I have often wondered about
Swami's brothers and sisters. And his surrounding kin. Kondamma Raju,
Swami's Grandfather, comes to mind, quickly. The Kannam had two childless
wives, Subbamma, and Kamalamma, who were Swami's "aunt-mothers" for want
of a better term, during his childhood.
Seshamma Raju is sometimes poorly portrayed in Sai Literature as the elder
brother (Telugu Pandit he was called); I made many enquiries recently
around Puttaparthi about Seshamma Raju and found that he was a devotee of
his brother. Certainly he was the instrument of divine revelation taking
young Sathyanarayana to Uravakonda where the Divine Self revealed
itself. Seshamma Raju was also the instrument occasioning the historic
Letter of 25, May 1947, wherein Swami revealed hitherto unknown aspects of
his mission, the task, the vow, the work, the 'reason to be proud' and the
definition of "devotee" who will never be given up once they attach
themselves to Baba. I understand Seshamma Raju gave some talks, and these
have been set to paper.
Swami's sisters, Venkamma (1918-1993) and Pavathamma (1920-1996) were
closely associated with Swami all their lives.
When Sathyanarayana was a young boy, Venkamma was the occasion of one
miracle with nature:
It was one evening during the Uttara (northern) monsoon. The sky had grown
dark and menacing. Raju's sister, Smt. Venkamma was building a house then.
There was yet a large kiln of wet bricks waiting to be baked. The logs of
wood were readied but the fire could be lit only the next morning for the
day was inauspicious. There would be A downpour was imminent reducing all
those bricks to a huge mound of clay.
A helpful neighbour told Venkamma to cover the bricks with bundles of dry
sugar cane leaves. He suggested a friend of his living on the other side
of the Chithravathi who could be persuaded to give these leaves. A long
line of men, women and children ran over the sands in desperate hurry.
Raju too joined the last in the line of volunteers. But when he got to the
middle of the riverbed he suddenly called out for everyone to stop. "Venkamma!"
he said. "Vaanaraadu! (The rains will not come). "
Astonishingly, the clouds scattered, the day brightened and the threat was
Sathyam had a deep affection for sister, Smt. Venkamma. She was staying
with her brothers then at Uravakonda. Often, both Sathyam and Venkamma
used to go together to fetch water from the si bhavi (sweet water well) or
the bungalow bhavi (bungalow well, since it was next to the traveller's
bungalow in Uravakonda)
It was at Venkamma's insistence that Subbamma requested Baba to set up an
Ashram on her land. There were days when Baba and Venkamma were the only
ones to lead the bhajans.
His other sister, Parvathamma, looked after Baba's food right from the
days when Baba set up the Mandir in 1945; at one time, Baba remarked that
it was because of Parvathamma, his body was being sustained. She had lost
her husband early and Baba had seen her through a series of personal
tragedies. Every time Baba brought Parvathamma through tragedy,
Parvathamma would plunge herself into zealous service of Baba.
Swami's other brother, there are many photos of him with the young Sathya
Sai Baba around Puttaparthi in the early 1940's and there is a record of
Swami conducting the marriage of Janakiramiah, and there is also
information that Janaki suffered from athsma as a youth, and Swami healed
that. One picture of Swami and Janaki with Lakshmi (calf) comes to mind.
In later times, Janakiramiah was well known for conducting meetings at the
ashram gate after morning darshan, ditto Swami saying he was good with
dealing with people. Many decisions in Puttaparthi Village were referred
to Janakiramiah, and so he performed service to the community and to
Swami in this manner, effectively. I have also seen photographs of
Janakiramiah with arathi lamp, inaugurating service projects in and around
the region of Puttaparthi.
I often wondered what it must be like to have a Poorna Avatar for a
brother. Given the magnificent developments in the small town, once known
as Puttavardini, to Puttaparthi, to the first mandir, to the now
magnificent Prashanthi Nilayam, to look back on the past to early origins
in Pathi Village must have been an awe inspiring experience. And a
mystery, this brother of theirs, as well as ishta deva, their personal
Guru and God.
I am speculating here, but I imagine that all in Swami's family were sent
there by him for reasons of spiritual merit from previous lives, to play
many different roles in the divine story this time around. Certainly his
father and mother were great devotees, also. Swami, on the demise of his
father, told that HE chose his father, and that is only a priviledge
granted once in a yuga. A very rare priviledge.
Kinship also extends to our own families also. I wonder about that
frequently at times also. I have been reading an older book, Sri Sathya
Sai Anandamayi, the recollections of a devotee lady and her daughter,
right from early days. Frequently Swami is quoted saying that the
spiritual merit one acquires is passed down through the family for 7
generations. When I read that, I reflected back to the faith of both my
grandmothers. Very devoted Christians. I imagine the divine plays all
roles in your family, and so the interactions set up the events, the
relationships, the environment to provide that perfect journey that lands
us at the Feet of the Avatar this time. This time, this body, this is the
Divine Will. As with Janakiramiah, so with ourselves.