The First Word

We are happy to present the twenty-fourth issue of SAI AURA with Best Wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2024. We also invoke the Blessings of Sai Maharaj to the youngest member of our team Amit and his beloved wife Aubrey.

This reminded me of the line

“Yet all experience is an arch where through
Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.”
                                                         –from Tennyson we pass into 2024.

When Seetha and I go on our travels to different parts of the world to visit Sai temples pilgrimage or sightseeing, in Europe, Japan, New Zealand, or America we keep a daily log, a diary recounting our everyday experiences, what we ate, and drank, where we did so, where we stayed, what we saw, paintings, and sunsets, and theatre performances. We have recorded our experiences with Sai Maharaj honestly.

We make a note of what we spend every day, and on what we spend it. We write down what our responses were to what we saw, did, and our experience of surprise, wonder and delight, and often anxiety and apprehension when, like all travelers everywhere, we’d find ourselves lost in a strange place, far from home, and darkness descending. We began the practice of keeping the log several years ago, and despite the pressures of check-out times in hotels, and the schedules of train, bus, and flight departures, have managed to fit in the daily task.
These pan-world journals that we maintain would be of no interest whatsoever excepting Sai devotees, to anyone else; they are purely personal, meant to communicate with no one but ourselves so that we are reminded of Sai Parabrahman. So, what’s the point of these jottings? Why did we start them, and why do we continue what by now has become almost a compulsive reflex? Is it a manifestation of narcissism, of ego gratification?
We like to think not. As no one except Sai Maharaj is ever going to read these scribblings apart
from us, they can’t be an exercise in showing off: See where all we’ve been; see what all we’ve seen.
No, no showing off. But our logs could be a form of revelation, revealing to ourselves aspects of
ourselves, of how we see and experience new things, and how we’ve responded to them over the
passage of time and travels.

Back in Bengaluru when we are at home, cocooned in the comfortable, and comforting, predictivity of domestic routine – the clockwork mechanism of Sai Baba’s worship, the morning coffee or tea, the usual chores, the set meal times, the nightly retirement prefacing a reprise of the day gone by – our perceptions go into soft focus. We tend to look at familiar things without seeing them: the flowery print on the wall, the Bhavani rug in the living room, the bedside lamp on a coffee stem reminding of our Malnad days, with the Japanese shade that always tilts to the right.
When we remove ourselves, through choice or force of circumstance, from our customary setting, our senses seem to sharpen. When we become travelers – as distinct from tourists taking a guided tour, with a tour guide pointing out what to look at and why, and arranging our accommodation, meals, and transport for us – we are made to jettison, like unwanted luggage, the set mold of accustomed consciousness as the predictable gives way to the random, sameness to strangeness.
The air feels sharper, alert with the uncertainty of newness. Sights, sounds, smells, and tastes seem sharper, pleasantly or otherwise. What has been transformed, of course, is not the outer world, but the inner world of our perception; we meet within us other selves which we had misremembered in the forgetfulness of the familiar. When we travel, we set out to encounter the many possible selves we are, or might be; we are both journey and destination.

The travelogues Seetha and I keep are mementos of self-discovery as we welcome the new year 2024.