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Features | Experience of the Divinity of Bhagavan | Group V | Mr. O. P. Mehra

Mr. O. P. Mehra,
Air Chief Marshal (Retd),
Member, Management Committee
Sri Sathya Sai International Centre and School,
New Delhi.

Mr. O. P. Mehra served the Indian Air Force for 36 years and retired as Air Chief Marshal in 1976. He was awarded Padmavibhushan, and was Governor of Maharashtra and Rajasthan. An ardent devotee of Bhagavan, he narrates a few of his experiences of the Divinity of Bhagavan in his own words.

'I had the good fortune to end up in Bhagavan Sathya Sai Baba's presence about 35 years ago, not because I had a desire to do so, but under very interesting circumstances. On being appointed Chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), I had to shift my residence from Delhi to Bangalore. I paid a visit to Bangalore to tie up the arrangements for transfer of residence and some other associated problems.

The house earmarked for the Chairman was not ready for occupation; so alternative arrangements for temporary residence had to be decided. During this visit, I deemed it fit to call on the Governor of Karnataka, Shri Dharma Vira whom I had known as a dear respected elder and friend.

On learning of my interim problems, he suggested that till the Chairman's house became available, the family and I would be welcome to stay as his guests at the Raj Bhawan. I was not only glad but also honoured to be invited to avail of Shri Dharma Vira's hospitality.

One fine morning at the breakfast table, Shri Dharma Vira said 'chalo, Sathya Sai Baba ko milke ayengay (let us go to meet Sathya Sai Baba)'. Before I could react, my wife said, 'Haan bhai sahib chalangay' (yes, dear brother, we shall accompany you).

After about half an hour after return to our room from breakfast, I picked up my briefcase prior to proceeding to my office. My wife asked me 'what are you up to?' 'I am going to the office' was my response. 'How can you do that having told bhai sahib that we shall accompany him and meet Baba?' I reminded her that she had agreed to go and that I made no such commitment.

In very clear words I went on say, 'please remember my stakes at this period in my Air Force career and my future are heavily loaded against me. To me, more than anything else, what matters is work. I am not prepared to waste my time to visit Babas, Swamis, Saints or what other designation you call them by. They are all hoax, and I assume Sai Baba is no exception. I am told he waves his hands and produces goodies, which he bestows on the devotees/disciples. Magic! Sarkar, the noted magician, also does the same but does not pretend to be a swami or saint'. In fact I did use some un-parliamentary words, which, in retrospect, stand reprehensible.

My wife tried to convince me and, as a consequence, the discussion got more heated and I used strong language to assert my point of view.

At this stage, the Governor's (Shri Dharma Vira's) ADC knocked on the door to say 'HE is in the car waiting for you'. To avoid any further unpleasantness to our dear host, I dropped my briefcase on the table and, much against my will, accompanied my wife to the waiting car. We were off on what turned out to be a momentous twist in my destiny.

Soon after our arrival at Baba's Ashram at Whitefield, He arrived and Shri Dharma Vira introduced me in the following words. 'Swami, this is Air Marshal Mehra'. Before he could say anything, Baba interrupted him to say 'Janto, Janto, HAL (I know HAL)'.

At this stage, much to my horror and shock, Baba said, 'Mehra tum theek bolta, work is worship. Baba log kay paas jana waste of time hai (Mehra you are quite right. Work is worship. Visiting Babas, etc. is waste of time)'. He then floored me by repeating all the uncalled for words which I had uttered during my heated argument with my wife in our room at the Raj Bhawan. I did not know where to look. This was no Sarkar type magic. It was to a non-believer, proof positive, if the same was necessary for His omnipresence.

After sometime he took me for an interview. At the very outset, He asked 'what is worrying you' and he went on to say 'all you are thinking is of Delhi, Delhi, Delhi. You will go to Delhi; as of now, you must do all and more to handle the present assignments with dedication and sincerity. Such action would ensure your going to Delhi'. At the end of the interview, He suggested that I should visit Him again after a few days. During the second meeting I came back a changed person having shed the doubting mode at the Divine Feet of Baba.

In January 1972 when our daughter Parveen and son-in-law Naveen Bahl were in Bangalore on holiday, the latter took ill with acute pain in the stomach. He was diagnosed as suffering from stones in one of the kidneys. The diagnosis was confirmed by doctors at the Air Force Hospital as also by the civil specialists. All of them advised surgery, as they feared delayed action might result in damage to the kidney due to backpressure. When I mentioned this fact to Baba, He advised against surgery. As a consequence, I faced a dilemma as to what course of action to adopt. On my son-in-law asking my advice, I asked his father who, at that time, was at Hyderabad. After being fully briefed about the medical options, he suggested we have no options, but to go ahead with surgery. The surgery was successfully carried out.

Two or three days after the surgery, the attendant at the hospital with Naveen rang to say that Naveen fell down in the toilet and was experiencing excruciating pain. More than that, he had not been able to pass urine for the past 24 hours or more.

My wife, daughter and I rushed to the hospital and, on reaching, found Naveen being examined by three or four specialists, who opined, after taking x-rays and other tests, that the urinary passage was totally blocked and surgery was again absolutely necessary to ensure unrestricted passage of urine. On being so advised, the three of us decided to seek Swami's blessings.

As we entered the Ashram, we spotted Bhagavan talking to some students abouts100 yards away. Swami, seeing us, walked towards us, and on reaching near us said 'Mehra, son-in-law phir tang karta. Urine bandh ho gaya, bahut pain hai'. Gesturing with His hand, He stated 'stomach aisa ho gaya. (Mehra, the son-in-law is bothering you again. Urine has stopped. He is having intense pain and his stomach is distended)'. I nodded in the affirmative. 'Ab doctor kya boltey hain? (What does the doctor say now?)'

On being told of the view expressed by the doctors, gesturing His hand, He said 'operation nahin ho ga (there will be no surgery)'. Swami gave me some vibhuti and directed me to apply the same where the patient was having pain. The needful was done. The pain became less and bearable. As the patient did not pass any urine even during the night, he was taken to the operation theatre the following morning, much to our disappointment. About 25 minutes later, the surgeon in-charge came out and said 'we have decided not to operate. As we commenced administering anaesthesia, Naveen passed out everything on the operation table. We have checked his system and found it free from any form of obstruction'. I wonder what doubting Thomas you would have to say. To put it mildly, all those who witnessed and experienced this episode were elated and grateful for His Divine Intervention.

On the 17th December 1971, the day Pakistani Defence Forces in the then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, surrendered arms at Dhaka, the Governor Shri Dharma Vira invited Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai to dinner at the Raj Bhawan. My wife and I were also guests. Just prior to dinner being served, Swami told my wife 'Satya Ma Mehra Delhi jata (Satya Ma, Mehra will go to Delhi)'. On her asking, in what capacity, He replied 'Lal key jagah' (to replace Lal). Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal was the Chief of Air Staff at that stage. Swami asked Satya (my wife) to tell me. On her request, Swami sent for me and conveyed this momentous decision to me. I was stunned but naturally elated at what was conveyed to me. Sensing this Swami said 'Mehra, kaam achha karte raho (Mehra, keep doing good work)'.

Incidentally, Air Chief Marshal P. C. Lal was due to retire in July 1972. He was given an extension of six months and he actually retired on the 15th January, 1973. The sequel to this pronouncement was that three officers, who were senior to me, were due to retire before Air Chief Marshal P. C. Lal. As a consequence, in such an eventuality, I would have become the senior-most officer eligible for elevation. But the Government decided to give all the three one year extension, which implied that, on the day Air Chief Marshal Lal retired, I would not be in the panel for consideration of his successor.

Naturally, I was disappointed at this development. I went to the Ashram at Whitefield. Swami came close to me and said 'angry', and moved on. Three or four days later, I repeated the visit and Swami, when passing, uttered the words 'bahut gussa (very angry)'. On the repeat appearance a few days later, Bhagavan stopped near me and said 'kya ho gaya (what happened)' and then took me with him for an interview. In the interview room, I tried to explain my apprehension vis-à-vis Swami's pronouncement on the 17th December 1971. Bhagavan smiled and said 'don't worry, everything will be alright. You concentrate on the current assignment'. Tables turned in my favour as one of the three officers declined the extension offer, thereby making me eligible for inclusion in the panel of names for selection of the next Chief of Air Staff.

About the middle of December, 1972 Mr. Jagjiwan Ram, the then Defence Minister, came on a visit to Bangalore. Air Marshal Shiv Dev Singh who was the senior-most on the panel was with him. At the airport, just prior to his departure, in my presence and hearing, he called out to Air Marshal Shiv Dev Singh and said, 'Chief Sahib challeyn (Chief, shall we leave)'. This statement gave me the feeling that the decision had been taken in favour of Shiv Dev Singh. On returning home, I expressed this view to my wife. A few days later, when I was presiding over a meeting of the Board of Directors of the HAL, the Defence Secretary, Mr. K. B. Lall rang up to congratulate me on my being the next Chief of Air Staff. The Divine showered His Grace once again.

Around August-September 2003, I had some minor indication of malfunction of the heart. As a precautionary measure, my medical advisor decided to subject me to a Holter Test. The result revealed a serious problem, which necessitated my immediate admission to the hospital. Very thorough and extensive tests revealed that three leads were heavily chocked and the left artery, the main source of purified blood to the heart, had around 90% blockage. The doctor's view that emerged called for immediate bypass surgery pending which complete bed rest with precautionary medication was advised. Discussions held with the senior surgeon clearly indicated that whilst the medical condition could be tackled successfully with minimal risks, my age - 85 years - was the principal risk factor. The matter caused utmost concern to the family and me. Hospital authorities permitted me to be shifted to the house, pending decision of the family and, more than that, my own view in the matter.

During the family conclave, at a particular moment, suddenly everyone present became silent. As I sat remorse and undecided, I heard a distinct voice saying, 'don't worry. Go ahead. Everything will be fine'. Without even waiting for a moment, I told the family 'I am ready to undergo surgery '. I had no hesitation in believing that it was Bhagavan's Divine voice of assurance. Everything went off well resulting in my being able to walk in the verandah outside the hospital room on the fifth day after surgery.

During the early months of our stay in Bangalore, Bhagavan was gracious enough to autograph a photograph of HIS. After it had been located on the shelf in the lounge of the house for a few days, my wife noticed some vibhuti on the frame. The photograph was shifted to another place in the house to see if vibhuti would again emanate. To our surprise and delight, the next morning, we noticed a repeat of the phenomena. It was then, and only then, we realized how lucky we were to be in constant receipt of Bhagavan's blessings.

The phenomena continued whilst we lived in Bangalore. After moving into our official residence - THE AIR HOUSE - in Delhi, the photograph was displayed in the main sitting room. Lo and behold, within a few days, vibhuti started emanating regularly. One fine morning, we noticed honey oozing out of the frame. My wife decided to place the photo frame on a plate where honey could be collected for all to take prasadam. Bhagavan's way of bestowing His grace and Divine blessings continued till my retirement from service in the Air Force. We shifted the photograph to our new place of residence after retirement. The recurrence of the phenomena did not take place.

During one of the interviews with Bhagavan, I, very respectfully, mentioned the absence of vibhuti to which His response was 'Mehra, that was for your protection. You don't need it now'. The fact remains that the Divine protection has always been and continued to be our companion and Guardian Angel.'

-- Mr. O. P. Mehra

(Source: The devotee's article in the special souvenir Tribute published by the Sri Sathya Sai Books & Publications Trust on the occasion of the 80th Birthday of Bhagavan.)