For the past six years whenever 20-year-old Saiesha Pillai had to make a difficult decision, she would write chits of various options and keep them it in front of a picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in her puja room.
Eyes closed, a prayer on her lips and faith in her heart, she would pick a chit and her decision would be made.
Pillai and her family from Sion have been ardent devotees of Sathya Sai Baba for almost 24 years and the news of his passing away on Sunday morning shook the family.
"I got to know about Swami passing away through my father. My first reaction was that of apprehension - who would look after my family and me. But on second thoughts, I know that he has gone away only physically, in spirit he will always be there to guide us," said Pillai.
The news of Sri Sathya Sai Baba passing away shocked devotees across the city. At his two centres — Dharmakshetra in Andheri and Sai Prem in Navi Mumbai — devotees had come together to pray and chant for him.
“Devotees can come to Dharmakshetra to pray and offer tribute to Baba. We have organised a recitation of Gayatri mantra and bhajans for the next two days. We will also put up screens at Dharmakshetra to show what is happening at Puttaparthi,” said Nimish Pandya, Mumbai district president, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation.
Many devotees in the city booked tickets for Puttaparthi the moment they heard the news. “My first thought was to reach Puttaparthi as soon as possible. Three other devotees and I will leave on Monday afternoon,” said Surendrababu Pillai, Saiesha’s father.
At Dharmakshetra, hundreds of devotees gathered to pay homage to their spiritual leader. Although everyone was mourning the loss of their philosopher and guide, they all were determined to keep him alive by following his teachings.
“I learnt of Swami’s passing away through a Telgu new channel. I couldn’t believe the news. For the past 40 years he has guided me in all the important aspects of my life. For me he will always remain alive in my heart,” said Hemlatha Venkatesh, a devotee from Powai. “My family and I will pay tribute to him by following his teachings all our life,” she added.
Sharing his experiences with Baba, Jagjit Kaur, an Andheri resident, said, “When I was young, Swami's blessings cured me of an ear ailment that no doctor could.”