I sat in my Puja room and prayed to Bala sincerely, seeking her help. I started getting all my drawing materials organized and just as I was going to commence the painting, the doorbell rang. It was the postman with a parcel sent by courier from the Nemili Peetam. Babaji had sent me the Chandi Homam prasadam!
I remember this being Wednesday, (October 24th). That day marked the auspicious start of Bala’s painting.
For the next ten days, I worked on this painting, mainly at night, since during the day I had a lot of house- related work to get finished. Every day, I would sit up well past midnight listening only to Bala’s songs and Babaji’s voice on the innumerable CDs I possessed.
Within two or three days, I had completed the pencil drawing. That is to say, it was Bala who orchestrated the whole event.
While I was drawing, I kept receiving continuous directions on how exactly to draw this picture.
At one point, while drawing her face, Bala told me: “Lift up your pencil. Don’t add another stroke. You are going to ruin my smile!”
While drawing her eyes, it was the same. It was very evident to me that this picture was an extraordinary “play” of Bala, the little child.
I knew I had to finish this painting quickly, but did not know why.
The day after my pencil portrait was finished, she did tell me why. “I want this portrait completed and brought to the Peetam on my birthday, November 4th. This is my birthday gift to my beloved son”.
It was only then that the real stress of doing this painting began to hit me. How was it possible to finish painting this portrait, then to embellish it with sparkling crystals, and finally get it framed and out to Nemili on time? I had less than a week to go.
I tried not to panic. Somehow, I had the firm belief that Bala would take from me exactly what She wanted. This had happened before. Why should this occasion be any different?
The rest of the week went by in a blur. I had no thought in my mind other than Bala. I listened to the Bala Andhadhi almost incessantly, never tiring of listening to those symbolic and powerful words in tamil, gliding effortlessly from one verse to the next .
Finally, on Saturday, November 3rd, I put the final touches to the painting. The framer Subramani had come in the day before to take precise measurements for the frame.
Incidentally, ever since his first trip to Nemili, Subramani’s business had taken off really well and he attributed all his success to Bala!
The portrait was ready to be framed by midday on Saturday. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and went inside my puja room to thank Bala. As I sat down in front of the little painting, I mentally asked her what else I should bring in for her birthday.
The reply was swift: “Get a sandal wood garland for the painting and some laddus”.
I did as instructed, although it had been my intention to take in some fresh flower garlands and some bags of chocolates and candies.
The thought did cross my mind that I was getting rather “addicted” to this “inner voice”.
Members of my family could not really understand many of my actions or from “whom” exactly I was getting my commands. My mother, in particular, was extremely concerned that I had somehow become “too” dependent on Nemili Bala.
She was also getting anxious as it was the month of November. Even at this late point, I had not forged ahead with any of the wedding preparations. Even the invitations were not ready!
I assured her that Bala would see to it that everything would run smoothly.
On Sunday, November 4th, I departed for Nemili, with Bala’s birthday gift for Sri Ezhilmani, after informing him that I was bringing in a painting that Bala herself had finished for him. I had been only a tool in carrying out the painting. There was a slight drizzle of rain just as we left. I interpreted this as a good omen.
Despite our best efforts to arrive at the Peetam before 10 a.m., we were delayed. The truck in which the painting was being carried moved along quite slowly. We waited for over an hour on the outskirts of Nemili for the truck to catch up with our car. Finally, at 11.30 a.m., the painting of Bala was brought inside the Peetam.
Sri Ezhilmani pointed out that Bala could not have chosen a better time. “You see, her birth star, Pooram is born today, at exactly 11.30 a.m.”!
The past few days had tired me out both mentally and physically. I sat down in front of Bala and found that I could not think of anything except for the fact She had accomplished what She set out to do through me. She had given me the confidence, mental and physical strength to work for the past fortnight. Now, I just felt very tired.
After the customary puja and Bala parayanam was completed, Sri Ezhilmani made an announcement to the assembled crowd and told them about how my tireless efforts over the previous week to finish this painting on time. Then he said something that completely floored me.
He said “Now, it’s our turn to honour this person who has worked hard to finish this lovely painting. Bala has asked us to present Mrs Uma Shiv Kumar with a sandal wood garland”.
“But, She asked me to get Her one”, I blurted out in complete astonishment.
Sri Ezhilmani was smiling slightly “Well, this is Her Bathil Mariyathai (return of respect)”.
I chastised myself for ever having doubted my “inner voice”.
There was one more little surprise that day. Sri Ezhilmani made another announcement to the assembled crowd. Since this was Bala’s birthday, he instructed that they should remain and have her birthday “sweet”. He said “Do you know Bala’s favourite sweet is laddoos? She has asked many people to bring them in today”!
As I took leave of this wonderful family at Nemili that day, Sri Ezhilmani beckoned me inside his room and said to me “ I have been asked by Bala to tell you something. This is her Uthiravu( command)”. I looked on, perplexed. He continued “Bala is aware you are having a lot of problems within your family. However, She wants you to just overlook any insults you might have incurred and not react until the wedding is over. Bala knows how and when to punish wrongdoers. You do not have to worry”.
I realized then that nothing can really be hidden from Bala. As Sri Ezhilmani put it:
“Once She has accepted you as part of the family, She knows everything concerning you”.
To experience Bala is something extremely unique. The incidents of November 4th, 2007, gave me new found confidence and the mental strength to stand up to those among my family who thought I was going mad.
Following this last visit to Nemili, I set about the task of ordering the wedding invitations, making sure an image of Bala was on every card. Many were the trips I made to Nemili during this period. It was almost as if every single detail regarding this wedding should get the nod of approval from Bala and her family.
Sri Ezhilmani and his wife were the first people to get the wedding invitations. They also blessed the “thaali” (mangalsutra) for the bride.
In mid- November, I found myself assailed by many problems in the house. One day, a surge of power knocked out two new television sets and the computer system. Obviously, I had checked and double-checked the electrical wiring in the house, but no one seemed to know the cause for this outage. Every night, the fuse would blow out, plunging various parts of the house into darkness: a particularly scary situation since I stayed alone.
One night, well past midnight, just as I was going upstairs to my bedroom, a huge painting crashed down the stairs, narrowly missing me! To add to these woes, I found it extremely difficult to get reliable house- help. It definitely looked like the house was jinxed!
I called Babaji one day and spoke to him about my concerns. His reply was characteristic. “Just think”, he said “ it might have been worse. Bala is protecting you from greater personal harm or injury”.
Soon after these disturbing events, I got a call from Sri Ezhilmani. Apparently the family was coming down to Chennai to attend a relative’s wedding. I inquired if he could stop by my house on his return journey. Sri Ezhilmani was not too sure, and said that he would try and come.
On Friday, November 16th, Sri Ezhilmani, Baby Amma, his two sons and their family were able to find time to visit my home in Chennai. This event too must have been organized by Bala. Babaji told me that his father never made it a habit of attending weddings or visiting people in their homes. I suppose that I was extraordinarily lucky that day.
While leaving, Babaji remarked: “ Sometimes, Bala just sends us to certain homes where inmates may have problems. We are not aware of these problems, but just follow her instructions. However, one thing is sure. By our setting foot in your house, all your problems have vanished”.
The family’s visit and those soothing words gave me a great deal of comfort!
On one of my subsequent visits to Nemili, a sudden thought suggestion led me to seek out Babaji as my Guru. I obtained “deekshai” (i.e. initiation) from him and joined the Bala Vidya Mandir in their regular Bala Parayanams. Although Babaji gave this “initiation” quite readily, little did I realize at that time that this involved taking a serious vow to observe the path carved out by him.
Bala Parayanam involved singing her songs as a group with other members of the Bala Vidya Mandir , with the objective of praying for people who had problems. It was a kind of group effort to send positive thoughts across to people undergoing a lot of suffering in their lives. Group prayers also targeted the victims of natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. Babaji’s songs in praise of all the natural forces of the universe - earth, water, air, fire and space - were sung so that these five important elements can protect the universe from catastrophic disasters.
These group sessions are held twice a month on the occasion of “new moon”, and “full moon” days, by members of the Vidya Mandir in their own homes. However, on the first Sunday of every month, parayanams are held at Sri Bala Peetam, Nemili.
During November, 2007, I found my time completely absorbed by all things relating to Bala and Nemili.
I made new friends, all of whom were Bala devotees. I was extremely touched by their honesty, sincerity and by the genuine support they all gave me.