The Cattle Fair

Since Sathya had to go outside Bukkapatnam for his education, it was decided that he should go to be with his brother, Seshama Raju, who had married the daughter of Sri Pasupathi Subba Raju of Kamalapur. This arrangement seemed satisfactory to his parents, who planned to give Sathya a college education so that he might become an officer. Hence they were prepared to part with him and send him to far off Kamalapur where his studies could be continued. There he attended school regularly as he had at Bukkapatnam. He was a quiet well-behaved boy, a favorite with the teachers.

Whenever a drama was performed in town, Sathya sang the opening prayer before the curtain went up. Those who heard his sweet voice spread the news that a fine singer had come to town. Soon he was the only one called on to sing at all public functions.

Even now Sathya Sai Baba speaks of a drill instructor there who commanded the respect of the entire school by his instinctive love for children. He was also the scoutmaster and was eager to have Sathya in his troop. Through friends and directly, he began persuading the boy to join. There were two other boys, children of the head of the Revenue Office, who sat at the same desk with Sathya and who were very friendly to him. They pleaded with him and even thrust a nice new scout uniform into Sathya's desk to encourage him to join. They all knew that Sathya would be the life of the troop, and if he joined it, the elders of the town would sponsor the troop. Otherwise they might mistake it for a group of idlers and do-nothings intent only on hikes and picnics.

Sathya joined at last, just in time to attend the Fair and Cattle Show at Pushpagiri where the scoutmaster planned to take his troop. There was opportunity enough for the boys to earn merit because of the huge crowds that attended. Children could get lost, pilgrims had to be supplied with drinking water, sanitation had to be supervised, and first aid provided on the spot. The camp fee was fixed at ten rupees per boy.

Sathya had no money! He had to demonstrate that service is its own reward, that a loving heart conquers everything. He decided that the chance to teach and inspire his companions should not be lost. He determined to walk to Pushpagiri, thus saving bus fare. He told the scoutmaster that his people were coming for the Fair and that they would look after him. (The people who came for every pilgrimage were his people!) He calculated that five rupees would be enough for him at Pushpagiri. He sold to a needy boy the books of his previous year's class, which he had seldom read, and which therefore were as good as new. He accepted not the twelve rupees the boy offered but just the five rupees he required. Then he walked to Pushpagiri, reaching there about 9:00 o'clock of the night previous to the inauguration of the Fair.

He was very tired. With a small bag containing his clothes and money, he lay down and slept on the sand of the river, together with the multitude gathered there. When he awakened the next morning, both the purse and the bag had disappeared!


When relating these incidents, Sathya Sai Baba often tells those around him that he was not worried at all. He says he moved about the place quite unconcerned and found on a stone trough a coin and a packet of cheap handmade cigarettes. He took the coin and proceeded to the market place. There he found a man sitting in front of a contraption, promising profit to men with luck! On a circle drawn in white paint on a piece of black cloth were some hieroglyphics. He had attached some monetary value to a few figures and no value at all to the rest! He had an iron rod sticking up from the center and a movable pointer on the top. He asked his customers to place a coin beside him and give the pointer a quick turn. If it stopped on top of a section which had a figure such as 2, 3, or 4, he would give the customers two, three, or four times the amount of the stake. Otherwise he would keep the stake. Sathya had to try his luck. He turned the pointer a number of times. Each time he won, thus collecting twelve annas in all. He says that he could have won more, but he sympathized with the poor fellow whose earnings were slim!

Those twelve annas sufficed for one week. As previously mentioned, he had a miraculous power not only of providing food for himself but also of proving by the scent of his hand that he had eaten. (On occasions even now when people doubt he has eaten, he may be heard to say, "I have had lunch," and allows them to smell his palm, thus quelling their doubts.) Thus the scoutmaster was led to believe that Sathya was being well fed by some of his relatives at the Fair; therefore he made no distinction between Sathya and the other boys in assigning work. Sathya entered enthusiastically upon his task of inspiring his classmates to do selfless service. (Today this is still the theme of Sai Baba's teaching of service: Service to others is service to oneself, for the other is only oneself in another form with another name!)

When it was proposed that the scouts return to Kamalapur by bus, Sathya quietly slipped out of the camp because he had not paid his share of the bus fare. He walked back the entire distance as a matter of principle.

While Sathya was at Kamalapur, he was not only separated from his parents but also from his brother who had gone away to undergo training as a teacher. When Sathya needed clothing and other items, he wrote popular ditties for the use of a merchant, Kote Subbanna, who had a shop featuring medicines, tonics, glassware, articles of fashionable wear, umbrellas, etc. Their arrangement was that when Subbanna desired to promote a new article on the market or boost the sales of a patent drug, he would stop Sathya on his way to school and give him the necessary information. By evening Sathya had prepared an attractive song praising the merchandise in well written poetry. In return for the songs, which soon became popular, Subbanna gave Sathya cloth, books and other articles he needed. The songs were full of verve and lilt, capable of catching the ear when sung in chorus by a band of hired urchins who would march along the streets, with the name-boards in their hands, singing the slogan-filled songs and apparently enjoying their task! (Even now Sai Baba regales those around him with the recitation of these old time "commercials.")

There is a saying current among the older devotees of Sai Baba: "He manifested himself at Uravakonda, but spread the glory from Kamalapur." This statement is a tribute to the quickness with which the people of Kamalapur responded later to the Call without the cynicism of ignorant conceit. After Sathya returned to Puttaparthi, they organized public receptions and gatherings for worship of "Bala" Sai, the Child Sai.

Seshama Raju completed the training prescribed to qualify him as a teacher of the southern Indian language Telugu and was assigned a post at the High School at Uravakonda. He welcomed this as a good omen, for he could have Sathya with him and give personal and immediate attention to his progress in higher studies.


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Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.