Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
An atmosphere soaked in music, a heart swelled with sorrow: this was the mood that Playback Singer K.S. Chitra owned while visiting Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba every time. Each visit was the result of salvation from previous births… and each song led to the Ocean of Milk – Sai Love!!!
(K.S.Chitra, popularly known as the “Nightingale of South India”, lends her voice in the South Indian Film Industry, whose foray into the field of playback singing earned her a distinct name in the Indian Music Industry. She has the rare distinction of highest number of national awards awarded to any female playback singer in India. She has also been conferred the prestigious “Padma Shri” by the Government of India in 2005, apart from winning several other state and national level awards) This article that was originally published in Dec 2009 is being republished now.
It was from my mother that I first began to hear about Swami. Her narrations of Sai Charitham and accounts about what she had heard about Swami brought me close to Swami very long ago. But a darshan was possible only years later.
That was when Swami had come to Chennai. At that time, for the function, Susheelamma (P. Susheela) asked me if I could sing a bhajan. It was the first time Susheelamma asked anything out of me and that itself was a happy incidence. I agreed immediately. Besides me there were Mano, Shailaja, Sunanda and many other singers as well. A special and close darshan was not possible that time but since the singers were allowed padanamaskaram I was fortunate to get it. That was my first darshan.
During that visit Swami stayed in ‘Nandanam’—a house next to famous Tamil heroine Anjalidevi Amma’s residence. Since Susheelamma had got permission for us singers alone to have one more darshan, the next day we waited for Swami. As we waited in that pin drop silence of expectation Swami walked in. And He spoke to everyone! He even joked!
The next darshan I got of Swami was during His birthday celebrations at Puttaparthi. It was a function where many artistes were participating in the name of national integration. M.S. Subbalakshmi, Pundit Jasraj, Kavitha Krishna Murthy and Parveen Sulthana were there.
It was during this visit that an unforgettable incident took place. I had started for Parthi without completing the recording of a song. The theme of the song was that of a woman angrily crying out to the gods who were going to take back the life of her husband. Hence, the ending of the song required exerted emotion where I had to sing very high. I was afraid that if I sang at that top note I would find it difficult to sing in front of Swami. So, I told the music director that I would sing the rest of the song after I returned.
That day, at Parthi, I sang for about 45 minutes. After singing, I bowed reverentially at Him and received the silk He gave me joyfully. “Why are you afraid to sing high?” He asked and surprised me by telling me to sing without any fear. Eminent personalities like M.S. Subbalakshmi were also present there.
Afterwards, I got an opportunity to sing Sai devotional songs for a Telugu album. It was with this album’s music director and producer that I got a chance to visit Parthi again. I sang before Him during this visit too. During that trip my mother’s memories weighed heavily upon me.
My mother had wanted to join me on my first trip to Parthi. But as she was suffering from heart disease the doctors refused to grant permission. Still, she was insistent, saying that if she was to die she was happy that it would be in Parthi. Yet, taking into account her health I did not let her accompany me. Then, when this next opportunity came to meet Swami she was no more. She would never accompany me again… pain gnawed me throughout the journey.
The next morning I was fortunate to have Swami’s darshan. The orchestra members who accompanied me were also there. He said, “Sad that you have lost everyone? Everything is for the good…” I felt peace enveloping, as if guilt was getting null. He continued, “You have something to tell me…” I did not answer. He repeated the question. Yes, there was a deep desire within me—to have a child. But how was I to ask for it there? My mind did not allow it. And then, as if reading my mind, Swami called the women alone to the inner room. Here, He repeated the question.
“I don’t have a child,” I said hesitantly. A hearty laugh was Swami’s immediate answer and then He said, “Want a child… the next time you come to see me you will bring your child also.” Then He materialized a chain from the atmosphere and presented it to me—a gold chain with a locket on which the word Om was written with white stones. He then blessed me: “Like the word Om let your sound fill the world…”
After that, somehow, it took very long for me to see Swami again. Usually, when Swami came to Chennai P. Leela (Chechi) used to inform me. But once I came to know of His visit only after He left. It was when my husband read from the newspaper and told me about it that I knew about the visit. Years later, when I knew I was to become a mother I still could not meet Him. After I had a child too I sent letters and faxes. There was no reply. Yet, I was happy. My mind was in bliss.
Then, once when Swami came to Chennai I saw Him from far. Swami looked from far, but I did not get close darshan.
Finally, it was for this year’s Onam that I went to Parthi and got Swami’s darshan. I sang 9 songs. Throughout, Swami was on stage. After singing He blessed me. He then called me and gave permission for Padanamaskar. He called my daughter and put a chain around her neck. He also allowed a group photo and blessed me with the permission of doing Aarathi during prasadam distribution. Then He said, “Come often.” “I’ll come whenever you call,” I replied.
(Originally published in “Devaragam”, Sathya Sai Birthday Supplement in Malayalam by Mathrubhumi Daily…translations by Ms Vidya K. Murkoth)
II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II