Om’s Amazing Story of Love and Courage

Banning is not only something that happens to those close physically to Sai, it happens to others who are seated in general public too. There are so many untold stories of seekers being banned, never to return. However, many banned devotees do not hold a grudge. They still love Swami, although they are not allowed to be anywhere near him. I’d say they were Swami’s closest devotees…

From My Memories

Om the daughter of professor parents who taught in Ivy league colleges in the USA, speaks with a cultured American accent. She  obviously, had at one time  enjoyed a very intellectual lifestyle and is herself a literati. How and why she came to visit Swami I have no idea. Came she did and stayed. Her story is one of the most interesting ones in Sai Baba circles. Yet hardly a word has been written about her.

Om enjoyed the casual ashram at Whitefield way back in the 1970’s where she had many close experiences with Sathya Sai. Yet  sometime later on she was made persona non grata. She was banned from entering all Sai ashrams.

I remember her telling me some years ago that Sai Baba had told her at dashan one day, that although she was a graduate, and clever, he was going to change all that. He did. Once Om was banned from the ashrams, she was devastated. Swami had obviously done an egodectomy on her, now what to do next? She did not know.She visited Sri Ramana’s Ashram in Tamil Nadu for a time to think it over. She was at the time quite ill due to the ban. She did not function well and she was thought a little odd there among Ramana devotees.

Om after reflecting her position while at Ramana’s ashram, made the decision to stay in India to become a Sannyasin. She throw away her passport, clothes and all other possessions. She took to wearing a simple  orange robe. After sometime she returned to Puttaparthi and began a life of  total austerity.

I first noticed her on my second visit to P.N. ashram way back in the late 1980’s. She use to stand outside the old darshan area, looking over the wall, watching Swami give darshan. I remember even now how a beautiful smile would flashed across her face whenever she saw him. Her dismissal had not soured her in the least. She was full of love for him. Besides her beautiful smile,  her face  shone brightly whenever in the vicinity of the ashram.

It is only in recent years we have began to speak to each other. She often stops me when I am shopping in Puttaparthi. Om likes to comment on my clothes. This year’s encounter with Om was pretty strange. On this certain day before the shopping trip, I’d been looking in the mirror at my Salwar Kameez for sometime before going out. It seemed not to fit well.I felt concerned about going out in this ill fitting outfit.  By chance I run into Om. She stopped me in the street. The first words she said, “Oh! I would love to give you a full length mirror so you can see how pretty that outfit is.” This made me laugh, due to concerns I had over this particular ‘outfit.’  Om as always was sparkling bright. Her eyes, great orbs of blue, appeared innocent and childlike. Yet  Om’s life is not at all child like for she lives from day to day on very little. Often she is seen searching through rubbish for food.

Several years ago we had a long talk about her life in Prashanti. She told me how she lived in one small room without even a fan. The room she said –  in summer was burning hot. Om, by this time had suffered many tropical illnesses. Also she  suffered with her legs and feet. Today she walks with crutches her once rich blondish hair is shaved.

One day I stopped to  asked her why did she stay?  ”Oh” she said, “I stay because that is my karma. I love Swami. I have given my life to him. I do not regret one single day here, despite the hardships.”

How does Om survive so many illnesses and hardships? I don’t know. She always appears to be positive and despite her illnesses, she manages to look after herself pretty well.

Last year I remember, Swami coming out from the ashram in his car.  Om was right there. He gave her a huge smile which she returned in no small measure.

The local authorities recognize Om as being a Sannyasin. She is allowed to live in Puttaparthi without either passport or visa. I believe she is the only Westerner who can.

I feel sentalmental towards “Om.”

So here’s a little ‘ode’ to her to honor her huge leap of faith, in having courage to believe in Swami for over 30 years of hardships.

Om, here’s a poem for you.

“So I would choose to stay with you, if the choice was mine to make, You can make decisions too, and you can have this heart to break. And so it goes and so it goes.”

Good luck Om.