My schooling background: Meeting Swamiji
What I am going to say would have happened between 8th and 10th grade of school. 5th to 7th grade, my father sent me to Panrotti, Tamilnadu – saying I won’t study properly if I am in Tiruvannamalai and that it is better if I study outside Tiruvannamalai. At the end of three years, I expressed that I do not wish to go back to school there and I wish to stay in Tiruvannamalai and study. Tiruvannamalai is my native town and it is world famous for its temple festivals. I did not want to miss all those festivals.
First instance of seeing Swami
I joined school in Tiruvannamalai for 8th grade. At that time VDS Jain school was the most famous school in Tiruvannamalai. On the first day of school, I attended morning prayer at 8:30 am. I arrived a little late. By that time the boys had started moving towards prayer. They told me to leave my bag somewhere and join the prayer. In the prayer, there was a table with a number of shields. Suddenly, a loud voice from behind me said, ‘Hey look here! The shields that my father gave!’ I looked back to see who it was. I saw a bright face with holy ash smeared on the forehead. His friend asked him, ‘Why did your father give this shield?’ The boy replied, ‘My father is the head of the Rotary Club.’ Actually, on behalf of the Rotary Club, they had conducted some games for the children and given some shields to distribute. Swami’s father was Rotary Club Secretary so he had apparently given the shields. He was referring to it that his father has given the shields!
My father was also in Rotary Club. I was thinking that only my father was associated with the Rotary in a big way and how come this boy was saying this about his father. I asked him who his father was. He replied: Chandru. His father was known by the nickname Chandru at that time. I told him my father was in the Rotary Club and that he only would have given the shield. To that he replied, ‘My father is the head.’ Then I thought probably there was a head and he might have given. Anyhow, by that time, he had put his arm around my shoulder. And he said, ‘Your father is also in the Rotary, my father is also in the Rotary. Then you sit next to me.’
The first day itself I got a chance to sit next to him. Soon after prayer got over, we went to the classroom. I didn’t have to search for a place. He used to sit neither too much in front nor too much in the back – in the third or fourth row. He made me sit next to him. All the students had fixed places, but somehow he organized things and arranged for me to sit next to him. From that day onwards, till 10th grade, whichever class or classroom we went to, I would sit next to him only.