HE was my Guru, my true life guide, and today, I am what I am because of HIM.
He was not just my spiritual guide but also my technology inspiration and Guru.
by Prasād Agrahār
I was 10 years when I attended the Shishya Swīkāra in 1959 at Shivājī Park, Bombay. I do not remember any details other than watching the ceremony from a distance. I lived my school years in Viṭṭal where my dad was the manager of the Lord Anantheshwar Temple. A few months after the Shishya Swīkāra, H.H. Ānandāshram Swāmījī and Parama Pūjya Shishya Swāmījī arrived in Viṭṭal for the annual Shashthī festival. We boys played cricket on the temple grounds with HH watching us. It was during that visit I had the first opportunity of meeting H.H. Swāmījī.
H.H. Swāmījī visited Viṭṭal every year (and more than once in some years) and I eagerly looked forward to His visits. Meeting H.H. Swāmījī and listening to Him became a most desired and prized event for me (and to most other kids like me). H.H. Swāmījī had a transistor radio and on it, he allowed us to listen to cricket commentary during test matches. One day when He was on the “Ananta Kaṭṭe” He talked about how radios operated. I became an instant fan. I ran home quickly and returned with a notebook and a pencil. He drew a simple circuit diagram on it showing how to build a crystal radio that works without any power or a battery of any kind. I was awestruck by the idea that we could hear distant signals just by connecting a few parts together without any battery. It was like the greatest wonder of the world to me. That was how it began. I think, H.H. Swāmījī saw that I was taking so much interest in it and assured me that I could always write to him with any questions and He would always reply.
Those years there was no electricity in Viṭṭal. All homes employed kerosene lamps at night. The night sky on cloudless nights was very clear with thousands of stars visible. On one such night H.H. Swāmījī showed me how to identify (and explained) constellations in the sky and that got me started into astronomy. (… but more on that later).
Once H.H. Swāmījī departed from Viṭṭal, I began to write, always in an “Inland” letter which was the most affordable form of communication after postcards. A few days or a week later I would receive a reply from H.H. Swāmījī. Each reply was again in an Inland Letter. Each was handwritten by H.H. Swāmījī and included hand-drawn circuit diagram(s), a description of how the radio (or gadget) worked, how to assemble, and how to use/operate it. That was how H.H. Swāmījī got me started off to to pursuing a career in engineering for the rest of my life. I began looking for books and literature on all kids of technical subjects (in addition to radio) at the local library and anywhere else that I could find. Those days I could not afford building a radio, but it surely set me off imagining building one. It was more of a dream at the time. By the time I finished Pre-University I had a fairly big collection of Inland Letters from H.H. Swāmījī. In 1966 I joined an engineering college. By then the exchange of letters with HH had tapered down. Within the first few months in my dorm life, I built my first working radio using only 2 discarded transistors. It was a “regenerative receiver” that made use of maximum achievable amplification by each transistor to get the most out of them. It was absolutely thrilling and I became a hero in the college dorm…. those days no one had a radio and building one was unheard of.
I remember, 1966 was the year when H.H. Ānandāshram Swāmījī attained Mahāsamādhi and H.H. Parijn͂ānāshram became the Mathādhipati. I however never missed any opportunity to meet Swāmījī. In one meeting he told me about Ham Radio as a mode of communication and I was immediately attracted to it. Probably in my 4th year of engineering I acquired a “Hallicrafters” communications receiver in a non-working and battered condition. It took me more than a year to get it to working condition. I started listening to ham radio bands. Then it happened. One day I had the greatest pleasure when I heard HH talking with another radio amateur (I vaguely think it was Badākere Dutt mām, VU2AJ), and that conversation was in “Āmchigele”. That was an incredible moment for me that I still remember. Hearing my own language spoken on a radio when everyone could only hear English, Hindi or the official language of the state such as Kannaḍa or Telugu!
I got my Bachelors degree in 1970 and soon took up a job. My work kept me away from the radio for the first few years until 1976 when I got back to Madras. In 1977 I got my ham radio license with call sign VU2AEA and I went on air. I made contact with H.H. Swāmījī within the very first day or two and received His blessings. After that I never missed any opportunity. Locally I was lucky to have Raghurām-mām Savoor VU2RS guiding me on how to operate my radio station. One afternoon we organised an event at the Āmchi-hall – the “Diṅkar Rāo Memorial Hall” in Kilpauk Madras where we set up the radio station and gathered all our community people. The purpose was to communicate with H.H. Swāmījī and to seek His “on-air blessings” that was considered unique in those days. Every community member was given a chance to speak on the microphone and was able to hear the reply with blessings of H.H. Swāmījī. My daily QSO’s (jargon for on-air 2-way communication) with H.H. Swāmījī continued regularly on most mornings at around 08:10 to 08:15 when Raghuram-maam and I waited for H.H. Swamiji to come on air. We were joined by Badākere Dutt-mām, TP (TP Sheth VU2TP), NaimpaĪĪy Bālu-mām VU2BSY and many more hams.
In 1985 I became the owner of an apartment in Shenoy Nagar in Madras and the building was aptly named Ānandāshram Apts. I had just returned from a business trip to Finland and I had brought back a Commodore-64 home computer. With it I had also brought a few programs that were used in ham radio for digital communications which was very new at that time. H.H. Swāmījī was very interested in knowing more about it and visited my home. He was very pleased to see the name of the building. While my son Vikram and I demonstrated the Commodore 64 and various forms of digital modes of communication my wife Shyāmala prepared Swāmījī’s favorite hot dish “Shīrā”. Those two or more hours spent in the presence of H.H. Swāmījī remain the most unforgettable for me to this day.
A few other moments.
I want to reminisce a few unforgettable experiences here. First one that comes to my mind is the knowledge of H.H. Swāmījī on the stars and constellations in the sky. It was truly stellar (pun intended). Resulting out of his introduction, I started studying astronomy, and stargazing has become my other hobby. Today I spend my time in this hobby in addition to ham radio.
I had many QSO’s with H.H. Swāmījī – both on air and eye-ball. (An eye-ball QSO is the jargon for a person-to-person meeting). While I was a newly qualified engineer there were a few situations when I had run into a wall with some technical problem relating to the radio. On some occasions I shared my problems with H.H. Swāmījī and He gave me the solutions. His depth of technical knowledge was truly phenomenal.
My big loss is the collection of Inland Letters that got either discarded or destroyed when my parents moved in 1976.