Isaac’s Krishna with flowers
Catch a falling star, put it in your pocket and save it for a rainy day. Those few words from the song of the same name, sum up my experiences I had this year in the Puttaparthi Ashram. I had given the post another name, but feel this title is more in keeping with the post. So here goes.
On my visit to Puttaparthi this year, I noticed so many changes. Gone were most of the small cafés I’d enjoyed eating in. Gone too was the prettiness of the ashram. The huge concrete buildings were in need of a lick of paint, the pathways that meandered around the darshan area, all were in need of repair. It was noisy. I remember one day a young seva dal worker walked up and down the walkway in East Prashanthi, with a placard that read: “Please be quite.” There seemed to be such a lack of awareness that this was supposed to be a place of peace, quiet, and reverence.
I opted out of sitting in the darshan hall this year, preferring to sit in the gardens at the back of the Ashram. They were beautiful and cool. The Bougainvillea and other tropical plants painted the landscape brightly while providing shade. The statues all around the garden, freshly painted, were a reminder of times gone by when everything had been spick and span. I used to sit there on the stone bench under one of the Neem trees, watching exquisite black and red butterflies dancing from branch to branch. The Neem trees were in full bloom while I was there, and as the tiny blossoms reached out toward the sun, all kinds of insects came to settle. My! the chirping sounds of those insects added a sense of the sublime to the whole scene. The birds too chirped their mantras and whooped, often it seemed, keeping time with the Vedas being chanted in the darshan hall some five hundred feet away.
The bench under the Neem tree was my favourite place to sit. The gardeners watered the area in the early morning, leaving everything wet. A smell of fresh earth embraced us. The temperatures also dropped sharply after the thorough watering. It was simply the best place in the ashram to stay cool.
Isaac Tigrett’s ‘Krishna’ status stood directly under his 4th floor apt. It, too, had received a fresh coat of paint. The dark blue colour shone in the sunlight, and if one looked sideways at the statue, it appeared to have an aura. I am not sure what optical illusion made this appear so. Anyway it was enchanting to the eye.
Isaac’s apt was high up, in full view of the canopy of the Neem trees. How I envied him that special place. I never saw him in or around the ashram but sensed he enjoyed his apt. and its spectacular view! But he is no longer there now. He gave up his residency this June. Apparently his “Mission” had ended.
Isaac outside the ashram gate on Guru-Pournima celebrations this year.
He’d lived there for seven or more years. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he’d held early morning bhajans there in his apt. I attended only twice in 2008. Isaac at that time was pretty overwhelmed by the amount of ladies attending. Obviously the famous former owner of the Hard Rock Cafe was centre of attention – that is after Sai Baba. He had not expected on his arrival, he could create such a stir. But human nature being what it is he was very much in demand. It was like everyone wanted a piece of him, and he later retaliated by withdrawing.
Isaac had gone through many up and downs during his stay in Prashanthi Nilayam. He arrived a few years before Swami’s demise, and had weathered all the political storms that were to come later. Although respected and admired on his arrival, he had difficulty settling in.
I’d not known Isaac personally and, after 2008, I hardly saw him. He’d told people he had no friend’s there. I am not sure that was altogether true, but perhaps he felt that it was. He’d hired young men to run errands or to assist him with his projects. I was told that even his assistant had been less than loyal and had been let go. Yet, he was generous in supporting the local villages, and was well-liked by those who lived outside of Puttaparthi.
Catch A Falling Star
I remember seeing him two years ago in the Mandir hall. He’d looked much older. His hair once dyed black now was white, his untrimmed beard didn’t help his appearance. I guess he’d ceased to care much about his looks, once under the influence of Sai Baba. Gone also, I thought to myself, was the image of the chic entrepreneur of the famous Hard Rock Cafe. He looked somewhat awkward and out of place. I watched while he did his pranams to Swami, then as he got up, he glanced over at the ladies in an embarrassed way, and slowly walked out. It was around that time he stopped visiting the Mandir. I had a strange feeling at that time, his days there were numbered.
Isaac deciding to leave the ashram marks the end of an era. I arrived just after he’d given a huge cheque for the SS hospital to be built in 1991. Everyone was talking about him. They all said that with the building of the hospital, things would be great for Sai Baba. And weren’t we the lucky ones to be there with Him at this time?
Well, in my opinion, that was an unlikely truth. The ashram had certainly changed with the great influx of money though not altogether for the better. Now that he has gone, will things settle down to the slow pace of life that the ashram enjoyed before Isaac’s mission? I suppose so, but Isaac Tigrett will never be forgotten. He left his mark there and as for the hospital? No one can erase his memory from that. What a sad ending…
Bamboo in the garden. The garden is the heart of the Ashram in Puttparthi
In the garden after the rain
Finally, this writer is most cautious in posting articles that may be contensious I always check with people who are mentioned in my posts. It is only good manners to do so. I contacted Isaac Tigrett, before the final draft of this blog-post was released. I have always done that with his posts (those on this blog) and for others too. thank you..