Driving Licence at the Age of Nine
By: Brian Steel
Following the belated discovery of this new source of intriguing inside information on SB last week, I have been browsing through some of the popular Sunday satsangs offered by SB's principal trusted spokesman, Prof. Anil Kumar. Since mid-1999 both printed and audio versions of these have been made available to a world audience ("unofficially") in English and several other languages on www.internety.com/premsai - alongside the efforts of the dedicated Premsai translators of SB's Discourses (and also accompanied by the official translations).
At these public Sunday satsangs in the ashram Kumar gives lectures on aspects of SB's teachings or presents his lively and entertaining account of what SB has told him or small groups of schoolboys and teachers. These popular (and populist) talks offer some revealing insights into the function of the latest in a long series of essential associates and publicists. Kumar follows in the footsteps of Kasturi, Gokak, and many other names so well known to devotees. The following extract is offered as a preliminary sample of the types of information which Prof. Kumar chooses for his talks.
In the Premsai website posting for 10 March 2002, Kumar narrates an extraordinary SB story, allegedly told recently to some students and teachers, in Kumar's presence. To my knowledge, the story has not appeared anywhere in print before Kumar's dramatic revelation. The reasons for the previous lack of publicity will quickly become apparent to most readers.
"And then Swami went on to say a few things about His own experience. "You know, I got a license. I could drive My car. You know at what age I got the license? At the age of nine!"
Kumar goes on to quote SB as saying that he got the (premature) licence from two transport Officers, Seshagiri Rao and Hanumantha Rao, who granted it to him at the tender age of nine - in Kumar's lively rendering, SB sounds quite pleased with himself about details like this - after a perfunctory examination consisting of merely satisfying themselves that Sathya Narayana was able to steer the car between two lines marked on the ground. This astonishing revelation is followed by more boastful details about young Sathya's exploits with the car (thrilling for the College boys?). The new 'driver' decided to drive the two Transport Officers to Madras. Although terrified of his driving, they bowed to his will and 9 year-old Primary School speed ace Sathya Narayana allegedly made the 8 hour trip in a record four and a half hours! Kumar adds that SB finished the story with the following miraculous flourish: he had driven that car for 15 years but since it was wartime and petrol was rationed, he economised by using water from the well instead. End of story; beginning of reactions.
What is remarkable here is the extent and openness of SB's boasting in front of the College boys, as well as the factual weaknesses in this highly unconvincing story which reads more like something from a children's comic book. (See the full version with SB's quoted words and one or two typically favourable comments by Kumar on the "Premsai" website.)
Apart from the strange nature of the story, consider some dates: SB was nine in either 1935 or 1938 (depending on the real date of his birth). The Second World War began in late 1939 and India was only at war for just over five years. SB began his Mission in 1943. LIMF makes no reference to the licence or the car but (on p. 213) it does mention Seshagiri Rao (probably from Bangalore) from 1944 on when he organised a Bhajan Mandali for the newly declared "Sai Baba". As for the Transport Officer Hanumantha Rao, LIMF (p. 353) introduces him to the Puttaparthi scene in 1947 as the Transport Commissioner of Madras State who came there to conduct a preliminary road-building survey. SB accompanied him on this survey and they had lunch together. He became a devotee.
The boasting, in front of SB's schoolboys, of the (alleged) illegally obtained driving licence (like the impropriety of cheating on behalf of two schoolmates of which SB boasts in another characteristic story of his) seems totally inappropriate for an educator and one who constantly preaches the need for Dharma. Moreover, the fifteen years of driving a car fueled by water may also come as a surprise to many, including (especially) the researchers who interviewed so many local devotees for the compilation of LIMF, which deals in great detail with SB's childhood and youth.
1. Why does SB feel compelled to tell such extraordinary stories about himself?
2. Why does such an influential and educated person as Professor Anil Kumar disseminate them so widely and with so much gusto and conviction, thereby giving them his endorsement and ensuring they will be repeated ad infinitum and ad nauseam.
Also glimpsed in Anil Kumar's satsang talk for 9 December 2001 is the following poetic description at the beginning of a lengthy and far-fetched assertion by Kumar that SB's Advent was predicted in the New Testament Book of Revelations, Chapter 19:
"As Bhagavan walks giving darshan, when the wind blows, His beautiful hair tosses like the golden daffodils along the Milky Way of William Wordsworth. How nicely and beautifully our good Lord adjusts His hair, ah-ha! It is a sight for the gods."