The Shastipoorti - what does it mean?
On the 22nd September, 2012, we celebrated my father's Shastipoorti (actually Sashtiaapdapoorthi). It was a simple celebration but was full of love and prayer. For those that are unaware of the term, it signifies the 60th birthday of a person. As per the Bharatiya culture, the age sixty is of great significance because it is considered as a turning point in a man's life. At this age one has usually fulfilled his commitments towards family and home and so he, along with his wife, can turn his mind to spirituality. We can say that, the period before he reached sixty is defined by materialistic pursuits and thereafter it is to be defined by the couple’s striving towards spiritualism.
As per tradition, meaningful and elaborate rituals have been included to mark this milestone in a couple’s life. In fact, a ‘second’ marriage is performed as part of the ceremony wherein the couple promise each other,
“We have been together through the thick and thin of worldly life. We shall remain wedded in our objective of realizing our Divine origin too.”
And from that day of the 60th birthday, the couple decide that their life would be spent only in contemplation and service of the Lord.
As the time for this sacred ceremony drew closer, my parents had a very strange request of me. They said,
“Please do not conduct any of the elaborate rituals for the ceremony. Let there be no ceremony as such because the physical age of 60 does not actually signify the moment when we turned to God. Turning to God happened when Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) called us to settle at His lotus feet in Puttaparthi. That was the true Shastipoorti.”
When they said so, I realized that it was indeed the Truth. A 'new life' which Swami gifted to my father in the last week of September 2009 happened in dramatic fashion along with its share of trauma and triumph.
A normal day turns into hell - well almost
The 1st of October, 2009. It was another normal day or so it seemed at Puttaparthi. I received a phone call and it changed everything, turning the whole day upside down for me and my family. In fact, the day had already turned over its head for my mother and sister when my father called me from Mumbai.
"Aravind, it's me, your dad."
This was a very strange opening statement. Why was he stating the obvious? I just kept silent and he continued.
"Today, as we were heading to the office in the car, I began to feel very uneasy. My left hand began to ache a lot and I started feeling faint. Suddenly, there were beads of perspiration trickling down the sides of my face."
"Dad! Those appear to be the classic symptoms of a heart attack", I replied with a bit of trepidation in my voice.
"I am right now in the Bombay Hospital. The doctors here say that I indeed had a heart attack and I should rush in for immediate angiography and possible surgery. I thought of speaking to you about this."
I was at a total loss for words. Till this day, I had always sought my parents' advice when in a tight situation. I never had been in the position of an advice-giver; at least not in matters such as these. I told him the only thing that arose in my heart,
"Dad, take the first flight out of Mumbai and come to Puttaparthi. Don't do anything there."
The shock of the arrest was such that my father simply agreed to what I said.
And so it was, that against medical advice and with my mother's assistance, my father booked a flight to Bangalore and I booked a taxi to ferry them from there to Puttaparthi. I immediately wrote a letter to Swami about the happenings till then and decided that during darshan, I would be seeking His succour. And that was exactly what I did.
As Swami was getting back into the car after the mandir session, I went to Him and offered the letter. He almost seemed to be waiting for my letter. I knew instantly that He knew. Still, I handed over the letter and said aloud,
"Swami, father had a heart attack in Mumbai."
His response was immediate,
"It is not a heart attack."
The sorrow in my heart made me forget who I was talking to. I just reiterated,
"Swami, the doctors themselves said that it was a heart attack."
Swami simply said with a smile,
"Emi Ledhu (There is no problem)."
"I have told him to come here to Puttaparthi Swami."
Swami just nodded and said, "Choostamu" (I shall see) before leaving. He did not even give me some vibhuti which I was expecting. His words, however, filled me with hope and confidence.
The relief turns out to be a short-term one...
The next day, my parents arrived to Puttaparthi. They had darshan and we all met up at the studio where I work. My father seemed fine and I was feeling relieved and comfortable. Swami's words kept ringing in my ears. However, that relief did not last long. My father revealed something.
"Today, as I was returning after Darshan, I felt tired and a bit dizzy. It must have been because of the tension."
I was not ready to attribute it tension so easily and simply. I immediately took him to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, the super specialty hospital. Since I was a staff member in the Ashram, my father's case was taken up immediately. The doctors did an ECG and then confirmed my worst fears.
"He had a second angina this morning. We will have to do an angiogram to determine further course of action."
I wanted the angiogram to be done immediately, if possible. However, I came to know that we had been victims of a special situation that fate had arranged. There was some malfunction in the Cath lab where the procedure had to be done. The technician from Siemens had been sent for but he would be coming only three days later. This was because it was Gandhi Jayanti that Friday and the next two days were weekend holidays.
It was October the 2nd. In India, it is a national holiday being the birth date of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Every year I had celebrated the fact that it was a holiday. For the first time, I was upset because of it. The father of the nation seemed to be thwarting the medical treatment for my own father!
However, it was amazing that though it was a holiday, Dr.Iyer, the cardiologist was present. He later told me,
"I was in the middle of my morning worship when I got a call telling me to rush here."
Though I didn't realize the import of that statement then, I today understand that someone 'high' in the Organization must have called the doctor. The only reason that call would have been made was obvious - Swami's intervention! But what was to be done about this Cath lab disaster?
"There is nothing to worry however", the doctor comforted me, "we can easily stabilize him with medicines for these few days. And after that we can do the angiogram. Or else, you could take him to Swami's hospital in Bangalore. But the journey, even in a taxi, may prove tiresome. It would be best that he is kept here on medicines."
A roller coaster ride
It was the most sensible advice. I have complete trust in the doctors here. They are angels of God working in this temple of healing where every treatment is offered completely free of cost. But emotional that I was then, I was in no mood to lend ears to sensible advice. I desperately was seeking some solace and solution. I decided to again ask Swami about what had to be done. Not having the patience to wait till the evening darshan, I dialled Satyajit's number from my phone. He was aware of everything and he knew that Swami had told me that my father's case was not a 'heart attack'. I updated him and he said that he would convey the same to Swami when he got the opportunity and get back to me.
Soon, I had Swami's reply. His reply was straightforward and simple,
"Do not take him anywhere. Let him be here only."
He had added another statement,
"To the extent possible, treat him with medicines only."
Having decided to follow Him implicitly, we retained father in Puttaparthi itself.
In the meanwhile, my sister Shruti, who was alone in Mumbai, decided to come to Puttaparthi. As mentioned in a sweet and funny divine episode she had been engaged recently to Mahadevan who, along with his mother, accompanied her from Bangalore to Puttaparthi. It bolstered our spirits. That is the power of a supportive family.
There was further good news, almost miraculous, on the next day.
I got a call saying that though it was a national holiday, the Siemens’ technician had indeed come and got the Cath lab running. And thus, my father’s angiogram was done. The doctor summoned us and informed us of the status,
“There is some block in some of the small capillaries that supply blood to the heart. We usually do not do a surgery for blocks in such tiny vessels because the risk of rupture exceeds the advantage of the surgery. I recommend that appropriate medication, diet and exercise should be used as a substitute for surgery.”
I remembered what Swami had said and simply accepted the option of medication, diet and exercise. All of us were happy and relieved. In fact, in a couple of days, my father was feeling so much better that he said he was ready to return to Mumbai as well. The worst seemed to have passed over so quickly. He was discharged and he returned to the room in Prasanthi Nilayam ashram. The next evening itself, I decided to sit with my father and express gratitude to Swami.
In the meanwhile, the situation seemed to have got worse!
My father came out of the restroom and called out to me. He said that he was feeling dizzy and that he may be having another attack! Dr.Iyer had given a few tablets which he told my father to pop in his mouth in case he felt he was getting another angina. Quickly, my father popped a pill. Immediately, the effect was seen, and how horrible it was! His tongue rolled out and he simply collapsed into my arms and I placed him on the bed.
We rushed him to the hospital again, fearing the worst. I was just thinking of the casual manner in which Swami had first said, "Emi Ledhu". How could multiple heart-attacks be 'nothing' which Swami referred to?
We were pleasantly surprised when Dr.Iyer told us that there was no angina.
"It is a vasovagal attack. This is a most common kind of fainting that occurs when the Vagus nerve gets strained. This is observed when people stand for long time, are hungry, are stressed, have not had proper sleep - a variety of reasons. In your father's case, the medicines we gave him caused him to get slightly constipated. The pressure he applied while going to the toilet strained the nerve and caused this attack. When the attack occurs, heart rate slows, blood pressure drops and fainting happens. It got compounded in your father's case because he took a pill that further lowers the blood pressure!"
We breathed a sigh of relief as we took back dad from the hospital. It had indeed been "nothing" as Swami had said.
God steps in, not at the last moment but at the right moment...
I requested for a first-line position during darshan for my father. For the first time in more than 11 years, I sat in the 'general seating' in Sai Kulwant Hall. When Swami came, I knelt up. He seemed surprised to see me here. He stopped with a surprised smile on His face. My father was still sitting. Thinking that Swami might proceed without ‘blessing’, I told my father to kneel up and come near Swami.
Immediately, Swami had a stern look on his face.
“Do not make him get up like that! (He is a patient.)”
I instantly apologized. What followed was a beautiful interaction between Swami and dad. Swami gave him a vibhuti packet and then said something very special.
“When Swami is in your heart, nothing can happen to it.”
He stayed on, granting padanamaskar to both of us. Dad told Swami that mom and Shruti were also seated on the ladies' side and Swami said that He knew. Swami then moved on.
And that, according to my parents, was the true Shastipoorti, because it was on that day that the Lord indicated that He occupied my father's heart.
If you liked reading this, you might also enjoy:
3.Being an apple of the eye for God - My Father's Most Memorable Experience
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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya
Kokila Vaidyanathan on May 23, 2013:
Sairam...what beautiful way to celebrate ones birthday...you render it so beautifully...it always feels like being part of the incident. I think I had read it before..but it felt like reading it for the first time...can read your articles over and over again....
Ananth on May 23, 2013:
Excellent Oration and a beautiful heartful, heartfelt experience. This is why I thanked you brother when I met you as you were walking out of Radio Sai Office on May 16. I share a very similar experience with our Sweet Lord. My father left for his formless abode with Bhagawan on May 3, 2011 just 9 days after our Lord decided to take to His infinite formless form. I still can not come in terms with it through my intellect and inner being reasons out that both never left me. Sai Ram!
Deepa Venkitesh on January 30, 2013:
Swamy hugged him and secured his heart
Krishnan on January 03, 2013:
Execellant episode. Kindly permit me to post my experience
Bangalore , presently in Nigeria
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 18, 2012:
Thank You, Mr. Aravind.
I think You are on quite a good fast-forwarding track yourself. It's great, in many different ways!
All the very best!!
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 18, 2012:
@Mr.Happy - I too feel the same about you. Man is supposed to grow from caring to oneself to caring for family to caring for society till he finally cared for the whole creation. Good that you have fast-forwarded your growth! :)
God bless you always and He knows that the world needs more souls like you...
P.S. - You are right about the reason why I thought you must be in your fifties! lol
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 17, 2012:
"At this age one has usually fulfilled his commitments to family and home and so he, along with his wife, can turn his mind to spirituality." - Very interesting. Now I see why You thought I was around fifty years old. I skipped all the Family and Wife part and went straight to Spirituality after my teenage years (which really didn't end until my early to mid twenties lol). Some Gods came to me (Lord Vishnu and the Man in Orange) while to Some I went myself (Gebeleizis, Zamolxis, Apollo, Allah and Wakan Tanka). They have answered and I am so extremely grateful ... words do no justice here ...
Such a beautiful story! Thank You in all sincerity for sharing it.
"It is a Time of Gods and Mortals"
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 17, 2012:
@ Kavita - Sorry for this delayed reply. I agree. Swami tells that there is Nijam, Satyam and Rutham. Nijam is fact that changes from time to time. So, it cannot be considered as the 'Truth' that is being violated. The 'Truth' is whatever He says it is! :)
@Hemant - Cannot put it more succinctly or beautifully than you have just done! :)
@PoornimaSrinath - Lovely to read this.... A grand miracle indeed. Just goes to show us that Swami indeed is the "King of Hearts"
madhu on October 06, 2012:
Dear Sri Aravind, Sai ram. Happy Shasthipoorthi to your beloved father . OM SAI RAM. Thanx for posting a beautiful experience. SAI RAM.
Kavita on September 25, 2012:
Sai Ram Aravind...
When you wrote that statement of when Swami said, 'Its ot a heart attack it must be indigestion'......I remembered an incident narrated by Brother Sunder Iyer in one of hi Souljourns interview where he was bit by a snake and he had seen it but in his grace Swami told that it was not a snake and it was just a thorn.....and lter confirmed to him saying that I will still say that it was a thorn....I will not utter from my mouth that it was a snake...something to that effect...You can see the whole interview to get it from him....
I felt somehow Swami also did not want to utter from his mouth that it was a heart attack instead he said it was an indigestion...
Thanks for sharing this wonderful incident.
poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on September 25, 2012:
Belated pranams and wishes to uncle and aunt. You were lucky to have got support from Swami Himself directly. I can understand the tension that you could have undergone. A similar situation happened the morning after my bangle ceremony when I was pregnant. My father was diagonised with 13 blocks most of them were major ones. He was told that his survival would be a miracle if he undergoes surgery. Miracle did happen through Swami's intervention indirectly. Amazing thing is that Swami blessed him with vibhuthi few years in advance when we visited Parthi!
srikumari on September 25, 2012:
SAIRAM!Many many happy returns of the day!
Madhavi Alapaty on September 24, 2012:
Sashtipoorthi Subhakankshalu for your Father and Mother ! It is absoutely true..what is age got to do with GOD when you start adoring him at any age:-) You celebrate these activities to get blessings from GOD and here your parents are already blessed by SWAMI that HE is in their hearts. What more can they ask from HIM? Your father understood that pretty well..When the doctors are 'The are angels of God working in this temple of healing'" nothing will ever go wrong:::))
email@example.com on September 23, 2012:
Marvelous revelation! Yes our heart hosts Swami and he takes care of it. At same time we should ensure keep it clean and tidy, coz this host is the greatest and owner at the sametime of our heart.
Thanks for this account marvelously depicted.
lrao on September 23, 2012:
Greetings on the wonderful occasion, Aravind (and parents!). So nice to read a lovely story like this. Swami always looks out for us. We just have to 'see' him too - around us, all the time.
Hemanth on September 22, 2012:
Sai is such a solace. Sai is hayee (comfort). Nothing, just nothing can touch you when He is by your side. Pray for Swami's blessings on all of us.
surbhi mandale on September 22, 2012:
sairam bhaiya, regards to uncle for his sashtipoorthi...that was such an amazing care given by swami to uncle. v shud all keep in mind that god is with us in our heart 24*7 and celebrate each day as his day.very true! i have come to indore to be together for my mother's sasthpoorti which will be on 30th sept (poornima).will read this hub for her!! :) sairam
Raghu Iyer on September 21, 2012:
wishing your father a Happy (second) Shashtipoorti. May SAI bless him & his family with Good Health & Happiness...as always. Jai Sai Ram!
Jayanthi on September 21, 2012:
Sairam Got goosebumps reading. Hema had told me about this incident but as I was reading felt as though its happening live. Wishing him loads of Best Wishes and Happy Birthday.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on September 21, 2012:
@ Shruti - I agree... We should use that experience to remember that God is with us always....
@ Sreenidhi - That is very sweet of you.... I shall convey your greetings to them..
Sreenidhi on September 21, 2012:
Here's wishing Uncle, a very happy and holy Shashtipoorthi! :-)
I join my family in praying that both uncle and aunty remain hale and hearty and become more and more prosperous, in terms of spirituality.
Finally, here are my virtual pranams to both, uncle and aunty,in want of their blessings on this lil one.....
And yes, as usual, awesome narrative. You couldn't have offered them a better tribute!
Shruti on September 21, 2012:
This incident makes me scared plus grateful to the Lord... If not for him, none of us could have managed that situation.
P.S. Happy Birthday Appa!