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Honouring Recently Retired Trustee - Mr Balram Puri

Honouring Recently Retired Trustee, Mr Balram Puri

Last year, Trust members were saddened to learn that Mr Balram Puri had decided to retire from the SSSC Trust UK. In 1978, Sri Indulal Shah, during his visit to London, discussed his proposal of establishing a 'Sai Trust' with Mr Puri. Perhaps, it was the first Sai Trust outside India. Sri Indulal Shah gave Mr Puri the responsibility to liaise with the solicitors and the charity commission in order to set up the charity.

The Trust, following Swami's advice, was established on 15 June 1979 under the name of "Shri Satya Sai World Foundation". Swami was a Founder Trustee. Mr Puri explained to various contacts in the UK about the work being done by Swami. Projects such as ‘the University’, the ‘Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital’ and the ‘Water Project’ were explained in detail. However, no funds were ever solicited. With Swami's grace the funds started to flow into the Trust, and all funds were remitted to Prashanti Council. The Trust in fact had sent to Prashanti funds of £1.5 million over the years for these projects. The Trust did not charge any penny of expense.

Mr Puri and his spiritually-devoted and very talented wife, Damyanti, came to Swami in 1970. Then, there were just five families in the London area singing Sai Baba Bhajans. Until Damyanti joined, there was no harmonium, tabla or any other musical instrument involved. Before coming to London, Damyanti used to sing at Radio Delhi that transmitted its programmes nationwide. Damyanti started leading the Bhajans and playing harmonium. Slowly, the number of attending devotees grew.

In 1972, a large number of Asians migrated to the UK from Uganda (the only country, along with Kenya, that Baba visited outside India). They settled in various cities like London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester and Bradford etc. The Puris suddenly found that there were now quite a large number of devotees of Sai Baba in England and therefore, they organised a Sai Baba Birthday Celebration, inviting these devotees from all the various parts of England to gather in one hall.

Over a period of more than two years, Mr and Mrs Puri would both visit all the Sai Groups outside London, with the harmonium in their car. They would organise Bhajan sessions, and be back in London on Sunday for their own regular Bhajan session. As the number of devotees grew in London, they moved their sessions from Mr Sita Ram's house into a hall in Pinner.

In January 1975, on their visit to Whitefield, Swami called both of them and advised them to work for the organisation. When Sri Indulal Shah came to England later in January 1975, he laid the foundations of the UK Council, and he appointed Damyanti as National Convenor for 'Bal-Vikas' (now known as ‘Sai Spiritual Education’ outside the UK) and 'Mahila Vibhag' (a Ladies' section).

In 1975, as the number of devotees had been steadily increasing they established another Centre in London near Russell Square underground station. The ‘Russell Square Centre’ seeded the formation of many new Centres and is still very popular today.

Damyanti continued her singing and musical work at this Centre, and regularly produced Bhajan cassettes. She always included the singers from the Centre. The first cassette (from England) when presented to Swami in 1978 was listened to by him, and approved for sale at the Prashanti Nilayam Bookshop. Later, all her Cassettes and Videos were placed at the Lotus feet and it was only after Sai Baba’s blessing that they were released for distribution. All the Cassettes etc. were produced by a charity ‘Helping Hands International’, which was founded by Damyanti. The sale proceeds were collected and utilized by the Charity.

As the Trust Chair, Kishin Khubchandani, said in his thanks to Mr Puri, on behalf of all the Trustees:

"It is with mixed feelings that we accept your proposal to retire as a Trustee, from the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK. Both you and your wife have been pillars of strength for the UK Sai organisation and the UK Trust. Your dear wife was instrumental in starting up the first centres in the UK, may Swami bless her soul and grant her perfect peace. Swami himself blessed you to be one of the first trustees of the UK Trust when it was registered in 1978. Since then you have been a true and trusted devotee considering Swami’s work as yours.

You have used your wealth and talents for the good of others for over thirty years. Used every opportunity to help others advance spiritually, being compassionate at all times. Humility and tolerance has characterized your behaviour as a Sai devotee. You have truly demonstrated "your life is his message" and "service to man is service to God"

We the trustees of Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK will miss your wise council, but will continue to tap into your wisdom when in need."

Article submitted by the Sri Sathya Sai Charitable Trust UK