Om’s Amazing Story of Love and Courage – Child Of Light
Banning is not only something that happens to those physically close to Sai, it happens to others who are seated in the general public areas too. There are so many untold stories of seekers who were banned, never to return. Most 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…
This is the story of Om – an American who has lived in Puttparthi for the last 30 or so years.
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 of Swami’s 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 ego-ectomy 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 things over. She was, at the time, quite ill due to the banning enforcement. She did not function well at all; she was thought a little odd among Ramana devotees.
After reflecting her position while at Ramana’s ashram, Om made the decision to stay in India and to become a Sannyasin. She threw 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 early 1990’s. She would 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 Baba. Besides her beautiful smile, her face shone brightly whenever in the vicinity of the ashram.
It is only in more recent years we 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 outfit. By chance I ran 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 the 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 Puttparthi. She told me how she lived in one small room without even a fan. The room, she said, in summer, was burning hot. By this time, Om 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 ask her why she stayed ? ”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 sentimental towards Om.
Here’s a little ‘ode’ to her, honouring that huge leap of faith, and having the courage to believe in Swami for over 30 years of hardships and pain.
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.
God wrote on the back of your heart to stay and love, and you did.