27. Dipavali & Bonnie's Death - Oct 1990

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Dipavali & Advent Day

October 17-19 1990

Prasanthi Nilayam

Dear Parents,

Divya conveys her namaskars. All is well here.

The new bus station was opened in great, grand style on 17 October, by Swami and Chenna Reddy also. It is really very impressive. After, Swami gave a discourse. Dipavali the festival of lights was celebrated in the evening. I happened to have gotten line two, and three candies thrown on my lap by Swami! Happy Dipavali!

The light show went on in the evening - only pop! pop! bang! for a few minutes only, and it was over. Very short this year.

Meanwhile Niraja and her two daughters showed up, but went and are staying in her mother-in-law’s house in the village. They came for Darshan and Vijai Sri joyfully clung to Venkamma, adamantly insisting on staying here only. Then, when all went for bhajan, she came out in the middle and tromped up to me, and clung onto me for dear life! She informed me that she definitely was NOT going to the village house. Later, after bhajan, the teenage daughters of the mother-in-law pulled her away from me screaming and crying, Vijai Sri insisting she must stay with Venkamma and me. Venkamma was late coming out of bhajan, or she would’ve let her stay. As it was, Venkamma wasn’t there so, the four girls succeeded in dragging the poor Vijai Sri away. The next day, Venkamma succeeded in letting Vijai Sri stay with us. She was blissful with us for two whole hours, then informed us she was going to Mommy! We had to send her with a maid to the village house!

The next day, 18 October, there was also fire crackers in the evening. 19 October was a rally by the visiting 30 busloads of devotees, something about taking jyotis (lamps) on a pilgrimage. All the jyotis came in a procession, each kept in a glass box and carried by devotees with appropriate mantra-chanting. It lasted an hour. Swami watched everything from a chair placed by the Ganesh statue in the compound.

Here a miracle happened! I had got up at 2:30 AM and only finished all work by 6:30 AM, after all were sitting inside. I walked in last and took a far-off place, though on an edge, on the side of the Mandir (a place where Swami NEVER comes). I was the last on the row and there was still room in the middle. Swami gave a smile at me from afar, when He came to give Darshan! I thought it’s enough and almost as good as candies or namaskar! Then, slowly He came back and walked right down to where I was, and behind all the devotees! A first!! Happily, the devotees were disciplined. He came motioning “no namaskar,” and mostly people obeyed. He went past me, around to the very back of the Indian population, made vibhuti for one village lady, and back past me to the Mandir. Special Darshan! :-)

Now our shed is ¾ full, with the date of emptying all rooms in Prasanthi Nilayam being 31 October. They say Swami has ordered 1,000,000 saris to give away!

On 20 October Swami gave a discourse in the evening, to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Him announcing Himself as Sai Baba. He gave it in the open-air Darshan compound, granting perfect view and Darshan to all, throughout. The discourse was full of stories of His young days.

Now this is an interesting development! For the last two festivals, He’s ignored the festival itself and instead picked a day special to His advent. He ignored Dasara, yet gave a discourse the day before, Shirdi Sai Baba’s Birthday, celebrating it for the first time ever; now, He didn’t give a Dipavali discourse (which He usually does), instead He celebrated his own announcement golden Julabi, two days after Dipavali, also celebrating it for the first time ever, as far as a I know.

Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.




Bonnie’s Death

October 27, 1990

Prasanthi Nilayam

Dear Parents,

Divya conveys her namaskars. Life is strange indeed. None can tell what will happen next, except God.

From 25-27 October I was completely bedridden with flu for two days. In the meantime, on 26 October at 2:20 PM, the huge top dome of the middle Gopuram of the museum, suddenly fell crashing to the ground. Bonnie (whose outside house I stayed in during summer & other times) was instantly killed. Also Judy Brown, also from San Francisco. They were working on a museum display.

Swami had given both an interview some days back. It seemed that, when it fell, others were working outside and called for the others to run out. But they delayed coming and thus - gone, gone.

All three of the top domes had construction poles still up, none had been completed yet. A third died also, an American boy Michael (about 26 years old). He died from injuries, on the way to Bangalore hospital. These three who died were together working on the Stupa, to be the central piece of the museum, whom Judy Brown had made herself.

Days back Swami had said that Gopuram top was too heavy, and must be reduced in weight by 50%. The area was closed off and no one was allowed in – but these three insisted they only had a little more work left on their stupa, and they’d leave as soon as it was done.

Well! Swami had just made Bonnie a donor two months ago, and she had moved into the ashram. She was full of life (age in 40’s) and was planning to settle down here for good.

Venkamma told me that Bonnie asked about me on 25th evening (she died 26th afternoon), Venkamma told her I was in bed with fever. Wonder what, if anything, she wanted me for? We usually talk only rarely, just say, “Sai Ram” from afar.

A fated museum indeed. Remember in summer time how a tractor with cement overturned? At least no one died. One worker had serious leg injuries.

Well, I suppose we could say they secured a most coveted opportunity, especially for foreigners, and that is to die in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Venkamma was thrilled at the tidbits you gave of Vijai Sri’s horoscope. She commented, “True! True! Ah yes,” at the mention of Vijai Sri’s talent of words and song, and outgoingness, etc.

No one knows when that moment will come, do they? If I go, don’t you think I could give my bank account money to Venkamma? Please write a separate slip to the bank if you think so.

Loka Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu,



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