When A Mother’s Dream Came True

When A Mother’s Dream Came True
V. BALASUBRAMANIAN

If the art was mother’s gift, the title Bala Meera was given by Jawaharlal Nehru.

On a hot Sunday afternoon, Meera Grimes aka ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra receives you at the entrance of her spacious apartment on Poonamallee High Road, with a broad smile. For a moment, I remember those days when my family members would hurriedly complete the evening chores and rush to concerts and katha kalakshepams. One was child artist Bala Meera Chandra’s harikatha. I recall the discussions that would go on till late at night about her treatise on the subject that day, her charming looks, her abhinaya and her fantastic voice.

Over a hot cup of coffee, Bala Meera starts the conversation. “Harikatha encompasses storytelling, poetry, music, drama, dance and philosophy, and it is about God or about saints who had realised God. I owe it all to my mother Neela Balasubramaniam. She used to accompany my grandmother to Kadapa Lakshmi Amma to learn music, dance and harikatha. Lakshmi Amma is the first woman harikatha artist as far as I know. My grandmother and C. Saraswathi Bai provided her vocal support. Having lost her husband at an early age and due to the prevalent social stigma, Lakshmi Amma confined her performances to her house, and only women would be in attendance. My mother’s childhood dream of becoming a harikatha performer did not bear fruit. So, she was hell bent on making me one.”

Her arangetram

Bala Meera’s brothers were her accompanists and her cousins and aunts gave her vocal support. Her mother never missed her programmes.

Bala Meera’s voice sounds like the tinkle of a bell. She goes on “My mother taught music and dance to many children and as I watched them, it was but natural that I imbibed the art. Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma, an accomplished musician and harikatha exponent, volunteered to teach me the art of storytelling. His father Mahadeva Sharma had written a book on the various aspects of harikatha. The first piece I learnt was ‘Dhuruva Charithram’. My arangetram took place when I was 12. I was a student of Sarada Vidyalaya, T. Nagar, at that time. Offers started pouring in after that. Many sabhas, bhajan mandalis in the city and those in the districts provided plenty of opportunities. The training went on for about five years, and I learnt ‘Valli Kalyanam’, ‘Rukmini Kalyanam’ and many more pieces, expanding my repertoire in the process.”

Meeting a veteran

“Having heard about you, I wanted to see how a little girl in a skirt performs this art. That’s why I am here a day earlier. I am really proud of you and will help you hone your skills further,” was harikatha exponent Embar Vijayaraghavachariar’s comment when Bala Meera fell at his feet after her performance at Bangalore Ramani Ammal’s festival. Embar was to perform the next day. She reveres Embar a lot and values whatever she learnt from him.

A large photograph of a sanyasi in her drawing room attracts your attention. She explains, “That is Swami Remaji (Vaidyanathan) who was introduced to me by my mother when I had just finished SSLC. He taught me several bhajans of Surdas and Meerabai that he had set to music. He was an expert in all genres of music, be it Carnatic, Hindustani or Western classical. A nuclear physicist at the Cambridge University, he renounced life to propound a new philosophy. He was my spiritual guru. Before he passed away, he bequeathed to me all his writings running to several thousands of pages. I am in the process of bringing them out as a book.”

The prefix ‘Bala Meera’ got attached to her name when she performed Meera bhajans in the presence of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in a village in Rajasthan. A large number of people had gathered there to donate gold equivalent to the weight of Nehruji for the National Defence Fund. “Patting my cheek and appreciating my performance, Nehruji said, ‘So you are the Bala Meera performing Meera bhajans.’ That was in 1963, and from then on I came to be known as ‘Bala Meera’ Chandra.”

She rates her harikatha performance on the 30 saints in 30 days at Sai Samaj, Mylapore, as one of her best. ‘Krishna Rathna Thrayam’ taught to her by Swami Remaji was another pet subject.

Performing alongside the women trinity M.S., MLV and DKP at a Tiruttani festival got her an opportunity to perform at The Music Academy, on the request of T.L. Venkatrama Iyer. Dr. V. Raghavan helped her get a scholarship from the Academy to learn Lalithopakyanam under the tutelage of Mahadeva Bhagavatar. In the process, she learnt many Dikshitar kritis.

Academic life

“As I was busy with my concerts, harikatha and dance programmes, I did B.A. privately. After obtaining a Diploma in music and dance, I went on to do my Masters at the University of Madras. That’s where I met John Grimes of the U.S., who was doing research. He was deeply into Indian philosophy and wanted to marry an Indian who would help him in his journey. That’s how we got married, with the blessings of the elders and Sri Sathya Sai Baba of whom he was an ardent devotee.” The bookshelf in their house is full of John’s books on Indian philosophy, including a treatise on Adi Sankara’s Viveka Choodamani.

Shifting base to the U.S. after her marriage, Bala Meera continued her performances there. Due to ill health, she cut down on the number of performances. Unable to bear her daughter’s ill health, her mother Neela passed away suddenly. “I never thought that I would be able to perform again. But by God’s Grace, I am still performing, but am limiting it to chambers and smaller crowds.”

Her book ‘Harikatha’, that covers Samartha Ramadas’ contribution to art of spiritual story telling, is what she considers her best contribution to this art. She says Samartha Ramadas is the father of harikatha for it was he who codified it logically into a structure. The spiritual guru of Chatrapathi Shivaji, he travelled to South India and established maths in Thanjavur when it was ruled by Shivaji’s step brother Ekoji. That’s how harikatha spread in the South.

Bala Meera also hails Thanjavur Krishna Bhagavathar, who was a violin vidwan for harikatha performances then, as the father of harikatha kalakshepam, for he adopted it to suit this part of the country. “Nonetheless, Samartha Ramadas’ ‘Dasa Bhodha’ is the ultimate book on harikatha and its grammar,” she says assertively.

As I take leave, “Harikatha is a sugar coated pill,” she sums up.

The Hindu Reference

The Magnificent Jyothi Darshan

Sathya Sai Baba Early Days At The Chitravathi River

Sathya Sai Baba Early Days At The Chitravathi River


The Magnificent Jyothi Darshan

One day, Sathya Sai Baba blessed all of us in Puttaparthi by partaking meals in our house. Sakkamma, who was present then, asked Baba if she could return to Bangalore. Swami, however, did not grant her permission. But Sakkamma insisted that she had to leave. My mother also tried to dissuade her. Finally, Sakkamma boldly said, “If Swami shows His darshan in a miraculous way, only then will I stay back.”

For those who are not aware, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba stated that the first period of His divine life would be characterized by leelas – the sports of the Lord. It was because this aspect was prominent then, and also because Sakamma adored and related to Swami as a young boy that she could at times take the liberty to make such demands.

And Sathya Sai Baba too was very ready to grant Sakamma’s prayer in a spectacular way on that occasion.

The next evening He took all of us along with Him to the Chitravathi River, which was a copious flow during those days. At about 6.30 p.m., Swami suddenly told us all to follow Him, and He walked up a hillock and stood there.

He showed His empty hands and then asked us if we were all ready to see what followed. We waited with bated breath to see what would unfold… There, suddenly appeared a brilliant light, and in the middle of that sublime brilliance stood Sathya Sai Baba!

All of us assembled there, at the foot of the hillock, saw this Divine spectacle and were dumbfounded in awe. A Divine aura had completely surrounded Swami as He stood there on the hillside. The light was a pulsating brightness, so dazzling that it was overwhelming. But at the same time, the luster was so soft and gentle, because of which we could withstand the purity of its luminescence.

And then, Satya Sai Baba slowly came down a few yards, but the effulgence continued to surround Him. When He further descended, the aura was still there around Him, undiminished. We were stunned and speechless. How can one describe that unprecedented event? We were just shocked with delight and overjoyed at the divine gift bestowed on us.

After this historic event, we all returned to the old Mandir and sang bhajans. At the end of this session, we offered Him arathi. Sathya Sai Baba then told us the significance of the darshan He had bestowed on us just then. He explained that there are many types of devotees and everyone worships God in the form they like the most; the choice is totally up to them. Each one will become aware of the brilliance of the Divine in the form they worship and that is dear to them.

Reference

Celebrating Bhagavan’s Birthday

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


Celebrating Bhagavan’s Birthday

In those days (in the 1940s), Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s birthday did not call for any major celebration. Instead we enjoyed more experiences with the Lord which we now cherish for all eternity. Elderly devotees used to apply the customary coconut oil on His head and we would garland Him with bright flowers while singing bhajans.

During one birthday, Sathya Sai Baba refused everyone who came to garland Him. The ever playful Sai Baba was enacting a divine drama. But He appeared serious all the same! The 20 or so devotees who had assembled returned with the garland still in their hands, rather downcast and perplexed. This was to have been the highlight of their year! Then they discussed how to attract the mysterious Lord to their side, and collectively requested Sathya Sai Baba to partake meals with them.

Sathya Sai Baba asked them to sit inside the Mandir and then surprised the group by serving water and food to everyone with His own hands! Needless to say, they were all moved and overjoyed after their initial disappointment.

Maybe Bhagavan was teaching them the lesson that God’s creation is full of ups and downs – but be assured that when it seems as if things have gone awry, He will always wipe away our tears in an unexpected way!

There lived an old man named Kadirappa in the village who used to wash up all the utensils after devotees had partaken their meals. Generally, he ate the leftovers from these cooking vessels, and often, this comprised of just plain steamed rice, without any salt, or garnish, and was rather lacking in nutrition. Once, when this old man was eating silently sitting beside the well, Sathya Sai Baba went into the kitchen and brought out all that my mother had personally cooked for Him.

This included boiled vegetables, curries, and chutney. Sathya Sai Baba lovingly told the old man to eat all the other items and not just plain rice. It was such a sweet sight to behold. The Lord offering His own food to the man who washed the dishes! After giving him the food, Satya Sai Baba went up to my mother and asked her if she was upset. She replied, “You are God. How can I question what You do?”

This unique spirit of sacrifice seems unparalleled except in Sathya Sai Baba’s own life as we remember incidents from His childhood recorded in His biography, Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Part 1. Prof. Kasturi writes:

At the tender age of three and four, He showed that He had a heart that melted at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry, Sathya left His play and rushed inside to force His sisters to hand out grain or food. The adults were naturally irritated by the endless procession of outstretched hands.

On one occasion, in order to put an end to what the elders thought was expensive and misplaced charity, the mother caught hold of Sathya, and with a finger raised in warning said, “Look here! You may give him food, but mind you, you will have to starve.”

That did not daunt the child. He would run inside and bring out food to the hungry man at the door and later stay away from lunch or dinner himself. Nothing and no one could persuade Him to come for His food which was left untouched!

When Sathya began running about in the streets, He sought out the maimed, the blind, the decrepit, and the diseased, and led them by the hand to the doorstep of His parents. The sisters had to secure from the store or the kitchen some grain or food, and put it into the beggar’s bowl while the Little Master looked on happily. – H2H Team

Reference

Karunamba Ramamurthy Reminisces About Her Mother

Young Sathya Sai Baba

Young Sathya Sai Baba


Karunamba Ramamurthy Reminisces About Her Mother

Question: Your mother was very devoted to Bhagavan and was fortunate to have interacted with Him. Could you narrate a few of her experiences?

Karunamba Ramamurthy: There once lived a woman called Venkata Lakshamma in a hamlet called Namadala near Dharmavaram town. This woman was referred to by the villagers as a yogini (ascetic).

This woman once visited our house. Unaware of who she was, we used to find her ways amusing. She used to be very silent, not talking too much to anyone. Often at nights, she used to sit and do japam (chanting His name); she wouldn’t lie down and sleep. My mother was impressed and thought that Venkata Lakshamma was powerful, practicing pranayama and other spiritual exercises.

My mother was enthusiastic to learn from her. And eventually, she invited my mother to her village to initiate her to a sacred mantra. She told my mother that she would be emancipated by the chanting of that mantra. That is why, as I told you in an earlier interview, Sathya Sai Baba refused to initiate my mother saying she was already initiated and asked her to continue with the same mantra.

Whenever Sathya Sai Baba went to the Chitravati river, He took devotees and children along with Him, without leaving anyone in the Mandir. Just like a flock of sheep we used to follow Him.

Once we all went for such a trip to the holy river. My mother sat a little away from the group. Sathya Sai Baba created many things and distributed to all around. He also created medicine for those in need. One minor, though interesting, point to note is that even though His hands were under the sand, not a grain of sand used to stick to His fingers.

After distributing such prasadam and things to those around, He called my mother. Sathya Sai Baba commanded her to take a handful of sand herself and see what was inside it. To her surprise, she found a small paper roll. My mother told Satya Sai Baba that as her vision was not clear, she would read it once inside the Mandir. Sathya Sai Baba agreed. When she opened the small roll of paper later, much to her surprise, she read the same mantra that Venkata Lakshamma had initiated her to. Any vapor of doubt totally vanished after that.

My mother treasured that small piece of paper all her life.

About a year later, the new Mandir came up. Hearing about Sathya Sai Baba, Venkata Lakshamma came to Puttaparthi to see Him. There she met Mother Easwaramma. She also met my mother here and enquired about her about the progress of her spiritual efforts or sadhana. My mother told her that Sathya Sai Baba had confirmed the initiation and the mantra. My mother, however, also told her that despite constant repetition of the mantra, she seemed to be going nowhere.

She had doubts about her emancipation. To this the yogini said, “You have just caught a big branch of a tree. Swami will look after you forever, don’t worry!” Mother replied, “Swami is not saying anything. He keeps silent. Will I get emancipated?” The yogini replied that Swami was retaining my mother in His presence and that He was watching her progress. She said, “Once Swami has told you to stay only here, he has to uplift you totally. Never leave this place. You need not do anything else.”

Venkata Lakshamma used to live near the old Mandir. Once, Easwaramma visited the old Mandir. When they met, they both hugged together and felt very happy. It was more than a coincidence that earlier Easwaramma and Venkata Lakshamma lived together in a house in Kothacheruvu village.

Reference

Sathya Sai Is Shakthi Swaroopini

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


Sathya Sai Is Shakthi Swaroopini

Sathya Sai Baba used to sit along with devotees and discuss with them various topics. Many came to Him for advice, which He offered with the greatest of concern. The number of devotees in the Mandir in those days often did not cross single digits; even ten people on normal days was a big number.

Everyday, turmeric powder and vermillion was placed on the deities who adorned the altar. Incense sticks and lamps were also lit, and all these duties were done in turns by the ladies staying in the Mandir.

One day, it was my mother’s chance to decorate the idols and light the lamps. While she was busy doing this, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba was actually standing right behind her.

Sathya Sai Baba made a few remarks expressing his apparent displeasure in the way the idols were being adorned. When my mother heard this, she immediately turned around and what did she see? In stead of Sathya Sai Baba, it was the Divine Mother in the form of Sakthi Swaroopini!

She was decked in a red silk saree; Her face was shining turmeric powder and vermillion; beautiful gold jewelry adorned Her neck. What a divine blessing Satya Sai Baba has conferred on her! It was just heavenly. She often recounted this glorious darshan with great fervour.

Sathya Sai Sakti Swaroopini

Sathya Sai Sakti Swaroopini


In those cherished days, I was awed by the glory of Sathya Sai Baba. We have not seen Lord Rama or Lord Krishna, but the present Avatar is living with us, amidst us! What a great opportunity!

Reference

The Unbelievable Sathya Sai Baba Prophecy

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


The Unbelievable Sathya Sai Baba Prophecy

He is Sathya, The Truth…Whatever comes out from Him is bound to be true…is bound to happen….be it a simple forewarning or a classy statement with a grand vision. Read on…an extract from Sanathana Sarathi, Aug/Sept 1972 by Pujari Lakshmaiah, Chennai.

Is it true? Can it be true? A boy calling himself Sai Baba! And consoling the dispirited, curing the ill, exorcising ghosts and teaching the old! I heard of this sixteen year old prodigy and entered Puttaparthi, with a woman, mad since two years, and her husband. That was in 1943.

At Bukkapatnam, people laughed at us; they thought all of us were mad to believe in the miraculous powers of that boy. Yet having come so far, we decided to complete the journey, instead of turning back. We engaged a bullock cart for twelve annas and came to the riverbed. I left them there and moved into the little haggard group of houses, along narrow tracks.

I peeped into a Brahmin house (Karnam Subbamma’s house); the verandah was full of groundnut heaps. Inside I found a charming young boy, with a bright, intelligent face, talking with the labourers. I accosted him and asked, “I heard there is a boy in this village who has become Sai Baba; it seems he cures madness. Which is his house, can you tell me?”

The boy looked at me very lovingly and replied. “Poor fellow! The mad woman you brought with you is giving terrible trouble to her husband in the river! Go and take bath; and bring them also after their bath is over. I shall then show you the boy you are after.” While returning from the river, the woman ran wildly hither and thither and it was a job to bring her to the Brahmin house. Sai Baba (for, it was none other than He) told me, “I’ll call you one by one” and took me in, first. He created Vibhuti and applied it to my forehead. Then, He called in the couple. They had bought some bananas at Bukkapatnam for Sai Baba. He gave the woman to eat one banana out of the number. He also gave them both the materialised Vibhuti.

It was six in the evening, by then. Coming out on the road, the wife told her husband “Well; what about our meal? Get some rice from the shop; and ask for vessels. I shall cook food for us, pretty quick.” The husband was overjoyed; her madness had gone!

But, Baba called us in and we sat with Him, for the night meal. Baba mixed all the items served by Subbamma into tolerably big balls, and He gave one for each of us. It was tasty beyond words!

That night, we slept in the verandah of that house. We were disturbed often, by the howling of packs of jackals, and the braying of donkeys. At about three, some woman shrieked, “I am dying”; she was stung by a scorpion”! A few minutes later, some one cried, “Kill; Kill” and many ran in that direction. It was a cobra, this time.

Early morning, we touched Sathya Sai Baba‘s feet and stood before Him. “No sleep? Too many snakes, in this place. This is a very holy place; but, under a curse! Sai will save it” He said and then added, “The Sai Pravesh (Advent) will make it the Prasanthi Pradesh (Region). Upon that hill, I shall have a grand Bhavan. By that time, hundreds, (why hundreds?) thousands, (why thousands?) lakhs, All India will be here. The whole world will come and wait for Sai Darshan.” I said, on hearing this, “What? I cannot believe this will happen.” He laughed and said, “You will have to believe it when you will be standing at a great distance, trying to catch a glimpse of me!”

Now, in 1972, I stand at a great distance and yearn for Sai Darshan; I now believe in the Prophecy He made in 1943.

Reference

The Silver Map of India

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba


The Silver Map of India

We all caught our breaths, as Sathya Sai Baba created a most powerful object. It had a round black onyx base and on it was a silver map of India. Surrounding the map were 18 jewels that glistened in the dark, from some mysterious inner light.

He said that on the map were inscribed 100 Sanskrit verses giving the history of the Avatar from birth to the time when it leaves the body. He said, “All great works of the Avatar and all leaders chosen from my students are recorded here”.

He took it around for all to see and touch. Spiritually it was very powerful and esthetically very beautiful. The writing was too small to decipher. When asked, He answered, “I will not reveal the future. Everything will be revealed in due time. Why do you hanker after this object when you have its creator? You have Me and I have you. You are all sacred souls and have roles in the mission. No force can delay this mission even by one instant. I will appear in many manifestations of my form. Wherever you are, there I will be”.

He was not just speaking to the students, but to all of us… fortunate souls whom He has gathered in. It continues to be a great wonder to me, that not only is Swami still quite easily accessible, but there are so very few who have committed to become His devotees and live His teachings. Swami said His devotees are one in a hundred thousand. He said that one among ten, you can find one truly good person; one among ten such has some deep feelings for god; one among such ten will yearn for a direct experience; and one out of such ten will be ready to let go totally, to renounce, and surrender completely to God. “That is My devotee, and He is very dear to me”, Swami said.

Al Drucker

From the book: Love in Action, Proceedings of the Meeting of Sai Organisations of Europe, Hamburg, 12-15 May, 1989

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