March 16th 2008
Returning to “HOME Sweet HOME! Last leg of 4.5 months of our journey:
Jai SaiRam! the first couple of paragraphs are repeat for referenace:
Feb 29th Friday: The special day that comes every four years ....
Will be on the way to Penang pretty soon ..... It is 11:25 AM.... getting late as usual .... OM Shanih OM !
Will be back after two days ....
Hari OM!, We are at the Singapore airport waiting for departure within a couple of hours. It is 2:15 PM and dep. time is 4:15 PM
Before I go over our experiences in Penang etc. let me go over last night's experience:March 3rd Monday: Last night was a special SATSANG with SATYA Sai group. That was the most emotional and amazing spiritual experience we had during this trip. This Sai Devotee is Shikh and his wife is Chinese or Malayese. They look so close to our eyes. In any case, for years in their Singapore home, they have been blessed with Baba's grace .... There is Vibhuti appearing all over their Moorties and photos of not only Baba but many other pictures and moorties. We were suggested by our host friend, Poonmji, to attend this SATSANG in the evening instead of going to night safari. We had missed that night safari in our last visit, so we had made up mind this time to go for it. About a week ago, when we were here in Singapore , we thought that we would take care of it in last two days and we attended Botanical garden instead. So after we arrived in Singapore , on March 3rd early morning, like 5 AM, we went to sleep as we had very rough night for sleeping on the bus. After we woke up around 9 AM, we prepared to visit our VYASA YOGA Center to have lunch prepared by Shivani. By the time we had lunch and nice YOGA discussion with Manojbhai (This couple runs VYASA YOGA Center in Singapore for last four years), we left for visit to Zoo and safari around 2:30 PM. When we arrived at the train station after some 20 minutes of train ride to catch a bus. We thought lets find out more as the Zoo situation as it had started raining. So we went to Info counter, to find out that it was hopeless to try. So we returned home around 6 PM after taking care for some money exchange issue. Poonamji gave us ride to this Home - Satya Sai Center at 7:30 PM. Most everyone had already arrived. There was silence! Some folks whispered in their neighbor's ears to carry on their conversation. Exactly 8 PM the SATSANG started with OM-Kaar chanting. While Satya Sai 108 names were recited and also Lingaastakam was played on CD, the abhishek was going by the Kavindraji, the main host. He had five Shivlings, one of them was of pure solid gold and others were of crystles .... Group joined the singing with the CD program. Then around 8:45, the bhajan started by individuals. Most of the ones were the same we have been singing for years. Bhajan were over by 9:30 PM. Aarti followed. Will continue after we arrive in LA.Time to go for Safety check ...
We arrived in LA USA on March 4th.
Lets go back to visiting Penang: If you go to Malaysia , 2 to 3 days are suffice for KL visit. Special place to visit in KL are 1. Batu Caves (Murugan Moorti – 140 feet tall?) and a couple of neighboring caves as I described before. 2. Twin Tower – one of world’s famous – tallest place. 3. Jade Museum . 4. Just general running around is fine. Great Train system. Every city seems to have Natural Parks like Flower – Botanical, Butterfly, Birds, Deer parks and Zoo. So you decide where you have time, you can visit them. Very Clean city and also disciplined people.
Now going to Penang : We wanted to take earlier Bus, but by the time we got to Bus Terminal (known as PuduRaya), looters or vultures storms the customers – their preys? The bus was going nearer place to Penang but they sold us that ticket as if it is going to Penang . Since we could not believe the seller, we asked one Bharatiya (Hindu local Bahan). Even she misguided us along with other travelers. Niru’s fighting spirit saved us from awaiting hassle in another town near Penang . We took another bus. Bus came in one hour late and started after another hour. Instead of getting there at 6, we got there at around 8 PM. We` admired the road and the mountain terrain along the way. Very beautiful ride. Must travel at least once during day time. Country side was lot better than that from Singapore to KL. We felt like going through New England states, luscious greenery and felt like US highways. Buses are really luxury coaches. They have nice comfortable wide seats.
Now the real struggle starts. Nobody could / would speak good English. We have no idea where to go and had no map of Penang . Two Malaysian ladies who were going to host us were not available to help. Thank God for sending this young local Bharitiyas - Hindu girl. She explained to us various options. One of them was to go to Penang Downtown and find Hotel to stay overnight. Nobody would tell us where should we wait to get that local bus. If we stay overnight near this bus terminal, the cost of Hotel is around 180 Ringets. If we go to town, then we can get one for 30 RM to 180 RM. So obviously, going to town sounds better, but at night with lots of rain? After some heated discussion, Niru won and we went to downtown. (Woman’s instinct!) It was already 10 PM. Now to go to Hotel in the middle of the night with very few people in sight, how risky it is? Then, we decided to go for nearby Pizza Hut. Another chance to enjoy my old favorite food. Well, I lowered my standards and ate it anyway. Well, Pizza Hut’s Pizza reminds you that it has the same taste anywhere in the world. We have tried in Paris , Baroda , Bangalore , some other European countries and now in Malaysia and that too smaller town compared to KL.
We were suggested to go to either Heritage Hotel or City Tel, both are kind of expensive. So we decided to walk to Citytel as there were more options to explore with cheaper place. One older gentleman offered us a good deal going in his tri-wheel Human Rickshaw. He pulled the shade over our head. We asked him to remove it. So he did. Then as soon as we came out from under that bridge, the rain started wetting us. So we said, please put that overhead back on. So he mumbled in his language indicating, we should have not asked him to remove it. Poor fellow came off his seat to fix this. As he was doing it, one bus driver rammed into his rickshaw and damaged one of the wheels to that extent that it is immovable now. We felt pretty bad but what can we do in the middle of the night. We got off and started walking. He, graciously, showed us the short cut way to that area. So now around 11:30 PM, we started looking into cheaper motel. I found one for 30 to 40 RM and Niru found one with 45 ringetts. Without further hassle, took that one.
Hotel owner, Chinese lady gave us the city map and prioratize the sightseeing places for the next day. I studied that before going to sleep. Next day morning – March 1st, we were advised to take bus for traveling. The Bus stand was near by 7 -11. We went there and we noticed a beautiful Kunjbihari Temple . So we went inside for Darshan. Very nice, good size temple on Penang Road . This temple had Radha-Krishna, Ram Parivar, Shiv-linga and other mini temples within the complex. There is nearby Cinema (Odean Vinay) owned by Hindu - Desibhai. After waiting for long time, we ran out of patience and finally took Teksi. He dropped us near Pagoda. He said it is right there and you can see near but on the hill top. So here we go! Started walking up the hill and that 20 minutes of climbing hill felt pretty treacherous as we were filled with negativity. Why does it happen to us that Taxi Drivers, many a times drop us @ the wrong places and we end up walking .... running ..... hustling ..... running out of breath to catch a plane .... Boy, we are lucky? It happened at least three times in Delhi .
Finally we get there. What a beautiful Pagoda!!! This place, is must to see. We spent nearly three hours. Then enjoyed their free lunch. It was Chinese preparation. Very nice! Then someone suggested to Niru as why we did not take steps to come up rather than winding road. Well, we did not know about that. So going down, we took steps. There were enclosed steps and both the sides had small shops. It was haven for bargaining. We bought Jade Ganesh. It started @ 85 RM and paid 25 RM. Also our problem of getting exchange got solved too. This shop owner gave us the exchange at 3.20, the best rate we ever got in Malaysia . When we came down, we checked the entrance. Well, there was no sign that that was the entrance.
As they speak and understand broken English, we ended up wasting lots of time looking for Bus and Teksi to go to Penang Hilltop. Finally I said lets just walk. One south Indian told us the longer but easy to follow way to get there. I have already crossed my threshold for frustration??? It seemed like God could not take it. So one Chinese angle called us from behind and asked us, “where do you want to go.” So we said to Penang Hilltop by train. With smile, he said I thought so. Come on I will show you the short cut. We replied no, thank you! We rather go by the way suggested by the previous fellow. He said, OK I will walk with you to make sure that you do not suffer anymore. What an angle! We also started smiling and joined him in walking while talking..... In about 10 – 15 minutes we came to our place. That Finally after half an hour, we were able to get on train which takes you to the top of the hill. When we got there all the tiredness and mental anguish, just disappeared. How mother feels at the first sight of her baby after delivery! There was small beautiful South Indian Temple and also Masjid on the top of that hill. We took many pictures of this gorgeous Panoramic view of the Penang City . On the way, some young kids made us forget all the difficulties. Then we came down around six. We visited only two places and day was over.
Now, another mental struggle started. Should we stay another day like original plan, as we may not come back there for years or never. What about the announcement on 2 to 3 hours of YOGA with Sai Devotees, the next day. YOGA won. Thank God for suggestion by passerby Hindu bahan to buy ticket from Penang downtown rather then Bus Terminal to go to KL. We took overnight bus to return to KL. We arrived at 4 AM . Puduraya area is very familiar to us by now. So we walked to Sai Temple . We woke up Rajiv at 5 AM. (Rajiv sleeps over in SaiCenter a couple of times a week, as a part of his service. Took some rest till around 10 AM. Also took shower around 11 AM. After noon-aarati, I talked to a group of 100 devotees for some 15 minutes to appeal to them to take this two hours YOGA sessions. Now it was 12:30 PM and everybody was hungry. So except for seven to ten, rest of them rushed to get their Prasaad. So I made another announcement that if you are really interested, you can audition but do not practice with us. So at 1 PM, we had some 30 in attendance. I asked them to make commitment to practice everyday for 1 hour for forty four days. 13 attendees made the commitment. God bless them! Shirdai Sai bless them!!
After evening Aarti & Mahaprasad, we were ready to go but it was raining very hard. So our plan to walk to Puduraya would not work. So we called for Taxi. You cannot get any teksi to stop by either. Arumuruga, the main person of the Sai Center heard about our situation. So he asked Shreedhar to bring Sai Center Van to take us to Bus Terminal. So more timely help by Shiradi Baba!
Now when we came to Puduraya for 11 PM Bus. We arrived 5 AM in Singapore . Took Taxi to our host’s home.
I already talked about what happened with our day going to Zoo. It is not meant for us to see that Zoo as well as night Safari. Yesterday, our Raju confirmed that he had seen both on Feb 22nd and he confirmed that we lucked out. There was nothing spectacular about that zoo and nite safari. So it was good that we planned to go to Satya Sai Bhajan that evening. We also recalled our experience with Elephant Safari in Nepal . We did not come across any wild animal during that safari. So it was like wasting a day out of one week in Nepal and money too.
Back to Satya Sai Center : After Bhajan session was over, we had Prasad. One Punjabi brother started explaining to us about the grace of Satya Sai on this family. He said that most of the moorties, talisman, pearls, pictures just appear there. Vibhuti just appears all over on the pictures, moorties and other articles. Also OM written with Vibhuti on posters! As we were listening to him and Kavindra offered Niru to take any three pearls from the bowl full of pearls. Her eyes were filled with tears saying that we have three sons! He came with another offering of small Ganesh. That was covered with vibhuti too.
Then they asked us to select any Sai Photo and they all were covered with Vibhuti. After a few minutes, Kavindra brought one Tibetan talisman for me. He said baba wants you have this and where it in the necklace. Baba will protect you! Then they gave us oil. We asked for Holy water for our family, friends & SATSANGIes. They gave us one small jar filled of that holy Ganga-jal.
Our hosts, Poonaji and Vasi Khilanani are also Satya Sai devotees. They have big pictures of Sai all over in their home. So I got this thought and I shared that with Niru. I get the feeling that we tell baba that we will not be coming to Puttaparthi any more. We have been there some seven times, including one Maha Shivratri nite. If Baba wants us to keep any connection with him, he knows where we are. What do you know? The next morning Poonamji asked me to contact this special Sai center and insisted that it would be far better experience than going to Nite Safari. One of the mysteries of Divine forces in our life! Divinity has its mysterious ways to touch our lives....
Well so much for our Singapore – Malaysia Visit!
Now Singapore Airline: We boarded on the plane on the scheduled time. And wow! What a plane. What a hospitality! Niru was ushered to her seat. They loaded her hand carry baggage in the overhead bin. I was greeted by Bharatiya looking Airhost and said Mr. Parikh we have a special Jain meal for you! They treated us like Maharajas. So much food service on on–going basis. We were thrilled to hear that this was direct flight to LA. It believe about 14 hours. This was new Airbus made in France . They have 2+3+3 arrangement for Economy class, instead of 3+5+3. They had some 42 beautiful big seats in Business class. (can’t afford it!) I asked them that how come such a beautiful plane with grand service has almost half the plane empty? They replied that the return flight is 100 % full. In any case it was well-worth traveling by Singapore airline. Compared to our Air India experience last year, Singapore Airline knows how to treat customers. Traveling in Air India is like traveling in Bathroom. They have not even acknowledged the receipt of my letter written a year ago, never mind reimbursing my money. Singapore Airline gave us the best experience in last 10 years and Air India the worst. Singapore Airline knows what is Maharaja Service!
Oh well! Feel so good to be back home.... Of course, we will reach our real Sweet Home on March 25th.
We hope that you enjoyed our experiences. If you ever decide to go to Bali , Cambodia , Thailand , Singapore or Malaysia , you can contact us and we can give you some hints....
OM Shantih OM! OM Namah Shivay OM! - sudhir