The Scriptures tell us that it is as difficult to trace the path a sage pursues as it is to draw a line marking the course a bird takes in the air while on its wings. Most humans have to be content with a slow and laborious journey towards the goal. But a few are born as adepts in flying non-stop to the common home of all beings - the supreme Self. The generality of mankind takes heart when such a sage appears. Though it is unable to keep pace with him, it feels uplifted in his presence and has a foretaste of the felicity compared to which the pleasures of the world pale into nothing.
Countless people who went to Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Maharshi Sri Ramana had this experience. They saw in him a sage without the least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana visits this earth. But when such an event occurs, the entire humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope opens before it.
In the very early hours of December 30th, 1879, in the village of Tiruchuzhi in Tamil Nadu, a baby boy was born to Azhagammal and Sundaram Iyer.
Tiruchuzhi is home to the Bhoominathar temple, and on the eve of the baby's birth, the Andra darshan celebration was taking place. During this celebration, Bhoominatheswara (a name for Lord Shiva) is taken out of the temple along with his consort Sahayamba, and carried through the streets to bless devotees. About an hour after midnight, just as this pair were about to be carried across the threshold of the temple, the baby was born.
Sundaram Iyer's mother, Lakshmi Ammal, who was in the room during the birth, immediately expressed her disappointment. She had been hoping the baby would be a girl who could have been married off to her daughter's son. "How will the family tie continue? This is all I am destined for?" she complained.
Also in the room was an elderly neighbour lady of poor eyesight who said, "Enough of this, be quiet. The boy is a darling. He is enveloped in great light. Don't you see, he is an avatar? How can you weep over this?"
The baby was named Venkateshwara after the family deity and Sundaram's elder brother. Azhagammal and Sundaram's first child Nagaswamy was two at the time of Venkateshwara's birth.
Alagammal and Sundaram Iyer, who were married as children, were known for their great generosity and for the harmony between them. They were aptly named (Sundaram means beauty in Sanskrit and Alagu means the same in Tamil ) and ideally suited.
Both Sundaram's elder brother and his father's brother were renunciates, and as a result, when Sundaram's father passed away when he was a child, it fell to Sundaram to take care of the family. At sixteen, he took a job as a clerk. Owing to his exceptional intelligence and diligence, he was soon drafting legal documents. He was diplomatic, fair, and respectful to all, not just to those in positions of power. Though he was never formally educated and never sat for tests, he became a prosperous pleader. He had a large house built in two portions -- one half for the family, and the other half a guest house for visitors of all descriptions, including the needy. Sundaram never forgot what it was like to experience hardship, and throughout her life, Alagammal's generous heart led her to feed anyone who was hungry, even when this violated conventions or rules. At their house everyone was welcomed, and everyone was fed -- whether they were government officials from another town, or beggars.
Azhagammal was born at Pasalai, a village near Manamadurai in Tamil Nadu. Though there was no formal schooling for women at that time, Azhagammal learned hundreds of vedantic hymns from the elder ladies at Tiruchuzhi. "Dakshinamurti Stotram" was one she regularly recited (little knowing at the time that she would one day give birth to a baby who would come to be recognized as Dakshinamurti). She also received Upadesa of the sacred mantra 'Aham Brahmasmi'.
Of the pair, Sundaram was the more serious. Siva, Vishnu, Ganesa, Surya, and Sakti were worshiped in the house, and Sundaram helped at the temple. He was, apparently, undemonstrative, both with his family and in his worship, yet his caring for others must have been readily apparent, for he was loved and held in high esteem by all.
Krishna Bikshu in Ramana Leela describes the little boy like this: "The child Venkateswara was unique. He seldom spoke or quarreled. There was a close relative, Meenakshi of his age. He would not suckle his mother's breast if Meenakshi did not also suckle milk; he was so indifferent about his feeding. He had a sweet and gentle smile but behind it was a determined nature." (Little Meenakshi had no mother of her own.)
Venkataraman nursed till he was five. About a year later, Alagammal gave birth to a third baby boy who was named Nagasundaram. Two years after that, a baby girl named Alamelu completed the family.
When Venkateswara began school, his name was noted as Venkataraman and this name stuck. A close relative used to call him Ramana or, at times, Nayana Ramani. Nayana means father in Telegu but is also used as a term of endearment. Venkataraman began to address his father as Nayana and after a time the entire village came to know Sundaram by this name.
Venkataraman was much more interested in games and sports than in academics. As Krishna Bikshu humourously put it, Venkataraman "remembered that there was such a thing as education only upon seeing the teacher's face!" Luckily, his memory was so superb that he was able to get by with the bare minimum of effort.
Only Tamil was taught at the Tiruchuzhi village school. Sundaram wanted his sons to be educated in English so they would be qualified to get into government service, so when Nagaswami, and two years later Venkataraman, reached the sixth standard (approx age 11) they were sent to live with one of Sundaram's younger brothers, Subbu Iyer, in Dindigul where there was a school where English was taught.
The brothers enjoyed gymnastics, football, and wrestling. Nagaswami was so good at tree climbing that he was known as Monkey. Venkataraman was exceedingly well coordinated and athletic, and won every game or race he entered. This earned him the nickname Thanga-kai (Golden Hand).
One unusual thing about young Venkataraman was how unrousable he was when asleep. He could be shouted at, carried to distant spots, and even soundly thrashed while asleep, and he would not wake up. He did not look for trouble, but if the need arose, he was quite unsparing in a fight. The other boys came to realise that the only way to "triumph" over Venkat was to beat him up while he was deeply asleep. (How exactly they managed to slip past Sundaram and Alagu to remove Venkataraman from his bed and carry him away is not reported!) Venkataraman would know nothing of these beatings until he was informed of them the next day. One can only assume it was rather a hollow victory for his beaters.
Another unusual thing about Venkataraman was the imperviousness of his body to bumps and scrapes. When things happened to him which would normally have left some sort of marks, not the smallest scratch was left on him. For example, he and his friends played a game in which Venkataraman would roll up in a ball and be tossed from person to person. Sometimes they successfully caught him, and sometimes they missed. This game never left a bruise on him. Some years later, during his time living near the temple (in nothing more than a loin cloth) he would enter a deep state of samadhi in an area where carts were stored, and come to awareness of his external circumstances much later, having somehow moved quite a distance underneath these carts. Again, not a mark was left on him.
In 1891, Subba Iyer was transferred to Madurai. Nagaswami and Venkataraman moved with him and attended the Scott Middle School there.
In 1892, Sundaram Iyer, who was only 47, fell seriously ill. His brother and Venkataraman and Nagaswami went to him immediately, but he died within four days, on February 18. Alagammal was left with the four children who at that time ranged in aged from 4 to 14. For some hours after his father's death, Venkataraman contemplated the matter of how his father's body was still there, but the 'I' was gone from it. This was perhaps a forecasting of what was to happen two years later.
Sri Ramana later described his inquiry on that day, and Paul Brunton recorded it:
“On the day his father died he felt puzzled and pondered over it, whilst his mother and brothers wept. He thought for hours and after the corpse was cremated he got by analysis to the point of perceiving that it was the ‘I’ which makes the body to see, to run, to walk and to eat. “I know this ‘I’ but my father’s ‘I’ has left the body.”
After the ceremonies following the death of Sundaram, Subbu Iyer returned to Madurai with Nagaswami and Venkataraman, and Alagammal stayed back with her two younger children. Their responsibility was taken over by Nelliappa Iyer, younger brother of Subbu Iyer.
At this point, Nagaswami made an effort to become a more serious student, but Venkataraman did not evidence a speck more interest. Apparently, even as a teenager, Venkataraman did not require a large amount of sleep. He and Nagaswami would slip out of bed in the middle of the night, arrange pillows under the covers to resemble their sleeping selves, quietly leave the house to join up with friends at the river for two or three hours of fun, and then sneak back into the house.
(This late night mischievous streak (if it can be called that!) in Bhagavan was still present in him years after he took his place as the Sage of Arunachala. The ashram staff were very strict about no one disturbing him during times when he was meant to be resting. As a result, someone would go around late at night with a flashlight to be sure Sri Bhagavan's attendants were not keeping him up. Sri Bhagavan could always sense the approach of one of these protectors of his sleep and he would silently gesture to his attendants, to whom he was recounting interesting stories.The attendants would lie down until Sri Bhagavan gave another signal, and then the joyful recounting and listening would begin where it left off.)
In Ramana Leela, Krishna Bikshu describes this interesting incident: "From his very childhood, Venkataraman's words had an authority of their own. Abdul Wahab, a Muslim, was the captain of the football team of the boys. Once Venkataraman went to Wahab's house and on learning that they ate non-vegetarian food, expressed his revulsion. With that pronouncement, Wahab gave up non-vegetarian food forever! Wahab later served in the Police Department and retired as a Superintendent of Police."
Interestingly, Sri Bhagavan's capacity to convey the necessity of vegetarianism lasted throughout the lifetime of his physical body, and carries on to this day. Arthur Osborne wrote about the way a spiritual aspirant, coming within Sri Bhagavan's sphere, would mysteriously lose all desire to eat meat without making any effort to do so.
After the Scott's Middle School, Venkataraman attended the American Mission High School. One November morning in 1895 he was on his way to school when he saw an elderly relative, Ramaswami Iyer, son of Lakshmana Iyer of Tiruchuzhi. When Venkataraman made friendly enquiries into where Ramaswami had come from, the answer was "From Arunachala."
Krishna Bikshu describes Venkataraman's response: "The word "Arunachala" was familiar to Venkataraman from his younger days, but he did not know where it was, what it looked like or what it meant. Yet that day that word meant to him something great, an inaccessible, authoritative, absolutely blissful entity. Could one visit such a place? His heart was full of joy. Arunachala meant some sacred land, every particle of which gave moksha. It was omnipotent and peaceful. Could one behold it? "What? Arunachala? Where is it?" asked the lad. The relative was astonished, "Don't you know even this?" and continued, "Haven't you heard of Tiruvannamalai? That is Arunachala." It was as if a balloon was pricked, the boy's heart sank."
About a month or two later, Venkataraman found and read a copy of Sekkilar's Periyapuranam which his uncle had borrowed. Seemingly out of nowhere, a deep spiritual longing arose in him. (Prior to this time, he had been quite irreverent with regard to spiritual matters.) Arthur Osborne described Venkatarman's response to reading this book about the lives of the sixty-three Saivite Saints:
"Venkataraman picked it up and, as he read, was overwhelmed that such faith, such love, such divine fervour was possible, that there had been such beauty in human life. The tales of renunciation leading to Divine Union inspired him with awe and emulation. Something greater than all dreamlands, greater than all ambition, was here proclaimed real and possible, and the revelation filled him with blissful gratitude." [Ramana Maharshi and The Path of Self-Knowledge]
A year passed, during which time Nagaswami got married. Then, on the afternoon of July 17, 1896, Venkataraman had a life-changing experience. Here is an account of how he later reported it:
"It was in 1896, about 6 weeks before I left Madurai for good (to go to Tiruvannamalai - Arunachala) that this great change in my life took place. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle's house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it nor was there any urge in me to find out whether there was any account for the fear. I just felt I was going to die and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or any elders or friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there. The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: "Now death has come; what does it mean? What is that is dying? This body dies."
And at once I dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out still as though rigor mortis has set in, and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, and that neither the word "I" nor any word could be uttered. "Well then," I said to myself, “this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am I dead? Is the body I? It is silent and inert, but I feel the full force of my personality and even the voice of I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit. All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. "I" was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that "I". From that moment onwards, the "I" or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. Absorption continued in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thought might come and go like the various notes of music, but the "I" continued like the fundamental sruti note which underlies and blends with all other notes."
After this, Venkataraman lost interest in his school-studies, friends, and relations.
He later described this period:
"The consequences of this new awareness were soon noticed in my life. In the first place, I lost what little interest I had in my outer relationship with friends and relatives and went through my studies mechanically. I would hold an open book in front of me to satisfy my relatives that I was reading, when in reality my attention was far away from any such superficial matter. In my dealings with people I became meek and submissive. Formerly if I was given more work than other boys I might complain, and if any boy annoyed me I would retaliate. None of them would dare make fun of me or take liberties with me. Now all that was changed. Whatever work was given, whatever teasing or annoyance there was, I would put up with it quietly. The former ego that resented and retaliated had disappeared. I stopped going out with friends to play games and preferred solitude. I would often sit alone, especially in a posture suitable for meditation, and become absorbed in the Self, the Spirit, the force or current which constituted me. I would continue in this despite the jeers of my elder brother who would sarcastically call me "sage" or "yogi" and advise me to retire into the jungle like the ancient Rishis." [The Path of Self-Knowledge]
The change in Venkataraman was quite noticable to those around him. His uncle and his older brother Nagaswamy were particularly critical of his impractical attitude toward life, and his neglect for his studies.
All this came to a head on August 29th, about six weeks after his absorption into the Self. His English teacher had asked him to copy out an exercise in Bain's Grammar three times, as a punishment for his indifference towards his school work. Venkataraman had written it out twice when the utter futility of the exercise hit him and he pushed away the work, sat cross-legged, and turned within.
Nagaswami, annoyed at the sight, asking, “What use is all this to one who is like this?” (Meaning, if you are going to behave like a sadhu, what right do you have to enjoy the comforts of this home?)
Venkataraman did not answer, but recognized the truth in his brother’s words.
He got to his feet, knowing he had to leave home then and there, and go to Arunachala. Aware that his uncle and brother would prevent him if he told them of his plan, he said he had to attend a special class on electricity at school.
Not realizing he was providing his brother with the means to travel to Arunachala, Nagaswami said to Venkataraman, "Then take five rupees from the box downstairs and pay my college fees on the way."
Downstairs, he hurriedly ate a meal prepared by his aunt. With no one noticing, he took out an atlas and saw that the nearest station to Tiruvannamalai was Tindivanam. (There was actually a closer one, but the old atlas did not show it.) He calculated the cost of his journey, took thee rupees and left the remaining two with a note which read: "I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with his command. This (meaning his person) has only embarked on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore, no one need grieve over this act. And no money need be spent in search of this. Your college fee has not been paid. Herewith rupees two."
At about noon, Venkataraman left his uncle's house and hurried to the railway station. The train was scheduled to depart at 11:45, but luckily it was running late or he would have missed it. He bought his ticket to Tindivanam, boarded the train, and sat silently.
An old Maulvi noticed the silent youth and asked him where he was going. When Venkataraman told him, the Maulvi realised the boy was unaware that a new line had been opened up to Tiruvannamalai, via Villupuram Junction. He told Venkataraman that he too was going that way and that they should change trains at Villupuram Junction. Venkataraman sank back into samadhi. Later, he found the Maulvi had vanished.
Feeling hungry when the sun was setting, he bought two country pears. Surprisingly, at the first bite, he felt satisfied.
At about three o'clock the next morning, he got down at Viluppuram. He waited till daybreak and then walked into the town. Tired and hungry, he asked for food at a hotel but had to wait until noon for the food to be ready. At this point in his journey, he had only two and a half annas left. He offered two annas to the hotel owner for his meal, but the man refused to accept any payment. Venkataraman then returned to the station and spent his remaining money on a ticket to Mambalappattu, a place on the way to Tiruvannamalai. He reached Mambalappattu at about 3 in the afternoon. From there, he set out, intending to walk the remaining distance of about thirty miles.
After he had walked about ten miles, he reached the temple of Arayaninallur. Night had fallen and he sat down outside the temple to rest. When the priest opened the temple for puja, Venkataraman entered and sat in the pillared hall. A brilliant light pervaded the entire temple which he first thought must have been emanating from the image of God in the inner sanctorum. He searched for the source, but found it was not a phyical light. When it disappeared, he sat in deep meditation until the temple priests who needed to lock up the temple roused him. He asked them for food and was refused, though they suggested he might get food at the temple in Kilur where they were headed for service. Venkataraman followed, and sank again into samadhi in the temple. Late in the evening when the puja ended, he asked for food and was refused again. The temple drummer who had been watching this exchange asked the priests to give his share to the boy. When he asked for water, he was directed to a Sastri’s house. He set out with his rice on a leaf plate but fainted from exhaustion and fell down, spilling the rice. When he came to he picked up the scattered rice, not wanting to waste a single grain, ate it, and then slept on the bare ground.
The nect morning was August 31, 1896, the Gokulashtami day (a festival day honouring Lord Krishna's birth). Hungry, Venkataraman stopped at a house which happened to be the home of Muthukrishna Bhagavatar. The Bhagavatar and his widowed sister were only too glad to feed the beautiful Brahmin youth. To the widowed sister, it seemed as if Krishna himself had come asking for food. She made him a large plate of food, and though he felt full after the first two bites, she stood over him and lovingly insisted that he finish all she had given him.
Venkataraman still had another twenty miles to go, but at this point lacked the strength to walk that far. The only thing he had of any value was his ruby earrings, which he pledged for four rupees with the Bhagavatar who gave him a receipts so he could return and claim the earrings. By then, a sumptuous lunch was ready, and Venkataraman was fed a second time, and given a packet of sweets to take with him
The next morning the kind couple fed him well. It was August 31st, the Gokulastami day, the day of Sri Krishna’s birth. Venkataraman asked Bhagavatar for a loan of four rupees on the pledge of his earrings so that he could complete his pilgrimage. Bhagavatar agreed and gave Venkataraman a receipt he could use to redeem his earrings.
Venkataraman continued on his journey, tearing up the receipt right away because he knew he would never have any need for the earrings. At the train station he learned there would be no trains until the next day so he spent the night there.
Advent at Arunachala
A. R Natarajan, in Timeless in Time, describes Venkataraman's arrival:
It was the morning of the 1st of September, 1896, when Ramana reached his Father's home, Arunachala. The command had been obeyed. The search had ended. Thereafter there was no parting ever.
Heart brimming with love, Ramana went straight away to the Arunachaleswara temple. The temple was the very centre of attraction of the pilgrims. But strangely it was empty though all the doors were open. None was there in the inner shrine too. The Lord was waiting to receive his son, born to proclaim his glory and power, to proclaim the direct path for Self-knowledge. Ramana could go into the sactum sanctorum unhindered. Just the Father and the son together in holy union never again to part physically. "Father, I have come," Ramana said. More words were superfluous. Thanks to the overflowing grace of Arunachala the schoolboy became the enlightened jnani Ramana at Madurai. This had happened on July 17, 1896. Now the physical separation too ended. It could not be otherwise as his task as a universal guru was to be performed from this one place.
He embraced the linga in ecstasy. The burning sensation that had started back at Madurai (which he later described as “an inexpressible anguish which I suppressed at the time”) merged in Arunachaleswara.
As Ramana left the temple, someone asked him if he wanted to have his hair cut. He readily agreed and was taken to Ayyankulam tank where a barber shaved off his beautiful hair. Next, Ramana threw away his sacred thread and the money which he had left and the sweets which had been given to him the previous day. In this way, he renounced attachment to caste and to money.
Early Life at Arunachala
On his first day in Tiruvannamalai, Venkataraman had no food. The next day, Maunaswami of the Gopura Subrahmanya shrine saw the boy in the thousand pillared hall and asked one of his followers to brging his some food. Course rice, salt, and a pickle were served to Venkataraman. After that, Maunaswami made sure he was fed.
He stayed in the temple for several months, sitting quietly in meditation. He never spoke to anyone, and if people came up to him, he moved away. He never asked for food, but if he was aware of anyone offering him food, he would accept it. His first few weeks were spent in the thousand-pillared hall but local urchins would not leave him alone. They threw stones at him and ridiculed him, so he shifted to other spots in the temple and then to the Patala-lingam vault, a place the urchins were afraid to enter. He spent his days there absorbed in such deep samadhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. The mischievous boys continued to taunt him there, throwing things down into the vault.
A local saint named Seshadri Swami found him in the underground vault and tried to protect him.
He stayed for about six weeks in the Patala-lingam, and then was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Gopura Subramanya Shrine. Maunaswami continued to make sure he had food. He shared his own food with Brahmana Swami, as Venkataraman was then known, especially fruits and milk collected after abhishekam to Uma Devi. One of the senior priests was concerned that the young boy's milk contained water, tumeric, sugar, fruit, and camphor, so he arranged for plain milk to be given to Brahmana Swami.
Next he moved to Vahana Mantapam (the place where the temple vehicles were stored). In Timeless in Time, A. R. Natarajan includes this description by Sri Ramana of his time there:
"I would edge through the narrow passaage between the vahanas, the tallest in that mantapam or the interiormost, to escape attention. I would seat myself under the belly of a vahana. I would lose consciousness of the body then and sometimes find, when awake, that I had got to the 10th row. I must have crept into it like a lizard. Whether I did so or something carried me in I did not know. Strangely enough, on not a single occasion did these crawlings or movements produce even a scratch on my person."
In December, large crowds gathered in Tiruvannamalai and in the Arunachalaswara temple for the Kartigai festival. This brought more attention than ever to Brahmana Swami. Among the crowd was a Saivite renunciate named Uddandi Nayanar. Until this time, Uddandi Nayanar's sadhana had led neither to peace nor to realisation of the Self, but when he saw the young swami immersed in samadhi, he felt a sense of certainty that by serving him, he (Nayanar) might be able to experience the Self. Nayanar decided to stay under a tree near the iluppai tree Ramana was living under at that point and devote himself to protecting the young swami from the crowds and from the urchins who were so determined to disturb him. He watched over Ramana at all times, except when he went to get food for the two of them.
Next, he was invited to stay in a mango orchard next to Gurumurtam, a temple constructed over the Samadhi of Daivasikamani, about a mile out of Tiruvannamalai. Pooja was being performed at Gurumurtam then by Annamalai Tambiran. When Tambiran saw Ramana under the iluppai tree, he was so struck by him he returned for his darshan as often as he could manage. It occured to him that if he could persuade the young swami to shift from under the tree to Gurumurtam, he would be able to have his darshan even more frequently, and it would be a better situation for the swami because he would not be troubled by so many people. He took the matter up with Nayanar and together they implored the Swami to move. Perhaps because Gurumurtam was closer to Arunachala, Swami agreed and in February, 1897, he moved to Gurumurtam where he became known as the Swami of Gurumurtam.
There, the Swami's indifference to physical comfort increased. He made no effort to clean himself, his thick hair became matted, and his nail were long and curved. Despite earlier assurances that he would be less troubled by crowds if he moved to Gurumurtam, people came to see him in such droves, many hoping that miracles would be performed and their desires fulfilled. Barriers had to be constructed to protect Swami, and arguments would break out because everyone wanted to earn spiritual merit by having Swami consume food offerings brought by them. Swami, who ate almost nothing, could not possibly consume all that the hundreds of people so badly wanted to witness him eating. Despite all the commotion, Swami would only open his eyes once a day, at which point a tumblerful of mixed offerings would be poured into his mouth. He would then close his eyes and resume his meditation.
Naturally, Tambiran's devotion increased as he cared for Swami, and once he even attempted to worship him. Swami tried to put a stop to this right away by writing a note on the wall with a piece of charcoal. Tambiran, unable to understand (or perhaps just so moved to worship Swami that he could not help himself) persisted, until Swami made the point even clearer by going out at pooja time which was when Tambiran would switch from temple worship to Swami worship.
Swami's birth name was still unknown at this time and he was simply known as Brahmana Swami or Gurumurtam Swami. Not too long after he wrote the note on the wall, an official in the local taluka office named Venkatarama Iyer who came for Swami's darshan every day decided he was going to discover the Swami's original name. He pressed Tambiran, but got nowhere with that because Tambiran did not known it himself. Venkatarama Iyer then told the Swami that he would not leave without learning Swami's name, even if this cost him his job. He handed Swami a piece of paper and a pencil. Swami wrote in English, "Venkataraman, Tiruchuzhi".