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And the best friend award goes to...

Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.

A best friend should be for life... and beyond too.

A best friend should be for life... and beyond too.

The question about a best friend

“Who is your best friend?”
This is a question that I have been asked ever since I started attending kindergarten. Am sure this would be the experience for many others too. Some might have been asked the same even as they started speaking! Somehow, whether it is out of genuine interest or as a way to make conversation, the enquiries about the best friend are made.

As far as I am concerned, “My best friend is Prabal Patel” soon changed into “My best friend is Prajackta” and again changed to “My best friend is Sumesh” in the first dozen years of my life. And then the names have kept changing. I often wondered about how can ‘best friends’ change. The term ‘best’ is a superlative meaning that none is higher than the subject it denotes. Then, how can one change ‘best friends’ in such a rapid succession?

That question came along several others too which arose as corollaries - on how can a best friend hurt me or how could a best friend not understand me to something or even something as ridiculous as how a best friend does not know my likes and dislikes. When I look back at my life today, it has been one long search for a best friend. And this search has often taken me along thorny paths which have bruised my ‘so(u)le’! But it is with great satisfaction that I say,
“I have found my best friend.”
“And pray who is that?”

That, is the subject of this hub! And like my most wonderful Master, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I shall just relate the story and allow the experience and message to flow by themselves.

The Special card

It was sometime in the summer of 2002 that I came across a wonderful card in an Archie’s store. It had a very catchy title that said, “101 reasons why you are my best friend.” It was an elaborate card and had three folds. It opened up to almost 2 feet in width because it contained 101 statements. I stood by the shelf reading out to myself the various reasons listed there and I could not help but smile within myself. Some of the points definitely reminded me of my ‘homeopath’ best friend of those days. I thought of buying that card and gifting it to her.

However, my ego came in the way that day. I felt that I should not make someone my best friend unless that other person too made me her/his best friend. Also, many points in the card did not exactly fit her. Thus, the card remained with me.

(I know that there will be many who are curious to know the contents of the card. I have provided a listing of all the 101 reasons of the card for the curious reader to visit and read. And once you read them all, you will definitely agree that it is not easy to gift the card to someone just like that.)

The card’s incredible journey

After that day, the card was always with me, in my baggage. I was a student at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. When I joined the hostel there, I made many friends. And once again, I got a best friend. I decided to gift the card to Hemant on his birthday as I felt that he was a true friend for me. Days before his birthday, I found another card which I felt described him much better. A year or two later, I felt that the card was apt and perfect for Sathya Lars, another very close friend of mine who I felt was my best friend. And once again, I felt that all the things that the card said was not applicable for him. So, I just copied down the few things that were applicable on a new card and gave that to him.

I don’t think I should bore the readers with more details on three other ‘best friends’ that I wanted to gift this card too and somehow, at the last minute, decided against it. Whatever I described till now is just to illustrate how wrong I had been several times in my life about the choice of a ‘best friend’. Each ‘best friend’ seemed to last only for a couple of years. While this will not be the case with everyone, I am sure all will be familiar with this kind of 'friend-change' or ‘friend-upgrade’!

In this way, years passed. As I was rummaging through my books in R2 D5 (the room allotted to me in Prasanthi Nilayam), the card landed in my hand. The cover had yellowed and mellowed with age. I smiled for I knew that finally I had found the perfect recipient. 6 years and 6 possible ‘best friends’ later, I felt that I had finally found the perfect person to whom I should gift the card - Amey Deshpande. Today, I consider Amey as my own brother gifted by Swami for he understands me so well and has a special way of cheering me when I am down. December 23rd is his birthday and I felt that finally, the card would be given to a worthy friend.

Amey progressed far ahead compared to the other friends in the sense that I even wrote his name on the card. I wrote a header - “Dear Amey” but did not add any footer for I felt that nobody needs a reminder to know who has given them such a feeling-filled and friendship-laden card! I also wrote a letter to accompany the card. In that letter, I wrote down the 6-year history of the card; about how I had considered various people to gift the card to and how I had finally decided that he was the perfect one to receive the card. Happy with myself, I put the card and letter in a cover, kept it by my bed and went to sleep.


Reality Bites

It is said that while man proposes, God disposes. Swami has often emphasized that God alone is the true friend. He keeps telling all the students, even when they are 6-year olds at Primary School,
“All are brothers and sisters. But God alone is your true friend. True happiness comes from union with God alone.”

I had heard this statement and had used it in many speeches too. But apparently, the point had not been driven home into my heart. I still was a vagabond for worldly friendship. Swami decided that it was high time that I learnt a few lessons in true friendship which can be obtained only from the Divine. And just like the goldsmith hammers and burns the gold till it shines, the Lord too seems to deliver blows and fiery heat only to make us shine in the spiritual splendour of our inner selves. In fact,I remember a very beautiful snippet here.

The gold asked of the Goldsmith,
“How long will you beat and heat me? When will you stop? How will I know that am shining in the splendour that you want me to?”
THe Goldsmith replied,
Bangaroo (literally meaning ‘gold’ in Telugu - a term often used in endearment), I shall not heat you and beat you even for a moment more than necessary. I will know you are ready when am able to see you reflect my image in yourself.”
And thus, I am ready for my Divine Smithy always!

Coming back to the main story, I walked up to Amey the next day and wished him a happy and holy birthday. I gifted him THE card and his first response was,
“Why all this? There is no need for cards and all that stuff.”
I glared back at him. He had no idea of the greatness, grandeur and significance the card held for me. I said,
“Just take it and open it at your leisure.”
We then walked together to the Radiosai Studios and talked late into the night. And when Amey finally left for the hostel (he is a teacher in the Institute now, he was a research scholar then), he left without taking the card with him! He had forgotten! I was shocked... and hurt.

I thought that I would wait for him to call me and say that he had forgotten the card I had given him. But that never happened and I felt so let down. Today, I realize that all this was divine design to teach me a most important lesson but on that day, I was very disappointed. I waited for the night to pass and on the 24th of December, 2008, I called Amey in the morning.
“Good morning man...”
“Good morning...”
The morning sounded almost like mourning to me. That is the great secret of life - you get what you hold within!
“So, how do you think your birthday went off yesterday?”
“Pretty much the same like any other birthday. Well, after all it is just another day.”
I felt the disappintment rising in my heart.
“Any special cards or gifts that you got?”
“Nothing man... The same... the usual”

My heart sank! He had not even registered the fact that he had forgotten my card which was THE CARD! A tear trickled down my cheek and and I sat, not knowing what to do or say, I went blank. In that blank silence, I heard my heart speak,
“God alone can be your best friend. Nobody else...”

That hit me like a giant truck. All these years, I had thought and spoken about that statement but had never realized its practical import. And now, I knew what had to be done. My heart was guiding me on everything that had to be done. In this autopilot mode, I took a pen and added ‘Sw’ in front of the word ‘Amey’ and then, overwrote the ‘ey’ at the end till it became just a ‘y’. Thus, with two changes, the ‘Amey’ on the card read as ‘Swamy’. .

That was the truth wasn’t it for it was the ‘Swamy’ in ‘Amey’ that had actually given me all the love and friendship? I had foolishly made the mistake of trying to quench my thirst with the tap rather than with the water!

Thus, I decided that the best friend award goes to God. What happened at the ‘Award-Ceremony’ will unfold in the second part of this article which you can rush to and read at

PART 2 of this story is available if you click the below link:

God is the best friend.

God alone is the best friend. So all the 'best friend' letters ought to go to Him.

God alone is the best friend. So all the 'best friend' letters ought to go to Him.

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prithvi on December 19, 2012:

aravind anna sairam!

swami has always been my best friend and i am really fortunate that he made me realize it so soon in my life,he is the only one who sticks with me in the good and bad times and he safeguards all my secrets :)

Deepa Venkitesh from Kochi, India on December 15, 2012:

Thanks Aravind, I also realized a long time ago that only Swamy is and ever will be my best friend as this deepens with life and age, I know now that why he is so because we are all but reflections of HIM. we all look at our reflections in the mirror some time every day- is it not, when we feel swamys presence and look at him , we are but looking at him and experience the love, so we are HIM. I hope I have not bored you, sairam on December 12, 2012:

Very cute and sweet presentation.pray to lord that your friendship grows deeper and deeper.Loved to read your to amey and your Best Friend........

Scroll to Continue

Madhavi Alapaty on December 11, 2012:

Dear Aarthi, You have summed up excellently what i go through in everyday life..thank you !!.

Madhavi Alapaty on December 11, 2012:

Dear Aravind, You always know what to say at the right time for me..Always love SWAMI for that. Whenever I have questions for SWAMI or felt let down by things happening around me, I end up reading an article on your BLOG where I feel that SWAMI is giving me my message through your articles. I also feels that HE is guiding me by making me read your experiences so I can connect to them and get answers from within.

Lately for some time I feel like I betrayed by everyone(even by my close friends) and that I am friendless these days. I have been asking SWAMI ‘please show me a good friend who can understand me for whatever I am’. Immediately an inner voice speaks to me ‘GOD is the only friend and keep your thoughts on HIM’. But as a human being as I am and the maya covers my intelligence from time to time, I listen to HIM and after some time, again I start asking HIM the same question. I now strongly believe that I am on a right path and that I should keep HIM as my close friend and concentrate on building that relationship with HIM and be worthy of HIS friendship Thanks again for sharing such beautiful experiences!! Waiting to read the next part…

chandra banu on December 11, 2012:

As usual X'lent bro. and I agree with u totally. Eagerly waiting for the next part. Jai Sai Ram

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 11, 2012:

@ Aarthi - I can only keep nodding at all that you say.

"Nobody even comes a close second" - That statement needs a lot of experience and conviction to state. I totally subscribe to it.

@ Srikanth - Thank you! :)

@ Shruti - I know you have heard this story at least 10 times. Good that you read it again.

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 11, 2012:

@Mr.Happy - I agree with what you say about worldly friendships depending on cultures. There is one fact however - such friendships which last a lifetime are based on something beyond the body and the mind. There is no expectation and there is a lot of love and understanding. That happens only at the spirit/Atmic/Divine level. When we are able to see beyond the body and mind, at the spirit embodied (which is the same in all irrespective of the name we give it), we are able to be a true friend.

Thank you for your loving comment. And you have summed it up so perfectly -

"if You want friends whom will never disappoint You in any way, ones with flesh are not always perfect - Wakan Tanka is."

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on December 11, 2012:

@ Maria - I feel a lot for you dear Granny! Isolation can get real killing. You say that you feel that since you have none around you. Trust me, I have felt isolated in spite of a crowd existing around me! That was the reason I sought out God's friendship - because that is the ONLY PERMANENT one according to my experience. It is up to our spiritual growth to grow out of ISOLATION into SOLITUDE. I shall keep you in my prayers as always and you too keep me in your prayers.

Shruti on December 10, 2012:

Hahahahaha…. I remember this story!…. Now when I think of this…. apart from me hearing laughter in my head :P…. It is such a blessing to have witnessed this!

Srikanth on December 10, 2012:

Thanks Barru.. honest and heartfelt writings are always inspiring..

Aarthi on December 10, 2012:

Beautiful! Eager to read the next part!

Swami has His own customized ways for each of us -- to hammer us, chisel us, and shape us. Over the years, even I have come to realize that only Swami can be my 'BEST' friend and that nobody else can come even a close second, for He is always there, listening patiently to all that I say.

I keep grumbling to Him, I keep fighting with Him, I cry to Him, I cry for Him, I yearn for Him, and I share with Him so many things. Well, it's like carrying your best friend wherever you go because He's within each of us. Sometimes, I don't even have to pray to Him or write a letter to Him. He just instantly knows and does what is required.

The reassurance of having Swami as 'THE BEST FRIEND' is matchless but of course, this wisdom takes a lot of time to come by for each of us. :) We have to go through seemingly painful incidents in our life where we feel we are 'hurt' by friends, esp those whom we consider so spl and close. But later, we realize Swami has planned these experiences for us to make us realize that all worldly relationships are transient and we can never expect anybody to perfectly reciprocate what we want them to. Only Swami can love us and accept us unconditionally. As they say, 'a true friend is one who knows all about you but still loves you'. I feel that statement is true only of Bhagawan :)

Thanks for sharing your experience Aravind. I'm sure the next part would be enjoyable as well.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 10, 2012:

I am lucky to have had several very close friends for ... decades really - I just celebrated twenty years knowing one of my very good friends whom I consider like a brother.

It depends on cultures too, the issue with friends. It is said that the English man, will have many friends over the course of a lifetime. Depending on where he or she lives, works, goes to school and so on: friends change with places and such. On the other hand, for the Italian man a friend lasts forever: a friend is for life. I am of the latter breed: of Latin heritage and I do not have many friends but my friends are family, forget best friends - it's La Familia. : )

I enjoyed your story and of course, if You want friends whom will never disappoint You in any way, ones with flesh are not always perfect - Wakan Tanka is.

May Light always shine your path!

Maria on December 10, 2012:

Your life being so blessed having been filled with God's personal presence it this realization had to evolve. Living as I do in an isolate place, any friend may be a wonderful needed gift . To call someone a best friend is a personal choice likely to change over time. Living alone often for many days without seeing anyone nor receiving a single phone call the arrival of a kind soul I now consider is very precious in my old age . One personal visitor, or just a call dare I say can make my day if not the whole week. It certainly depends where we are on our life's path...

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