Early 1957 my brother, who is twelve years older, took me to have darshan of Maha Periava at Kanchi. We reached around noon and His Holiness was observing mounam. He blessed my brother with a raised palm and very gently. Next I stood before him when I thought I heard him say “Vandhuttaya”. I can’t say for sure then or now that He spoke. I heard these words in my ears. This was the beginning of my personal appearances before Him culminating in my last darshan on 21st of October 1993 again in Kanchi. On this day, after His Holiness gave darshan to all at noon seated on a chair carried by Balu and Vaitha I sought permission to spend a few minutes alone with His Holiness in His room. I prostrated on the floor in front of Him. He surveyed me from head to foot with His benign Grace and smile .
From about 1948 I was deeply drawn towards His Holiness noting every tour of his, trying to absorb every word of His Pravachanams ably reported in The Hindu.
These decades have been spent by me constantly remembering His Holiness and my seeking His Grace and guidance at all times.
His profile has stood before me and at every moment. For the sake of narration, I will confine myself to the following specific instance.
During December 1968 I felt a deep urge to rush to coastal Andhra Pradesh where His Holiness was on Padayatra. I was on deputation from my parent cadre to UPSC and my official work was such that I could not get away from the pressure of it. From the 24th of January I kept getting an unbearable pain in my head every night for about an hour usually between 10 and 11 pm, tests pointing to a possible brain tumour.
My aged parents, who were with me in New Delhi suggested, on receipt of a telegram from Hyderabad informing me that my mother-in-law was very ill, that I should go there with my wife and children and satisfy my urge to have darshan of His Holiness.
Braving my headache spells at night and armed with pain killers, I took a month’s leave requesting my colleagues to take care of my parents during the time I was away from Delhi and reached Hyderabad on 15th February 1969.
On the 16th, a senior colleague of mine arranged for a darshan on the following day at ‘Telaprolu’, a village about 20 km from Vijayawada. One of the Mutt’s devotees took me to Telaprolu in my colleague’s car. We reached around noon and witnessed the pooja performed by His Holiness who sent for me around 4 ‘0 clock. His Holiness was lying down and I was asked to sit across from him, a yard away. He asked whether I knew ‘Brahacharanam’. I replied that while I was ‘Vadama’ by birth I had married into the ‘Brahacharanam’ sect. He then asked if I had heard of ‘K’ villages. I replied that my grand mother hailed from ‘Kaniyur’ one of the ‘K’ villages. His Holiness was silent. I explained my urge to have His darshan for a while and how my headache drove me to him. He asked about my leave plans. I said that apart from His darshan I had no specific plans except to go to Palani Hills for the tonsure of my three year old son who had already had tonsure at Tirumala before his first birthday according to the family custom. His Holiness remained silent after blessing my senior colleague who had lent his car for my darshan, and my two colleagues who looked after my aged parents at Delhi.
His Holiness then enquired if I knew Sanskrit. I pleaded my ignorance despite studying the language till Intermediate level. He said I should read one dasakam of ‘Narayaneeyam’ daily. He blessed me and I left. Before our car started, a lady came running saying that His Holiness had asked her to go in our car upto Vijayawada from where she had come to seek his darshan.
At Vijayawada she wanted us to have dinner at her host’s place. I pleaded that I had to reach Hyderabad before 10 pm when I was expecting my headache. She said our meal would be ready in 15 minutes.
She was staying in an agraharam, collected the best from each house and we had a feast in 15 minutes! I reached Hyderabad around 10 PM. I suffered no headache that night or ever afterwards.
The house built for my children is named “Telaprolu” with a granite bust of His Holiness below the name. A jasmine creeper provides shade and fragrance to the Holy profile. I commenced the Parayanam of Narayaneeyam at the sannadhi of Guruvayurappan on 7th March, 1969. Each day I read a dasakam as directed by His Holiness. During the first 100 days of parayanam at least four weddings of close relations were finalised by me and all the four couples have had their Shastiabdapoorthi too.
During Emergency, I had prepared a reply to a sensitive question in Parliament. The reply had to be finalised in the Finance Secretary’s room after detailed discussions, as the question pertained to ‘Maruti’. The Finance Secretary, an IAS officer tried his best to modify the reply.
I said that I was not in agreement as all the modifications suggested by him were factually untrue. I refused to submit the modified reply demanded by him and insisted that any change will be his responsibility. He screamed. He rang up the Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India to fly to Delhi next morning with the relevant records and told me that, based on those records, if the reply drafted by me proved defective even to the slightest extent, appropriate action would be taken against me.
I spent a sleepless night wondering what was in store the next day. At dawn, late Shri Iyer of Irwin Road Ganesh Mandir knocked at my door with prasadams from His Holiness stating that he was asked to deliver it early morning without fail.
I then knew all would be well. At the 11 am meeting the Deputy Governor examined my reply in the light of his records and stated that my reply was correct and it could not be put forward in any other manner. Eleven senior officers present at the meeting agreed and the Finance Secretary looked at me and said that for his harshness the previous day he would give me lunch in his room which I had to decline as it was a day on which I could not eat outside my home!
Soon thereafter, I went to Calcutta on work. I generally stayed at the Central Government Hostel at Calcutta while on tour. However, the Senior Commissioner in charge of Administration arranged for me to stay at the guest room in Aayakar Bhavan, which he had tastefully refurbished, and he desired that I should be its first occupant!! I was on a three day tour. On the very first day I returned from work in the best of health but around 7.30 pm before I could go for dinner, I was feverish. In the next few minutes I took a decision to fly back home and informed all concerned. At the Airport a friend of mine also bound for Delhi promised to take care of me and reach me home safely, which he did. I sank into the bed with a temperature of 103 hardly able to move.
Suddenly I had a vision of His Holiness asking me to take cold buttermilk mixed with fenugreek powder. My wife hesitantly obliged. In 15 minutes the fever came down, and I slept well, only to be woken up by the Calcutta Commissioner asking me at 6 am as to what made me rush back and as to how I was. I narrated the sequence of events. He asked me if I was fit enough to hear some shocking news. He said that after I left, some one else, who occupied the guesthouse room, committed suicide. His Holiness perhaps drove me out of the room and later cured me to save me from the “evil spirit”, if only that lurked in the room.
On 4th February 1976 I went to UNDP office at New Delhi to handover my medical report given by UNDP, New York to that Government for selection. As I was handing over the papers, I saw the hand of His Holiness blessing me. I came home and told my wife of this, I said that if indeed my vision was true, I would be elected and before we left the country we should conduct the Upanayanam of our ten-year-old son. We decided to perform at Tirumala in the last week of March and on our way sought the blessings of His Holiness ‘Pudu Periava’ at Sanskrit College, Chennai. When I told Periava that after the Upanayanam at Tirumala I would be returning to Delhi, he casually said ‘Avvalavudana’. It crossed my mind that he was hinting a longer journey.
The next day was Maha Sivaratri and we went to Kanchi to have darshan of His Holiness. While seeking the blessings for performing the Upanayanam, I prayed that if got selected by UNDP I would have to leave my aged parents in India and His Holiness should take care of what is correct for me. After performing Upanayanam of my son at Tirumala, I returned to New Delhi.
The day I resumed my duties, a cable was received that I was selected. Later, when I joined duty at Port of Spain on 1st June 1976 I was shown the file relating to my selection from which I saw precisely that at the time I was before His Holiness on Maha Sivaratri day, adjusting for the time difference between India and Trinidad and uttered my inner prayer as aforesaid, Dr.Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago had written in his own hand “I consider “Coimbatore” more suitable than “Blakely” for the Tax Advisor’s Post.” The Chairman Inland Revenue Board and Finance Secretary of that Government had selected “Blakely” from the panel of seven names sent by UNDP. The PM overruled with the above words. The file was shown to me that I had to justify the expectations of their PM. What humility on the part of their officers. The files marked to the PM carry date and time of submission of files and date of approval of the PM. This is their procedure which incidentally helped me to realise that my selection was due to my presence before His Holiness and infer seeking of His decision.
My assignment was initially for a period of nine months extended to twelve months on the day I reported for duty. Before the one year term was over, the Finance Secretary told me that the PM was keen to extend my term by two more years. I explained to the Finance Secretary that my father’s health was causing concern back home and that I would let him know after speaking to my parents that night. On my way home that evening I went to the UNDP office to collect my mail. There were two letters - one from Sri Chidambaram of Integral Coach Factory, Chennai stating that he went to Bellary for darshan of His Holiness, who asked him to write to me giving my address at Port of Spain, UNDP office!
His Holiness desired Sri Chirambaram to send me a sea mail 1000 copies of Chapter 4 of Bhagawad Gita with Edwin Arnold’s translation and commentary to be distributed to students in the West Indies, Guyana and other nearby countries receiving degree certificates during convocation. The second letter was from TTD containing Sri Varu parasadams. To complete the task assigned by His Holiness, I needed at least a couple of years assuming that the parcel sent to me by sea mail reached me in two months. I rang up the Finance Secretary and agreed to the proposed two year extension explaining the reason for my decision.
A second consignment also came by sea mail and it was only after I completed the distribution I returned to India in June 1982 after a total stay of six years in Trinidad and Tobago. My father passed away in 1978 and after ceremonies in India my mother accompanied me and stayed with me in Trinidad from 1978 to 1982. she kept well despite the surgery with the blessings of His Holiness.
In October 1986, when my daughter was in the last semester of her MBA course I took her to His Holiness for blessings for the future. When we prostrated and got up His Holiness asked whether I was an Iyer or Iyangar despite visible vibuthi on my face. Balu, Kannan and others of the Mutt asked His Holiness whether my vibuthi was not visible? His Holiness ignored and blessed us. I told my wife that we should keep an open mind and look for a suitable Iyengar boy as well!
In November, a boy saw my daughter and approved. I told his parents that I had to go to Kanchi and inform His Holiness seek his blessing before progressing any further. When His Holiness was giving darshan next day it flashed in my mind that the bridegroom to be bore the name Sanjiv Aiyar and His Holiness had given the boy’s name when I sought His blessings a month earlier! Although I compared the horoscopes and arranged the interview etc it never occurred to me till I was before His Holiness. The query in October weather I was an Iyer or Iyangar was the inimitable manner of His Holiness revealing the future without our realising the blessing till the event took place.
In November 1987, I was deputed by Government of India to Yugoslavia to attend the Annual Assembly session of the International center for Public Enterprises at Ljubljana, presently the capital of Slovania. My task was to canvass for the candidate from India for the post of Executive Director of the Centre. Pakistan had put up its candidate.
It was a straight contest. Due to the severe drought this year, as a measure of economy in expenditure, the Government decided that I alone with my International experience could canvass with the help of our Embassy and it was not necessary for the Indian candidate standing for the election to be present for the election! In addition no entertainment expenditure was sanctioned. Pakistan deputed its candidate and six of its senior officers with a substantial entertainment expense grant to throw parties. On my arrival at Belgrade our Ambassador made it very clear to me that our candidate would be defeated and asked me how it was possible for me to satisfy the voting nations to judge the calibre of our candidate. The next morning election was scheduled at Ljubljana. I retired to bed with a troubled mind. In the early hours of morning I had a dream.
His Holiness was before me with His palms open in blessing. His face was at the centre. The right palm presented the image of Sri Varu, my Kula Deivam. The left palm presented the image of Padmavati Thayar. I woke up with goose flesh in my body. Without even looking up my watch to see what the time was, I woke up the Ambassador; I rang him and mentioned my dream. I assured him that His Holiness does not come in my dream without a purpose and that we would win the election. The Ambassador was a scholar to appreciate my confidence. He said he would introduce me to the Assembly, that I could make all the submissions on behalf of the Indian candidate, face their queries and satisfy the representatives of the 27 voting Nations who had arrived for the secret ballot.
With His Holiness to support me I carried the day and when counting was over the Indian candidate was declared elected winning 20 votes as against 7 for the candidate from Pakistan. I flew to Delhi handed over the papers and rushed to Kanchi to thank His Holiness. It was Pradosham evening. His Holiness was beaming like Lord Siva with all the Rudraksha malas adorning His head. I prostrated and told him that I had to share my experience with Him. He asked all to keep silent, instructed that no one should talk or come between Him and me where I was standing and asked me to narrate in Tamil without a single word in English. I found it extremely difficult to narrate in Tamil. When I finished, His Holiness summarised my narration in very few words in English! The crowd of devotees around us roared in laughter. As they stood laughing, His Holiness asked me to prostrate making sure that my entire body touched the ground. As I prostrated HIS HOLINESS stood up and raised both His palms and blessed me with the words “Kshemama Iru”. From that day to this all my trials and tribulations have been faced deriving comfort from the words of His Holiness. I imagine that the laughter in the audience was provoked by His Holiness to divert their attention with a view to ensure that no ‘evil eye’ was cast on me.
In July 1990, I was selected by UNDP, New York to prepare a “Country Study” of work done by Government of India in the fields of Health, Education, and social sector for suitable incorporation in the first Human Development Report to be published by United Nations in January 1991.
My acceptance of the work had to be conveyed to UNDP by the 1st of August and the report was required to be prepared and submitted to UNDP by 28th of August, 1990. This was a time bound programme and the Government of India decided that I could accept it provided I could do the work outside office hours without detriment to my responsibilities and duties of the post of Secretary, Bureau of Industrial and Financial Reconstruction [BIFR], I was holding at the time. I received this clearance on 27th of July. My wife felt that my health could be affected if I strained myself doing both office and the report work I was diffident too as to when I could accept the assignment. That night I dreamt that His Holiness caressed my head with the sole of his foot.
Next morning I went to UNDP office and submitted my letter of acceptance to undertake this assignment and to submit my report by 28th August.
For the next four weeks I worked from 7 pm to 3 am daily and submitted a 180 page report on 28th August. Glancing through the Executive summary, the Resident Representative UNDP, New Delhi looked very pleased and forwarded the report the same day to New York. I had to deliver a lecture at Bangalore next week and I took the opportunity to visit Kanchi that weekend. When I narrated my dream, acceptance and completion of work with the Grace of His Holiness.
I made the mistake of telling him that the language, ideas and presentation flowed from the caress I received from His “padam”. His Holiness promptly said that His Padam cannot be blamed for the mistakes, if any, in the report!
I assured that I would own up to mistakes. His Holiness asked if he could see the report. I promised that after the publication of the Human Development Report by UNDP in January 1991, a seminar was scheduled to be held in February and thereafter I would give a copy.
After the seminar on 25th February I visited Kanchi and gave a copy of my report along with a copy of the book released by UNDP New Delhi. At about the time my son had completed his PhD and began working in USA. I sought the blessing of His Holiness for his marriage at an early date. Earlier in 1984 – when I had taken my son for the blessing of His Holiness, he was introducted as Venkatakrishnan. His Holiness asked if he hailed from Tirunelveli knowing very well that I hailed from Coimbatore! In June 1991 my son’s wedding took place and the bride’s parental grandmother hailed from Tirunelveli!
After the centenary Jayanti of His Holiness in May, 1993 a small gold coin which anointed His padam during the Kanakabhishekam was sent by the Mutt to all those who had contributed gold sovereigns. On receipt of the momento in July, I commenced performing abhishekam and the Maha Periava ashtotra archana to the coin every month on ‘Anusham’ star days. This coin was kept in a small silver box kept tightly closed. During travel it formed part of my Pooja kit.
During my visit to Kanchi in September 1993, as soon as I checked in the hotel and opened my suitcase containing my Pooja kit, I found the gold coin missing from the box in which it was kept securely. I checked the suit case, the entire room, all my clothes for several hours and reluctantly retired to bed. Next morning after Pooja when I opened my Narayaneeyam book to read the dasakam meant to be read that day, I found the gold coin exactly at the relevant page! It seemed His Holiness had merged with His directive to me in February 1969 to read one Dasakam of Narayaneeyam every day!
I have narrated as faithfully as possible my good fortune at having had the Pratyaksha Deivam to guide me. This is the first time I have put down the bagyam in words. I sincerely pray for all those to happen to read my narration should consider that the ‘baghyam’ has flown out of the immeasurable compassion of His Holiness for souls even like mine!