The death of the self-styled god-man Satya Sai Baba whose devotees run into millions left at least one household in Bollywood feeling bereft. Shilpa Shetty‘s mother is a huge Sai Baba devotee. The loss hit the Shetty’s hard.
Says Shilpa, “My mother is a huge bhakt of Sai Baba. She is in New York right nowand is devastated by the news. Unfortunately, I never met him.”
Sonu Sood is another actor who grew up in the shadow of the Sai. He seems to be the only direct Sai bhakt in the industry. Says Sood, “My mother was strong follower of Sai Baba’s teachings. So he was and will continue to be an integral part of my life. I am a Sai follower. I remember my mom got a picture of Sai Baba when I was 5 years old. That was when I got to know about Sai Baba. I didn’t meet him. But I’ve followed him always. It’s sad that we’re losing all the emblems of faith one by one.”
Hema Malini had the rare opportunity to meet Sai Baba. “I met him once. It was an encounter etched in my mind and heart forever. It was my ardent wish to dance in his presence. He loved the fine arts including dancing. I’ve heard so much about his good work. He was a great soul. He has done so much for the needy! The faith that people had in him was unbelievable. I am sure he will come back in some avatar.”
Another Sai bhakt director Ananth Mahadevan points out an uncanny spiritual coincidence. “Sai Baba passed away on the day of Jesus Christ’s resurrection (Easter). Is this a coincidence or a signal? I had a friend in school who was a big devotee. The ash-falling-from-picture incident occurred in my friend’s house. I visited his place and waited for it to happen for me. Once Sai Baba came to Mumbai. I had gone to a huge ground in Chembur where the devotees had thronged. I saw him there for the first time. That’s as close as I got to him. His philanthropic activities are commendable. But his godly status is questionable. His death comes as a reminder about the mortality of the so-called gods.”
Mahesh Bhatt remembers accompanying his friend Kabir Bedi once to a Sai Baba meeting. “This was during the turbulent 1970s after my experiments with LSD. That’s when I set my eyes on Satya Sai Baba. He made me realize that the need to believe in an external force is hard-wired in mankind.”
Raveena Tandon never saw Sai Baba but believed in all his charitable work. “I didn’t follow him. But I learnt a lot from him. He funded many schools hospitals and charitable causes. He enriched lives with his spiritual guidance. It was a life well lived.”