It was one of those moments when I had got lost in nostalgic reverie. Lying on my bed, I was recollecting so many beautiful moments that I had spent with my dear Swami (Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba). I remembered my first few darshans at Brindavan, Whitefield in 1992. Those were the days when I first started taking photos of Swami with a Yashica camera. So much had happened in my life after that and it was such a joy recollecting all the love and grace showered by the Lord on me. The thought that arose in me was this,
“Thank you Swami! You made me the apple of your eye. I never imagined that such good fortune would ever be mine... I am so grateful for this.”
Even as I spent happy time in company of my memories, the call for having lunch came for almost the fifth time.
“Aravind! Will you come and join us for lunch or should we begin without you?”
It was my mother and she always likes to dine together as a family.
“Am coming”, I screamed and woke up from my reverie. I rushed out of the room leaving behind my relaxes state and my dear bed. However, I could not let go of the thoughts that had been running through me. And so, even as we settled upon a sumptuous lunch, I looked at my dad and asked him,
“When you consider the relationship you share with Swami, what do you think of it?”
A gleam sparkled in his eyes. He began to mentally relive and cherish his memories with his Lord. After considerable consideration, he replied,
“I am the apple of Swami’s eyes! What more can I ask for?”
Hearing this, I was stunned! Both of us seemed to have had the same thought. The narrative that followed gave me another beautiful insight into the wonderful ways of the Lord. The insight I shall share later. First, I must share what my father revealed that day.
A memorable 18th ‘birthday’
In what could be considered as a ‘license to adulthood’, my father attained 18 years of age on the 22nd of May 1970. Though his birthday is actually on the 22nd of September, the earlier date had been given in school records to make him eligible for admission an year earlier. It was exactly on his 18th ‘birthday’ that Swami granted him an interview and materialized a silver ring for him. That, however, is subject of another story. Today’s story is about the day after that, the 23rd of May, 1970.
Swami had blessed a family with the rare opportunity to have the Upanayanam (thread ceremony) of their son done at His bungalow in Brindavan. Since the parents of the boy knew us (me and my eldest brother), they invited us also for the event. It was a gathering of nearly a hundred people in Swami’s bungalow and I was seated in the second row with my Rolleicord camera.
My father’s eldest brother is an ace photographer. Though he has toured extensively and intensively all over the country and to many parts of the world covering nature and wildlife, I consider his photography of Swami as his greatest achievement and privilege. He had been called for the above mentioned ceremony in the capacity of a photographer. And he had taken along with him, his ever-ready apprentice, my father! So, he was now seated as one of the guests as his elder brother was busy covering the event.
I too thought of shooting some pictures. I raised my camera and took a few pictures of Swami when He suddenly looked at me and said,
“There is no light here! How are you taking pictures.”
He was right. I had no flash and the pictures I was taking would surely be under-exposed. So, I simply put my camera down and sat seeing Swami. It was simply so wonderful to see Him from close quarters - and that too it was the day after my interview with Him!
God’s timing is always perfect
The Muhurtam (the perfect auspicious time) for the ceremony was still about an hour away. So, Swami rose from His seat and moved out. Time seemed to crawl and my father simply sat in his place waiting for Swami to come again. Have you noticed how time seems to fly when you are in the presence of Swami but it seems to stretch forever when you are waiting for Him? Weeks fly at a rapid pace when you are enjoying darshans daily but 2 years seem like 2 lifetimes when you are waiting to see Him!
The Muhurtam arrived and Swami had apparently not yet come. The priests who were present got a bit panicky. A few minutes before the appointed hour, Swami arrived and said,
“See! I am here. Not late, but in perfect time.” Everyone smiled. Who can deny the fact that God’s timing is always perfect?
The blessed boy
As the ceremony began and Swami blessed the boy profusely, I began to relive my own thread ceremony which Swami had performed in 1965. It was a flood of happy memories. From that flood came a stream of thoughts. I felt that the boy here was so blessed. When there were thousands gathered outside to have Swami’s darshan, Swami had decided to give His time for him! How fortunate! Even as I was thinking so, my thoughts were interrupted by Swami’s words,
“Hey! You are still here! You wanted to take a picture of me right? Come along with me.”
This was a bolt from the blue and my father rose to follow Swami. Swami went into the adjacent hall with my father behind. Then, He peeped into the adjoining rooms which were filled with people. He told my father,
“There are so many people here. Go out of the main door and come from behind. I shall meet you there!”
“Come in fast”, He called me.
I went into the room and Swami held me in a tight embrace. I felt so overwhelmed and I embraced Him back. Swami looked into my eyes and I looked into His. I wished that the moment would freeze forever. That magical moment was broken by Swami. But the words He spoke ring in my ears even today.
“Are you scared?”
“No Swami! Why will I be scared when you are with me?”
“Remember that throughout your life. You never need to fear for I am always near.”
Swami then continued speaking,
"See, there will lots of thoughts coming in the mind. Some will be dirty. Don't do anything about them. Let them just flow by in the same way as dirt flows away in a river. The purity of the river will not get affected..."
After that, He gently combed my hair and set it. He said something that convinced me of His nearness to me. He actually reflected what I had been thinking just a few minutes before.
“See! Thousands of people are waiting for me. There is also this thread ceremony that is going on. In spite of that, it is ONLY YOU that I am spending time with.”
I was left speechless. I was convinced beyond doubt that I was the apple of His eye. He continued to speak,
“Now come out. I shall fulfill your desire to photograph me.”
“Swami, but I do not have a flash. It is with my brother..."
“Go fetch it and come. Go fast now.”
As commanded, I rushed to my brother, took the flash. I did not tell him what was happening. I just told him that I would be back before Swami arrived. I ran to the back of the building. There was nobody there. I was wondering whether Swami would really come there. Even as I stood thinking, there was a slight noise and the door opened. And there stood Swami!
The most ethereal and beautiful photograph
Swami told my father to go out again and wait in the garden. He did so immediately. Swami came out through another door. It was such a wonderful and beautiful moment. It felt like the Garden of Paradise where man is in solitude with God! The rays of the morning sun and the mist that had not yet disappeared created a magical effect. Sadly, it was a ‘black & white’ film in my father’s camera because color films were very expensive those days.
However, as Swami posed and my father clicked, the image that came out is something that my family will cherish for centuries to come. And I know that my family across the globe too would cherish the same for centuries. Here is what Swami gifted my father.
As my father completed his narrative, I was struck by one beautiful and fantastic aspect of Swami. He has touched the lives of millions of people. And every person who has been touched by Him treasures the feeling that he/she is special for Swami. He/she is convinced that Swami has made him/her the apple of His eye. This omnifelicity is something that is only possible for the Divine. In our lifetimes, we can probably make a dozen people feel that they are very special for us. But Swami has done that to millions. Though He is considered as the Lord who arrived for the world, He means a world to each and every person He has touched. And each of those people consider themselves as very special for Swami.
This would probably be a good time for me to stop my rambling and allow the reader to get immersed in the joyful thoughts of how he/she has been the apple of His eye...
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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya
Chandanben on September 24, 2015:
Sai Ram Aravind. Swami loves us all equally so if you are the apple of his eye then so are we all. Have I ever experienced it? I've never thought of it like that. More of like special moments of realisation when he uses me as his instrument or when I got chances to touch his feet whether in dream or darshan line. You are a wonderful writer as well as a speaker turning us all into time-travellers. Thank you for that. Do I have permission to share your dad's photo? Please can you ask him for me?
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on August 16, 2015:
@Dimple - Thank you for sharing your experience... :)
Absolutely wonderful to read how Swami showed you that you are the apple of His eye..
Dimple on August 16, 2015:
AravindBhai, I have even felt this way post samadhi. Came to Parthi in July 2011 for my birthday. I still used my "Birthday privileges" to sit at the front and I thought if only Swami was here. Literally within seconds of thinking this I see all sevadal are going near the veranda (which was cordoned off as the Samadhi was being build) and they were all beaming saying Swami is giving Prasadam for the first time since April today. I was in awe! My Swami giving Prasadam to everyone for the first time on MY birthday. I can still recall now how emotional and happy I was that day. It was the best birthday ever.
Thank you for another wonder post
Pinky Garg on August 14, 2015:
Fantastic, He made all of us feel very special. You are right we all are apples of His eyes and pray to Him that we live up to His teachings.
Madhusudanvithal on August 14, 2015:
Sairam Aravind, lots of thanks for this beautiful narrative. When SWAMI is within us at all times or as HE says "inta venta janta untaanu", we are all apples of HIS eyes. Only we are not aware of it most of the time, so such events in your father's life or your life occur for awakening the truth. Best wishes and Love....:-)
Jagat Nani on July 30, 2013:
Sairam kano Arvinda,
nange nim appandu narration raheja maneayalli maadidu yella nenp bantu. Allu banto odbittu. Thumbha channagithu. Love u all and miss u all. Sairam.
Shiva on July 30, 2013:
It was great reading this and your writing is so good, wherein we feel as though we are experiencing it live. ALL SWAMI'S GRACE
Sudha Narayanan on July 30, 2013:
Sairam. It was such a joy to read. I feel like reading it again & again. WOW. Anybody would Love to get this jadoo ki jappi from our Mother Sai (all roles rolled into one) however only a few fortunate souls deserve this. No wonder all that Love & wisdom is rubbing off on you. I remember reading about one more devotee of Swami, Sh Bala Pattabhi (Swami, book by Ra Ganapathy). First time when he Swami, he was not even a devotee then. They go to chitravati sands, Swami takes him aside & just gives him one JKJP and tells him " I will never foresake you". That time Sh Pattabi could not even understand what Swami was saying. Later he faced so many difficulties in Life, but this stood him in life. WoW great. Many thanks for sharing this.
Sreenidhi on May 24, 2013:
How so true! Swami makes each one of us feel so special. He gives us the joy of owning Him! This is such a fantastic share! My loving sairams to uncle. This hub would be such a solace to some of us going through a rough patch of time and assure them that Swami is with them. All that is required is that you need Him to deserve Him. And for some of us, its the time to relive the beautiful times, He made us feel like apple of His eye and fill our hearts with gratitude and love. Thank you so much for sharing, anna
sainadh on February 09, 2013:
blessed are those who dedicate themselves to GOD and in return will be blessed by HIM wz an assurance that HE will be always with them.
lrao on January 31, 2013:
Aravind, thanks for your kindness in addressing my comment :). I hope you know i was writing only half seriously - have experienced enough and more of Swami's grace in my life in various forms and at various times. But sometimes I go through the 'I have a gripe' with Swami phase, because, frankly who else can we run to? and who else will listen to us as patiently? Like a child vying for its parent's attention, I too complain to Swami often, and loudly, that He is not listening to me. But, again like a child, I forget the next minute what my complaint was about, and I am happy to just gaze at him and bask in his presence.
As an aside - I have family members who had lot of personal attention from Swami, but moved away in later years and never went back. I have never had Swami talk to me or any other kind of personal attention (well, at least in physical form), but have been blessed to be constantly reminded of Him and his grace and his love day in and day out over the years. So..... reason I am writing this is - I often tell myself that I should be happy Swami is in my life throughout, even if he never talked to me or showed me any physical signs of his grace. But...SOMETIMES, depending on what kind of a day it is turning out to be, I forget and still gripe about the fact :). Once in a while. Hence my earlier comment today. Sorry for the long rambling comment.
Jahnavi on January 31, 2013:
Such a wonderful experience.. Thanks to your father for sharing this.
Reading some of the comments, bought this thought into my mind- some of us, may question am I really the apple of His eye? the answer may not be affirmative. But, I think the truth is, we feel this because most likely we confine God to be in a form, i.e. in Swami's form. Are we not the apple of our parents eyes? Are they not a form of God? When we stand at the beach and the waves touch our feet, do we not feel the wave rose just for us, is not the ocean God? Of course there are some of us, who have experienced this in His divine form, some of us in his Subtle Form(via dreams, visions etc) and some of us who have experienced this through His higher subtle form which is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipresent. it is upto us to realise it.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on January 31, 2013:
@lrao - I feel that it is a matter of keeping eyes and not missing.... We often miss God because he/she does not fit our concept of him/her! :)
Well, am not debating but Swami often says that God's grace, like rain falls on all equally. We should open our eyes and make efforts to see and feel it in our lives... :)
lrao on January 30, 2013:
I dunno. I think I would like to believe what you are saying. In theory what you say is true...but in this life, definitely some people get more proof of his individual attention than others?
Mark Aspa on January 30, 2013:
this has rendered me nearly 'replyless' - Swami embracing your Father...this is a very powerful event! many many thanks to him for allowing this to be shared.
Desire on January 30, 2013:
Yes Aravind, Swami is very special to each of us around the world. He shows us everyday how much He loves us and how much we are near and dear to Him..
Deepa Venkitesh on January 30, 2013:
Thanks for this memorable experience, swamy lives through all of us and is present in every atom. pranams to your father.
Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on January 30, 2013:
@ Anon - Definitely yes! Why Duryodhana, even a person who was considered as 'vile' by the world, Shishupala, received Lord Krishna's love in a manner nobody ever thought of! You can read this example at
There is a difference in Divine Love and Worldly love
@Jayanthi - This was in Brindavan, Bangalore and not in Prasanthi...
Jayanthi on January 30, 2013:
Awesome.The narration made me feel in Prashanti Nilayam all happening in front of me. What a photo!!!!!! Truly blessed.
Anon on January 30, 2013:
Does God treat every one of His devotee as an apple in His eye? I don't see it.. Hope this kind of devotee-God relationship happens with everyone.. How many are those lives where God has entered in the consciousness but has not influenced their ways! How many are living like Duryodhana who is aware of God, but can't act on His teachings! We can only pray that every breath of us has His fragrance, every step we take is only after His guidance! Rest is His will on what and how to confer!
Bharti on January 30, 2013:
Thank You for sharing such beautiful moments with us. Sai Ram
Aarthi on January 29, 2013:
Wonderful! :) Lovely to see both the pictures! I can imagine what your father must have felt like. No wonder he is so devoted to Bhagawan and that love runs throughout your entire family. Beautiful!
Jyoti badakere on January 29, 2013:
one of the most beautiful picture i have ever seen.......god bless u for sharing it with us
T.RAVIKUMAR on January 29, 2013:
So the shutter bug is in your DNA ! no wonder the fotoes are so nice. You have too a wonderful photographic memory i would love to have. God Sai Bless you brother.
Shruti on January 29, 2013:
Got goosebumps…. how many ever times I have heard this…. Its like fresh!…. Beautiful…. That too appa is the silent sort… he revealing this, it feels so awesome!...
Prashanth on January 29, 2013:
SaiRam Aravind . Wasn't aware that you are the 2nd generation Swami's photographer. Wonderful legacy you and your dad will be leaving for your future generations!
Maria on January 29, 2013:
Wow--yes, your whole family is so super lucky hence you can share such precious moments with all us physically very distant apples!
saisarannaga from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India. on January 29, 2013:
Yes, the last two lines are revealing the glory of Swami!
abhishek on January 29, 2013: