Under Southern Natal of the KwaZulu Natal Province, our Centre has sub-centres at Chatsworth, Phoenix, Pietermaritzburg, and Satsang groups in Redhill, Durban Central, Etete, Sydenham, Tongaat and Verulam. Northern Natal covers sub-centres at Ladysmith, Newcastle and Dundee and Satsang groups at Glencoe and Estcourt.
Truly speaking, all the devotees have the same thread of bhakti to the Holy Trio connecting everyone wherever they are. In this respect, the place one hails from has no importance. The Ramakrishna Centre has brought wonderful unity among all the branches by infusing a definite pattern of conducting satsangs, introducing dress code for men and women, inculcating committee-based administration and other levels of running the branches.
The devotees from Southern Natal actually have very many opportunities to meet me as most of them frequent our HQ at Glen Anil. They regularly attend almost all celebrations here. Not so with the devotees of the Northern Natal centres: I only meet them three or four times in a year.
Twice in one month
This year Estcourt became an exception to the above rule! In one month i.e., in October, I paid two visits within eleven days! Incredible! The first visit was on October 12 during the Navaratri celebration, and the second one was on October 24 at the Community Diwali Festival. Both these events were well attended by the prominent Hindu public of Estcourt.
By interacting with the devotees at Estcourt, I was most impressed by their utter earnestness. Whoever I met was simply earnest. Whether they were from the Ramakrishna branch or the Divine Life Society branch or the Sathya Sai branch or any other organisation, or for that matter simply sanatanis – all of them were earnest in giving their ears to my speeches. (mind you, my speeches are never short! not less than an hour!!)
The Second visit
The second visit, by Master’s grace, to Estcourt, was to take part in the Diwali festival. This was organised by the Estcourt Hindu Community in general. On that very morning I had to conduct the Gospel class at REGA Temple (Redhill) – where it went off well. Yash picked me up from the Temple and we proceeded directly to Pietermaritzburg in his car. All through the one hour drive the rains were torrential. The sun came out the moment we reached the home of the Chairman of the PMB Sub-centre! After having refreshing tea we, together with a few other devotees, left for Estcourt, to the home of the Esctcourt satsang group Chairman. This was followed by a sumptuous lunch and a brief but welcome rest. The devotees of our Estcourt branch had collected there and met me.
There is nothing like enjoying Diwali on the very Diwali night. How many millions of people are celebrating it! What plays in collective consciousness has a definite impact on the individual mind. Functions like Diwali are celebrated in families, societies; also at national and world level. So to desire the same amount of delight at a small community group level and that too not on the Diwali night but a few days earlier, may seem to be impossible to many. But not for me!
At exactly 4 pm, the Diwali function began with the ‘spiritual darlings’ (devotees’ children) leading me into the spacious Swami Sahajananda Community Centre hall. A traditional welcome was accorded to me. This was followed by fascinating items like bhajans, kirtans and then by captivating dances on the Divine Mother by children and adults separately.
Anil Ishwarlall Bridglall of Divine Life Society and his wife Gayatri’s melodious rendition of Sri Ram’s home-coming as described in Sri Ramcharitmanas was most spiritually elevating. He sings as it were with his soul poured into it! Changing tunes to different passages from the scripture made me feel the scenes from Ramayana were getting re-enacted before my closed eyes. Nitin Soni’s support on tabla was splendid. When my turn to give my Talks came and I had not even finished my opening words, there was an uproarious welcome to me by – guess whom? Lightning and thunder! and a downpour that made me stand still for a few minutes! Recovering from the Nature’s fireworks, I continued my Talks and stressed on three points:
1 – Pride in one’s glorious past, 2 – Diwali legends and 3 – Lighting the lamp of knowledge within.
After supper, the organizers lovingly invited me to witness the grand display of man-made fireworks. It was held on the opposite vacant grounds. The clouds had gone away. Pleasant dark sky was all that we could see. This time a rain without clouds! The burst of crackers and rockets, serially one after another, brought forth a rain of sparkles. Oh! what a riot of colours! To the delight of more than 400 crowded people, for a few moments the sky became luminous thus appearing to me the cosmic shakti caught the stars and held them near for us! Oh! twinkling little stars! How I wonder what you are!!