K. Venkataraman, who was absorbed in Arunachala in 1994, was fondly addressed as K. V. Mama by the Ashram inmates.
K. Venkataraman comes from a family totally devoted to Sri Bhagavan for several generations. His grandmother was Echammal, Grand Old Lady of the Ashram, who for 38 years, till her death in 1945, would not partake of her food until she had first sent food to Sri Bhagavan and his devotees. His mother, Chellama, was an ardent devotee from her childhood till her death in 1922. When the news of her death was conveyed to Sri Bhagavan, he was so moved that tears came to his eyes. From his earliest days “Ramanan” has experienced the protection and guidance of Bhagavan, who has been his only refuge. He feels himself especially blessed to have come from such a family marked by unique dedication.
His first memory of Sri Bhagavan’s Grace goes back to about 1925, when he was four years old. It was then a routine that twice a year Ashram inmates were treated for cleaning their stomachs by doses of castor oil and herbal kashayam. After a dose of oil at night, followed by one of kashayam very early the next morning an early and frugal lunch consisting of a small quantity of rice mixed liberally with a special light rasam and mango kernels was served. On one such morning, Venkataraman was being served much more rasam than he wanted, and he blurted out ‘BUS’ (Hindi for ‘enough’) to stop the server, uncle Ranga Rao, from giving him more. Sri Bhagavan heard this remark and, punning on the word, regaled the diners with laughter by saying, “Yes, BUS, runs outside on the Chengam road to your father’s place.”
On Kartika day in 1931, when he was about 11 years old, he was staying with his grandmother Echammal. Finding her busy with the sraddha ceremonies for her late husband, he took her permission to go to the temple for puja. Before going into the Sanctum Sanctorum, he decided to have his bath inside the temple compound. He went down the steps and entered the water carefully, as he did not know how to swim, but despite his care, he slipped and went down deep into the water. With great effort he was able to come to the surface several times and shout for help, yet no one took any notice of him. After his third unsuccessful attempt, he sank deep into the water, without any hope of survival. Suddenly he saw a very bright light inside his head in the midst of which Sri Bhagavan’s face shone. This phenomenon which came in a flash, and disappeared immediately. A little later he felt something catch his ankles and he experienced a similar flash in exactly the same manner and intensity as before. By then he was unconscious. When he awoke as if from a deep sleep he found himself on the steps of Siva Ganga tank. After looking around carefully and reassuring himself that he was really alive, he asked people around him how he had come there. He was told that an old man who was doing pradakshina of Kambathu Ilayanar had run down the steps, jumped into the tank, brought him out of the water and laid him down, and then had gone away as swiftly as he had come. Venkataraman then quickly had his puja performed and went straight home, without mentioning a word about it to his grandmother. The next morning they went together to the Ashram as usual and prostrated before Sri Bhagavan. Bhagavan looked at them and asked how deep Siva Ganga tank was. The lad could not understand the import of question, and ran out of the hall silently. It was only later in life that he realised that his saviour had been none other than Sri Bhagavan himself. It is true that Sri Bhagavan shunned occult powers as an obstacle to pure sadhana but it is also true that Sri Bhagavan is all grace and compassion and never fails his devotees.
Another incident he recalls happened about a year later when he had come from his father’s home to stay with Echammal for his school vacation. One morning at the Ashram he noticed that almost everyone had copies of a new book which he found was Suddhananda Bharati’s biography of Sri Bhagavan, Sri Ramana Vijayam, fresh from the press, and presented it to all inmates. Disappointed at not getting a copy, he went to Chinnaswamy to ask for one. After Chinnaswamy refused to give him one, he went where Sri Bhagavan was and stood weeping. Bhagavan asked why he was crying and Venkataraman told him what had happened. Bhagavan then sent an attendant to the book stall for a copy of the book. After writing “Ramanan” on the flyleaf, he handed it the boy, who was filled with joy and thanked him for it. Sri Bhagavan then observed: “Oho! You are all joy now and your weeping vanished so soon.” Venkataraman then went out of the Hall to tell Chinnaswamy that he had got what he wanted from the hands of Sri Bhagavan himself.