Rangarajan Rajamani is a former student of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prashanthinilayam, between 1997-2002. He completed his Masters in Chemistry. During his stay in Prashanthinilayam, Rangarajan was blessed by Bhagwan to be a part of the bhajan group. He is currently in Chennai working in a large IT services organization.
In His 90th Birthday address to devotees, Bhagawan heralded the advent of the Sathya Yuga – an aeon where Divine Love would reign supreme over humanity. Coming from Bhagawan, it had to be true. But my flitting mind questioned what Bhagawan possibly meant by speaking of the new era that had just clocked in. My mind was conjuring up many meanings about this yuga of love. He is full of love and so all He sees around Him must look good too, I thought. But as always, Bhagawan had His own timeline to unveil the context and import of His words to me. His words spoke up and revealed themselves to me during the seva I was privileged to be a part of during the recent rescue operations for the flood affected people in the city of Chennai.
The rains that woke up a city
December 01, 2015 was definitely a watershed day for Chennai, both literally and figuratively. The city received an unprecedented 100-year high rainfall that submerged more than 70 per cent of it as well as the North-Eastern parts of the state of Tamil Nadu. It caused severe damage to homes, offices and public infrastructure. Many were left homeless overnight, and at the mercy of the largesse of the fortunate few who managed to escape the deluge. Outshining this gloom and melancholy however was the aura of service and selflessness that youth of the city demonstrated.
A few days leading to this catastrophe, I was bed-ridden with viral fever. My eyes were swollen so much so that I couldn’t even open them. While the reports on the effects of rain left me with a morbid feeling, it somewhat overshadowed my sickness. And that I was unable to contact and enquire about the well-being of my parents, who lived in one of the flood-affected areas and were cut-off from communication made it even worse. As I lay in bed, my thoughts kept centering on what I could to; I felt powerless. But the urge to go and attend to my parents’ safety got the better of me, as I set out in the rains, unmindful of my allergies and viral infection.
This decision of mine proved to be a turning point as during the course of visiting my parents’ residence, I came face-to-face with reality. I saw thousands of volunteers step out of their homes to rescue unknown and stranded citizens. Human chains dotted the landscape of Chennai. Every street was filled with volunteers, carrying something or the other – food packets, biscuits, first-aid kits, help tools. And that ones that were empty-handed, carried hope for the stranded millions.
I wondered… These young boys and girls were not all Bhagawan’s devotees. For that matter, most of them might not have had any exposure to any spiritual organisation. Yet, they were all there, driven and impelled by the only thought of helping those in need. Every house contributed to the rescue operations in some way or the other. Those who could run, ran and took the relief materials to far off places. Those who could cook, cooked. Five-year olds, ninety-year olds alike; age wasn’t a bar for the motivated. Everyone participated in this Chennai relief. Those who could not help due to their own limitations, encouraged and motivated others into doing more.
I was so very amazed witnessing the downpour of love all over the city. Relief operation of this magnitude needs absolute planning and precise implementation. But in such a crisis situation for a city of Chennai’s size, who had made plans? Who was there to guide? But then as if divinely ordained, things happened. Initially, I had thought to tag along with a local Sai Samithi to help. But that worked only for one day. Later on, I just went along with volunteer groups from largely unknown circles. What’s more, my entire family chipped in. We prepared food, procured materials and just went to the streets. I realised how good ideas were being accepted without much ego. We were guided by so many like-minded youths on the way. “Go to Iyyappanthaangal; they need food”, “Take blankets to Kotturpuram”, “Reach the biscuits to the orphanage in Alwarpet”. Those who had the willingness to help, found a way to do it. All that we had to do was to take the first step. There was such an aura of selflessness all around Chennai.
One act of kindness creates an endless ripple
I didn’t know the value of what I was doing till I helped connect one of our Sai Brothers with his family. His parents had to go to the terrace of their house as the lower floor was completely flooded. They couldn’t connect with their younger son who was staying just a few streets away. Their elder son was in Bangalore and could not reach either of them. And I knew the importance of having the peace of mind that our loved ones are safe in such a calamitous environment, as my concern for my parents’ safety was the starting point. Since mobile networks were down, I recorded the mother’s voice and sent it to the Sai brother in Bangalore, assuring him of their safety. The tears shed by the mother when I asked her to record her voice moved me beyond reason! I realised I was not just a conduit carrying supplies, but hope, relief and love too.
This entire exercise brought about a sea of thoughts within me. I was a witness to so many known, unknown, organised, and hurriedly-put-together groups and organisations which came forward to restore hope and normalcy in Chennai. My mind immediately remembered Bhagawan’s declaration of the onset of Golden Age! How true was He when He said, “All are one family”. Ever since Bhagawan started interacting with devotees in His subtle form, He has been reinforcing the need to transcend such man-made boundaries. Service has to reach the needy irrespective of a person’s faith in theological dogmas, and here in Chennai, I was a witness to this transformative undercurrent in the rescue works.
“Transformation of human hearts is the primary purpose of My advent”, Bhagawan would often say. I felt fortunate to witness and understand this transformation in the hearts of individuals in the aftermath of Chennai floods. The goodness in people – irrespective of their differences in caste, religion and cultures – had united them to bring about a silent revolution of love.
And what about those who received help? Bhagawan places those who receive help at a higher pedestal than those who provide help due to the recipient’s lack of ego. I was really fortunate to witness that as well! Yes – there was chaos and mayhem when we went to certain areas. But they were very cooperative and understanding largely. It was their insecurity about their next meal that would sometimes project itself as anger. However, when we ran short of supplies, there was no hostility or anger. They knew we were doing as much as we could. In fact, most of the local navigation was done by the recipients. This helped us reach those who really needed help. The so-called victims stood tall in their magnanimity and equanimity, I soon realised. Never before had I seen such poise and grace amidst people who were hit badly by such natural calamities.
Help others and you will be helped
In the midst of all this hullabaloo, I had almost forgotten about my illness. Only when my father asked me if taking medicines helped, did it strike me that not too long ago I was bed-ridden. I humbly reminded myself that when Bhagawan wants His work done, He gets it done. It is His Vajra Sankalpa. And every time I felt I helped, I realised that it was really Him who was executing everything.
But nothing summarises the transformative work I witnessed better than this incident. When we were giving out biscuit packets to children, a five-year old girl refused the second biscuit offered to her saying, “Uncle, I already got a packet. Please don’t give me another. Instead give it to others, who didn’t even get one. I am not greedy”. We were all left speechless. As students, when Bhagawan would send us out for participating in numerous service camps, our motive was just to see the smile and happiness on Bhagawan’s face. But now I realised how beautifully He was teaching me to seek satisfaction from the smiles and happiness of the people we could help. I realised that this service gave me an opportunity to please Bhagawan in the guise of the many recipients.
It brought out the essence of the statement, “I am not just this body” in a whole new light. Isn’t this verily the Sathya Yuga!