Face in Focus

V. C. Kondappa (The Teacher Biographer)
Fortunate to be His teacher, grateful to be His devotee

       V. C. Kondappa was Baba’s teacher at the school at Bukkapatnam and Uravakonda. He was also one of his first devotees. Along with teachers like Manchiraju Thammiraju and Sesha Iyengar, he would go to the Thursday sessions to listen and benefit from the young Raju’s spiritual wisdom. They would ask him questions. They treated him with awe and respect – as a divine being. They would perform rituals, pujas and attend bhajans.

When Raju went to Hospet during the Dassera holidays, V. C. Kondappa also accompanied him. At his insistence a photograph of Raju was taken in Hospet. It shows Raju as a simple lad, wearing a four-cubit dhoti and half-sleeve shirt, with cropped hair, sitting on a chair.

The greatest moment in Kondappa’s life took place when he decided to write a book on the life of the young Baba. This book, in Telugu, was called Sri Sayeeshuni Charitra (The Life Story Of Lord Sai). Kondappa had obtained the poetical contents from young Baba Himself.

One day V. C. Kondappa and Subbannachar, another teacher (who wrote the foreword for the book) came to Puttaparthi to satisfy their long-standing desire to know about the early life of Shirdi Sai Baba, because the books available threw no light on this unknown period.

 They were wonder-struck when Sai Baba revealed that He was Shirdi Sai Baba Himself. He also asked them to stay there for the night, when He would narrate His life history, granting them their heart’s wish, even before asking. That momentous night, Baba narrated the life story of the first 16 years of Shirdi Sai, as well as details of His own life.

V. C. Kondappa asked Baba, “You tell everyone you are Shirdi Baba, reborn. What is the proof? Before I write a book on you, I should know this.” It was then that Baba agreed to reveal His identity to them. He gave them the Darshan of His previous incarnation in flesh and blood. After this, though many devotees prayed for this vision, Baba replied, “It cannot be granted to everyone. There is a specific reason for this.”

Subsequently Baba took keen interest in the preparation of the book. After the book had been released, one day Baba asked Professor M. L. Leela to read the book in His presence on the Chitravathi riverbed.   When the sentence ‘Shirdi Sai Baba is now reborn as Sri Sathya Sai Baba’ was read, Baba’s form changed to that of Shirdi Sai Baba. From among the assembled crowd, her father, Lokanatha Mudaliar rose shouting “Hey Sai! Hey Sai!” and rushed towards Baba and hugged him tightly. Baba found it very difficult to release Himself from Mudaliar’s embrace until His form again changed, back to that of Sathya Sai.

For many years, Sri Sayeeshuni Charitra was the most authoritative version of Baba’s biography. N. Kasturi mentions that he, too, had learnt heavily on material in this book for his biography Sathyam Sivam Sundaram. 

Baba would often stay in Kondappa’s house at Bukkapatnam. During one such visit, Baba told both Kondappa and Subbannachar that an envious person was trying to poison Him with poisoned vadas and warned them not to eat them. Baba’s warning turned out to be true.  Kondappa accompanied Baba on trips to various places in those early days. He accompanied Baba on His first trip to Anantapur to the house of Dr Vishwanadha Rao.

      Today his sons survive Kondappa. Baba still recalls this humble devotee and one time teacher with fondness and respect. Here was a case where a Sandipani (guru of Lord Krishna) had also become a Valmiki (biographer of Lord Rama).
R. Padmanaban   
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