With tears in eyes, devotees try to come to terms with Baba's death

The devotees who filed into Sundaram, the abode of Sathya Sai Baba in Raja Annamalai Puram in Chennai on Sunday, remained resolute and focussed as they made their way to the lounge to participate in the 25-hour ‘Akhanda Bhajan.'

Overwhelmed and teary-eyed, many were trying to come to terms with the realisation that the man they adored and worshipped is no more.

“It has been a difficult month for us, it seems it would get more difficult now,” said Ranjeetha S., a devotee.

“We are here to support each other. This is what Baba has taught us, to love unconditionally and share our sorrows,” said Ramachandran (47).

Under two pandals outside the hall, food was served all day. P. Prem Kumar, district president of Chennai Sathya Sai Seva Organisation, was making arrangements for the Seva Dal volunteers to travel to Puttaparthi for the samadhi of Sathya Sai Baba on Wednesday.

“About 1,000 ‘mahilas' and 1,500 men of the Seva Dal will be travelling to Puttaparthi. The rest will have to make their way,” he said.

“We are leaving for Puttaparthi tomorrow morning. There will be thousands of devotees there, we will have to take care of them,” said 18-year-old Saravanan, a volunteer.

Young volunteers organise educational activities and bhajans and bal vikas meetings for thousands of children in 56 centres in the city.

Sujitha S., mother of two teenaged children, said, “The best gift Swami has given me is the bal vikas class that my children attend. The community takes care of my children, ensuring they become good human beings.”

These classes help children become more honest, expressive and communicative. All of them look forward to it as classes include music, games and story telling, according to a bal vikas teacher in Adyar.

Having served in the organisation for seven years now has made him understand life, says 24-year-old Sai Ganesh. “What else does God mean other than service to humanity? That is what Baba has asked us to do,” he said.

Devotees pour in

To some, Sundaram was the place to recall unforgettable moments. Around noon, oblivious of the heat, senior gastroenterologist N. Rangabashyam walked in.

“He noticed me when I had just returned from England and was working in Thanjavur,” Dr. Rangabashyam said. “When I wanted to stop practising medicine, he told me, ‘Continue till I tell you to stop,'” he recalled.

Rama Devi, former director of Institute of Child Health, broke down as she recalled her first meeting. “I was 14 and my mother took me to meet him. He told her, ‘I will take care of your children like the lids that protect the eyes.' Ever since, I have been his devotee,” she said.

“While the rational thinkers would call all this illogical, I prefer to believe that God comes in many human forms. Baba promised us that he will be with us throughout, and I know I can feel him,” said an ardent devotee of Baba for the last 23 years. For his three-year-old grand-daughter who has been taught to say “Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram,” to Baba when she would meet him, it will be an unending wait.

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