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Swami had told me that I could do the pada pooja

   One day, a thrilling event took place. Swami had earlier told me that I could do the pada pooja to him on the next day, Sunday morning at 9 am at a devotee's house in Mysore Colony, Chembur. I woke up bright and early and hurriedly finished cooking and other household work. I collected all the required pooja items and called the devotee on phone and requested him to inform Swami that we would be reaching there within half an hour. His reply shocked me. He said that Swami had left for Kalyan in the early morning and would be back only late at night. I started wondering whether there was any mistake on my part or some wrong I had done that was now threatening to discontinue the pada pooja. I kept all the items in the prayer room with a heavy heart. I started crying beseeching the divine mother not to test me thus. My husband tried to pacify me and said that maybe it is God's will that I do the pooja to Devi's photo at home instead. I was not at all satisfied with his words. I said that I would keep all the items as is and wait for Swami to return by night. Throughout the day I was crying and praying, though outwardly I showed no signs of the inner turmoil. I jostled with the Goddess in my mind. I told her that it was She who had come in my dream and asked me to do Pada Pooja to Her. After obliging me all this while, why was she now depriving me suddenly and for no apparent reason? I asked for pardon for any wrong I may have committed unknowingly and pleaded for forgiveness. The evening passed and there was no news of Swami's return.

   My husband was yet at work in office. I was getting increasingly restless and anxious. Suddenly, the phone rang and I hurriedly picked it up. I was beside myself with joy when I heard Swami's voice. He asked me to go over to Matunga to one Mr. Ramamurthi's house and do pada pooja to him at 8 pm. I was in ecstasy and hurriedly called my husband asking him to come home. We hurried to Matunga. I had planned to do the pooja with white jasmine flowers to Swami manifested as Annapoorneswari, our family deity. After paying my salutations to Swami, I asked his permission to start the pooja. He asked me for whom I was going to do that day's pooja. I immediately replied - Annapoorneswari and with jasmine flowers. He smiled and asked the lady who had accompanied him from Kalyan to narrate the events of the day.

   She said that all the devotees in Kalyan has assembled in one place and they were to have bhajan in Swami's presence just before pooja. Swami suddenly told them that he has to go to Matunga as there was someone frantically crying to Devi for not fulfilling her wish and he asked one of the devotees to go and get the train ticket. This lady called Prema (alias Annapoorni) told Swami that she also would like to accompany him. Swami told the devotees that if the total of his ticket number happens to be 8, then he had to necessarily go to Matunga and if the other ticket number totals 2, then Annapoorni could also go with him. What a surprise! The tickets totalled 8 and 2. All the devotees were dejected at Swami's sudden decision to leave. Swami told them to do the pooja to the lamp and that his full blessings would be there with them.

   I cannot describe the overwhelming happiness I felt as I started shedding tears of joy. At the end of the pooja, Swami asked me to offer the neivedyam to the lady devotee. I could not stop marvelling at the miraculous ways of the Divine Mother. I understood that true devotion and sincere prayers never go unanswered. God never lets down devotees who are true and sincere in their devotion. It was a memorable day in my life!

   On another occasion, Swami was to go to Pandarpur to visit the Vithoba temple for a day and come back to Bombay the next day. A couple of devotees were to go with him and Swami said that my daughter Latha should also go with him. He further suggested that she could do pada pooja to him at Pandarpur on my behalf and so there would not be any break in the pooja regimen. I packed the required items and told my daughter to do the pooja with square kalkandu (small sugar cubes) which is considered a favorite of Vithoba (Lord Krishna) and also asked her to chant the Krishna ashtothram (108 divine names of Lord Krishna) while performing the pooja. When they returned on the next day, my daughter related her joyous experience with Swami at Pandarpur. Swami told her on that day that a young man by name Krishnan would be marrying her three years later. You will be thrilled and astonished to know that after exactly three years, my daughter married Deepak (whose actual name was Krishnan) as per Swami's divine prediction. Swami also gave me an idol of Vithoba and Rukma.

   With Swami's grace, I could successfully do the pada pooja for him on all the remaining days. On the last but one day, which was Pournami (full moon day), a devotee Kannan expressed his desire to perform abhishekam to Swami directly after adorning him in sari as Devi and doing archanai to him. Swami agreed to his proposal and told me to join him in doing the pada pooja. Swami sat like a stone statue for over three hours as abhishekam with various items like turmeric powder, milk, curd, sandal paste and vibhuthi (sacred ash) was done directly on him. He did not flinch a bit. He was clad in a silk sari as Devi. Lalitha Sahasranama archana was done with flowers to his lotus feet. For those who were gifted to be present, it was an unforgettable and a most divine event which made a deep impression in the minds of all. Rare photographs of Swami clad as Devi and his lotus feet are included at the end of this chapter. After completion of the pada pooja, Swami gave me a wooden pair of padukas and told me that I could do the pooja to those padukas in future. Once, when he had come home, he depicted Lakshmi Narayana in those padukas and gave them to me. From then on, I would chant Kalyana Bagavathi ashtothram and Ranganatha Divya Paduka sthothram and do the pada pooja daily.

   Swami often tests and gauges us as we come closer to him. The closer one gets to Swami, the harder the tests he poses. More often than not, we tumble and fail. It is a veritable game of snakes and ladders. One tries to climb up very carefully, then when almost at the top, we suddenly slip down committing silly mistakes governed by our karma.