Ashram Visit: 13 September 2001

twin towers

In Flight Entertainment
National Nine News comes on screen.
Replays of 757 flying into building.

Changi Airport, Singapore. People are glued to the flat plasma TV screens watching CNN. NYSE reopens. Senators and Emergency Service workers give speeches. Bell rings. I watch the market slide. Bottom line scrolls across under a new banner, ‘America’s New War’.

Whitefield, Karnataka. People are glued to CNN and listen to the latest reports. FBI has found something new. Men from Hyderabad involved. Assumed aliases. Many react with disbelief. Bottom line scrolls across under a new banner, ‘America’s New War’.

It is four days after 9/11.

I arrive in a quiet village. White crocodiles of students make their way toward the ashram. Later, as I enter the ashram, and pay my respects at Ganesh and Murugan Temples, I look up and see two mobile telephone towers, above the bus station and on the hill behind it. I think of the role cell phones on aircraft have played recently.

I enter a quiet darshan hall, I am Frisked Very Thoroughly by a respectful seva dal. I look around, observe that the rule on no cushions in darshan has been relaxed. Take a seat. It is so quiet and peaceful. In less than one minute, Swami pops out of the interview room and I have darshan. Swami stays on the porch and speaks. Goes in the interview room. Shortly afterwards, he comes out again and beckons three students forward. They bring their plates of prasad and show him the projects they have prepared. Swami spends quite some time turning the pages, asking some questions, making comments. He autographs one book, taps a student on the head and blesses all the prasad. Boys give pranams and return to their places. The quiet buzz returns.

I take a seat near the students. Peaceful energy, sathwic energy. Here is quietude, tranquillity. Students talk, move in and out of the mandir, swap places. Devotees waiting converse quietly. Simple, bubbling serenity prevails. Darshan hall is sparsely populated. Soon, people begin to arrive for bhajans. The flute commences at 5pm. At 5.15, bhajans begin. Om Namah Shivaya rings through the air, and I reflect on the silence of Shiva, faster, faster, Shiva is gathering up all the ills of the world, yet silent, eternal. I am reflecting during bhajans that Swami is eternal, an eternal now. I am the one with a past, present and future. Sai Shiva walks out during the arathi one hand clutches his robe, the other hand facing palm up, blessing.


Sai Shiva



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