This part is written by K.Padmanabhan
It was in the year 1918, when I was thirteen years old, that my uncle who was the Tashildar of Tindivanam celebrated Upanayanam (investing a boy with the sacred thread) of his eldest son at Tiruvannamalai. The Upanayanam of my elder brother was also celebrated along with his son’s Upanayanam. The function gave me the first opportunity of going to Tiruvannamalai. I had not till then heard of the place or the temple, much less about the Maharshi who was then living at Skandasramam on the Arunachala Hill. While the ceremony was going on, a few of us boys who were not interested in the rituals began to climb the hill from the side of the temple. There was no regular pathway at that time as it is today and we had to make our way through many shrubs. The climbing was also tiresome, but at last we reached Skandasramam. We were not particularly eager to see the Maharshi, but having gone up to the Ashram we were curious to see him. After seeing him we returned. I was limping with a thorn in my foot and bleeding with several cuts and bruises. I was cross and cursed the day. Little did I know that it was the most auspicious and blessed day in my life!
Years later, in 1929, when I was a graduate-engineer undergoing practical training under the well-known firm of Gannon Dunkerley & Co., building contractors, and supervising the construction of the Turinjalur bridge at Tirukoilur, a small town twenty miles distant from Tiruvannamalai, I paid my second visit to Tiruvannamalai. I was one of a party of four tennis players who had been invited by the Tiruvannamalai Club to play a few matches there. After the play we had to wait a few minutes to catch our train back to Tirukoilur. So we decided to go to Sri Ramanasramam and have darshan of Sri Bhagavan. This time also, I was not particularly anxious to see him. We reached the Ashram at about 8 p.m. and sat in the meditation hall in front of Sri Bhagavan for about half an hour. Although his glance fell on me for a moment I was not impressed at all by him or the complete silence in the hall. However, before leaving the hall I prostrated myself before him although, rather reluctantly. I was too young and immature then to understand his greatness in spite of the pious and religious spirit in which I had grown up.
The train was late and when we alighted at the railway station of Arayaninallur, it was nearly 11 p.m. We had to cross the river Pennar over a narrow causeway of irregular stones, before we could reach Tirukoilur. When we came to the causeway there was only a few inches of water flowing over it. But, as we proceeded, to our great alarm the water began to rise very rapidly. We had covered only 100 feet and had almost the same distance to cover to reach the other bank of the river. We could not go back, nor could we hurry forward on account of the irregular stones and the force of the stream. We became panicky and caught hold of one another to prevent ourselves from being washed away. In complete silence we waded through the water upon which were now floating all sorts of things. My thoughts went back to Sri Bhagavan. I feared that I had offended him and that this was his punishment for my disrespect. I prayed for his forgiveness. At last we reached the other bank half dead with fright. We stood for some time looking at the flood which was now carrying away bullocks, carts, bundles of straw and hay, etc. I was convinced that it was Sri Bhagavan’s Grace which had saved us from a similar fate. But this conviction was short lived. I did not even go to the Ashram to show my gratitude to Sri Bhagavan. However, I did not forget the incident and I went to the Ashram again only in 1962, more than thirty years later!
This time also it was sheer chance which took me there. A friend of mine took me to Chingleput to look at the new hospital that was coming up there. After examining it, suddenly I decided to go to Tiruvannamalai. We spent the night at a hotel and the next day proceeded to the Ashram where the President, Sri T. N. Venkataraman, after making kind enquiries, requested me to assist him in preparing a layout for a few small buildings on a plot of land which had been acquired by the Ashram across the road. This was the turning point in my life. My association with the Ashram has ever since been growing stronger day by day.
Looking back upon the incidents narrated above I feel convinced that Sri Bhagavan’s Grace was evident throughout. I have no doubt that it still exists strongly, although he is no longer with us physically. Blessed am I to be in his fold again!