His First Speech on Baba

After coming to Baba in the Fifties, Prof Kasturi was for many decades the most entertaining and edifying exponent of Bhagawan’s life and message. But the first speech he had to give on Baba in 1951 was quite an ordeal. The following account of the incident, related in Prof Kasturi’s own inimitable humorous style, is reproduced from his autobiography, “Loving God”.

1951, December I received in the day’s mail a letter from Baba, in the Kannada language, but in Anglo Saxon script. I could neither read nor write the Telugu script and my understanding of the language was halting and inchoate. So, Baba had to devise this devious dualistic method of correspondence to communicate His orders. The letter made me both proud and penitent. It was a command clothed as a request. I was to unveil Bhagawan’s portrait at the School Day Function of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba District Board High School, Bukkapatnam! As a measure of abundant caution, Baba had written that my being given this golden chance was a precious piece of good fortune.

I felt ashamed that I could not speak Telugu, for the vast majority of people who gathered at Bukkapatnam that day could not be acquainted with English, and Kannada was for them Oriya or Esperanto. So, after accepting the assignment most humbly, I went over to Bangalore, confabulated with a Telugu teacher at the Fort High School and wrote down in Malayalam script the Telugu version of my Kannada speech, while he dictated it to me word by word. I reached Puttaparthi and placed the half boiled stuff before Baba. He laughed at my tremulousness and dismissed the manuscript. He said the speech should not be artificial; `it must be heartifcial’, He advised. So, I went back to Davangere, very much relieved. And also richer by one new English word!

The Bukkapatnam High School was Baba’s gift to the town which owes its existence and prosperity to the irrigation engineers of the XIV century A.D. (employed by Emperor Bukka of the Vijayanagar Empire) who selected the lie of the dykes near this place for an anicut across the Chitravati River. Baba was attending the “Middle School” at this place when He grew old enough to leave the “Primary School” at Puttaparthi. He had no need to be taught; He used His teacher, for teaching His mates and companions that wise men and elders should be revered. He used His mates and companions to teach the villagers that children should be treasured as potential guides and pillars of society. The “Middle School” which He frequented at Bukkapatnam was raised to the status of a High School, with the help of a sizeable donation from the Raja of Venkatagiri, who was drawn to Puttaparthi by a concatenation of mysterious happenings willed by Baba. Baba had to proceed Himself to Madras to contact the Chief Minister, and secure sanction for the High School. For, the `big man’ in charge of the Presidency had doubts whether the tiny speck on the map deserved that prestigious institution. There was another snag too, which had to be resolved whether the High School should be at the Eastern end of the anicut or the Western?

The Bukkapatnam High School was Baba’s first venture in promoting and patronising educational institutions for the young. It had the honour of being known by His Name. He was the President of the School Committee. He visited the School often and imparted constructive counsel to the Headmaster and other teachers. As part of the Birthday Celebrations Baba arranged every year a feast for the students of the School at Prasanthi Nilayam. He knew every boy by name as well as through his domestic background. His sympathy was profound and was expressed magnanimously in practice. He presented to the School a set of musical instruments so that a Band troupe could be formed for March Pasts, Rallies, Route Marches etc. They learnt to play Bhajan songs, whenever they assembled at the Nilayam. Mass Drill, with hoops, lazeem, and torches, were also presented by them at the Nilayam during festivals. He gave as Birthday Blessings uniform dresses for Harijan children. He equipped the School with furniture, a library, a sound system and a radio receiver with speakers. In fact, He nourished His School from birth and childhood and continued to be its Patron and President until it became one of the best High Schools in the District academically and otherwise.

A prophecy
The School Day was to be presided over by the Hon’ble Sri Koti Reddy, Revenue Minister of Andhra. Baba had conferred on me the Ph.D. Honoris Causa, in the card He got printed to be sent to all invited for the function, and elevated the office of “Superintendent” to Principal. Tears welled up when I saw my name as “N. Kasturi, M.A., B.L., Ph.D., Principal, DRM College, Davangere”, in the announcements.

I had to my credit a number of in¬complete theses on which I had set my heart to win a Ph.D., from the Madras or Mysore Universities. I could not progress further than a few chapters on “Factory Laws in India”; I very nearly completed a study on “The Last Rajas of Coorg”; I copied from the Secretariat of the State of Cochin a few dozen files on “The Dutch Merchants at Cochin”. So I had to confess to Swami when I fell at his feet at Bukkapatnam that I was not entitled to the Ph.D. Baba smiled and patted me on the back. “You are a Ph.D.”. Sri Vittal Rao, formerly of the Mysore Forest Department, and an old friend of mine, intercepted with the query, “Of which University?” Swami turned to him and said “Puttaparthi University.” (30 years later, on Vijayadashami Day, at the Poornachandra Auditorium, before a gathering of 50,000 devotees, with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India as Chairman and the Governor of Maharashtra as Chief Guest, the University of Puttaparthi—Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning—was inaugurated by Bhagawan as Chancellor. Dr. Vinayak Krishna Gokak, M.A., D.Litt., was installed as Vice Chancellor…) No word of Baba can be casual or barren or fallow.

I arrived at Bukkapatnam an hour before the function started and was graciously ushered into the distinguished company. When my turn came, I rose from my chair and, fortunately without fumbling, drew down the length of ribbon on which the silvery silk veil was hung, exposing the magnificent portrait of the Lord. Then, I placed a flower garland around it.

I addressed the gathering in English, as I had been permitted to do by Baba. I said that schools honour themselves by placing before the successive generations of pupils portraits of one or other of three inspiring personalities, Distinguished ‘Old students’, Generous Donors, and Illust¬rious World Personages. I mentioned that Baba was a pupil on the register of the School when it was a middle school. This made Him an “Old Student”, “an Old Student” whom any school would most proudly own. He was also personally responsible for its elevation, establishment, and for ensuring its progress. He earned for it a historic victory. Baba was a Divine Phenomenon whose portrait would confer fame and power on any institution professing to promote knowledge, and to prescribe the norms of morality and spirituality in our country. The fact that He was the President of the School Committee was, I pointed out, of unique value because Baba loved children most and was ever intent on encouraging them to grow into able, efficient and honest citizens of the world.

That was my first speech on Baba. And I was wholly elated when He smiled at me as I nervously sat on the edge of my chair after ten minutes of tension. He had warned me against using notes and against exceeding the time allotted. He allowed the Minister to hold forth a few minutes more. His wife, a renowned social worker and orator in her own right, also spoke, until the gathering became restless.

I reached Puttaparthi late that night, after a dinner in Baba’s Presence at the High School itself. The next morning, Baba called me into the room (popularly known as Korike Room from `Korike’ a Telugu word meaning `Wish’—the wish-fulfilling room, in fact.). But, that day, it turned out to be, for me, a “wish frustrating room.”

Baba’s leela
Let me explain. On one occasion when I stayed at Puttaparthi, some princes of Venkatagiri Royal Family bad told me of a peculiar prank that Baba Indulged in. When the mood was on, He would extend His hand towards a devotee who had a gem-set ring on his finger and carp at him, “Oh! Shame! Why have you to carry stone without getting paid for it? How long have you been doing this despicable job? Give me that ring!” When the person so rebuked (note, the censure was technically correct) loosened the ring and placed it on His palm, Baba would blow His breath on it and it would be transformed into a new ring in which is embedded a portrait on enamel of His own charming Form. They showed me the ring that had undergone the miraculous impact of Divine Breath.

Baba and the ring
I developed a wish to witness this unique miracle and to wear a ring so metamorphosed. So, I got a gold ring made with an oversize garnet affixed. I was sure His compassion would be aroused at the sight of my carrying a stone heavier than those which the others bore around. I was also hopeful that He would not miss noticing it, and He would give a bigger sized beautiful portrait. The Stone’s appeal was inescapable. But, Baba encouraged me to suffer. He did not ask for the ring for full two years. That morning, I entered the Korike Room as usual with the right arm on my chest so that the garnet was right where its pomegranate brightness would be most patent. Baba held out His Hand for the ring! Ah! I placed it on that silken palm. My fingers shook in excitement.

Baba continued to speak. “Oh! You desire to have a big picture so that you can preen yourself as a big devotee. So, every one would envy you, it would make you famous. No. People parade my portrait on fingers, on watches, on lockets round their necks, on the walls of their homes, on the altars in their shrines. No. Have me in your heart. That is my Home.” Then. He blew His breath on the ring He held between His fingers. It was not there any more, my gold and garnet had dissolved into nothingness. I swallowed a sigh and, immediately thereafter, an incipient sob.

Baba spoke some good words about my speech before the School Day gathering. He inquired about my mother and my children. Then, He placed in my hands the Vibhuti packets, and opened the door for me to step out of the `Wish-fulfilment’ room.

I scarce had taken two steps forward when Baba called me in. “Poor fellow,” He sympathised. “You want your ring back?” Then, most compassionately, with a sweet `No’ and a charming smile suddenly brightening His face, He waved His right palm in a circle and produced what struck me as a small lump of light. It was a gold ring set with nine precious gems, extolled in legends as capable of winning for the wearer the boons the nine planets can grant; pearl, ruby, topaz, diamond, emerald, lapis lazuli, coral, sapphire and zircon, 3 each in three sections. He put it on my finger. It was a perfect fit.

He said, “Now, you will not be announcing Me, exhibiting Me that I am yours, even before I acknowledge that you are Mine. This ring is worn by many who believe that the Navagrahas (nine planets) have to be propitiated. By and by, you will discover that My Anugraha (Grace) can overcome the sinister designs of the nine planets. Until then, have this”. I came out of the room, the second time, with a grin of joy, extending from ear to ear.

II Samasta Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II