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Love and Light

Region 4 - Babas 89th Birthday Celebrations in Leicester

On Sunday 23rd November 2014, all over the world, Swami’s 89th Birthday was celebrated. Leicester was no exception. Hosted at the Ram Mandir, a venue so infused with vibrations accumulated over years of events and prayers, the celebrations ran in full motion, compèred by sister Nirali Sisodia.

As some 600 people flocked into the hall, they were greeted by a colourful photo of Swami on the stage, surrounded by flowers and balloons. The altar was adorned with symbols of different faiths, which embodied Swami’s all-encompassing love for everyone regardless of religion. Attracting the most attention for some perhaps, was the birthday cake at the centre, baked by the devotees and impressively decorated with miniatures along with the well-known phrase “Love is my Form”.

At 2pm, the event commenced with multi faith prayers and two bhajans. We were all initially heart warmed by the adorable performances and dances from the young SSE groups, twinkling like stars in their outfits, and the Good Values Club, facilitated by Mr Dipak Kumar. Swami tells us that the “students of today are the teachers of tomorrow”. During this event however, the SSE students were already teaching us a lesson about the importance of our thoughts, words and deeds being in harmony through a well performed play about a school boy who questions the legitimacy of carrying out actions that are not in tune with one’s own words. A necessary reminder this was! We were also fortunate to enjoy the intricate finger work from tabla maestro Anand Bhalsod and his talented students.

The event was intertwined with vignettes of Swami’s life by group 4 SSE students, translated into Gujarati by Anand Lad so that all members of the congregation could enjoy the Swami’s divine Leelas in their full glory. Included in the programme was the English choir conducted by the enthusiastic Jenni Robson. Accompanied by harmonium, keyboard, baritone ukulele, flute, tabla and other percussion instruments, the choir sang nine songs including the Lord’s Prayer, a Hebrew song and an American Indian song. The SSE orchestra were also able to make an offering by playing an instrumental version of “Happy Birthday to you”. Following this “Tere Janam Dina Me Sai” was sung. The hall reverberating with the lines “Happy birthday day to you Sai Rama”, devotees could imbibe the excitement as the SSE children were about to cut the cake.

The final part of the celebrations was the all anticipated performance by Sairam Iyer. Known as the 8th wonder of the musical world for his ability to sing in both male and female vocals, he, eerily yet magically, blew us away as he began with his female rendition of “Allah Tero Nam”. Awestruck as we were, we sat listening with our eyes peeled to decipher whether what we were hearing was indeed coming from who we were seeing.

The occasion was undoubtedly beautiful. This was not only because of what we saw and heard but also because of the thought of the unity that had to be present to ensure smooth running of the event. Whether it was a child in SSE or an elderly aunty in the choir, a confident musician or a first-time public speaker, a member of the PA team or a volunteer in the kitchen, it was a celebration where so many were able give their personal gift to Swami on this birthday.

Swami says that “My birthday is the date when divinity blossoms in your heart”. If this is the case, why then do we continue to celebrate the physical birthday of the Lord? Whether Swami is your God, Guru, mother, father, best friend or a person you consider to be more enlightened than yourself, he came on Earth to spread his love and deliver his message. He came neither to hurt, nor to convert anyone. He came only to confirm each one in their own faith. His life was his message. He was the one who would always “walk the talk”. It may simply be because we truly adore the form that was born on 23rd November, and all that this form did for us, that we continue to make an offering each year on this this date. Needless to say though, let us pray to be directed in the right direction so that we may plant those seeds for the blossom of divinity in our hearts.

Dixa Thakrar