Swami's School Days
How should students conduct themselves when they behave with other students, and what are the limitations and regulations which the students should observe while they are students, I will illustrate you by taking examples from what I did, when I myself was a student.
Puttaparthi is a small village. You all know that. This body is one which has not left Puttaparthi and had not seen other places. This body went to a place called Bukkapatnam and there in a school they take a class, which was known as ESLC. And this body was engaged in studying in that class.
In those days, the public examination commenced for this class called ESLC. This public examination was held in Panwarda. In those days to travel from Bukkapatnam to Panwarda was like making a long journey either to America or to Russia. That was the condition. At that time, there was no bus to Bukkapatnam. There was not even a road to Bukkapatnam and only then a railway came to Bukkapatnam and this was a great sight. Many people in the village used to talk strangely about the trains. They used to say some long snake-like thing was crawling on the rails. They also used to say that it only had one eye, only one eye was shining in front of the train. This kind of strange description was given about the train.
While this was the situation, I had to travel from Puttaparthi alone. The conditions at that time were such that since I had to travel alone, the mother of this body thought that I was going a long distance, so some trouble was involved. She prepared sweets, she prepared various things for me to eat but since there was no tiffin carrier in those days, all of this was tied up in a small bundle of cloth and it was given to me. Not only that, all the relations, father and mother cried, and thought I was going away on a long distance. They all traveled together with me on a carriage, which was driven by oxen up to Bukkapatnam. Eight of the boys together joined and engaged one bullock to go up to Penukonda. Among these eight boys, there was one teacher. The roads were not plain roads. There were several ups and downs and we traveled in bullock cart, for 1 mile with the ups and downs in the road, we had to get off and on the bullock-cart. We had to get off the bullock cart, walk, then get on the bullock-cart. So, it meant to actually make a journey of 1 mile, we had to walk 5 miles. It was much easier to walk rather than getting on and off the bullock-cart. And these were all young little boys. I myself was very small and the teachers used to lift the little boys put them on the bullock-cart and put them out of the cart again and again.
In this way, those of us who started at 5 AM in the morning traveled all the way to Penukonda and reached there at 9 PM in the night. There was no convenience, there was no comfort. There was no place where one could stay. So one could only stay in a camp. Camps were always present in the outer places of a town. So we went to the camp, camped our own provisions, cooked our own food and ate our own food. And I used to do the cooking. All the provisions were prepared from the house, some chutney powder, some sambar powder, were given to us. We went to the camp, we stayed there for 3 days, cooked our own food and somehow or the other, finished our examinations in those 3 days.
You should not think that what I am going to tell you is being given to you with the purpose to get some reputation for myself, or some greatness for myself. Actually in that examination, only I (Swami) alone got 1st class and passed. All of the others failed that examination. All the boys were tiny little boys and this particular ESLC examination came to the world only for the first time. Teachers were very strict. The teachers would search the pockets of the boys to see if they were carrying any papers. Nothing was allowed inside. Pencils, rubbers, and papers were all supplied by the teachers. So this caused some confusion in the minds of the tiny little boys. Therefore, they could not do well at all. In Penukonda and in the whole town, people heard that only Raju alone got first class and passed that particular examination. They wanted to celebrate the occasion by taking Raju in procession on a bullock-cart in the village.
After passing ESLC, there was no further class, which I could study in Bukkapatnam. Therefore the brother of this body, Seshan Raju took this body to his mother-in-law's place in Kamalapur, for further studies. This place Kamalapur was a Tamil town, and was close to Karapa, a few miles away. I was taken to Kamalapur and there I was admitted to the third form of middle school. The conditions were such that I could not do any work at all. I couldn't attend to anything. There was water scarcity and difficulty of getting water. So the first task which I had to do everyday in the morning was to take a big huge earthen pot, carry this pot to the river and bring drinking water from several miles away every day.
In this manner the whole morning was spent to go all the way to collect water and bring it back home which filled my time until 9AM. And that brought me to the time of school. Very little time was left and all that I could do was to bring in the water and go to school, after having a very quick meal. In those days, there was no tiffin, so whatever food was cooked the previous night, was kept overnight along with water. The rice from the previous night was simply put in salty water and left overnight. The next morning the soaked rice had to be eaten. We just put some salt and pickles over the rice and ate the rice which had been kept overnight in water and went to school. There was not much time. We had to eat the soaked rice and pickles quickly and run away to school.
In the school, there were desks. Desks in which you could put your books, and where you could also write some notes and three boys had to sit together on one single desk. I used to sit in the center of the three places of the desk with two other boys. One of the boys was Ramesh and another boy was Sudhir.
They used to sit on either side of me and I used to sit in the center. And in this way, time passed on. After one year, it was found that in every examination in the class, it was these three boys, myself and the other two boys sitting on either side of me were getting the highest marks and first class.
In a place between Karpa and Kamalapur, there is a place where they had an annual festival. At that time, the drill teacher in school started a movement called the scout's movement. And he said that it was compulsory for all boys to join the scout's movement. The drill teacher issued an order that everybody should join this scout troop and everyone had to have khaki knickers and a khaki shirt and on the khaki shirt he should have a medal, all to be prepared by himself by next week. All the scouts had to go to this annual festival in Pushpagiri and they had to do some service to all the people who would come to that festival,
I did not have a single cent (new) paisa. The father to this body belonged to four families, and he could not afford much. So he simply gave me only two annas when I came to this particular school, and six months had lapsed since I joined the school. So I had spent those two annas in those six months. Two annas were a lot of money in those days. After those two annas, I had no money with me. I was the monitor for the class and also a leader for the scout troop. Therefore the teachers issued strict orders that I cannot escape, that I must be present in the scout troop and I must go to Pushpagiri. But, I had no money. I was in great suspense as to how I could go without any money. But the teacher had issued strict orders that I must go around with this scout group.
In those days I had only one ordinary pair of knickers and one ordinary shirt while the scout teacher wanted khaki knickers and khaki shirt. Even the ordinary knickers and the ordinary shirt, as soon as I would return from school, I would wrap myself with a white towel and wash these knickers and shirt. And in order to iron these things, I used to get a brass vessel. In a brass vessel, I would put some coal, make it hot and then iron the clothes around with this brass vessel, take the knickers and shirt and put them under some heavy weight, like a steel trunk so that they would get flat. And I would wear them the next day. I did not have enough money to get a second set of knickers and shirt. That, for one, who had been getting on with only one pair of knickers and shirt! How could I get an additional pair of khaki knickers and shirt?
I could not go and tell the teacher that I only had one pair and that I didn't have khaki knickers and a shirt because that will, to some extent, reflect on the honor of my family. Since I could not tell the drill teacher the facts, I was going to have to quit going to Pushpagiri.
In this way I had been hesitating and discussing between various alternatives. Under the circumstances I made a good plan. I said that I was not feeling very well, and that there was another boy, Ramesh who was my assistant and would take my position. I'm not feeling well right now, so I will come later. That was my plan. But this boy who was sitting next to me, Ramesh, somehow came to know that I had some difficulties and that I was planning to get out of the situation. He went to his father and said, "Father, I very much want the khaki knickers and shirt. They are very nice. Please not only make one set for me, but two sets for me." And he had the same height and stature as myself at that time. While this was so, the other boys learned that I was getting out of the plan and they started planning not to go too. The pressure from the other boys started increasing. They would come and say, "If you don't come, Raju, then we won't go." In this way, the pressure was increasing. Meanwhile Ramesh managed to get an extra khaki uniform from his father and he wrapped it in a piece of paper and wrote a note, saying "I am leaving this extra uniform for you. You must accept this extra uniform. If you don't accept it, I will go and die. I will commit suicide. Please accept this from me." And he put it in the desk where I used to put my books and left it there.
Ramesh also wrote in that note, "Raju, you are like a brother to me. You must accept this dress as a brother would accept." When I saw the note, I just tore up the note and wrote another note in reply stating, "If you really want my friendship, this kind of giving and asking me to take gifts from you is not right. This will spoil our friendship. If you want to be my brother and if you want to keep up our brotherly relationship, do not give such gifts. Do not give and take. Maintain the purity of our relationship and do not think of giving me such gifts." When I wrote that note, that boy Ramesh could not do anything, and took back the khaki uniform.
There were three days left till the festival was coming to Pushpagiri. The school was closed for those three days so that the boys could prepare to go to Pushpagiri.
I was planning not to go although I was telling them that I was also coming, but somehow I had to find an excuse so that I did not have to go. But if I had said that I had a temperature, then they would look at the thermometer and see that I had no temperature. So I thought that the best thing for me to do was to pretend that I had a severe stomachache. I told them that I had a severe stomachache and that I won't he able to go.
The boys were all going in a procession to Pushpagiri, and the teachers were also there. They all came into the house and they said, "What happened? Why is Raju not coming?" The brother of this body told him, "No, Raju is having a serious stomachache and he cannot join." Finding these people had come, I pretended that I had a serious stomachache and started groaning with pain. Along, at that time a teacher by the name Janab Mahbub Khan came inside and when he did, I pretended to be even worse, and started groaning very much because of the stomachache. "Oh, Raju is ill. All we want is for him to get well. Let's not pressure him to come with us." Then Janab Mahbub Khan left the place and went away, and along with him, all the teachers and the students left.
Each of the boys had contributed 12 rupees. Ten rupees were for the bus fare and 2 rupees were an extra pocket expense while they were there. Regarding food, each one had to make his own arrangements. So each boy gave 12 rupees. I did not have 12 rupees. So there was no question of my going around with the group. But as soon as the group left, my stomachache disappeared, for there was no stomachache at all. There was nothing and I became well. Now the problem was how could I go to Pushpagiri. I had to go somehow. So I had a plan.
I knew that I had completed my class and I had passed. I had a. complete set of textbooks. Mathematics, history, geography, the textbooks were with me. They were in new condition. I never used them. I never opened those textbooks. They were all in new condition, and I knew a poor Harijan boy who had just entered a class out of which I had passed. I went and offered the set of books for sale to this Harijan boy and told him "Although they are new, since you are a poor boy I'd like to give them to you for half the price." But even so, he did not have the money. Finding that he was a poor boy, and could not pay half the price, l told him, "Never mind, take all the books but give me 5 rupees, that is enough for me. I just want to get 5 rupees, which I need. I don't want more.
I got 5 rupees from him for the textbooks. The boy was very happy that he got all the books, in new condition for only 5 rupees. In those days we did not have 1 rupee notes which you see today. So he had to bring a large amount of change, coppers and so on for 5 rupees, which was given to me. Where could I put all this change? I had to hold all this change. There was no pocket in which I could hold all this change. The only way for me to carry this change was to look at my torn shirt, and tear out a piece of cloth from my torn shirt and put all my change in this piece of cloth, and tie it up. While I tied up and tightened the bundle, the cloth itself got torn and all the change fell on the ground and got dispersed and scattered. Then the lady of the house came and saw all the change. She said, "Where did you get all this money from? Have you stolen this money from my house? You have taken this money from my house."
In many ways, I tried to prove my innocence. I brought the boy who purchased the books from me and made him explain, that he gave me the 5 rupees of change and in spite of all these efforts, the lady would not believe it. The lady simply gave me a few blows, and said "As a punishment I shall not give you the food in the house." If I went out of the house and people noticed that I was not in the house, people would ask me "What happened? Why are you not inside the house?" and that would bring the reputation of the family out into the street. I did not want to do this. I did not want others to know anything about what was happening in the family and to me. So I immediately left the house and walked nine miles to the place where the annual celebration was being held.
It was a full moon day and many people also wanted to go and visit the celebration at Pushpagiri, and were walking on the road because it was a nice full moon night. I also walked with them, because it was very pleasant to walk on a full moon night. That night I reached Pushpagiri.
Those were hot days, hot summer days. And I walked nine miles. I was very thirsty and in these days it was not easy to get drinking water. The only way in which you could get water was when people would wash their cattle. For the purpose of washing their cattle, there was a small tub in which there would be some water. There was a place where the cattle could be washed and there was water, but that water was dirty and could not be taken in. Yet I was so thirsty, that I had to drink a small quantity of this dirty water. And when I went there and quenched my thirst with this unclear water, I found, on the stone or slab, someone had left a bundle of bidis and one anna.
I hope you all know what 'bidis' are. They are a kind of country cigarettes. Someone left them there and went away. I saw this, and took hold of these bidis and one anna. And turned around to find if the owner was anywhere near. I asked people, "Does this belong to you? Does this belong to you?" but no one answered and evidently it was not claimed by anyone. So I took these bidis, broke them into bits and threw them away under sand. One anna brought four quarter annas. I changed the one anna to four quarter annas.
I had only 4 quarter annas with me. I had to spend several days with this. I took these. How was I going to stay there with four quarter annas? Then I did something wrong. I went to a place where a game of dice was going on.
They had dice, and they state money on a particular point and they throw the dice. When the dice is favorable, they give back more money.
So I started playing the game and as soon as I played the game I found the returns were very good and within few minutes, I made a total gain of 12 annas.
When I got 12 annas in my hands, I thought I shouldn't become over greedy, so I stopped playing the game. Then I calculated that since I had to stay for 10 days, at the rate of one anna per day, my food would be enough. I had two annas extra and I could take some fruits and flowers when I went back home. So I calculated that 12 annas was sufficient. Life was cheap. With one copper botu, a copper coin, in those days one could get three large sized dosas and in that region of Karpa, dosas are served with red hot chili, which can fill one's stomach and that was quite enough. So l calculated that I would have three dosas and I had three dosas with a quarter anna along with masala and chili. With me were left 11 and 3/4 annas, which was out of the 12 annas I had gained. And I calculated that everything would be all right.
After eating these dosas, I left. Where could I keep the 12 annas? Where could l keep this big amount of change? How can I keep it anywhere safely? So I thought of a plan. In the plan, I packed the change in a piece of cloth, tied it up into a small bundle, then I dug out some sand, and kept the bundle under the sand and used the sand (mound) as a pillow. I put my head upon this, and thought that it would be safe. Having been tired from walking the long distance, I just slept.
Someone had noticed that I was putting this money in a piece of cloth and hiding it under the sand and putting my head on the sand and he quietly came after I slept, dug out the sand and took away this change.
There was nothing I could do. I had no money and therefore I had no food. But, the next morning I found all the boys who were the members of the scout group, in their khaki dresses. All were located in different places to attend to duties for the pilgrims and visitors. For three days, I had no food. I was carrying on like that.
In the meantime Ramesh, who came around with the scouts, had somehow sensed this. He started coming to me stealthily without other people noticing it, because he knew I did not want other people to notice it. He would come, he would bring one dosa or something to eat and he would give it to me and this is how he managed for those days.
The festival of Pushpagiri was very famous in those days, but I had to go back home, now that the festival was over. When I got back home, the wife of Seshan Raju was family, so I could not go empty handed, because they would ask what had I got from Pushpagiri. So I asked this boy Ramesh, "You give me a loan. I will take a loan of one anna from you and when I go back I will return the loan back to you. Give it as a loan and not as a gift." With this one anna I purchased some fruits and flowers and took them home when I returned from Pushpagiri.
When I returned home after the Pushpagiri festival it so happened that Seshan Raju had some holidays for the purpose to undergo some training. And in these holidays, he returned home. During my absence for these 8 days in Pushpagiri, there was no one in the house to deliver water from the river. So for 8 days there was no water in the house, and they were feeling very hard and something was told against me from the lady of the house to Seshan Raju. When I returned, things were such that they were very angry with me, and were not able to bear my absence since there was no one who could bring them water.
Seshan Raju was sitting and using a ruler to draw rules on his notebook. This ruler was a large stick which people used to use as a scale in the old days. That ruler was in his hand and as soon as I went home, because of the anger that had built up, he took the ruler and hit my fingers with the rulers. When he hit my fingers, the ruler broke into several pieces and fell down.
When the telegram that Seshan Raju's son died, was received, the father of this body, was in Bukkapatnam in order to make some purchases. As soon as he learned about the telegram and the death of Seshan Raju's son he sent all the people who had come to meet him back to Puttaparthi and he straight came to Kamalapur because of this news. As soon as the father came, he noticed that the hands were swollen. He started asking me "What is the matter with your hands? Why is there a piece of cloth around it?" Then I told him "No, there is nothing wrong with my hand." I told him there was a boil, a very minor boil and therefore I put a cloth, and that there is nothing wrong. Because there was a death in the house, nobody was prepared to talk to him. He was accustomed to talk a great deal. So the father of this body was meeting people and the neighbors told him so many things. Some of them told him "Why are you keeping this son of yours here? He is struggling. He has been put to lot of trouble day and night. Why do you keep him here?" When he heard this, his face changed, he was very much hurt but he had to learn the truth, so he made a plan.
As soon as it was 8 o'clock and it was dark, he said, "I want to go out," and in those days there were no lanterns built in the house outside. This was a part of the plan of my father to learn the truth directly He simply said. "I want to go outside the village," and that was only an excuse. Seshan Raiu said, "It is dark, he is old, and you have to help him. Take a lamp in your hand, and go with him and guide him." So I took a lamp but knew my father was only planning to be able to talk to me and learn the truth from me in isolation outside the house. I went with him.
When we were outside the village, I told the father, "Now we are here, outside the village. You can ease yourself here." I was turning back. He said, "No, no, I want to talk to you. What is the matter with you? Let me see your hand. What is on your hand? I was told that everyday you are put into trouble. You are beaten everyday. Why do you want to put yourself in this situation? You come back with me to the village and if it is all right with you, we can somehow carry on. Our honor is not important. You should not stay here and put yourself in such trouble. Come back with me to our village."
I told the father, "This is not right. If I go away at this stage, many people will talk in many different ways. And also the family is in trouble, since their eldest son has passed away. When there is trouble we should not do such a thing. You better go now if you want to go. I will go later. After everything is forgotten, I will come." I spoke very sweetly.
The second day, he could not stay inside the house. He had to go away. So he offered his condolences and went back to Puttaparthi. While going back to Puttaparthi, he asked me "Have you got sufficient clothes?" I told him, "Yes, I have plenty of clothes. I don't need any clothes," which made him very happy.
Before he returned to the village, he went to a shopkeeper, called Kote Subbanna, who had a cloth shop, and told him, "If my son comes and asks you for a new clothes, give him anything and I will pay the cost of those clothes." And he returned to his village.
This shopkeeper, Kote Subbanna knew, that even then, I was composing poetry. He used to come to the school and would wait in front of the school and ask me. "In my shop, I have a new medicine, and I want to sell that medicine. Will you compose a poem for the medicine so that I can use the poem as an advertisement to sell my medicine?"
In those days, the form of advertisement was to have a small plaque. On this plaque, a poem would be written. On the end of the plaque, there would be a stick on which to hold the plaque. Boys would hold the stick and the plaque in their bag and go in a procession, singing the particular song of advertisement. That was the manner of advertisement at that time.
The new medicine was called Balabaskaran. I composed a poem, for the advertisement of Balabaskaran. In the advertisement, it said, "Here is a new medicine called Balabaskaran. If you've got a stomachache, if you have got motions, if you have got diseases in your stomach of any kind, here is a famous medicine called Balabaskaran. It will cure you in no time. This has come from the hands of a distinguished physician called Gopalacharan. You can obtain this from the shop of Kote Subbanna. Go and buy it!"
This is the advertisement poem, which I wrote, and boys began singing this poem and it made a tremendous success of sales. When this poem was being sung, many shopkeepers learned that it was composed by me. Many shopkeepers had a lot of unsold goods, they began coming to me and giving me details of their goods and asking me to compose poems for those goods.
That I composed poems and helped these shopkeepers came to be known to Seshan Raju, the brother. Immediately Seshan Raju called me and said, "No, you are doing a lot of business here. You have got holidays. There is no reason for you to stay here. You better go back to Puttaparthi." This flow of poetry did not stop there, for even when I came back to Puttaparthi, this poetry, was coming out of me.
You may have read in "Sathyam Shivam Sundaram", that in Puttaparthi, there was a Karnam, and this Karnam had two wives. One wife was called Subbamma, and other wife called Kalama. Not only two wives, he was also taken to Ramvastra doing wrong things. This Karnam was a wealthy person. He had a lot of money, and would spend his money in several bad ways. So, I used to take a number of young boys and teach them songs, which they could sing, but I would not sing. I would compose and teach the songs to these boys.
These boys used to go in front of his house and Karnam used to sit in front of his house. There the boys would sit and sing the songs composed and taught by me. Because those were villagers and the kind of language that was understood, was peculiar to the village, only certain words could be understood. Many words were not understood.
The boys used to sing. The boys would go to him and say, "Do not go to the houses of prostitutes. Do not spend your time and money with prostitutes. People with honor will not touch you. They will not let you come anywhere near them. Your friends will use slippers, will beat you with those slippers."
These young boys used to sing poems, which he could understand. He used to wear a wristwatch on his left hand, and clothes of silk. In those days, in a village, if anyone would wear a wristwatch, he was an exception. Yes, he was a wealthy man. He used to move around like a rich and wealthy person. The songs that I taught those boys described his condition. The poems said, "What has become of the men and women of these days? The men are wearing some kind of leather strap ground to their left hand and the men have become very arrogant. The women also have given up their traditional way of decorating their forehead. The women are behaving in a peculiar way. The men are also behaving in a peculiar way."
"What has come about them'? In fact they appear in such a form that we cannot even describe them. We cannot talk honorably about their dress, or about their appearance." In the poems, I also described the fact that in those days, this man would shave his long mustache and bring it close like a French cut around his nose, with a little bit on the right side and little bit on the left side. It was called Hitler's mustache at that time. This was put into the poem and as a result the man was ashamed and he removed his mustache the next day.
This was going on, until one day, the man came to the father of this body and complained, "Raju is doing all this. He is bringing boys. He is writing poems, teaching them and he is ridiculing me. You should take care of this." But remember that although the father of this body may have been harsh with all the other members of the family, he was never harsh with me. He was very, kind and generous to me. He came and said, "Why do you have to do anything with other people in the village? Why do you have to talk about them or write poems about them?" But my reply was, "I do not know nothing about this. I'm not singing the poems at all. It is some other boys who are singing these poems."
This ability of mine to write typical poems came to be known all over, in Bukkapatnam as well. In those days, the struggle for the independence of India was going on very fiercely. People used to hold meetings in the cause for independence everywhere.
The British police used to come and break up those meetings. Then two people, congressmen from Bukkapatnam, learned that I wrote good poems, came to me and said to me. "Write whatever you want to write, describe the present situation in whatever manner you want to and give out those poems and we will use them in a meeting in Bukkapatnam." I wrote the poems. They found that they wanted to take not only the poems but also me there. They dressed me like a girl. They put a sari around me, and also made a small Jhula. In the Jhula, they made a small, rubber baby doll. They dressed me like a girl and took me to the village. I was there, standing on the stage and singing a lullaby for this baby. The lullaby was, "Do not cry, baby. If you cry and if you show inability to be cheerful, they will not call you a worthy citizen, a worthy son of Bharat." There were questions in the poems that were being addressed to the baby. "Baby, why are you crying?" The answers were also given in the poems. "Are you crying because Hitler, the killer, has invaded the Russians? And the Russians have no way of helping themselves? Because Russians could not attack Hitler in return? No, don't cry. The time will come when the Red Army will go and attack, and take vengeance on Hitler. Are you crying because there is no unity in our country? Don't cry. There will be a time when all of us will be united and will be able to present a united picture. There is a remedy. Don't cry."
This beautiful singing was going on. The police came, and were listening to these songs and started singing the songs. They were clapping and enjoying the singing. The British, who did not know Telugu, came there and found that beautiful singing was going on. The British officers also started to enjoy the singing, and started to clap without understanding the contents of the singing. The meeting became a tremendous success.
Since the meeting became a tremendous success, everybody began talking about the poetry and the composition of Raju. Everybody said they are beautiful compositions. This news reached the brother Seshan Raju. Seshan Raju also used to write some poetry. He became somewhat jealous of the poems and the popularity of Raju. He told himself, "Now I have to stop this. Raju cannot stay in Puttaparthi any longer. I must take him away with me." As a result, Seshan Raju took Raju to Uravakonda, where he was staying.
When I went to Uravakonda, the headmaster of the school there was called Lakshmipathi, a very good and very honest person. Also the other teacher called Janab Mahbub Khan was transferred. They were very good teachers. There were also teachers called Pareraju, and Karmaligu. Those teachers were also good. They did not know anything about me (Swami), yet they used to admire the goodness in me.
And they would put their hands together and say namaskar. Immediately afterwards, they would feel, "Oh, he is a young student. He is one student and why should we say namaskar to him," and right away would take back their hands. They were very good teachers in that school mostly because of the good they must have done in their previous life.
They put me in the fourth form of the middle school there. From that time onwards, there really was very little close connection with the rest of the boys. I would tell them good things. "If anybody commits a theft or if anybody takes away a pencil of another boy, it is not right. You should always do correct things." In this way I would preach good things to them.
Also in that school on the desk in which I used to sit, there were three boys. Two boys used to sit on either side of me. They were 10-11 years old and they were good boys evidently.
Janab Mahbub Khan was a very good teacher. When he came into the class, he would not teach if I was in the class. All the time he would stop the lesson. He would look at me, call me, pat me, touch my ears, my cheeks. He would twist my ears and cheeks and praise me like a baby. He would not teach his lesson at all. Not only that. If he made something at home, some pakoras or something to eat, he would wrap that in a piece of cloth and bring it to class, and he would say, "Raju, come along."
He would give me those pakoras. One day I said, "You in your home, may have mixed meat or something that I do not eat. So I cannot touch these pakoras." Then he said, "Oh my honor, Raju! I have prepared this for you. I would never use meat or any such things for you. I have done this for you with love. Please eat them." Then I ate a small mount of pakoras from what he had brought.
The boys thought that I was a very special favorite of Janab Mahbub Khan. As soon as Janab Mahbub Khan would came to the class, the boys would say, "Yes, Mahbub Khan has come!" I did not let the boys know that the teacher was fond of me, nor did I tell the teacher that the boys were jealous of me. The two aspects were kept separate. Janab Mahbub Khan used to like me so much. He would always bring something for me to eat and also play with me.
As this was going on, there was a time when the celebration of the school was going to take place at the end of the year. Everybody began to say, "You can sing very well, so why don't you put on a disguise or something and act this or sing this." And in this way they were putting a lot of pressure on me to participate in the school day celebration.
On the day of the school day celebration, I had put on a hat and wrote a script called "Do people really do as they say? ". I wrote the script myself and took part in presenting that script up on the stage.
You might have heard the name "Karparamasubbamma". She was the first lady to become the president of the district board. As a president of Karpar district board, she came to school as an honored guest, and she was asked to give the prizes for the school day celebration. On that day the school wanted to collect some money by selling tickets for a performance. The money was to be used to make some buildings for the school. They invited a very well known dancer, Rishyendramani, and advertised that she would give a performance. In this way, they sold the tickets. But for some reason, she could not come to the performance. The headmaster, Laxmipathi, was very festered because they had announced that Rishyendramani would come to perform. The collectors had been invited. The district board head had been invited. The program was going to become a fiasco. So I went to the headmaster and told her, "Don't worry. There is something that I want to tell you." She said, "Yes, what is that?" I said, "Whatever Rishyendramani, the dancer was intending to perform, this evening I will do. I will become Rishyendramani."
Rishyendramani used to give a great performance. She would put a bottle on her head. On the mouth of the bottle, she would put a plate. On the plate she would light a number of wicks. And with the plate, the wicks, and bottle on her head, she would dance and bend down and pick up a crutch from the ground without any of these things falling off her head. This was the feat she performed those days. I told the headmaster, "If Rishyendramani, with the plate and bottle on her head can bend down and pick up crutches from the ground, I will do the same. I will bend, and instead of picking up crutches I will pick up a small needle with my eye. This is what I will do. You better announce that Rishyendramani has come and Rishyendramani will be doing this special feat." The headmaster accepted my proposal. They brought a sari, a bottle, a wick, and a plate from the village, and dressed me like a woman. I was prepared and brought in, in an old rugged car from the village. It was announced that Rishyendramani was coming. All the audience, some of them who were sleeping, got up and became very alert.
On my part, I was wearing an anklet, which made a beautiful sound. The accompanying music was very attractive and with the accompanying music, I came on the stage with such a beautiful jingling sound that everybody was watching with great attention. The teacher brought a bottle and put it on my head. Another teacher brought a plate and put it on the bottle. Then another teacher came and brought and lighted the wick. All this was done because people would have otherwise thought that the bottle was stuck on the head and the plate was stuck to the bottle. As this was done and I went through the dance and I picked up a small fine needle which was on the dust with the help of my eyebrow. When the entire performance was over, everyone began to applaud and shout.
Then, the collector, a Britisher, by name Harsley, appreciated the dance so much that he wanted to present a medal himself personally to Rishyendramani on stage. He wanted to come on the stage and pin the medal on Rishyendramani. Since I myself, was conducting myself as Rishyendramani, when he came, I told him, "No, you cannot touch me. I am a woman. Therefore give it on my hand."
The headmaster was behind the screen. He was very much afraid of the collector coming on the stage and wanting to pin the medal directly on Rishyendramani and myself refusing that this is not traditionally acceptable. The headmaster was saying from behind, "No, no, he's the collector, let him pin the medal on you. Don't refuse it." And the father of this body was also telling "He's the collector, you should accept what he says, don't refuse it." In spite of all that I simply said, "No, I cannot let you touch me. If you want to give the medal, give it in my hand." The collector was pleading, "Regard me as your brother!" I was pleading, "Regard me as your sister. There is no question of your touching me."
This went on for 10 minutes and the collector was not able to touch me. He simply gave me the medal and went back. Everybody clapped in appreciation. The drama was over. The dance was over. The first day was over.
On the second day there was a prize distribution and Karparamasubbamma, the president of the District Board was presiding and was giving the prizes. Everybody was called and each one was given a prize. She thought that Rishyendramani on the previous day had helped collection of funds and money, for the school. So she wanted to honor Rishyendramani as well. She brought a sari and she announced, "Rishyendramani has helped us so much yesterday by collecting a lot of money for the building funds, so I want to give this sari to Rishyendramani." She called out Rishyendramani's name and everybody was expecting and looking to see from where this girl would come. But out of the audience, this boy wearing knickers came. As I was approaching the stage, the police were pushing me away and saying, "Rishyendramani is coming, make way. Don't block the way." Meanwhile the headmaster brought me on the stage and announced that Rishyendramani of yesterday was this young boy to the presiding Karparamasubbamma. She was so pleased she lifted me in her hands and she said, "You have brought great credit to this country. If you can do this, this brings great credit." And since that day, she has had such great respect for me, that wherever she went, she would mention this incident.
The whole school went into great confusion when they found out what had happened the previous day, and to realize that a young boy had done all this became the talk of the day. Everyone was talking for the next few days about this incident.
It so happened thereafter, that I used to lead the prayer everyday for two months. When I sang the national anthem, or when I sang a religious song, I was followed by all the boys for two months. On Wednesday, May 23rd, I went there and I sang a song, the message of which, for the students and teachers was not to have any illusion, not to think that I have anything to do with you or with these books. I threw the books there and left the school and came back. The two other boys, who used to sit with me at the same desk, also came running behind me saying "Raju, Raju", and they followed me around that day. My countenance changed, my appearance changed, my behavior changed, and I would not recognize people and I would not talk to them in the same manner in which I used to talk to them. These two boys found this enormous change in me. Finding that I was no longer their friend, Raju, one of them said, "Why should I live in this world if I do not have my Raju as my friend." He jumped into a well and committed suicide. The second boy went on calling out for "Raju, Raju, Raju" as he used to call me, and he became mentally deranged in that ecstasy.
There were two thousand boys and several teachers in the school. Neither the boys nor the teachers went to school. They simply came to the house that I was living in and would surround it, wanting to look at me and see what change had come about me. In the meantime Seshan Raju sent a telegram to the home of the parents and said, "Some change which I do not understand has come about Raju, so please come and do what is needed." The students of the school, all of them started saying, "We will come with Raju." They came to Bukkapatnam.
They would ask, "Don't you recognize me? I used to sit in a bench behind you. Don't you recognize me? I used to play with you." But I never responded, I never replied, after which they would become very disappointed and would go back. I never responded to them because I wanted them to know that there was no connection between them and myself. Since that day, all of them have been following me in large numbers.
The school was closed for 3 days because Raju was not there. On the fourth day, the school assembled, with all the boys standing on one side, and the teachers standing on the other side. The usual prayers had to be said, and some other boy was selected to say the daily prayers. The boy got on the stage and found that Raju was not there. He called out "Raju" and simply collapsed. All the people started crying bitterly as they remembered Swami. From that time onwards, there was no prayer conducted at all. The teacher said, "Let us not have this prayer..." because they were afraid that once any prayer was said, they would remember Swami and they would weep. Right from those days, the love of Swami has been like that, showering indiscriminately on all people.
Such a big story, a long story was told by Swami to show you that Swami has always led an exemplary life even during His student days. And even in this incarnation or the earlier incarnations as in Krishna, Balarama, and they always conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion with their teachers.
All incarnations, Krishna, for example, enjoyed the loving affection of Kuchiella, his teacher. Even during the days of Rama, Rama' life as a student was an exemplary one and that is so in every incarnation, in the same way, you the students (of Sathya Sai Institute), will have to conduct yourselves in such a way without wasting either money or time, always cultivating good thoughts, good habits and good actions, and you will have to live a life of example throughout.
Swami underwent many troubles and problems during his days. We will not be even able to hear those troubles. There was no reason for Swami to undergo all this trouble, but Swami wanted to set an example. If a cake was prepared, Swami ate the same cake for six days. Swami used to go to the mountain to collect some (wood) fuel and sell that fuel so that he could support himself
These days, when parents are sending hundreds of rupees, by misusing that money, you will not be able to come up in life. We should not give trouble and pain to parents. Parents' money and our blood should be saved in the same way. Just as the blood gets drained from the body, we become weak. In the same way, we should conduct ourselves in such a way, that money is not wasted. We should not become slaves of egoism, compulsion and show. We should not ruin our lives. We should always protect the honor of our own families. Whatever the conditions of our family, we should not let others know about it. This is the primary duty of every student.
If you establish a contact with the Lord, everything will be added into you. What we have understood today, is that having contact with the Lord is the way to get joy, prosperity, and happiness. We have to realize that God is greater and more sacred than all the other things in life and the world. All the articles in the world are like flowers. God is like a thread base, which can hold all these flowers together. Without the base of the thread, you cannot put these flowers together at all. In all types of happiness and joy there is God. This is the thread, which runs through everything. If there is no thread, all the flowers will scatter and in the same way all our joy and happiness will scatter if you don't contact God. But those people who base their lives on the grace of God and live their lives on the basis of God, to please God, they really are the fortunate ones. They justify and ignite their existence.
[Source: Swami's School Days, Divine Discourse for students compiled and published by Ryuko Hira, Japan. This compilation is based on two Divine Discourses - one delivered on 19th February, 1984 and date of other unknown]