Homes and Hearts in the Capital City - Sai Seva
- A first-hand account
of a rural service project undertaken
by the Sai Youth in the outskirts of Delhi,
the Capital of India, on June 8, 2008
Responding to Bhagavan
Sri Sathya Sai Baba's clarion call to Love All,
Serve All and Help Ever, Hurt Never,
the Sai youth of Delhi state recently reaped a
bountiful harvest of life lessons and inner growth
when they plunged into action to serve a village as
part of the Sri Sathya Sai Village Integrated
Program (SSSVIP) – an all-India initiative of Sri
Sathya Sai Seva Organisations to bring out
comprehensive and sustained development of under-
privileged families in the villages of rural India.
from serving the villagers with love as they
physically removed mountains of garbage from their
streets, unclogged open drains and educated the
villagers on health and hygiene, the Sai Young
Adults discovered a whole new appreciation for the
many blessings in their own lives, a loving bond
within their team and an inner spring of intense joy
that welled up when they reached out to complete
strangers with the feeling that he/she was an
embodiment of the same divinity that they worship in
the form of Bhagavan Baba.
certainly was the awareness of Swami's teaching of
unity that helped the Sai Youth see and experience
every villager as an extension of their own selves.
The whole experience was so fulfilling that the
entire team not only returned home on a spiritual
high but were as eager to go back and do more.
Selfless service, the ultimate mantra for salvation
that Bhagavan Baba has given to His devotees, has
turned out to be the healthiest of addictions that
the Sai Youth of Delhi can no longer shake off.
Truly, it has proved to be the best panacea for the
ills of the modern lifestyle, for it allows us to
"bend the body, mend the senses and end the mind,"
as Baba says.
The Delhi Sai organisation President, Mr.
Jatinder Cheema (left) - ready to feel His
with destiny was set on the morning of June 8, 2008. The
turning point in our spiritual lives came about in the
least expected of locations – an innocuous village
called Matiyala, in Dwarka, Delhi. Little did we know
that there would be such a pocket of intense squalor
right under our noses within the relatively affluent
national capital of India.
for a moment did we suspect that serving the
disadvantaged would turn out to be such an advantage for
us, for we experienced great joy when we stood knee-deep
in a garbage dump, working hard to clean up a
neighbourhood that was suffering from disease and
distress due to complete failure of civic services.
Baba has always encouraged us to seek the true goal of
life by experiencing the state of oneness where we
recognise the invisible and underlying spirit that
pervades all apparent diversity. To reach that state of
inner enlightenment, He urges us to direct our body,
faculties and talents to alleviate the suffering of
those in pain and need.
blessed children of Sai from Delhi can never forget our
SSSVIP adventure in Matiyala Village. A typical urban
village, Matiyala had quite a few problems that were
crying out for remedial action.
Environmental hazards abound
Open rubbish dumps left unattended
hygiene standards of its inhabitants, proliferation of
open garbage dumps, multitude of health problems, lack
of proper infrastructure, drug misuse, and inadequate
medical services were just a few of those. Our service
project in Mativala was however not our first venture.
In fact, we had conducted similar seva in the four other
districts of Delhi – North, South, East and Central, and
now we were in the last region, the West of Delhi.
Winning Love and Trust of the Locals
One of the
biggest challenges of conducting such service activities
at any new venue, be it a village or urban colony, is to
develop rapport with and gain the confidence of the
locals. More often than not, they are beset with fears
lest we have any hidden agenda in undertaking the
service at their village. Well, we can hardly blame
them, for such thoughts for it is indeed rare that such
service activities are conducted by any organisation
with a spirit of selfless love and service, and no
Sri Sathya Sai Village Integration Programme
But it is
our faith in Swami and His love and guidance that has as
always helped us in overcoming these initial hurdles.
The Sai Youth reckoned that if they carried out the
'Cleanliness Drive' along with the survey for the Sri
Sathya Sai Village Integrated Program (SSSVIP), then
they may also be able to engage the locals in some
meaningful learning process and involvement.
plan for the Village Seva was as follows:
Work Plan: "Selfless Service and Love In Action"
the gist of all the work and organisation that had to be
A total of 5 groups were to be
formed on the day of 'gram seva', comprising of four
sevadals and one local. These groups were named -
Sathya, Dharma, Prema, Shanti and Ahimsa.
The same number of sevadals would
be involved in carrying out the health, hygiene, and
basic cleanliness awareness drive.
Further, the following activities
were to be carried out:
detailed village survey for SSSVIP.
Cleaning the six side lanes with open drainage
Cleaning the area around the central pa
As the day
of Seva arrived, blessings from our dear Lord came down
in the form of heavy rains. However, that did not dampen
the spirits of the sevadals. One of the participants,
Mr. Vineet Kapoor, observed, "When I reached Matiyala
Village around 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 8, 2008, I had no
words to describe my joy to find the bhajan
hall filled with our youth members and elders from
across Delhi. These members, who would have left their
homes early to reach the village on time, were
enthusiastically singing His glory; they had no signs of
fatigue on their faces."
Bhajans invigorates all
The joy of communion with Sai
volunteers purified their hearts and cleansed their
minds by first singing bhajans. They all prayed for
Bhagavan's blessings for the villagers; we had decided
to adopt this village under the Sri Sathya Sai Village
after the bhajan, we divided ourselves in five
groups named after each of the five human values of
Truth, Peace, Love, Non Violence and Right Conduct. Each
cluster had ten to fifteen members along with a group
leader and a local guide. Every group was allocated
multiple tasks like surveying, cleaning garbage,
distributing chlorine tablets and spreading awareness on
health and hygiene in their respective zones in the
village. The groups were then handed the materials and
equipment to undertake the service including SSSVIP
forms, spades, brooms, insecticide spraying machines,
disinfectant powder and other necessary implements.
the logistics had been taken care of, it was time to
charge the air with divine energy. So we raised our
hands together and began our task after three
full-throated chants calling out to our dear Lord Sai to
guide us - 'Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba ki Jai'. That
reverberation of Bhagavan's name helped us proceed with
love and confidence.
that, a few brothers started interacting with the
villagers while filling up the SSSVIP forms, even as
others took on the huge garbage dumps which had been
left unattended by the villagers.
Surveying the village population
The seva dal team disposes of a
See how the seva dal team
dispose off a dead cat's carcass
dumps of waste were right next to their homes. And in
some places, we were shocked to find even dead cats
inside the dense and dark pile-up! It was no wonder that
the health quotient of the village was so pathetic.
team went ahead clearing these dangerous dumps, another
group carried out the distribution of chlorine tablets
and helped spread awareness about health and hygiene.
Chlorine tablet distribution
Giving chlorine tablets to those most in
Watch a Seva dal spraying an
open rubbish dump
team got busy with spraying the disinfectant powder and
liquid insecticide on various water sources and also on
the garbage to make sure mosquitoes did not breed there
anymore. While all along the villagers were only
watching us anxiously, it was also an eye opener for
Clearing and disinfecting the dump
A local resident sends a tricycle to
It is said
altruism is the healthiest of infections to catch. It
could not have been truer for, out of nowhere emerged
another brother from the village with a tricycle. The
tricycle he said had been sent by the owner to help us
carry the garbage bags. We loaded the tricycle with all
garbage bags and disposed it in a nearby trash bin.
Transparency of SSSVIP Agenda Wins Villagers'
Hearts and Confidence
with us throughout this endeavour. While the villagers
could have turned hostile or chosen not to cooperate
with us for of suspicion of our motives, it was but
Swami's blessings that nothing of that sort happened. On
the contrary, we all had a very cordial and warm
interaction with the villagers. Removal of the garbage,
distribution of chlorine tablets and the nature of the
survey that was conducted would certainly have helped
the the villagers understand that the main motive behind
all this was to share our love and serve them all.
Winning the villagers' hearts
Gaining the trust of the friendly
Mr. D. P.
Sahi, a first timer at the event, says, "This
was my first experience with seva. We all helped in
cleaning the village and conducted a survey, and paid
special attention to what illnesses the children were
suffering from. We also impressed upon them the evils of
chewing tobacco, smoking and drinking.
Mr. D. P. Sahi comments on the joy
of his first seva activity
Additionally, we also guided them on how to keep water
purified and use chlorine tablets, besides stressing
upon basic health tips such as maintaining clean nails
and the importance of sending their children to school.
Overall, we received a warm response from the
and efficiency with which the SSSVIP was introduced was
compelling enough for the villagers to shed their apathy
and sense of mistrust, and come forward to appreciate,
learn and participate in the effort. It was an ideal
example of empowerment at the grassroot level where the
local population could see the benefit of taking
responsibility for their living conditions. This
instance was made possible only due to the loving
inspiration from the Avatar of the age, who has always
laid importance on village service.
the first time I have participated in such an activity
and have really enjoyed the experience. I feel, if we
return to the village a couple of times, the villagers
would appreciate and realise that if someone with no
connection or interest in the village is helping them
live a cleaner life, then they can themselves make the
effort to do it," said Dipankar, a Sai volunteer.
Watch the seva dals in action cleaning up
rubbish from a dilapidated house
face to face with the stark hardships faced by the
residents of the village proved startling for many who
went to serve. It shook the Sai Young Adults, who were
from relatively affluent backgrounds. This experience
made them revisit their own attitude towards life and
their expectations from it. One such epiphany came to
seva participant Mr. Vipin Bhatia, who
confessed," Having lived abroad for some time
and then getting used to the comforts there, the first
thing that struck me was how lucky I am.
"Working in a comfortable office with A.C. and other
facilities, I normally do not think about it, and
sometimes even complain about lack of other comforts as
compared to some other offices/companies…. But when I
entered the village, I realized that I am still a lot
more fortunate than people living here. A good thing was
seeing so many youth working together, unlike before
when in such activities we used to see more of adults.
On the whole, this activity has made me feel very good
as it not only gave me an opportunity to make others'
lives better, but also helped in making me a better
person and a more contented human being."
Swami says: "He who
selflessly renders service, sweetened with love, to My
creation; he who sees Me in everyone and everything; he
who remembers Me at every moment, is the yogi nearest to
quite apparent on this Sunday morning, that there were
plenty of Swami's children who were trying to live up to
Who Serves Whom? The True Spiritual Enquiry
At the end
of the experience, the real beneficiaries of the
munificence of these energetic and Sai-inspired youth
were they themselves. Roohi Sharma shares her
experiences of the day: "The previous day I
dreamt that I am being accepted as a new member of Sri
Sathya Sai Seva Organisation and it came true that
morning on June 8. I was really excited and curious to
experience that divine day. On reaching Dwarka, Matiyala
village, I was completely set to start off.... But I was
astonished to find just one lady member by my side, yet
Baba blessed me and gave me the strength, so the lack of
strength of lady members did not hamper my enthusiasm at
all. I felt as if Baba was there with me and was
encouraging me to take my first step towards Him.
Ms. Roohi Sharma speaks about her
"Besides distribution of ORS powder for children
and chlorine tablets, I was also allotted the survey
duty falling under the SSVIP. It was a thrilling and
"This experience showed me another life that
exists in India. I always read that Baba says 'True
India Lives in the Villages'. I am really
privileged that I got the opportunity to realise this
that day. It was a wonderful project to assist. The
unity with which the whole task was performed added
colour to the whole program. All the sevadals were on
their feet on Baba's command, moving from door to door
and helping the needy with all the support material that
"In short, it was an awakening experience. I
really feel that I had missed a lot in the past. This
experience gave me divine pleasure and awakened my soul
to the reality of life. Love All Serve All was
experienced both in words and in action that day.... And
the wordings written on the invitation card - mukh
me sai naam aur haath me kaam (The Lord's Name on the
lips and His work in the hands) proved true that
Empowering the Villagers to Take Responsibility
Mr. Amarendra Kumar shares his 'true bliss'
course of the morning, Mr. Jatinder Cheema and Vibhu
Mahajan spoke to several village folk and sevadals to
gauge their observations and reactions, and it came as
no surprise that the response was overwhelming, both
from the villagers for the support and awareness that
had been provided to them that day and from the sevadals
for the inexplicable joy they experienced in fulfilling
the villagers spoke in unison when they said that it was
a wonderful idea to have the Sai volunteers visit them
on this noble mission. Taking this forward, many of them
also expressed their desire to be part of the Sathya Sai
village resident was so inspired from this whole
experience that he told us, "I would be happy to
participate in the effort the next time you visit us. I
really liked the initiative that you have taken."
Bliss Flows Both Ways
joy was greater for those who served. Amarendra Kumar
also participated for the first time in this seva and he
couldn't get enough of it. "I am going through a
period of true bliss after performing the seva. I was
asked by the villagers if we came from the government
and I proudly responded that we were from the Sathya Sai
Mr. Rishi Sharma: 'The joy
that I felt today, perhaps I have never
Mr. S. K.
Malik has been a regular seva dal since 2001. As an
experienced volunteer of the Sai Organisation, he said,
"I am always looking for an opportunity to serve
the Lord and participate in the Village Integration
"The villagers asked me if we would come on a regular
basis and I responded that, if Swami wills it, we surely
would. I impressed upon them that in addition to the
Seva that we were carrying out, it was Swami's desire
for us to bring awareness in them to continue the task
we had initiated so that their children would have a
cleaner and healthier lifestyle."
Jogindar Singh, another sevadal volunteer, said,
"I am in the property business, and one day, my
neighbour suggested I should take out some time to serve
the needy. Normally the time I would have spent
attending to my needs, I spent today doing seva. All I
can say is that I am truly grateful to Him, for, after
performing the seva I cannot describe the joy that I am
the impact of the service was as much on the volunteers
as it was on the villagers. Describing the concluding
session of the one-day seva activity, Mr. Vineet, says,
"After completing our duties, when we reported
back to the bhajan hall, we all settled down and sang
bhajans again and closed the event offering
aarti to Swami. Then, there was a small talk by Mr.
Jatinder Cheema, State President, Sri Sathya Sai Seva
Organisation, Delhi, who congratulated the entire Sai
family, and spoke about the significance of
participating in such a meaningful activity. As the
event reached its end, I could not help but pray to
Bhagavan and ask Him to allow me to participate and
partake of such bliss from more such activities in the
The closing arati left all with divine
similar sentiments, Rishi Sharma, said, "The joy
that I felt today, perhaps I have never experienced
before. Today was our first step towards selfless seva,
and with Sai Baba's blessings, we will continue to stay
on this path. We achieved a small feat in helping
alleviate some of the village's problems, about which we
would not have spared a thought under normal
circumstances. I believe the time all of us spent today
for this activity is the first step towards leading a
more fulfilling and meaningful life. With Baba's
blessing, we will have many more opportunities to serve
in this noble cause."
The Lasting Lessons of Selfless Service
was a small initiative, but a significant one. The
journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,
and as Swami often reiterates, "No act of
service is high, no service is low; each act of service
is equal in the eyes of the Lord; it is the readiness
with which it is done, the joy, the efficiency, the
skill with which it is performed that matters... If you
consider the qualifications needed for service, know
that what is essential is a pure heart..... You should
also have faith in God as the spring of vitality,
virtue, and justice. Service is worship you offer to the
God in the heart of everyone. "
must return to the village many more
times, says the young Dipankar
Mr. Dhanpat Singh gave of his valuable
time and effort gladly
one touching example of such heartfelt service given to
a poor innocent baby, which will have far reaching
consequences for its future life – one Seva dal member
relates it as follows:
we were just about to return back I got a call from
another brother of mine; he wanted me to visit along
with him a home which he had just finished surveying. He
said there was a small one year old girl child who had a
huge tumor on her back. Upon enquiring we found that
they had shown the child at AIIMS and as the doctors had
told them to deposit Rs. 15,000 for the operation,
they had given up as they could not afford this amount.
the family members that the child would be blessed by
Bhagavan Baba and that the organisation was ready to
support them in all matters. One of our brothers handed
them a packet of vibhuti and explained to them its
significance. We called one of our brother Seva dals who
happened to work in AIIMS. On examining the child he
also spoke to the family and assured them of his
complete support for her treatment giving them his
contact details. I was amazed to see such an amazing
response from all my brothers towards the small child
that I felt I was actually living in 'Ram Rajya'."
See the pathetic condition of an unfortunate
baby - the villagers health needs are far
The lessons from the morning's activities were manifold
for the Sai Youth, but the two that stand out are: One,
that selfless service gives inexplicable joy because you
feel Swami's presence in every step despite all odds
that you may have to put up with; and second, when you
take the first step towards sharing love with others,
God takes care of the rest. Be assured that all
work will proceed smoothly without any interruptions.
Young Dinesh helped out on the day
Another of the dedicated seva dal team
quite apparent that morning that many sevadals would
have loved to carry on with the seva activities beyond
the allotted time. Such was the satisfaction and
happiness that these volunteers enjoyed that day.
Service that is of vital importance
to the locals' health...
...Performed with dedication and
sincerity of action
have so far associated the word 'addiction' with some
form of evil, after that day we began to see its
positive connotation. For, you just need to indulge once
in the act of selfless service, the true happiness and
joy that follows such a selfless act are enough to
addict you forever.
morning's events can be aptly concluded by brother
Vineet's observations. He said, "Just as Lakshmana had
asked Rama, I ask our Sai Rama, 'Bhagavan! In Your
kingdom, if you assign any responsibility, I shall
fulfil it. That is enough fortune for me.' "