Blissful Childhood

By Jyothi Bharat Divgi
with valuable inputs from my siblings – Kiraṇ, Prakāsh and Deepā.
Mal̄gī Pictures Credit: Chinmay Nilekani

Memories of Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III

Through the eyes of children from the sunny, rocky town of Bel̄l̄āry and the paradise called Mal̄gī


Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III evokes such joyful memories – of love and compassion, of humour and brilliance, of simplicity and humility. A Guru who so enriched our lives and showered us with Love and Grace that continues with Parama Pūjya Sadyojāt Shaṅkarāshram Swāmījī – protecting us at every moment and at every step.

Let me take you to Mal̄gī – the place that is made of dreams. Nilekaṇī Nāgesh and Mālatī – (Pappā and Mālatāmmā to us four kids) lived in this farm house across which are the Dharmā forests, bordering a pristine water body – the Dharmā reservoir, and acres and acres of lush green paddy fields with a bubbly stream flowing by. The Kŏṭṭge was filled with adorable cows, healthy buffaloes, frisky calves and handsome oxen; while delightful dogs and cats by the dozen – sauntered around. There was an exciting time when peacocks and Hippi, a baby monkey, shared this space


Mal̄gī, then, can also be described in just one word – Paradise!

And this became an even happier place when Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III arrived! The fields looked more green and the waters of the Dharmā lake more blue. The cows and the dogs wore a happier expression on their faces, and we children matched theirs! 

One evening after Bhiks͟hā was served and Swāmījī was sitting in an armchair in the porch, Whoa! electricity played truant. The house was plunged into darkness just as the family was about to start their dinner. In a trice, Pūjya Swāmījī started their Dodge car and parked it in such a way that the dining room was flooded with light! Such was His empathy and compassion!

Another day, there was chaos galore when a rabid dog from outside the farm, came barking ferociously. Pappā requested Swāmījī to come indoors. Swāmījī sitting in the porch, smiled and said, “Nothing will happen!” We children had scampered inside and cautiously peeped through a slit in the door and lo behold! The dog was lying on Swāmījī’s lap, eyes closed and relaxed. We were in complete awe!

With sundown, the trees around the farm would be lit with hundreds of fireflies. Pūjya Swāmījī elucidated scientifically how these creatures emitted those twinkling lights – Swāmījī was truly beyond encyclopaedias! Swāmījī also explained how important it is to meticulously clean the dishes before we feed animals and birds – values that made a lasting impact on our young minds.

Let’s now travel to the sunny, rocky town of Bel̄l̄āry where we grew up. 

Timmy was our pet – as mongrel as a doggo can ever get! Earthy brown, happy barks, unending licks and a bundle of pure joy! It was a routine that he would be there when we got off the school bus. This particular day was special and we were excited because Parama Pūjya Swāmījī were expected to be home. And sure enough, we raced home to a wondrous sight! Swāmījī was seated outside in the compound– with an adorable smile for us.

Excitement knew no bounds as we hurriedly put away our school bags and went to offer our namaskāra-s. Even as we were doing so, I could hear my Āmmā whispering furiously – “Call Timmy! Get Timmy off!” 

Looking up – Timmy, muddy paws and all, had climbed up and was happily licking Swāmījī! And Swāmījī, petting Timmy, paid no heed to Āmmā’s furtive whispers nor to the muddy paw-stains. The ever- smiling face plainly said, “No worries”!

As a child, I was fascinated with stones and pebbles. And so every outing I went to, I came back with my socks in my hands, filled with colourful stones that went into an old tin box (that had served well as our school bag). Mesmerizing purples and bright orange stones, emerald greens and sunny yellows – amazing collection from rocky Bel̄l̄āry. When Parama Pūjya Parijñānāshram Swāmījī III stayed in our home, I hauled out my treasure to display it to Swāmījī. And what interest and admiration flowed from Swāmījī at every single pebble that I proudly showed! Not for a second, did Swāmījī let me feel that what I was showing was so commonplace, so trivial.
My eyes fill up even now, when I recollect Swāmījī saying that if Swāmījī ever got a stone from the moon, He would add it to my collection. I was over the moon.

India was playing a cricket match with West Indies when someone from the retinue asked for the score. The one ancient radio we had was not working. My brother ran like a hare to our neighbour’s house across the road, and came back with the score. (For the uninitiated; in those days neighbours were like extended family – always there to share the ups and downs of life and providing the proverbial bowl of sugar to ahem! the cricket score!)

Every now and then, my brother sprinted to and fro, updating the score under the watchful gaze of a highly amused Swāmījī. The same evening, a new red coloured transistor was presented to the score-fetcher – a priceless gift we treasured for years!

Parama Pūjya Swāmījī visited the Automobile factory in Bel̄l̄āry, where our Ānnu worked. The interest that Swāmījī had and the solutions to engineering problems that Swāmījī could so effortlessly provide astounded the management there! 

In those days when there was neither the Internet nor even basic telephone connectivity, HAM provided excellent communication channels. In Bel̄l̄āry, Pūjya Swāmījī had a HAM associate – one gentleman called Subrahmaṇyam, with whom Swāmījī was in touch. Subrahmaṇyam was all praise for Swāmījī and held Him in the highest esteem. 
Swāmījī encouraged us children to learn the Morse code and appear for the HAM exam – which we did - and apply for a licence - VU2JOY. 

Bel̄l̄āry had just two other āmchī families apart from us. Chandāwarkar Chandrakāntmām was the Deputy Commissioner and lived in a British colonial style bungalow with 42 huge rooms and a humongous garden. Naturally, he came forward to invite Swāmījī to stay more comfortably there. Parama Pūjya Swāmījī’s love for us children was so evident when Swāmījī opted to stay in our humble dwellings!


left to right: Our Ānnu – Vasant Kalbāg, Dr. R.H.N. Sheṇoy, Hampaiāh,
Chandāwarkar Chandrakāntmām with Parama Pūjya Swāmījī
in a newly built bus at M.G. Automobiles  


But, not wanting to disappoint Chandrakāntmām, Swāmījī did accept the invite later for a short stay at his house after the surgery. Yes - Pūjya Swāmījī had to undergo a surgery in Bel̄l̄āry – which was done by the renowned Dr. R.H. N Sheṇoy who was the Dean of the Medical College. Sheṇoymām admitted that the tolerance level of Swāmījī was something he had never ever seen in his long career. We got a glimpse of this - when the very next day of the surgery, Swāmījī was back at His routine and all set to take us out!

Priceless are the memories of going to Hampi and Hospeṭ in the car, with Swāmījī at the steering wheel. The thrill of being photographed on the new Polaroid camera with instant pictures; the beautiful road trip to Srīsailam through dense forests. The excitement of climbing up the Bel̄l̄āry Fort…


Bellare Fort


Little treasures that remain so fresh in our hearts! Yes, it was always a happy-happy time for us as children to be around Parama Pūjya Swāmījī!

Looking back… a truly blessed childhood!