IN 1972, MY MOTHER HAD A HEALTH CRISIS. She became sick after major surgery, and despite the best treatment by the specialists, she showed no signs of recovery. During one of those hospital visits, she heard the distant soothing sounds of bhajans emanating from the local Sathya Sai Center (Samithi). She felt comforted by the bhajans and soon asked my father, Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju, to take her to Puttaparthi.

My father came from a Brahmo Samaj background. The Brahmo Samaj is a reform movement with beliefs based on the teachings of the Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures. It is focused on monotheism and rejects the caste system and the traditional Hindu practices of idol worship. So, accepting ‘man’ as God and the concept of ‘Avatar’ was anathema to him, but he kept aside his beliefs for my mother’s sake. Cutting a long story short, the family pilgrimage to Puttaparthi did wonders for my mother’s health. She was not only cured but transformed and filled with energy and enthusiasm. She would cook food for over 100 people every Thursday and serve it to the homeless on the streets of Guntur, our hometown in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. She also inspired others to join in the service activities. Seeing the phenomenal change in my mother’s health, my dad also gravitated toward Swami and His teachings, and soon joined the Sathya Sai Organization, beginning a lifelong spiritual journey dedicated to Swami.

An Unforgettable Interview

As young children playing on the sands of the Mandir, we experienced Swami’s limitless love in many ways. We especially looked forward to our visits to Swami. However, after experiencing ‘Mother’s Love’ in Swami for years, we experienced ‘Father’s Discipline’ for the first time when He called just the four of us siblings for an interview as we were on the verge of entering college. Swami told us sternly, “I know what happens in colleges these days. You go in as individuals, and you come out as couples! Why do you need such distractions? If you think that no one is watching you, you are wrong. God is always watching. I am always watching you.”


We were stunned at this unexpected admonishment. Swami continued, “Your parents have trusted you and given you freedom. I want you to get a good name for your family and Swami.”

Exhorting us to focus only on our studies and God, He said, “When things are going well, and your father holds a position, people will come to you. But when things go wrong, no one will come to help you except God. God alone is your best friend.”

Finally, He called me aside and told me about my future, “I will find a suitable husband for you. Come to Puttaparthi when I call you.”

I panicked and responded, “But I want to study and work, Swami.”

“You may do all of that later. But when I call, just come.”

There was a tone of finality in His voice, and I nodded in agreement.

The Gift of Paradise

A few months later, we received a telegram from Swami calling us to come to Prasanthi Nilayam. He introduced us to Shyam Kanagala’s family; Shyam and I were married in the divine presence on July 6, 1988. Swami showered us with pearls of wisdom in the interviews following the wedding. He showed us His ‘empty’ hand and said, “Everything is in this hand. You ask me, and I shall give you.”

Shyam was quick to respond, “Swami, we want to be near and dear to You….”

“What do you mean by being near?” Swami asked.

“To be in Your proximity, Swami….”

“What do you mean by being dear?”

“To please You at all times, Swami….”

Swami smiled and narrated a beautiful analogy. He said that there is a lake filled with lotuses. The bees come from far away and enjoy the nectar in the flowers. But the frogs which keep hopping nearby are not even aware of the existence of nectar in the flowers!

“Distance does not matter. You become near to God when you are dear to God.” He also added, “You will be dear to me.” These words took deep root in my heart.

With Swami’s blessings, we settled in a lovely home in Bengaluru. Shyam had an excellent job. We constantly received Swami’s guidance and assurance–either directly or indirectly. Our parents were around to help us to bring up our son. Life was smooth and beautiful!

Paradise Lost

Avatars or incarnations do not come to help settle us comfortably in worldly life. We are mistaken if we think this way. Swami came to ignite the divine spark in each of us so that we realize our oneness with Him through Self-knowledge. This can occur only when we are removed from our worldly comfort zones.

In 1994, we moved to the Texas A&M University campus, Commerce, Texas, USA. Our life, which had been beautiful so far, got shattered quickly! Shyam, who had been a manager in India, became a student with two dependents in a foreign land. He was working two part-time jobs while studying full-time to support the family. The degrees and job experiences we had gathered so far were of little value in the new land, and we had to start all over again. We were also deprived of Swami’s reassuring physical presence and our parents’ support which we had taken for granted so far. The university campus was a very lonely place, and I was on the verge of a physical and mental breakdown.

Sai is a Call Away

One day, I was exhausted and poured my heart out to Swami. I wondered whether He still remembers us as His children. If He did so, I sought His presence in my life. It was an outburst of emotions that I forgot about soon. Then I went about my daily routine. Later that day, I received a phone call from my father in India. He said, “I am just back from darshan in Whitefield. When I was leaving, Swami inquired about all of you. He asked me how you, Shyam, and my grandson were doing. He also gave vibhuti to be sent to you.”

This message was so timely and reassuring. It infused me with the strength to go on. That was when I remembered His words that God alone would be with us as our best friend when things are not going well.

Things began to improve as we continued life with His name on our lips and His form in our hearts. We moved to Dallas, Texas, and Swami introduced us to a loving Sai Center. We began participating in the Center activities enthusiastically, especially the community outreach events. This made me happy once again.

Swami called us for an interview when we went to Puttaparthi in 1998. During the interview, Swami showered us with motherly love and padanamaskar and told Shyam, “You thought you were separated from me, and I was away from you. You even packed your bags and wanted to return, right? I have always been with you. I even saved your life when you met with a head-on collision.”

How can we ever forget that fateful night when Swami saved Shyam from the jaws of death? We are eternally grateful to Him. One night Shyam was returning late from work, around 1:30 am, as there were deadlines to be met on his project. As he was driving home, he felt rather sleepy, so he pulled over to the side of the road to rest for a few minutes before continuing. As he was resting, a drunken driver slammed his SUV from behind, and Shyam’s car was “crumpled” all the way to the area behind the driver. The car was flung to the slope and changed direction. Shyam immediately lost consciousness. After some time, paramedics came and extricated him from the wreckage by cutting open the driver’s side door, which was severely damaged. Shyam was hospitalized. Fortunately, by Swami’s Grace, he had only a minor fracture of the collarbone from the restraining seat belt. Swami assured us, Don’t ever forget that Swami is always with you.”

In His omniscience, Swami shared details about the talks we gave about Swami and His teachings. He spoke about the different activities we were undertaking. With His encouragement, we also shared details of the activities at the Dallas Sai Center. Swami was happy, and He gave us Vibhuti to be distributed to Center members. He also conveyed His blessings to my sister and said, “Tell her to take care of her health. If she, as a doctor, neglects her health, how can she take care of others?”

The interview was full of assurance and love. Overwhelmed, I prayed, “Swami, please shower us with more opportunities to serve….”

Swami’s reply surprised me. He said, “Yes! Service is necessary, and you must serve. But from now on, you should make efforts to keep your heart pure.”

I must say that I was disappointed when I heard this. I felt my heart was always pure, and I expected Swami’s guidance to do more service activities. But no word of Swami is casual or in vain–knowing this, I kept quiet.

Swami then told me to visit my grandfather before leaving for the USA. However, we had a flight to catch, and there was no time. So I told Him I would not be able to do it this time. He kept quiet, and the interview was over.

Paradise Lost–Again

Slowly but surely, the meaning and import of all of Swami’s words began to dawn on me. In a couple of weeks, my grandfather passed away. I felt guilty and repentant that I had not met him despite Swami’s advice. But that was just the beginning, and drastic changes began to disrupt our lives again.

Shyam was relocated to another workplace, and the new place did not suit us. Soon, I was forced to quit my job. At the same time, I began to face health challenges. It was a tough time compounded by financial challenges. In these circumstances, the friends we considered very close to us chose to distance themselves. Instead of supporting us in those trying times, they did not even want to be associated with us! Today, I do not find this surprising because this is the nature of the world. But back then, I was shocked. I was at crossroads yet again. A constant dialogue in my mind about these misfortunes took a toll on my physical and mental health. I desperately needed inner peace, and I pleaded with Swami to help me experience it again.

Pleasure is an Interval Between Two Pains

My inner balance was severely disturbed when I went through all this external turbulence. That is when I realized what Swami was referring to when He said that I must try to keep my heart pure. I had to let go of my expectations, conditions, and judgment. Only when I dropped this baggage could I become light and free. Till then, I would be stuck in the endless, vicious cycle of pleasure and pain. It was at this time that Swami led me to meditation. I slowly learned how to tune out the restlessness and noise while tuning into inner stillness.

All these answers came from the Swami within me. I understood that I needed to hold on to the temple in my heart. I know that Swami continues to guide me and work with me on my spiritual journey.




Mrs. Sarojini Kanagala is a longtime devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and enthusiastically shares Swami’s love and message through her inspiring talks and books. She is married to Mr. Shyam Kanagala who serves as the Regional President of Region 10 of SSSIO, USA. Swami graciously performed their wedding in the year 1988 at Puttaparthi. Mrs. Kanagala authored a book in Telugu titled “Sai Spandana” (Sai’s Divine Response) for Swami’s 85th Birthday and co-authored a book with her husband, titled “Faith, Hope, and Love” for Swami’s 90th Birthday. She is the eldest daughter of Prof. Anil Kumar Kamaraju who translated many of Swami’s Discourses.




First published in Eternal Companion Vol. 2, Iss. 5