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The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - 15th August 2004 - Part 1


The surprising 'instruction'...

Turning through the pages of my diary, I come to an episode which the Master chose to teach many lessons for life. The timing and occurrence of this episode which spanned almost a week was centered around the 57th Indian Independence Day on the 15th of August, 2004. Some of the lessons that I learnt through this episode (which I hope to remember whenever I need) are those of conflict resolution, expanding one’s heart and following one’s heart or inspiration.

The sequence of events are so thrilling that the writer is tempted to rush to them at the earliest. But one cannot hope to enjoy a 3 course gourmet feast as fast food! And following the pattern of a 3-course meal, let’s start with the sizzling starters - that which sets us up for what is to follow.

It started with one of my classmates, Ranganatha Raju (RR) walking beside me as we made our way to the Institute in lines. He said,
“Aravind, I had Swami’s (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba) dream last night.”
“Oh wow! That’s great and nice to hear. But why are you telling me about it?”
“...because there is a message in it for you...”

My ears perked up. I was very eager to listen to what Swami wanted to tell me through his dream.
“It is about a drama to be staged on 15th of August...”
“You mean the Independence Day drama?”
It was tradition for the senior-most students of the hostel to put up a drama in the hostel on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day. That drama meant a lot for the seniors as they would showcase their best acting skills, construction skills, music skills, dancing skills - you name it.

“Yes! The Independence Day drama. I think Swami wants us to stage it in Sai Kulwant hall!”
“This is crazy! It has never been done before”, I replied.

In a few seconds before he spoke his next line, a hundred thoughts filled my head -

The I-Day drama would have many scenes from the Indian freedom movement. Those would invariably show the brutality of the British invaders and the heroic life-sacrifices of many Indian patriots. These would not be appropriate for putting up in Sai Kulwant hall (the huge public meeting hall in which Bhagawan Baba meets with the thousands that gather daily), in Swami’s presence! Again, what about some of the dances and songs which had a jazzy or a 'fast' feel to them. How could we put those up in Sai Kulwant hall? The light-effects, sound effects and a hundred other effects that were possible while doing a drama in the hostel (where they had been done year after year for more than a dozen times) were not possible in Swami’s darshan hall.

The rapid flow of my thoughts was interrupted by RR’s next statement,
“Swami said that He has given you the theme for the drama. So, I thought it would be best if we discuss and think of how best to execute that theme.”

I was in a daze now. I was confused.
“Are you sure that you saw Swami in your dream and He told you all this?”
“Do you think I would have the courage to come and talk to you this way if I was not convinced?”
“Listen Raju. I promise that Swami has not given me any theme for a drama to be put up in His presence for Independence Day. I don’t know how you should proceed.”
“When Swami says that He has given, He has given. You have not recognized it yet. Think deeply about it and please tell me as soon as the theme gets concretised.”

I was hoping for a message in my dreams....

I was hoping for a message in my dreams....

Resolution of the 'mystery' theme

With that, we entered the assembly hall of the college where silence was a compulsory thing. I was doing some serious soul-searching throughout the prayer session. There were hardly 9 days left for the Independence Day and was Swami expecting us to conjure a programme of a quality which could be put up in His presence in the mandir?

I take Swami’s dreams seriously always. And today, I also see a kind of connection between me and RR when it comes to Swami’s dreams. In fact, it was in his dream that Swami answered me so fantastically during my profound Suka Nadi experience.

A whole day passed without much luck. The next day, as I was taking a shower, a single thought kept pounding against my heart. It was saying,
“In Sanskrit, ‘independence’ is denoted by Swarajya. Find the meaning of this word.”

This kept going on within me and it seemed as if I would not be able to do anything else unless I answered this voice. When I discovered the meaning, was I excited!

Swarajya is constituted by “Swa” and “Rajya”. While the former means “Self”, the latter means “Rule”. And here, ‘Self’ stands for the inner self, the Atma or God within. So, true ‘independence’ is when the Atma or Self rules.

Independence therefore is In-Dependence!

The way in which the inspiration had manifested, I was convinced that it was Swami who had provided the ‘theme’ for a drama. I rushed to RR and told him the sequence of events. He was excited too. He was also firmly convinced that it was Swami who had provided the theme. The story flow we arrived at, was like this:

1. August 15th 1947 was the day India attained independence - freedom from the British rule - which was purely in the physical sense.
2. We have to attain the next level of independence which is freedom from the chains of poverty, corruption, immorality etc. which bind us.
3. We can be truly free only when we achieve the final level which is Swarajya or rule by the Self.

A true Bharatiya (loosely translated as Indian) is not defined geographically but spiritually!

A true Bharatiya (loosely translated as Indian) is not defined geographically but spiritually!

In the course of our research while making the drama and presentation we came across another amazing point. Swami refers to India as Bharat and an Indian as Bharatiya. Swami’s definition, however, is so different from ours. He says,
“The land where the 5 human values (Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Non-Violence) are practiced is Bharat. And the person who practices these 5 is a Bharatiya. So, being a Bharatiya does not depend on one’s geographical location. It depends on one’s values.”

We felt that we must mention this also. It would make the Independence Day celebrations global and universal and not restricted merely to ‘Indians’!

The sea may be rough but a boat is not meant for anchor in a harbor all the while!

The sea may be rough but a boat is not meant for anchor in a harbor all the while!

Rough waters...

At this point, we called a few more like-minded classmates and discussed the program. Everyone was excited and soon, a beautiful drama had taken shape. We thought that it was time to share the same with the whole class, enlist its support and start preparing for this added and new programme. We did not have the slightest idea of the opposition that we would meet!

Even as we explained the concept to the class, there were protests.
" We have already allocated resources (human and material) for the hostel drama. How can we accommodate this now?"
“Please do not try to force ‘spirituality’ down people’s throats! It gets nauseating. It is of no use preaching spirituality like this everywhere.”
“Independence Day has been a hostel programme and a way for all the senior students to showcase their talents. Let it be that way because there is no way we can do two programmes on the same day - then justice will not be done to either of them! We can make a programme for the mandir later!”
“Such a programme has never been done in Swami’s presence. How do you think we will get the permission to do so?”

The way things went, we now had to now choose between preparing for the ‘traditional’ hostel programme (with its 100% probability of happening) or preparing for the ‘radical’ mandir programme (with its 50% probability of happening). A vote was cast by the 120 students of the class and it was 60-40 in favor of the programme in the mandir.

The problem with democracy is that the majority decides everything! Though the vote said that the mandir programme should be planned, we had a huge 40% of the class unhappy with the decision. Instead of agreeing with the majority, they went about attempting to convince the ‘opposition’ about the hostel programme and increase their support-percentage! Thus it was that two programmes were being prepared simultaneously - one for the mandir by 60% of the class and one for the hostel by 40% of the class. (Aren’t these exactly the problems in a democracy!! :) )

Both ‘parties’ were racing against time to get the programmes ready. The preparations were impaired by the fact that we were a disunited class trying to achieve something that had never been done before - 2 programmes in the same day! The ‘hostel team’ suffered a handicap - most of the better actors and speakers were part of the ‘mandir team’. The ‘mandir team’ was not problem-free - most of the skilled artists who would make the sets for the drama and help in the costumes were part of the ‘hostel team’.

We often had discussions, debates, arguments and conflicts between the two teams. But as these happened, not a word of it was allowed to leak outside the class. The teachers were not aware of this happening. Both the teams had put up their proposals to the warden who had taken them up to the vice-chancellor. They were amazed at our confidence and our class’ track record at putting programmes convinced them that we would be successful this time also. The vice-chancellor sought permission from Swami for the mandir programme. It was granted and we were all tense. Though the vice-chancellor and the elders were praising our class, they were not aware of the severe disunity problems plaguing us.

This was the setting when we began our practice on the 10th of August for programmes on the 15th of August - one in mandir and one in the hostel.

And with that, the sizzlers and appetizers of the 3-course meal have been served. The main course was to be a memorable feast with all tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy! But the dessert was a lip-smacker and a real cooler. And that was because Swami physically got involved in both of them.

Go over to Part 2

If you liked this, you must read the following:

1. The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - Part 2 - Darkness...

2. The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - Part 3 - Problems Solved.

3. The Independence Day 'drama' in Sri Sathya Sai's presence - Part 4 - Happily Ever After

4. A dialogue with a kid

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Hatsh bihani on July 31, 2015:

Thank you

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 18, 2012:

@ Dubs - Thank you for that important perspective. Have added the point to the article as well.... :)

Dubs on August 18, 2012:


One very important point missed in the 'Kulwant Hall vs Hostel Drama' debate was this, in filmi lingo, a date problem -

The hostel independence day drama was fixed much in advance. Resources [hardware (set guys,etc) and software (scripting,actors)] were being set to place. The main point of contention was not whether one should be dropped in favor of the other, but rather given a few guys had already signed up for the hostel drama, they should execute it at the high standards they had set. Given that the 'mandir/kulwant hall' drama was pitched much after 'hostel' drama and was already off-the-blocks in terms of start and preparation, there were genuine issues like - 'poaching or exodus' given Swami's immediate physical presence for the mandir drama .

The issue was - irrespective of Swami's physical presence as an audience, both the dramas should hit high benchmarks.

The main issue was about working out resource allocation and optimisation among both the dramas thus pre-empting discord and setting the bar really high in each of the efforts. Really valuable life-lessons - of setting the standards high and achieving that against odds.

(PS - I was among the 'core' team at the hostel drama) ;)

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 16, 2012:

@Prem -

Rightly said bro! We can only live and relive the experiences of our lifetime and ensure that He goes on as our heart goes on... :)

Prem Arora on August 15, 2012:

Sai Ram Aravind bro,

Thanks for bringing back memories of the good old days...I really miss the time we spent with Swami. I wonder how many janamas it would take to have such an opportunity of spending days after days in His company, in the only heaven that I have known; will we ever have such a chance again - in life or in afterlife.

- Prem

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 15, 2012:

@ Imaginationcorner (Sai Santosh) - I too had same illusions when I joined... It is a mini-world there and that is why the hostel is a beautiful training ground for life...

Sai Santosh from knoxville, USA on August 15, 2012:

Haha! yes, perhaps 'politics' is not the right word. I meant to say I always thought the life in the hostel is very 'ideal' unlike student in the outside world(no disrespect intended..). Look forward to the next part.

-Sai Santosh

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 15, 2012:

@ ChitrangadhaSharan - Thank you.. Please visit the next two parts too which should be posted .....

@ Imagination corner - I would not term what happens as 'politics'!! These ego-battles take place everywhere and evolution is all about removing this 'i' and moving to the 'I' which is the divinity inherent in all of us. As you will see in the coming parts, Swami so beautifully teaches lessons in a manner that none of us ever forget.

It is a nice episode you have narrated... Thank you...

Sai Santosh from knoxville, USA on August 15, 2012:

Sai Ram Aravind,

This is an interesting episode! though I am surprised to read about the "politics" in the hostel! I always thought the boys lived in utmost harmony and peace in parthy :). The 'dis-agreements' are also HIS divine play to enable us to let go of the 'ego' while working in a 'team' environment. I had experienced similar issues too while working as a 'Trayee boy' in 2003/2005.

I am reminded of a similar anecdote from the diaries of Dr. John Hislop and I heard this experience directly from Mrs. Phyllis Krystal in 2010. Here it is;

Some time during the 80's Dr. John Hislop was present at parthy, along with bunch of young adults from USA. Mrs. Phyllis was also part of this group. Sometime during their stay, the youth of the group revolted and expressed their concerns about one particular lady who was getting much attention from Swami. According to the youths, this lady disobeyed most of the rules of the ashram (with respect to discipline), and yet she was getting so much attention from Swami! Whereas the youths had to follow all the rules! this seemed unfair to them

Dr. John Hislop came to know about this and was little restless as to how to tackle this tricky situation. Nonetheless, the USA group thought Dr. Hislop would be the best person to speak about this to Swami as he enjoyed the close physical proximity of Swami.

So one fine day along with the group Dr. John Hislop was ready with his question. Swami descended from the mandir and went straight up to Dr. John Hislop and mischievously asked him 'Hislop..I think you have a question for me?' :) .. Dr. Hislop jumped at this golden opportunity and expressed the concerns of the youth .. Swami simply smiled and replied(I don't remember the exact answer).. that this was HIS divine way of bringing out the inherent negative qualities of 'jealousy, anger' etc.. as these experiences would enable the youths to work on them, instead of burying/denying them.

Not sure if this was related to your hub, but just thought of sharing. Sai Ram.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 15, 2012:

Truly Inspiring and interesting!

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 15, 2012:

@ Remaniki - Hi to you too! Thank you for your appreciative comment. Let me say, it is also my privilege to meet you. I shall tell you why.

As you rightly said, faith, belief and devotion are all personal. While I have chosen Sri Sathya Sai Baba as my God based on my experience, everyone is free to choose his/her own God or simply choose none at all. But many times I see people not liking other people simply because their faiths or beliefs do not match. Thank you for your open-mindedness and I feel very nice getting to know such people.

As for my life, I have had innumerable experiences from 1996 with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. So I pen them down here as they have been recorded in my diaries.

Very happy that you enjoyed reading them. Hope to see you more often... I too am going to go through your hubs... :) A person with your spirit is bound to write about nice things...

poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on August 15, 2012:

Just finished watching the video. The actors made it look like as though they prepared for months to present this play! If you are still in contact with "Dadaji" please convey my awestruck admiration for remembering & rendering the long dialogues at ease. Better late than never to wish!..Well done to your entire production team!!!

Rema T V from Chennai, India on August 15, 2012:

Hi Aravind,

Excellent hub. Had me reading from the first to the last sentence non-stop. I loved the description of Bharat and Bharatiya. Great hub indeed! To be very honest I am not sure about what to say about Sri Sathya Sai Baba (as he is considered God by many as you mentioned) but I agree that his exemplary service to mankind has been remarkable. I respect him for his one-religion and one-God preachings and his love for humanity.

I want to mention something special about this hub (and it may apply to all your other hubs too). Your use of the English language is extra ordinary. I am impressed. I am a true fan of yours. Keep writing and good luck! Sharing this hub for its valuable content. Cheers, Rema.

hema b on August 15, 2012:

exciting, inspite of knowing.....thrilling.....waiting

poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on August 14, 2012:

Very interesting read ! The seasoning you have added in recreating this dish is just perfect ;)

Aarthi on August 14, 2012:

So that is the video that has been put up on the Radio Sai web site. :) I could see you seated in front, bro. :) Pls put up the next 2 parts also soon. Don't keep us in suspense like this.

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