AS FAR AS MY MEMORY GOES, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A ‘DEVOTEE’ OF GOD–visiting temples from childhood and participating in ritualistic worship. I accepted and worshipped all deities without the slightest trace of doubt. However, I had serious reservations about Swami, Sathya Sai Baba. I was exposed to Swami because the Sai Center was just three homes away on the same street where we lived in Chennai, India. I often made fun of Swami–from His hair to His miracles.

Swami Enters My Life and My Home

Swami decided it was time for Him to have some fun with me. He shaped my destiny so that I married Lalitha, His devout follower! And thus, Swami became an integral and inescapable part of my life. Lalitha was keen to attend bhajans regularly, and I was okay with that as long as I did not have to attend those sessions. I was so obstinate that even when I waited for my wife to finish attending the bhajan session, I would sit outside or in a back room! After a while, the family that hosted the bhajans at their home moved out of town. In an ironic twist of fate, they presented us with a photograph of Swami’s feet and requested us to host the bhajans regularly at our residence! They were such lovely people that I reluctantly agreed. Though Swami had not yet gotten into my heart, He was surely in my hearth now!

The Three Challenges to Swami

I slowly began to enjoy the devotional aspect of the bhajans now that I was forced to participate in them. But my heart was still reluctant to embrace Swami. So, I challenged him by asking, “If You are divine, show me clearly that you are the same as Shirdi Baba.” That very night I had a dream where I saw Shirdi Sai and Parthi Sai, and they slowly merged into one form. Swami had answered my question immediately. I was taken aback but not yet thoroughly convinced.

“Earlier, as a non-believer, I considered Swami’s miracles mere coincidences. Now, I take every coincidence and, in fact, every incidence, too, as His miracle!”

Later, I heard of vibhuti manifestations in the homes of devotees. For the second time, I challenged Swami, asking, “If You want me to have faith in You, materialize vibhuti in our home.” Soon, showers of vibhuti began. First, vibhuti began to manifest in a picture of Swami. Then one by one, every image of God in our home began to pour out vibhuti. Swami took it to the extreme when He began manifesting the holy ash even on bookmarks with His name or teachings!

Any time I had a doubt or question, He would visit me in my dreams and provide precise answers! I developed a strong desire to visit Puttaparthi and have His darshan during His 80th Birthday celebrations. But critical deadlines at work made it impossible for me to get leave. That was when I challenged Swami a third time. I prayed, “Swami, clear the path for me to come to Puttaparthi for Your 80th Birthday.” Sure enough, a few weeks later, my manager told me that if I really wanted to go to Puttaparthi, I could go as long as I got the work done. Swami had done it again and listened to my heartfelt prayer!

My first darshan of Swami in Sai Kulwant hall was very special as there were no bounds to the joy welling up in my heart. For the first time, I realized what true bliss or ananda meant. I have had that feeling only a few times since then, but I can never forget that particular experience. Even today, I try to relive that blissful experience over and over again in my mind and heart. Tears well up every time I think of those experiences with Swami.

I felt that I had tested Swami enough. It was now time for me to accept Him and strengthen my faith. As I decided this, however, I realized that Swami’s had decided to test me. It is fair, after all, for Him to test us before accepting us as devotees!

Swami’s Challenge to Us and His Loving Guidance

We had settled down in Knoxville, Tennessee, and were doing well. Lalitha and I had good jobs, our kids enjoyed their school, and we had a lovely Sai Center with SSE classes. That was when my boss asked me to move to Saudi Arabia for a few years on a challenging assignment. I politely declined, not wanting a drastic relocation and being negatively influenced by the media about Saudi Arabia. Yet, my manager was insistent and persistent!

If we moved, Lalitha and the kids would live 3.5 hours away (by car) from where I would work and live, and I would see them only on weekends. I would take on a significant leadership role at work, but there were cultural challenges due to my ethnicity. Not knowing what to do, Lalitha and I prayed to Swami for His guidance. It was as if He was waiting for our call to step in.

“Challenges in life keep coming like waves in an ocean. But His omnipresence reminds us to focus on the limitless ocean of love and compassion that He is.”

For the next ten days consecutively, He appeared in my dream, telling me to move to Saudi Arabia. Whenever I discussed the topic with Lalitha, we sensed the distinct fragrance of jasmine or vibhuti! But Lalitha had no dreams about Swami and was not convinced to make a move. That day, Swami manifested honey on our cactus plant at home. This was another hint for us to move to the desert, i.e., Saudi Arabia! At this point, Lalitha asked Swami why He was not answering her. That night, we both had dreams of Swami almost simultaneously. I woke up right after the dream, around 3 am, and saw her sitting on the bed as she had just awakened from her dream too! Both our dreams guided us to go to Saudi Arabia!

The next day, while leaving work, I turned the radio on, which I hardly did. A Christian pastor came on the air and talked about how God gives us tests but guides us. The pastor specifically gave an example of someone getting a job opportunity they were considering. Instead of thinking about it, he said they should follow God’s guidance and take that job without hesitation. That is how I took up the stint in Saudi Arabia. Swami says that tests are His taste.

Swami Is Our Eternal Companion

Earlier, as a non-believer, I considered Swami’s miracles mere coincidences. Now, I take every coincidence and, in fact, every incidence, too, as His miracle! Challenges in life keep coming like waves in an ocean. But His omnipresence reminds us to focus on the limitless ocean of love and compassion that He is. We must constantly pay attention to His invisible and constant presence in our lives.




(Adapted from an article in the 25th Anniversary Memory Book, Sri Sathya Sai Center, Pittsburgh, USA, 2022)


Mr. Nandakumar Srinivasan was born and raised in India by devout parents. He moved to the USA in 1993. After completing his MBA, he has lived and worked in several countries, including China, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. He has served as devotional coordinator of the SSSIO in Australia and president of Sri Sathya Sai Center in Quad Cities, Iowa (USA). Nandakumar lives in Pittsburgh, USA, with his wife and two daughters, who are devout followers of Swami. He and his family actively participate in center activities.




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