I was first introduced to the Paramacharya way back in 1981 at the age of 11. My maternal grandparents are big devotees of his. They had the habit of getting his blessings before every marriage at home. It was before my youngest aunt's marriage that year we made our way to Pandharpur in Maharashtra. At around , the doors to his room were open to public and I saw him for the first time. The man who opened the door was none other than Balu Mama who is now Swaminadendra Saraswathi Swamigal. After about 2 hours of Darshan in the presence of 20 people, we returned to see him the next morning and once again in the evening. These three Darshans were my first encounters with him. I wondered why people keep asking him for things! Some people asked for his blessings so that their children could get married. One lady asked for Putra Bhagyam. Another man prayed for a promotion at work. The answer for all these queries was a silent blessings. My grandparents kept the wedding invitation and sought blessings. The two day trip to Pandharpur ended and we continued to Mantralayam and onwards to Madras later. Until then, my father did not get to meet him. In fact I don't remember seeing him with a spiritual guru. But little did I know this was a start of something more profound.
My second meeting with him occurred when we visited Kanchipuram in 1984. Bala Periyavaa came into the Kanchi Mutt just 1 year before and we went to see the 3 of them. It was a routine visit for my grandparents. My mother could not come and my father was not so much into Mutt related activities then. He always believed work is worship. Paramacharya was seeing so many visitors come in. He enquired about my grandfather's relatives and also asked about my parents and aunts/uncles. It was the first time I saw Bala Periyavaa and Nadu Periyavaa. I didn't think much about the whole visit. Upon returning to Madras we continued with our work. It was around this time that my father who was a psychiatrist (Yes, he is the famous Lord Labak Das in Pennin Manathai Thottu) got a call from one of the Mutt folks regarding a patient. Since this involves confidential information I do not know much about the patient himself. But I do know that he was connected with the people in the Mutt. My father treated him as another patient and moved on as usual. However, one day he got a call from the mutt. The caller said that the paramacharya wanted to meet him at the mutt. As was always the case he was extremely busy and could not give any time for that. Then on a morning he just asked the driver to come home and asked him to drive to Kanchi. Two hours later he landed at the mutt. Then this happened.
Gentleman: Saar, are you Dr Mathrubootham.
Gentleman: Are you the one who gives TV programs?
Gentleman: Vanakkam saar, I am with the Kanchi Mutt. Swamiji said you will come today. So we were expecting you.
It was this moment that transformed our lives. It was a beginning of something that we will carry with us for lifetimes.
My parents had just been stunned by what they heard from the man at the entrance. Upon entering the mutt, my dad quickly changed over to the standard attire and walked towards him. This is what followed:
பெரியவா: உன் பேர் என்ன?
பெரியவா: சொந்த ஊர்?
அப்பா: கூத்தனூர். பேரளம் பக்கத்துல. தாத்தா குட்டக்கரை ராமசாமி ஐயர்.
பெரியவா: ஓ அன்னதானம் ராமசாமி ஐயரா!அவனுக்கு நான் தான் தீக்ஷை கொடுத்தேன். ராமனந்தா சாமி.
My great grandfather passed away in 1952 and this conversation was in 1985. How could someone remember an event so far back. My father could not believe it at all. At that point he sensed he was dealing with an extraordinary man. The conversation later meandered around the patients and my father's work. Periyavaa was impressed with the progress made by the patient and blessed my parents. My dad was a totally transformed man after this event. Many in the mutt became his friends. Dad then decided not to get any fees from the patient he was treating. He then went for an interview with All India Radio. He said.
"We all get name, fame, health and wealth. But nothing can come close to the blessings we get from holy saints. That way, I am blessed."
At the outset, thanks to one and all who have encouraged me with your likes and comments. Truly overwhelming :-) .
Upon completing his first visit to the mutt, my parents started going back there pretty often. For someone who didn't believe in the concept of swamijis this was a total transformation. For many years we made frequent trips to Tirumala and other shrines. But not once did I see my father visiting saints. Yes, things do happen. Often, my brother and I would accompany them to Kanchi. Some other times, my maternal grandparents would also join in.
During such visits, the mutt officials would just inform that my dad has come. Swamiji would simply say "நீ இங்கேயே கொஞ்சம் நேரம் உட்காரு". My dad would then talk about lots of things. Out of nowhere Swamiji would ask about small things in the temples near Koothanur. My grandfather (maternal) was also from Tanjore district and is a cousin to former President RV. He would also enquire about the Prez. It often amused me to hear him say "Avan, Ivan" when it came to the President of India (not yet then). Invariably the conversation would meander and come back to the specific patient. Upon hearing about developments he would say "நீ மடத்துக்கு இவ்வளவு செய்யறியே! நன்னா இரு! இந்த கோயிலுக்கு போய் அம்பாளை தரிசனம் பண்ணிட்டு வா." We would go to those temples and return there. Then he would specifically ask about people in that temple once we returned. I always used to think that he just knows them so well and so he asked about them.
Few months later the patient returned to the mutt. I remember it was around 1986 when it happened. Upon return of the patient, he said "இவன் நன்னா ஆயிட்டானா! க்ஷேமமா இரு! எல்லாம் உன் தயவு தான்". He gave a சால்வை to my dad and blessed him. I remember seeing him smile big then! "அத்தருணத்தில் நடமாடிய தெய்வம் தான் எங்களைப் பார்த்து நகைத்தது என்று நான் உணரவேயில்லை"!
It was 1986 and we continued our regular visits to the mutt. My dad's conversation with him continued. The wonders never stopped. My dad had to help out a Madras US consulate officer and meet his holiness with her. She had a strange question in her mind. She wondered if she should marry again for the 4th time! She was divorced thrice already. She smoked while traveling by car. Thankfully when she entered the mutt she stopped all of that. Upon meeting the swamiji she sat in front of him and neither of them spake. 15 minutes later she just stood up, did her pranams, walked out and thanked my dad later. She later told that his holiness told her not to marry for the 4th time now. My dad had written about this episode in a Tamil magazine after Swamiji's Siddhi in 1994. In a tailpiece he had specifically mentioned. இவரின் தேவை பெரியவாளுக்கு எப்படி தெரிந்தது? அது ஒரு புரியாத புதிர். அது புதிராகவே இருக்கட்டும். தெய்வீகமே ஒரு புதிர் தானே!
After about 5 or 6 visits in 85-86, my dad was called by the Mutt office. The message was "Sri
Jayendra Saraswathi wants to meet you." I was there with him. In fact our entire family including
cousins, aunts, uncles were there in full force. We rented two additional cars as well. At the
mutt we met His Holiness. After blessing all of us he called my dad into his room and
discussed for over 1 hour. This was a one on one meet. We were curiously watching the
proceedings. After that my dad came out.
His Holiness said thus in a nutshell.
Jayendra Saraswathi: உன்னை இந்த மடத்துல எல்லாருக்கும் தெரியறதே! நீ
Dad: I am a psychiatrist working in Madras.
His Holiness: உனக்கு ஒரு வேலை இருக்கு. கலவைன்னு ஒரு இடம்
காஞ்சியிலிருந்து 40 கிமீ தூரம். அங்கே ஒரு விருத்தாஸ்ரமமும், குழந்தைகள்
நல இடமும் இருக்கு. குடும்பத்தோடு நீ போய் அங்கே இருக்கிறவாளுக்கு
மருத்துவ சேவை செய்யணும்.
Dad: OK. I will do it.
His Holiness: மாசத்துக்கு ஒரு தடவை இல்லைன்னா ரெண்டு மாசத்துக்கு ஒரு
தடவை அவாளை போய் கவனிச்சுக்கோ.
Until then none of us knew that it was in the same kalavai swamiji had attained Sanyasam and
is considered the holiest of places for his devotees. The children's home was for special
needs kids. Upon completion of the conversation we took leave and met with Paramacharya.
When told about this new mission, He was full of smiles and blessed us all. We returned home
after visiting a few temples in kanchi. Thus began the mission that has till date given us all the
bountiful blessings that we enjoy.
My father had just been tasked with the job of providing Medical help to the inmates of the children's home and Vriddhasramam in Kalavai. After this meeting with Nadu Periyavaa, His holiness was away from the Mutt for a quiet time in Talacauvery for a few weeks. My dad did not know what to do with the mission. My maternal aunt, uncle and few others who were doctors were pretty clueless about the next step. It was during this time when my father's elder brother who was then with SBI had gone over to Tirupati. Jayendra Saraswathi Swamigal was then staying there doing his penance contemplating Venkatachalapathy. My uncle then decided to meet him. He introduced himself as Dr Mathrubootham's elder brother and asked for his blessings. Then the Periyavaa said "அவனுக்கு ஒரு வேலை கொடுத்திருக்கேன், அதை ஆரம்பிச்சுட்டானா?" while talking about my dad. When my uncle mentioned this incident to my dad, he got the message and started off on the mission.
He went to Kanchi and met with Paramacharyal mentioning his mission.
"ஓ இன்னிக்குத் தான் ஆரம்பிக்கிறியா?", these were his first words when he started on the mission.
He asked about the entourage and all the family members.
He also said,
"கலவைக்கு போகிறதுக்கு முன்னாடி இந்த ஊருக்கு போய் சாமி தரிசனம் செஞ்சுட்டு வா".
My dad obeyed Him and came back to the mutt. Upon arrival He asked,
"அங்கே மழை இருந்ததோ?"
My father through the man sitting next to him, "எல்லாம் பெரியவா அனுக்கிரகத்துல இருந்தது".
"அப்போ இவ்வளவு நாளா மழை இல்லையே அதுவும் என் அனுக்கிரகம் தானா?!", He replied!
My dad was amazed at his presence of mind and sense of humour. Thus began his medical mission.
My family members led by my dad had just started on the project in Kalavai. It started off as a fun trip to the ashram and rendering medical services to the needy. It was a small ashram with about 40 inmates including elderly. Medical help was rendered and prescriptions made based on health conditions. It was a surprising find that most elders who were about 70+ were much healthier than the younger people in the cities. After the customary Darshan at the site where his holiness attained Sanyas, the group left the ashram to come back to Kanchi. My dad apprised him of the events that took place. Some of the doctors were my dad's juniors at his hospital. All of them were very happy that they were able to work for a good cause. It was at this time that my dad noticed a poor man coming to Swamiji and asking for gold.
Poor man: I have to conduct my daughter's marriage and I don't have the gold. I need 11 sovereigns.
Swamiji: Go to Kamakshi amman temple. Ask for that. Come back and she will give you.
The man did as instructed. Minutes later a rich man came over and gave 12 sovereigns of gold. After sometime the poor man came and wanted to take leave.
Swamiji: Did you pray to Amman?
Poor man: Yes, I did.
Swamiji: Did you get the gold?
Swamiji: How much did you ask?
Man: 11 sovereigns.
Swamiji: I know you are not greedy. You are very honest despite being poor. Take these 12 and let your
daughter's wedding happen.
He gave him 12 sovereigns and blessed him. The poor man left the mutt. My parents who witnessed it were stunned. Even now when I recollect this incident, I feel grace and nothing else.
My parents had started a journey with his holiness. Within months of starting the service project, many doctor friends of his some whom I know since early childhood joined in and the process became organized and well oiled. I choose not to mention the names of those doctors since I have not asked them permission to mention their name. The small family team became a big family of 10 docs. The mission ran every month on a sunday. The gang would assemble at our home and load up medicines, supplies and stuff before embarking on a trip to Kanchi. My dad would inform the mutt officials that he is seeking audience. The mutt official would just inform His Holiness:
Official: கலவை டாக்டர்கள் எல்லாரும் வந்திருக்கா. (Kalavai doctors have come!)
Paramacharya: அவாளை வரச்சொல்லு, இங்கேயே கொஞ்சம் நேரம் உட்கார்ந்துட்டு போகட்டும். (Ask then to come to me. Let them sit in my presence for sometime and then go to Kalavai!?
We would all sit in front of his holiness having his Darshan for almost 20 minutes. We used to see people behind us waiting to just have a glimpse before they get pushed aside. I have personally witnessed people just asking Him, "அய்யோ சுவாமி, என்னை இந்த பிரச்சினையிலிருந்து காப்பாத்து, ரொம்ப கஷ்டமாயிருக்கு". (Please Swami, save me from this difficulty, I am not able to bear it!)
Many a time I have been shocked beyond belief as to how anyone would go so far to appeal to him. Why did he not answer them directly? He would just look at them, bless them and say nothing. I have also thought many a time after looking at such people "Do we even have a right to complain"?
He would simply talk to the team of docs and ask about the kalavai ashram. sometimes my dad would bring a big donor who would donate supplies to the ashram. He would look at them and say,
"நீதான் மடத்துக்கு இவ்வளோ செய்யறியா? க்ஷேமமா இரு". (Are you the one who is serving the Matam so much? Be blessed!)
We would formally take leave and go for the kalavai ashram. The treatment and service to patients would continue for a few hours. My dad would mainly don a managerial role and when there were any mental health issues he would attend to them. Some of the folks accompanying us would be medical college students. They would seek guidance in treating cases. It was a mini polyclinic of top medical people in chennai. Often my dad would say "I have treated thousands of patients in my life, but never have I been this happy providing service." The mission was self funded and completely under the radar. Our family members and friends knew. No more than that. My dad would often tell us "It doesn't matter if you don't do Dharmam, but never ever show off that you did. It is Hindu Dharma." How true it is?
After the mission we would come back to Kanchi and apprise Him of the happenings. Often His reaction would be to find out what the resident officials did? What our plans were for the future? Not once did He miss seeing us after the trip. Even if He was sick and lying down, He would just wake up and offer us blessings. All along I just took it for granted simply because my dad did everything. Little did I realize that it was divine Himself Who was there making us do it!
அது நடமாடிய தெய்வத்தின் கடைக்கண் பார்வை தான் என்று எனக்கு பல நாள் புரியாமலே இருந்தது. (For many days I was oblivious to the fact that all the noble work done by our team was only due to His infinite Grace!)
We had just started going to kalavai for our service trips. Many a time I would accompany them and sometimes I wouldn't. I had just joined college then and my trips to kanchi were dependent on my being in chennai for the weekend. Staying in chidambaram for studies, the visits had to be curtailed. It was during one such visit this happened.
My father's brother (My dad was the youngest of 5) came over and introduced himself as a Regional Manager with the bank and spoke with him. He also recollected the conversation he had with Nadu Periayava in Tirupati. Somebody else had come over and he started talking in our presence. The other gentleman spoke about his business and how he is doing. He also spoke about his relatives who stay with him and their health condition. Then out of nowhere came this question.
Periayava: So you have two houses in Abhiramapuram (chennai) right!
Gentleman: Yes, I have two homes.
Periyava: So what do you want to do for the mutt?
Gentleman: I wish to give all these things I purchased for the mutt.
The conversation went on for some more time before he came back to us.
Periyava: ஓ கலவை டாக்டரெல்லாம் இன்னு இருக்கா போலயிருக்கு. உத்தரவு கொடுக்கலையா நான். போயிட்டு வாங்கோ.
It was a small incident that happened. How did he know that the other man had two homes in
It was around that time that my dad started the Sri Kanchi Paramaguru Medical Trust which started solely for this purpose of providing help for Kalavai ashram residents. My dad also asked if we can take over giving supplies for the Kalahasti Ashram. He then replied in the negative. My dad's mission continued.
I was studying in Chidambaram and during one of my casual conversations with my friend I mentioned about my connecting with His Holiness. He then mentioned another episode.
It turned out that Paramacharya was in Pondicherry a few years earlier and during one of those visits my friend's grandpa had given him water to drink. This had happened back in the 70s. When Swamiji had come back in the early 80s my friend and his grandpa wanted to meet Him at his place. However, owing to big crowd they could not enter. The granddad was upset about it. He told my friend.
தாத்தா: முருகா, கொஞ்ச வருஷத்துக்கு முன்ன அவர் இங்க வந்தப்போ நான் அவருக்கு தண்ணி கொடுத்தேன். அவர் என்னை மறந்துட்டார் போலயிருக்கு.
A few minutes later.
ஒருவர்: சார் இங்கே பழனிபிள்ளை யார்?
தாத்தா: நான் தான் பழனிபிள்ளை.
ஒருவர்: சுவாமிகள் உங்களை உள்ளே வரச்சொன்னார்.
Even now when I recollect this incident, I cannot believe this. He knows everything.
During another visit to Kanchi, my grandfather's younger brother came over to meet Nadu Periyavaa. He was meeting Him after close to 25 years. I was there then. My grand uncle whom I called Thatha told me.
தாத்தா: டேய், இந்த சரஸ்வதி அம்பாளுக்குன்னு ஒரு மந்திரம் உண்டு, அந்த மந்திரத்தை எனக்கு எடுத்து சொன்னார். தினமும் சொல்லிண்டிருக்கேன். அது நிறைய பேருக்கு கிடைக்காத ஒண்ணு தெரியுமோ!
நான்: ஓ அப்படியா!
Few minutes later.
ஜெயேந்திரர்: காசி. நீ அந்த மந்திரத்தை ஜபம் பண்ணறியோ?
How could He recollect the exact name of my grand uncle after so many years! The wonders never cease.
Narrated by the blessed devotee Shri Basker Mathrubootham. More will follow.