Many years back, a Cittirai month. The new year's day. Morning hours. A large crowd and a long queue at Sri Kanchi Matam. A sixteen year old boy was among those waiting in the queue, which moved slowly. He reached near the stage where Mahaswamiji was seated, around ten o' clock. Acharyalh keenly looked at him for some time. He prostrated at once before the sage, his eight limbs touching the ground. He did not get up. Swamiji waited for sometime and then said, "Get up, get up my child!"
He got up, raised his hands over his head and joined the palms. The stirrings of bhakti hadn't left him yet. Tears were flowing down his eyes.
Swamiji called the youth near him. He obeyed, his palms still joined. Swamiji inquired: "Who are you my son? What is your name? From which place you are coming?"
With great vinayah the youth brought his right palm before his mouth and replied, "Swami, my name is Balakrishna Joshi. I am a Gujarati Brahmin from Madras. My native place is Gujarat."
"Which place in Madras?"
"Hanumantrayan Koil Street Swami", replied Joshi.
"What have you read up to?"
"Up to the eighth Periyavaa", said Joshi, in a low, hesitant voice.
"Alright. Since today is the new year's day," Swamiji inquired, "you thought you would have Swami darshan at the temples in this kshetram?"
"It is not that Periyavaa. I came for a darshan of Periyavaa."
Mahaswamiji said at once: "apacAram, apacAram, shouldn't tell that way. When you go to a place, you should first have darshan of the Shiva, Vishnu temples there. Wherever I go, I first have darshan at the temples there--only then any job. You understand?" Swamiji laughed.
"I have now understood" replied Joshi humbly.
"Alright, after you have prasadam from Acharyalh, you must go to the temples here before you board a bus to Madras, understand?" said Swamiji, a little emphatically.
Balakrishna Joshi, a little emboldened now, replied: "I understand that well Periyavaa. As you have ordered, I shall have darshan at all the temples here and come back to the matam. For your anugrahah."
Swamiji said laughingly, "That's what. I am going to give the prasadam now. Why come back to the matam? Oho... after Swami darshan you have decided to have your lunch in the matam and then board a bus! Good, good," Swamiji gave his consent.
Joshi hesitated. There were tears in his eyes.
"What is the matter?" inquired Swamiji with kindness.
Wiping his tears, Joshi replied: "I wish to stay here for sometime, that's why..."
Before he could finish, Swamiji interrupted him: "Here means? I don't understand."
"In the matam Periyavaa", said Joshi with humility.
"What, in the matam? This is a place for sannyasins. What work is there for young people like you?" Swamiji said with some sternness in his voice. "Have Swami darshan and get back to your place!"
Joshi did not move. He again prostrated to the sage. And spilled the beans: "Periyavaa shouldn't say that. My wish is to stay in the matam and serve you for sometime."
Swamiji understood the situation. The innocent, plain talk from Joshi attracted him and created in him a special preference for the youth. Without showing it, he said: "Serving me! There are many young people here! Why you as another? You start getting back to Madras."
Joshi moved from that place, but not from the matam. He took his lunch in the matam and got himself seated in a corner outside the room where Swamiji used to take rest.
The evening set in. Swamiji came out, finishing his bath. He saw Joshi but hurried past the youth without saying anything. Joshi tried standing within Swamiji's gaze, wherever Swamiji happened to be. For four days he tried with the vairagya of bhakti, but to no avail.
The early morning of the fifth day. Mahaswamiji went for his ushas kala bath in the pushkarani of Sri Kamakshi Amman temple. He saw Joshi as he finished his bath and ascended the bank. "You haven't gone to Madras?" he asked obligingly.
"No, Periyavaa! I am not returning until my sankalpa is fulfilled," said Joshi with vairagya.
"Whatever that sankalpa?" Swamiji asked, as if he did not know.
"It is to serve at your lotus feet for sometime, Periyavaa", replied Joshi expectantly.
"Shouldn't have a sankalpa which is not a sAdhya." Swamiji walked away.
Joshi did not lose heart. After having darshan of Sri Kamakshi Amman he went straight to the matam. He stood before the room of the sage.
Swamiji came out for the darshan of his bhaktas. He saw Joshi. His heart softened at the vairagya of Joshi. He called the youth near.
"Your father has an employment or a business?" asked Swamiji.
"Business only Periyavaa. Buying and selling diamonds," replied Joshi.
"For the kind of temperament you have, you will also become a big diamond businessman. At that time, you should strive to get the name of a honest diamond merchant. Alright, as you wish, you stay with the other boys and serve me for sometime." Swamiji had at last showed him the green flag.
Joshi joined the four or five youth who were serving the sage. Two days went by in the darshan of Swamiji and doing the tasks he ordered. On those two days Joshi had his bed at night, along with the other boys, in a corner of the room where Swamiji slept. Joshi considered this a great boon.
Swamiji called Joshi before he went for bed on the third night. As Joshi prostrated, Swamiji said, "Balakrishna Joshi, you need to do a thing from now. Be with me like the other boys and serve me the whole day. But you shouldn't sleep here in the nights--"
Joshi was alarmed. He interrupted the sage and said hastily, "I pray Periyavaa should not give me such an order. Kindly grant me the privilege of sleeping here like the other boys do."
"I am telling you with a reason," Swamiji showed some sternness in his voice. "You should listen to me."
Joshi stammered: "Alright, Periyavaa. I shall do what you say."
Swamiji laughed and said: "Say that! You go to the kitchen at night. There will be a wooden bench near the serial furnaces (kOttai aduppu). You sleep on that bench conveniently. Get up early morning, finish your chores, have your bath and come here for the service... What, you understand?"
Joshi couldn't say anything further. Wiping his eyes, he said, "I shall do as you order, Periyavaa," and moved away. The other boys looked at this happening jocularly. He couldn't find the answer to the question as to why Swamiji wanted him to sleep alone in the kitchen near the serial furnace.
As he came out, Joshi saw a mate and asked him inquisitvely if Swamiji had ordered any of them to sleep near the serial furnace. With an expression of disapproval that boy replied, "Never had Periyavaa asked any of us to do such a thing."
Joshi felt insulted. It was ten in the night. Sobbing, he entered the deserted kitchen and settled himself on the bench near the serial furnace. He did not eat anything that night. Grief choking his throat, he was awake for a long time before he fell asleep. As the dawn set on the next morning, the matam woke up. Soon after, the vedic chantings and bhajan songs peculiar for a matam came floating in the wind.
Joshi awakened. He finished his chores, went and sat down in the sanctum of Sri Kamakshi Amman. It did not occur to him to go for service to Swamiji.
He came to the matam in the afternoon, had his lunch, and then went back to the temple sanctum. The usual bed around ten in the night, near the serial furnace. He did not go the sage at all.
Two days passed in this manner. It was the morning on the third day. Swamiji called a sevak and aksed him with a worried look: "Two days back a boy named Balakrishna Joshi came here for seva... He is not seen now! Where did he go? Perhaps he has gone back to Madras without informing me?"
Hesitatingly the sevak replied, "No, Periyavaa. He is only here in the matam."
"Then why did he not come here for the last two days?"
"No idea, Periyavaa."
Meantime another sevak boy came that side, and Swamiji asked him about the missing Gujarati boy. He too had no idea.
"Alright, check up with Joshi and tell him that I want him here now", ordered Swamji and went inside his room.
Joshi stood looking small before Mahaswamiji.
"Come, my child. Why, you were not seen here for the last two days! Are you not well?" Swamiji inquired with utmlost kindness. Joshi had no reply.
"Any sadness... or anger... with me?" Swamiji asked like a child, happiness writ on his face.
Joshi slowly opened his mouth. "No anger and all, Periyavaa! A bit of sadness in my heart though," he stammered.
Swamiji looked at him with surprise. "Sadness... with me?"
Joshi kept quiet.
Swamiji did not stop. "Come on, tell me! Is it not that I should also know about your sadness?" As Swamiji encouraged Joshi to talk, the other boys were standing nearby with folded hands.
Prostrating and bringing his palm before his mouth, Joshi began to talk. "Nothing else, Periyavaa. You ordered me to sleep in your room like the other boys for the first two nights, and I was happy. Suddenly you called me and ordered me to go and sleep near the serial furnace! I was saddened with the thought that perhaps since I am only a Gujarati brahman and not a brahmin of this side, you might have ordered me to sleep separately. Please pardon me Periyavaa..." Joshi sobbed and fell at the feet of Swamiji.
Swamiji understood the situation. He did not say anything for sometime. Silence prevailed there. Then he asked the other boys to leave him alone, and called Joshi near. With utmost vAtsalyam he spoke: "adAdA... Balakrishna... For my asking you to sleep near the serial furnace you made up this meaning! I did not say that with such thoughts in my mind! You are a small boy, so you have misunderstood me!". With those words, Swamiji asked Joshi to sit before him. Joshi hesitated and sat down on the floor.
Swamiji spoke with compassion welling up in his voice: "There was never such a reason as that you expressed now for my asking you to sleep alone on the wooden bench near the serial furnace. There was only one reason for that, Joshi. Look here!" Swamiji raised his vastram up to his thigh. There were bunches of reddish mosquito bites on Swamiji's rosy thighs!
"My child Joshi! You see these bites of the mosquitos I have at night time? I am a sannyasin, so I can withstand them. Being a child you would have immense suffering. I saw you struggling with the mosquito bites on the first two nights. You have a rosy complexion like me! So I wanted that at least you could sleep well in a safe place, which was why asked you to sleep alone. Since the wooden bench is lying near the serial furnace, there would be absolutely no mosquitoes because of the heat from the furnace. And you would sleep well! That was the only reason for my order, but it so happened that you misunderstood me!" As Swamiji said this laughing, Joshi started sobbing loudly.
He spoke sobbing, "Periyavaa, please tell me that you have pardoned me! Without understanding your compassion, I blabbered some nonsense!" That compassionate Lord was just laughing, raising his hands and blessing Joshi.
"Joshi, you will also become a diamond merchant in future. Sell your wares for a reasonable prize and do a good business." said Swamiji as he blessed Joshi once again.
In the later years, Balakrishna Joshi became a dharmic diamond merchant and was a beloved bhakta of Swamiji until the samadhi days of the sage. Some years later, Joshi also gave up his body to reach God's feet.