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Love and Light

Service with a Song

Singing and Serving at His Feet
Yoges Yogendran, Surbiton, London

Mr Yoges Yogendran is a financial controller at Kingston University, London. He is a former Regional Chairperson of Region 1 of the Sathya Sai Service Organisation, UK. He is an active and accomplished bhajan singer and balvikas teacher.

My experience with Swami was an evolving and slow paced churn to guide me to Him. My wife started reading about Swami in the late 80s and early 90s and I used to drop and pick her up from bhajans (devotional singing). She would often ask me to join her, and I would simply say "No" or something equally as blunt.

After a few months, she urged me again using music to lure me to bhajans persuading me that I would love the melodies. The following week, I went along and I did in fact love it. The tabla, harmonium and singing all came together so beautifully and this inspired me to slowly move from being nervous and shy at the back to edging towards the front, often sitting a few rows behind the main bhajan singers. It was during one Thursday bhajans that a lead singer passed the microphone and asked me to sing.

I simply said, "No, I dont sing", and with that the microphone and the opportunity to sing slipped away from my hands. After a few bhajans, the microphone again was passed to me and I was again asked to sing. Having attended bhajans now for nearly two months, I practised one of the Lord Murugas bhajans which I loved very much. So I took a chance and sang that Muruga bhajan and felt happy singing. After the bhajan finished, the lead singer came to me and said " You sang well...but we sing Muruga bhajan last!". I didnt even know that. With the encouragement that I had received, I started going to all three days bhajans and listen to a few other bhajans and wrote the words down as singers were singing. During one of the Thursday bhajans, I was asked to sing, so this time I sang a Devi bhajan. After the bhajan, an aunty who is a senior Devotee of the centre, came and asked one of the lead singers, " Who sang today the Devi bhajan?”. The lead singer took me to the aunty and introduced me. She said you sing well, and that I should come on Sundays (main bhajan day) to sing. My ego started working fast. So, as I was told, I went the following Sunday and told the bhajan coordinator that I am going to sing. They had never seen me, as they did not come on Thursdays. They told me that I cant sing without coming to practices. So I did not sing that Sunday. They told me to come the following Sunday after bhajan for practice. As discussed, I went the following Sunday and attended the bhajan practice after the bhajan. I sang about three bhajans, as I didnt know many. To my surprise, they told me that I can sing one of the bhajans at the following Sunday bhajan. After few Sundays I was included as one of the lead singers and I was asked to do other service work at the centre.

It was suggested that I participate in the "meals on wheels" service activity with the local Council. The council had authorised me to be the driver. Each Saturday I used to go to the council and drive the van with an escort, whose job was to deliver hot meals to the elderly at their residence. On one occasion, the week before Christmas, my escort asked me if I could deliver the last meal, as he had an appointment in London. As it was the last delivery, I agreed to do it. When I checked the details of the resident, I noticed that this was an elderly lady in her nineties, who was bedridden; I had to open the main door of the building with a key hanging on a string behind the letter hole, then to walk to her flat and place the meal on her plate and serve. I also had to wait until she finished her meal and take the plate back to the kitchen. No wonder she was the last one on the list!

I did my tasks as I was supposed to. During the time I spent with her, I thought I will talk to her. I started by saying, "it is a lovely day, is it not?". To this, she started crying. I thought that I had upset her and said to myself, “ Thats it! This is the end of my service”! I responded to her saying that I was sorry and that I did not mean to upset her. She remarked, “No, no...you are the first one actually talking to me like this since Easter!” I thought to myself, “Oh God, when is Easter….and we were nearly at Christmas”! I realised the plight of our elders. I felt sorry for her and stayed for a further half an hour.

As I was about to leave, she called me and asked me to open one of the drawers of a dressing table. I opened it to find a chocolate box which she asked me to give to my daughter who was little at the time.
I was very surprised. How did she know that I had only a daughter? She could have said give it to your son or children. I could not believe this..I realised what Swami often said t, ”Service to man is Service to God”.

I started reading Sathya Sai Speaks volumes and by now I was slowly getting to know about Swami and His teachings. A couple of years rolled by. I was then involved in teaching balvikas, helping on service projects etc and I took up the service coordinator role at the centre.

My first visit to see Swami was on the 8th April 1993. I was given lot of advise from my Sai sisters and brothers from our centre on what to do and not do when I see Swami. Swami was in Kodaikanal at that time. Having reached Kodaikanal with my wife and daughter, we were eager to see Swami. I kept asking people to check if Swami was actually in Kodaikanal. The sevadal told me "Dont worry, Swami is here. Come and join in the darshan line. Somehow I ended up in the first row inside the Mandir next to the red carpet where Swami usually walked. Every time the door opened, I was expecting Swami to walk through. The first time the door opened, Prof Anilkumar walked in. The second time the door opened and my excitement was quelled when I saw bhajan singers and students walking in.

As they say, 3rd time lucky! This time when the door opened, I saw Swami for the first time ever in the physical form walking with a lovely smile on His face; this was my first darshan! I could not control my tears. Our visit followed after a sad incident that happened in our lives. The thought of that incident brought uncontrollable tears. Somehow I controlled these and enjoyed the lovely bhajans. After the bhajans, Swami gave a discourse. During the discourse in Telugu , He looked at me and said in English, " Forget the past...Forget the past...Forget the past three times". As if that is Telugu, Prof Anilkumar also "translated" the same. I felt that was a message for me from Him. I prayed to Him. As He was leaving the hall, He stood in front of me and held my hand gently and then left. We continued to stay in Kodaikanal until the Tamil New Year and used to enjoy wonderful darshan of Him, including car darshan. As a family we thoroughly enjoyed our trip. We bought a full size picture of Swami blessing with both hands. I had the picture in my hand in the darshan line and asked Swami to bless. With a smile He blessed the picture with both hands and touched my head.

On our return from the trip, my wife and I took up additional Seva activities whilst my daughter attended balvikas. In November 1993, we were approached by sister Karunes asking us to join the Sai Mahima SSE programme during July 1994. We were not sure if we could afford to go to India again.

That night, my wife had a dream. In the dream, Swami asked her...So, are you coming in July? My wife said, “money Swami". Swami said….what is money? Come, come….

When my wife told me of the dream, we decided to join the group and told sister Karunes that we will participate. As time passed, my daughter was selected to be in the dance programme and I was selected to sing for the programme, whilst my wife was selected to help backstage. Sai Mahima was ready to be taken to India as an offering to Swami. During that time, Swami was in Whitefield, Bangalore. Swami made us wait for a long time before He gave us the go-ahead to perform the programme. The programme was staged in the old Kalyana Mandap on a Tuesday evening. After the programme, Swami said, “very happy, very happy”. He asked sister Karunes, " When are you all leaving? Do the programme again on Thursday in Sai Ramesh Hall". The whole group was very happy for this opportunity. And we practised even harder. Swami made arrangements for the Sai Ramesh Hall to be decorated for our programme. The hall was full on that day, as Swami had invited many people. The children performed well again and Swami was very happy and took photos with the group. This was a memorable experience for us all!

Since that experience, I was fortunate to be involved in Sai Mahima 2 (1996),3 (1998) and 4 (2000). I took away lot of pleasant memories from them. As always Swami was very happy with the programmes.

I continued on the road to spirituality, with the help and support of other devotees as Swamis instruments. I was blessed to become a centre chair, regional SSE coordinator and a UKCC member. I am grateful to Swami for these opportunities given to me which brought me very close to Him. I continue to look forward to serve His mission at every opportunity.