A Million Mother’s Love
By Mr. Rakesh Menon
An alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai University, Mr. Rakesh Menon joined the Brindavan campus in the 1994 for his Bachelors in Commerce. After this he pursued his Masters in Business Administration in the Bharatiya University in the state of Tamil Nadu. He began his professional career in 2000 and since then has served in the banking industry in India as well as in other countries in various positions. Until recently, he was in the UK working as the Global Product Risk Manager in JP Morgan, Europe. Currently, he is the Vice President, Risk Management, in JP Morgan, India and is based in Bangalore. This is the adapted version of a conversation with him in the studios of Radio Sai for the radio series “Fleeting Moments…Lasting Memories” in July 2008.
“God could not be everywhere, therefore He made mothers.”
Sathya Sai Baba
But I had the unique fortune of having the Lord Himself as my mother.
Enraptured by the Sublime Sai Ambience
I was blessed to be at Swami’s feet between the years 1994 to 1997. I was not a devotee before I joined Sathya Sai Baba’s University, neither was anybody in my family. But we had heard of Baba’s college as a unique institution which imparted human values. One of my uncles got me the application form and brought me to Puttaparthi, where I wrote the entrance examination. Swami, at that time, was in Kodai Kanal. Nevertheless, the general ambience of the ashram kindled in me the urge to learn more about Swami.
I was fascinated by the discipline in the ashram; how things happened in clockwork precision, right from the stroke of the bell at five o’ clock at dawn. It felt wonderful to be a part of the Omkaram, Suprabhatam and the Nagar Sankirtan, and feel those positive vibrations. Furthermore, everybody maintained silence irrespective of whether Swami was physically in Prashanthi Nilayam or not. That made a deep impact on me.
Thus, in the summer of 1994, when I stepped into the portals of the University at the Brindavan campus in Bangalore, I was yet to physically see Swami. Now I was not a devotee but already a Sai student. And I was very eagerly looking forward to the ‘Big Change’ that was to manifest in my life.
I hailed from a village in Kerala and now a higher education in a different sort of institution in the city of Bangalore really appealed to me. It seemed exciting, but I was not aware of what I was actually in for.
The first step to the change lay in my acceptance of Swami as God. But how could I accept someone as my guru and God, when I had not even seen Him? Wasn’t it foolhardy to invest my faith on a person, of whom I had only learnt from hearsay? So I decided to test Bhagavan!
Testing Divinity and What an Answer!
We were a group of three boys from the same place who wrote the entrance examination together. And all three of us had got through the test! There was one amongst us who had the habit of smoking. And as the hostel and ashram rules strictly forbade this habit, this boy would go out on the sly, unknown to anybody else, to take the vital puff!
I was aware of his furtive habits and so was the other boy. And we both advised him against persisting with his covert ways, knowing fully well that it might result in his expulsion from the institution altogether. But he remained adamant. Instead, he pointed a finger at a photograph of Sathya Sai Baba in the Sai Ramesh Hall and said, “Let Him say and I will stop.”
I looked at the hall; there were at least 5000 devotees seated there, waiting for Swami. It seemed Swami now had two more tasks to accomplish in such a massive crowd before two Doubting Thomases could accept His divinity. First, to censor the cigar boy and second, to trigger a Big Change in me.
Two days later, this boy got the chance to wave the arathi to Swami. I was sitting close to him. When the bhajans ended, Swami picked up the match box, lit the arathi, and told him in Tamil, “You said that if I ask you to stop smoking, you would do that.” He put the match box back into the boy’s shirt pocket and then continued as if nothing had ever happened. I was flabbergasted! Nobody else knew about that conversation except the three of us.
And I can never forget the expression on this boy’s face – of utter disbelief, shock and fear. Sathya Sai Baba’s words were also heard by the third boy. And we all looked at each other, astounded beyond words. In a crisp one-liner, the Omnipresent Lord had neatly packaged the lesson of a lifetime; it was powerful and unforgettable. This was my first direct experience of Swami’s omnipresence.
‘I will give him a thousand mothers’ love’ – Baba
More was to come. Nine days later, I received a letter from home. It was from my sister and the contents went thus, “We were very strict with you because we wanted you to grow up in the right way and become a respected individual. Now that you are far away, we do miss you.” My sister and I were very close to each other ever since my mother died when we were very young.
The letter made me homesick. And when, in the evening, there was a soul-stirring bhajan extolling Swami as Sai Ma (Mother Sai), I was reminded of my mother and was actually in tears. Soon, I was convulsing hard, with my head bent down I was trying to stem the cascade of sorrow that streamed down my face.
A few boys nudged me during the bhajans saying that Sathya Sai Baba was looking at me. But I did not believe them. The Trayee Session followed soon after the bhajans. These sessions are close interactive sessions wherein Swami would give discourses and move closely among us, interacting and sharing valuable insights peppered with humor. It was a great opportunity for us to listen and learn both from Satya Sai Baba and as well as from the elders.
That evening, I was sitting quite far away from the jhoola (the swing on which Swami generally sat). When Swami came, He looked around, searched among the boys, spotted me and then He asked me to come towards Him. Had I committed a grievous mistake I wondered, as I went up to Him?
But when I came closer, Swami pulled me towards Him, held me in a warm, loving embrace, and said, “This boy lost his mother. This boy lost his one mother but I will give him a thousand mothers’ love.” And then, He created a ring for me.
I was too overwhelmed, lost in His love, lost for words. And I was wondering how Swami knew my story; He was mentioning so many facts of my life to people nearby. This was the first time He spoke to me. That day, He touched my heart with His love. And I accepted Him as my Mother.
Sai’s Simply Amazing Care
His love was as tender as a mother yet strict like a father. And since I had no exposure to Swami and His teachings prior to my Brindavan years, He took upon Himself the task of ensuring that I was moulded into a Sai student. There were times when a Father’s guidance surged along with a Mother’s concern.
One such day in Brindavan, I was sitting for darshan. It was a cold winter morning. Satya SaiBaba walked by me, stared queerly at my face, and then went on His usual round of darshan among devotees, accepting letters and blessing them. I was perplexed, praying and hoping all the while that I had not upset Swami in any way, in thought, word or deed.
As I sat on after darshan, I was a troubled bundle of anxiety. And then I saw my commerce professor running towards me, holding something in his hand. As he came to me, he said, “Swami has sent this for you,” and handed me a Ponds cold cream! Apparently, Swami had noticed that I had dry skin because of the weather, so He sent the cream for me in His boundless concern.
Even as I stood there choked for words, I learnt from Swami that day something which I consciously try to apply in my daily life – attention to detail! Swami attended to thousands of devotees that day – collecting letters, conferring blessings, bestowing guidance – and yet He had borne in mind my dry skin and sent the cream! What was a parched epidermis in front of a million other pressing concerns for Swami? But that was the affection of the Divine Mother.
Surprise Gifts of Grace for Sisters
Another of my memorable experiences happened when I was in Kodai Kanal with Sathya Sai Baba. Kodai Kanal is a place where one can witness the parental aspect of Swami like nowhere else. I am reminded of an evening when Swami actually gave money to all of us, students, and asked us to go and buy something for ourselves. I went along with Prof. Anil Kumar to the shop. On the way I thought to myself that here I was with the Lord, pampered with His love, and absolutely taken care of, while my family back in my hometown was still facing life in its coldest.
So I thought I should buy something for them; that was the least I could do with the money Swami gave me. Therefore, as the professor shopped for something for his wife, I bought two pairs of earrings, one each for my two sisters. These were not very expensive, but I thought this was the minimum I could do.
So I had these earrings packed and put them in my shirt pocket. When I returned, Swami instantly started looking about as if He was searching for something. He then came to me and asked, “What did you buy?” and before I could reply, He put His hand in my shirt pocket and took out the earrings.
There was a look of dismay on His face when He saw those jewels, as if to say that they were not really of a good quality. And I was very disappointed, that I had not bought the right gifts for my sisters; that Swami had not approved of them. If Swami did not approve, then surely these are not really good, I thought to myself. That evening went by. That night even after everyone had retired, I was still ruminating over what had happened, and praying for my family.
At breakfast the next morning, Sathya SaiBaba went around looking to everyone’s needs like He did everyday. And when He came to me, He started waving His hand. Out came two identical sets of earrings from the Divine Palm! Swami said, “Those were not good. Give these to your sisters,” and humorously added, “I gave you two identical ones because they might fight.” That was one unforgettable instance of pure maternal affection that stands evergreen in my memories!
Success in the Corporate Space – The Sai Way
Time went on and I was not fortunate to secure an MBA admission in Sathya Sai Baba’s University and I was not sure about my future, because I was going to leave the protected shelter where I was so comfortable. This indeed was a huge transition and the following year I returned five times to Swami for support and strength which I desperately needed. And only Swami could have made that possible.
When I completed my MBA in another institution, I started my career with HSBC Bank. The corporate environment was cold, emotionless and unforgiving. Although the stress levels were critical, it was to percolate, at least through team work. But the fact remained that it is mostly every man to himself, so completely different from the brotherhood I enjoyed in Swami’s hostel. And in this new scenario, one didn’t have any choice but to dive within and look for inner reservoirs of courage and strength.
That is when I realized that whatever Swami has been teaching works in the corporate environment, that values gives one the growth. And practising Swami’s teachings did wonders for me – His directions on the right attitude towards work, dignity of labor, the right man management through leading by example, and practising what one preached.
These simple messages of Swami actually helped me move ahead in my career right from HSBC in India, to the Middle East with Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank where I was handling quality assurance and operation risk audit, to the UK where I am currently managing quality assurance for risk, globally, for JP Morgan.
A common thread runs through all these career positions. And it had to do with my values. Initially people didn’t understand why I behaved in a way which was totally different from the entire team of people around me. Nevertheless I clung on to the values I had imbibed as a student, especially the qualities of patience and perseverance. That helped me win the trust and credibility of the people I reported to, of my peers and my subordinates. I lead by example such that my subordinates were always willing to go an extra mile for me.
I remember an audit wherein my team worked round the clock to turn around a weak control situation into a strong order success. Even though there was no overtime, they worked day and night because they did not want to let me down at any cost.
The highlight was this: one of my subordinates came on the morning of his marriage to finish off a task! That was what I consider as success in a corporate environment. The challenge to manage the people and all the functions become more or less achievable.
Tackling different individuals, impressing them by being a silent worker and leading by example – that is something which I really learnt in Swami’s college and I still hold on to it. And when people ask me about my personality and the secret of my professional growth, I only talk about my University, the ashram in Puttaparthi and my Guru and my Mother, Sai. What I am today is only because of Sathya Sai Baba.
What words of gratitude can I have for my Swami, who, time and again, showered His love on me, treating me more like a son than a student? He has given me the love of a mother and the guidance of a father – a love that keeps me joyful and brings me back to Him, a love that gives me strength in my career and helps me face life and all its challenges. And I know that I never need to worry, for my Mother’s watchful eyes are always on me – caring, protecting, guiding, comforting and loving.
Filed under: Bharatiya University, JP Morgan, Motherly Love, Rakesh Menon, Sai Baba, Sai Ma, Sathya Sai, sathya sai baba, Sri Sathya Sai, Sri Sathya Sai University | Tagged: Faith, God, Guru, India, Love, miracles, Mother, Prashanthi Nilayam, Prashanti Nilayam, Prayer, Puttaparthi, Puttaparti, Spirituality, Tamil Nadu | Comments Off