When the Divine Director scripts your story, it can be nothing but perfect. The story of Sri S Kalyanaraman is one such, suffused with divine benediction and guidance.
Born in a small village in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu, Sri S Kalyanaraman worked as an Electrical Engineer for the Tamil Nadu State Electricity Board before retiring in the year 2008. He came to Swami’s fold in the late 1960s and has since dedicated his life to serving his Lord.
He has been a dynamic sevadal, with his day starting in the early hours for Nagarsankirtan, teaching yoga to children and devotees alike, filling the day with seva activities, bhajans and ending the day guiding the devotees in Jyoti Meditation. Kalyanji, as he is often addressed by his devotee friends, has played a key role in the village Balvikas and transforming the young minds into becoming active Sai Youth messengers.
I belong to a devout, simple family, hailing from a small town called Thiruvarur in Tamil Nadu. It was October 1969, when I was just about 18 years old, that I first heard about Sai Baba – the God man from Puttaparthi. My elder brother, a few friends and I immediately decided to visit Puttaparthi. But as luck would have it, due to some unforeseen circumstances, none of them could accompany me. So I set out on my own, on my maiden visit to Puttaparthi. Little did I know that my life was about to change, and in ways I could have never imagined!
Swami makes His entry
It was only divine benefaction that in my very first visit to Parthi, He blessed me with a personal interview. It is still fresh in my mind how Bhagawan pointed out the bad company and the bad habits I then indulged in! It was a secret, known only to me! No one, not even my family members knew about it. But here was the Lord telling me about it. I was stunned to silence. He advised me to give up the bad company. I couldn’t help but submit to Him, instantaneously. I felt in my heart that I belonged to Him, and He became my father, strict yet compassionate, who wished only well for me. But my submission to His love didn’t last long. After I returned, I couldn’t change much. I could not push away my ‘friends’, however hard I tried.
A year later, in 1970, I had another opportunity to visit Puttaparthi. It was during Dussehra, and this time too I was fortune to get an interview. The Divine Father started with where He left off last time, admonishing me as to why I still hadn’t given up the bad company. I felt ashamed of myself. He then pulled me near, lifted my shirt and applied Vibhuti all over my stomach. By now I was moved to tears. He then looked at me and asked, “What do you want?” I gathered courage and said, “Swami, I want to be with You here (Puttaparthi) only”. Swami’s response to my earnest plea was simply beautiful. He said, “I am here only (placing His hand on my chest)”. What more could I ask for! Placing my faith in my divine Father, and with a heart filled with renewed vigour to mend my ways, I returned home. But this time, only to find that my old friends had moved away on their own. However hard I tried, I could not find out where they had vanished. And as Bhagawan had wished, my bad habits too vanished instantly.
Inspired to lead a life of service
After these two experiences, I never got an interview again though I kept visiting Puttaparthi. But I knew the two loving encounters with the divine was enough to keep me inspired for life.
I had found a new meaning to life – my aim in life now was to serve Him and I took every opportunity that came my way to be a part of the many seva activities and became a sevadal. By His grace, I was blessed with many opportunities to serve Him like forming the Sai Samithi in Mannargudi in 1971. During the 50th Birthday Celebrations (in 1975), Swami gave me an opportunity to help in the construction of the Poornachandra Hall. My responsibilities only kept growing with years. Later on, with His blessings, I was made the Convenor of Mahalakshmi Nagar Samithi, Chennai. I was entrusted with the task of constructing a Mandir for Swami in Mahalakshmi Nagar during this period. On the 19th December, 2003, the Mandir, Sai Brindavanam, was inaugurated.
Life is always full of twists and turns. But if we entrust our lives in the hands of God, He steers your life under His protective gaze. The next summer, in May 2004, I had gone to Parthi for my regular seva. After the seva got over, I came to Whitefield, Bangalore to seek Swami’s blessings. That fateful afternoon, while I was walking on the footpath in Whitefield, a vehicle toppled over me and I fell unconscious. I was rushed to the hospital, but only to be declared ‘difficult to revive’ due to the multiple blood tumours in the brain. But when God is your protector, what are mere tumours! Out of the blue, to the doctors’ surprise, I was revived. It was a medical miracle said the health professionals, but I knew it was a Sai Mahima in my heart.
Making the transition from Sthoola to Sukshma
Like most Sai devotees, it was a difficult period for me when Swami left His physical body in 2011. But I also kept wondering how Swami’s words about Him being around for 96 years could be false. My heart yearned to see Him again.
It was around this time that I heard about Muddenahalli. Just like how in 1969, the Lord had pulled me to Puttaparthi, He now pulled me to Muddenahalli. But this time around, I wasn’t alone. I went to Muddenahalli along with my Balvikas children from the adopted village. While Swami wasn’t in Muddenahalli at that time, just being in the ashram premises, breathing in the peaceful aura of the place, brought back loving memories of Swami. I could feel His presence there. I knew in my heart that He resides in Muddenahalli. I returned to Chennai a happier man, having found my Lord back.
Thanks to my daughters, who are alumnae of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Anantapur Campus, I got an opportunity to have a group interview with Swami in His subtle body in Muddenahalli. During the interview, Swami enquired about my health. I didn’t understand His question properly and started talking about the health problem another Sai brother in the Samithi was facing. To this, Swami said, “I am asking about your health.” He pointed to His head and said, “Accident”. I immediately realised that Swami was asking about my earlier accident. So I told Him about my brain surgery and thanked Him for saving my life. The same divine Father was expressing His concern for me. This realisation moved me to tears. Swami had earlier touched my chest and said He lived there; but this time, He touched His chest and said three times “I will take care of you”. What more could I ask for!! It cleared any doubt I may have had that it was indeed the indweller of my heart who was present in Muddenahalli in His Sookshma Swaroopa.
Renewed vigour for Seva
After this divine rendezvous with the Lord, I decided that seva for Swami shall henceforth be my way of life. After seeking Swami’s blessings, I started the Sevaamrutham-Breakfast Seva at Tambaram, Chennai. While there was initial enthusiasm from volunteers, it didn’t fructify into action. I was distraught. Around the same time, Swami was visiting Dubai. My elder daughter, who stays there got an opportunity to seek Swami’s guidance about the breakfast seva. She told Him how it wasn’t materialising and there were challenges both in terms of people and resources. Swami heard her out and said emphatically, “Don’t expect people or contribution. Ask your father to go with a biscuit packet and distribute. Gradually, new members will join”. I followed the divine command implicitly. Along with a Balvikas student from an adopted village (Pattukottai Azhagiri Nagar, a village near Mahalakshmi Nagar, Chennai), I went with biscuit packets to Erikkarai village. And, within a day of biscuit distribution, volunteers started to actively join in! Soon, cookies changed to cooked food, and seva grew manifold. Swami’s words were coming true in front of my eyes and I was filled with gratitude to Him for giving us all such a beautiful opportunity to serve Him.
Seva is complete only when it transforms hearts. The older Bal Vikas children from the adopted village came forward and offered to help in the breakfast seva!
Sathya Sai – A Silent Listener to every conversation
Swami was present in His subtle body in Muddenahalli, but He was also the indweller of all our hearts. Once, during the Athi Rudra Maha Yagna that was organised in Muddenahalli, a fellow devotee from Kerala and I were having a conversation. I suggested he request Swami to start breakfast seva in Kerala. While he was interested, I didn’t realise that he was a little hesitant to ask Swami directly. But the Lord knew! Just before getting into His car, Swami told him to start breakfast seva in Trivandrum.
Again, during the same period, another friend and I were discussing about yoga and meditation while doing service in the Yagna store. We had some doubts. And in the evening, Swami in His discourse talked about the importance of Yoga and Meditation giving us more clarity on the topic.
Another time, I simply remarked to a friend of mine that if Swami ever came to Chennai, he should help translate my speech into English if I got an opportunity to speak. I told Him that he might also be given an opportunity to translate Swami’s speech to Tamil. My friend, playing along with my imagination, replied that he didn’t know Telugu. But in December 2015, when Swami did visit Chennai, my imagination was brought to life. While I got an opportunity to speak in Swami’s presence, my friend not only translated my speech into English but also Swami’s discourse into Tamil. To help him, Swami spoke in English itself!
While these are just small incidents, it strengthened my faith that He was listening to every conversation of mine. It reconfirmed His Omnipresence to me, and made me aware to be watchful of every word I utter, or even think, as He is always listening.
Divine downpour in Chennai
During the Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam at Muddenahalli, Swami blessed the Sevaamrutham-Tambaram group and said that He would be visiting Tambaram. At that time, I was an active member of the Sathya Sai Samithi at Mahalakshmi Nagar and was given the opportunity to take care of the painting and a few reconstruction works at the Sai Mandir. But as soon as I finished the work there, I was released from all Samithi responsibilities because of my frequent visits to Muddenahalli. On hindsight, I now realise that this too was Swami’s doing.
The Lord works in mysterious ways and everything that happens to us, happens as per His will for us. Later, when Chennai was affected by floods and its fury had devastated many a household, His plan unfolded. Moved by the plight of the suffering, Swami decided to extend His help, support, love and care to the flood affected people in Chennai, Cuddalore and surrounding areas, and came to visit Chennai. Bangalore volunteers poured in to help their fellow brethren with relief items carefully packed in carton boxes.
On 18th December, 2015, Swami in His divine discourse said, “Poor Kalyanaraman, he was looking after a small mandir. Now, I am giving him a bigger ashram to look after. How can I fill in when the hands are full? That’s why I emptied his hands to give him bigger responsibility”, indicating that it was by His will alone I was discharged of my duties in the Samithi. He then gave me the responsibility to help in building the Seva Ashram in Tambaram. He said that the ground floor will have a Primary Health Care Centre, the middle floor a Prayer Hall for Bhajans and the third floor will be for the Divine Residence along with that of the dignitaries who will accompany Him. He also gave me the responsibility for the housing project – 100 houses to be built in Cuddalore for the flood affected people.
Incidentally, 19th December was also the anniversary date when Mahalakshmi Nagar Samithi was inaugurated. And my Divine Father kept me with Him throughout that day, asking me to accompany Him wherever He went. While at some level, not participating in the inauguration activities of the Samithi did disturb me, He filled my heart with much more than I had ever asked for! I was moved by His love. Swami alone knows and understands the feelings in His children’s hearts.
I am now living my dream life! Being chosen to be part of His mission is a boon and I pray to Bhagawan to help me in this mission. He is the giver, doer, contributor and the receiver. We are mere instruments in His hands. He is the Shirdi Sai, who came as Sthoola Sai for 85 years, and who has now come again as Sookshma Sai. He guided me then, and He continues to guide me now. From an ordinary boy from Thiruvaroor to taking responsibility of a big ashram in Chennai – He is the one who has transformed me. To this Divine Lord, this humble servant offers his life.