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Playing With Children

(207) 10th October, 1948

Extract from

Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam

by Suri Nagamma

A few days ago, Mahadeva Sastri, son of Kavyakanta Ganapati Sastri, came here. Bhagavan introduced him to us all. As he is now living in this place our talk turned on his father Sri Kavyakanta yesterday afternoon. Bhagavan began telling us: "When I was living in Virupaksha Cave, sometime in 1903, Nayana came there with his family. At that time this Mahadeva was about four or five years of age. Nayana prostrated before me and then asked the little boy to do likewise. He appeared not to have heard it and, with an air of indifference, kept quiet. Nayana too did not mind it."

Then, all of a sudden, that boy prostrated before me in full length (Sashtanga namaskaram). Like a young boy who has had his Thread Ceremony he placed his hands on his ears and then touched my feet. I wondered how that little boy could have known the correct procedure of prostration and felt that it must have come from family traditions. I said, "Yes. Every habit comes out from family traditions." Bhagavan: "That is so. This Mahadeva has since changed a lot. I used to talk with him frequently. During the days when I was living in the Mango Cave, Nayana invited all those near and dear to him, to listen to his reading of the "Umā Sahasram" in Pachiamman Shrine. His family also came. Mahadeva was then eight years of age. I asked him if he remembered me. He did not say anything in reply and quietly went away to play. After a while, somebody came to see me. They prostrated before me and telling me that they had come once before, asked me if I remembered them. As I did not remember, I was silent. I do not know how he noticed that incident, but after they left, Mahadeva came to me running and said, "Swami, what did those people ask you first?" I replied saying that they had enquired of me if I remembered them as they had come once before and that I had been silent as I did not remember them. He promptly stated that he likewise did not remember me. I felt amused.

"You know what I did one day? Seating Mahadeva on my back I began swimming in the tank opposite The Pachiamman shrine, from one end to the other. When we were halfway through he began pressing me down, greatly elated, shouting 'Aha, Hai!' as cart drivers do to their bullocks. I was tired and it seemed as though both of us would be drowned. I was of course very anxious that he should be saved from such a catastrophe. So I managed somehow to reach the other side."

I said, "For one who helps people to swim across the mighty ocean of Samsara (the material world) is that difficult?"

Another devotee enquired if it were a fact that Bhagavan and Nayana used to swim in the Pandava Tank. Bhagavan replied, "Yes. That also was only in those days. We used to try to excel each other in swimming. That was great fun."

Another devotee said, "It seems you played marbles with children?"

Bhagavan replied, "Yes. That was so. That too was while we were in the Virupaksha Cave. The holes dug for the purpose of playing marbles must be there even now. Those children sometimes used to bring packets of sweets. We all shared them. During Dipavali they used to put aside my share of crackers and bring them up to me. We used to fire the crackers together. It was most entertaining." I was reminded of the leelas (playful acts) of Lord Krishna's boyhood days. Even now Bhagavan plays with children if they come here with toys.