (which Mr.Happy points out) actually depicts his Love for the safety and well being of HIS loved ones which HE shows by asking How they were (even though he is the all-knowing one).
Yesterday itself we had the dose of HIS immence Love through the Smarpan session in Brindavan ,whitefield,bangalore by Mr. Raja Bhaiya which was mind blowing along with soul lifting music by Mirpuri students. . and today i get to read this yet another story of Swamy's love .
Thanks a ton ....waiting eagerly for the next part.
Rajeshmohanan on March 17, 2013:
You again stop giving a cliffhanger moment. Waiting for next part :)
@Mr. Happy, You can also see cycle rickshaw in action in Puttaparthy. There will be some right in front of shopping complex inside Ashram
vaishnavi rao on March 17, 2013:
Anna i simply love this word from swami's mouth “Ay Dunnapota!" but anna u again started off with this to be continued???????? when u posted the last one i had my own doubts that next ones would also come with the tag!!!!! grrrrrrrr there u go again with another "to be continued"
Ajesh on March 17, 2013:
Arvindddddddd... Next time I see you, you gonna get bumps or else post the next part :) ... was so much absorbed that did not see the To Be Continued (to be concluded) part until it really happened. ..
raolalita on March 17, 2013:
Thank you Aravind, for putting names to faces (esp. for us 'outsiders'; but then we outsiders become insiders when we hear Swami's stories :) ). We of course see Mr. Sai Surendranath playing tabla at various events.
What a precious story. These students are so lucky - nah, I think people like Mr. Sai Surendranath take birth in this life only to experience such bliss with Swami (that too for decades!) - they have got to be sages who earned all this grace in previous lives. So it is definitely not just a matter of luck, I feel. Thanks for sharing so beautifully.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on March 17, 2013:
@ Mr.Happy - "Concern" indeed. Swami says that if the Supreme Spirit descends in all might and grandeur, man can only feel awe and even fear. God/Spirit comes in a human form and takes on human qualities and expressions so that humans can feel kinship!
And that is why, though the Man in Orange is always beyond sorrows and joys, He smiled and cried with us - so that we feel kinship with Him with the feeling that He is one of Us! Exactly like how we speak and act like kids while interacting with kids!
Once that was done, He would slowly remove the veil to show that We actually were part of Him/God/Spirit.... The perfect case of the descent of the spirit for the ascent of man....
A cycle rickshaw is a vehicle as shown in the picture here.
Thanks for the early visit Mr.Happy.... I started writing this and saw that it already was more than 1500 words long... So shall post the Green Mercedes story as a second part in about a day's time! :)
Teekay63 from Singapore on March 17, 2013:
Oh...! How long to wait for the sequel? :O
Aarthi on March 17, 2013:
Beautiful! Thank you Barru for sharing. Thanks so much for coaxing Sai Sir to share a slice from his life.
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on March 17, 2013:
"We have treated you and then, I informed Swami about it. He was very concerned.” - I found this statement very interesting. "Concern" is a serious/strong word. Why would One who takes the God Form be concerned?
"cycle rickshaw" - What does this mean?
Wow ... I love the burgundy colour on that BMW!!
And ... I am left in suspense ... where is the second part? No green Mercedes here. This was a story about the red BMW, not a green Mercedes. LOL
Fun read! Thank You, Mr. Aravind. : )