Colonel Joga Rao a non-believing
By: Robert Priddy
Colonel Joga Rao was so close to SB and had been so for decades, that he often lived in SB's apartment and could always come and go as he wished in SB's presence. No doubt, SB made great use of Joga Rao, for he was masterful at getting engineering projects done and managing the work-force. In his birthday discourse in 1990, SB made a great fuss of him as working "tirelessly night and day" for SB and hence as being "a karma yogi" (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 23, p. 293). SB said the Central Trust wanted to honour him, and presented him with golden kadiyams round the wrists. (This was about five years before SB sacked Joga Rao from the Central Trust!). But the most extraordinary thing is that Colonel Joga Rao was from the start a non-believer in SB's 'miracles', I was told so by V.K. Narasimhan one day during one of our many private conversations through the years!
This seemed quite incredible to me. VKN thought many people knew that and said it was no secret among his ashram associates! It most certainly was a secret as far as I and anyone in the Organisation I knew were concerned, and doubtless still is! This is not even hinted at in a single book where Joga Rao was mentioned. This news simply stunned me... SB's closest servitor! My mind could just not take it in. Narasimhan explained that Joga Rao had told SB from the very start that he refused to believe in the miracles or other big claims like omniscience, but would willingly serve SB. I later received some entirely independent confirmation of this too: a Norwegian expert on eco-sewerage systems whom I knew very well, Mr. Terje Nedland, was in a group planning a new system for Prashanthi Nilayam which was shown around the site by Col. Joga Rao. I cannot doubt Nedland's word on this incident: there was some question about what was the right solution to something and one of the group said, "We should ask Swami" to which Joga Rao told the group, "And what does Baba know about engineering?' Evidently he had a very low opinion of Baba's supposed knowledge of everything! Should he not know, the man who designed and built most of both ashrams? (Apropos, the eco-friendly system was never built as the donations made for that purpose only were appropriated without comment by the Central Trust for other purposes, according to the then-Central Coordinator of UK, Aimé Levy, who himself solicited the money and worked to aid the world-wide planning group and whose word I cannot doubt either. After masses of voluntary planning work, the whole task was instead given to a cheap Bangalore contractor who simply dug an open cesspit that literally stinks out most of the 'Abode of Supreme Peace' on hot days with a most ghastly stench!)
This man had been present at an innumerable number of SB's interviews, excursions and visits for decades. I was told by ashram insiders that he was one of those who prepared the interview room for SB before interviews, and I have seen him come out just before I went in to interviews myself. How and why he disbelieved the miracles is a brain-teaser for many, and not least for all those signed-up blind believers who only hear all manner of accounts at second- and nth-hand too! Was he deluded? His prominence in ashram affairs and proximity to SB comes up frequently in the literature, not least in Kasturi's 'official' biography (i.e. glorified hagiography) of SB. How could he remain such a skeptic is a problem I leave to each person to solve in their own way! However, VKN felt no real resonance with Joga Rao. For example, he said had once had to share a room with him due to space shortage at Kodaikanal and had been forced to hear dirty sexual jokes from Joga Rao all day long! This seemed equally unbelievable to me too, but Narasimhan explained that this too was known to many and that Joga Rao had brought barrack-room humour with him when he left the Indian Army. This is not so remarkable, poor fellow, but in such a close attendant of SB it says considerably more to anyone who is vigilant! What strikes me as so amazing about this now is that I did not put two and two together straight away back then in 1996 and see how radically wrong so many things close to SB were, so much quite other than I - and nearly everyone I knew - believed in so innocently. I also heard from others who knew him, that Joga Rao's chief entertainment was lavish, long banquets, often with many guests... to be what SB so denigratingly calls a bhoga seems totally incongruous in one who was virtually his closest helper, member of the Sathya Sai Central Trust since 1970, 'karma yogi' and so on. He was 'sacked' from the Central Trust by SB about one year after the 1993 furore during the murders incident. I asked V. K. Narasimhan why and he told me it had to do with taking kickbacks from contractors. A friend had previously heard SB on the veranda very angrily and loudly telling Joga Rao and another high officials that he had warned them three times already (about something he did not state) and that the next time it happened, they would be out!
I swear on all scriptures and my personal honour that what I have stated here is strictly factual and is as accurate as I am able to make it. I tell these things only for the sake of honesty and the greater truth. The sold-out yea-sayers around SB who doubt me might dare really to investigate the truth of the reports and assertions in the above. But it takes some effort and will not be easy or very safe!