“Sathya Sai Baba saved my life”
Terence Amarasekara
Over the past few years, the last day of January evokes sad memories for me. The morning newspapers of the day and the days immediately thereafter carry photographs published in memory of those who met a gruesome death at the hands of a terrorist group that attacked the Central Bank. I who served in a private bank in the Fort knew some who died in the attack.

On that fateful day a heavy vehicle laden with explosives rammed the front of the massive building. The attack brought down the first few floors of the bank, immediately setting ablaze the building. Hundreds perished and many suffered permanent injury. Vehicles and people on the street opposite too met the same fate. The blast destroyed surrounding buildings causing death and serious injury to those within. It was total mayhem. The time on the face of the clock on the historic lighthouse tower standing sentinel over Chatham Street froze at 10.52 a.m.; the moment of the explosion.

The day, 31 January, l996, dawned like any other day. I had intended to leave to Colombo Fort early that morning to attend to a few personal matters, yet the chill in the morning air held me back. However I did leave home as the morning grew warmer. The Kadawata town lies about 16 kilometres away from the Fort. I boarded a bus from there bound to Colombo Fort but the bus did not leave immediately. It parked a few feet away from the main bus stand in an attempt to collect more passengers. The time was nearing 9.15 a.m. The bus showed no sign of leaving. Idling my time in the stationary bus I activated my cellular phone to communicate with a sister of mine. As I pressed down the digits on the panel of the phone I noted small red ants emerge. Having blown them off, I again pressed the buttons. More ants emerged. I dread this variety of ants. These tiny reddish orange creatures with two prominently projecting antler like feelers are very destructive. I feared they would damage the unit inside the cellular phone. I therefore decided not to proceed to Fort. I felt the matter needed early attention. Therefore I alighted from the bus and boarded a bus to Bambalapitiya. The bus would take me to the agent whom I expected would attend to the cellular phone. It was after 10.45 a.m. when I arrived at Bambalapitiya.

I stated the reason for my arrival to the person at the counter. A technician was called in to look into the matter. He detached the rear of the instrument and showed it to me. There were no ants inside. He however undertook to service the instrument.

At that very moment there was a loud explosion. It rattled the doors and window panes of the office building. These were troubled times. Bombs exploded in the city at unexpected moments.

There was pandemonium in the office. A call was connected through a mobile phone by one of the office staff to Colombo Fort with a view to contact the agent's salesmen who could be thereabouts. Someone responded stating that a bomb exploded in the heart of the Fort, in the vicinity of Bank of Ceylon Head Office. The happenings in the bus that morning came to mind. I breathed a silent prayer. By some quirk of circumstance I was taken away from the scene of the tragedy. To the many who were caught in the explosion there could be no solace.

The technician at Hutchison, the service done, returned the phone to me a few minutes later. I was eager to speak to my wife at home. She sounded apprehensive. She was aware I was to be in Fort that morning. I informed her that I was safe and at Bambalapitiya.

My job done I left the office and walked towards the Bambalapitiya-Galle Road junction. Looking towards Colombo Fort all I could see were large clouds of thick black smoke ballooning up into the skies over the horizon.

I recapitulated in my mind the task initially set out for that morning. I was to arrive at the Hatton National Bank City Office, which was adjacent to the Central Bank, to execute a voucher form for my monthly pension.

I make this regular visit a monthly 'pilgrimage' to my former place of work, where I meet my former colleagues still in service. I usually spend half an hour or more here. Thereafter, on that particular day, I was to proceed to the Central Bank.

Several years ago whilst on tour in India, I met Erlendur Haraldsson, Professor of Psychology of the University of Iceland. He had compiled and published in book form an investigative report on the psychic phenomena associated with Sathya Sai Baba. He had again visited Baba's ashram at Whitefield where we met. Having a deep interest on the subject it was my wish to translate this valuable book into Sinhala. When I told him so he appeared very pleased. He mentioned that the book had also appeared in French, German and Italian.

On that day I was carrying a message from the professor to be conveyed to a mutual friend working at the Central Bank. Whenever I visit this person at the Central Bank we converse a short while seated in the foyer of the Bank on the ground floor of the north tower. That day the explosion completely wrecked the foyer causing death to all who were there.

Had I not changed bus and instead travelled straight to Colombo Fort, the time calculations indicate that I would have been at the Central Bank or in its vicinity at the time of the explosion. Had the bus left for its destination immediately I boarded it I may not have thought of using the phone to call my sister that early in the day. It was the boredom of being seated for an unduly long period in a stationary bus that spurred me to use the cellular phone at that time. Never before or never thereafter did ants appear on the table or emerge from within the phone. In fact the staff at Hutchison who serviced the phone stated they found no ants within. Therefore the very presence of ants at that moment profess a mystery.

Considering the varied circumstance that led me to change route and thereby avoid being in the Fort at the time of the tragedy, it seemed to me that a compelling power, that created the circumstance for me to use the cellular phone at that time and the subsequent emergence of these creatures, spurred me to change my plan for the day. It was a power that knew me well and my fear for that variety of ants; a power that understood it to be the best way to make me change course. I may have been one of the very fortunate ones to escape death or injury that day.

Since the early 1980s I remain an ardent follower of Sathya Sai Baba. When I presented to Bagawan Baba the manuscript of my book, 423 sheets of foolscap, at the ashram at Puttaparthi, I had the much cherished privilege of conversing with the divine personality. After an exchange of niceties, He turned the pages about. "There are few books in your mother tongue. Publish it," was his blessing to me.

I have felt Baba's presence on many an occasion in my life at moments of distress. The manner of such occurrence, its very sequence is indicative of Bagawan Baba's presence. How well Bagawan Baba understood my way of thinking and caused the presence of ants to make me alter my plan for the day is amazing. The modus created to send me far away from a moment of near death is yet another of Sathya Sai Baba's phenomena that I encountered in my life.

Laugh Zone
Flying saucers!!!
A flying saucer landed at a gas station on a lonely country road. The two space aliens inside seemed completely unconcerned about detection; in fact, the letters "UFO" were emblazoned in big, bold letters on one side of their shiny craft.

As the station owner stood and gawked in silence, paralyzed with shock, his young blond attendant nonchalantly filled up the tank and waved to the two aliens as they took off. "Do you realize what just happened?" the station owner finally uttered.

"Yeah," said the blond attendant. "So?" "Didn't you see the space aliens in thatvehicle?" "Yeah," repeated the blonde attendant. "So?" "Didn't you see the letters 'UFO' on the side of that vehicle?!" "Yeah," repeated the blonde attendant. "Don't you know what 'UFO' means?!" The blonde attendant rolled his eyes. "Good grief, boss! I've been working here for six years. Of course I know what 'UFO' means 'Unleaded Fuel Only.'"

Helpful hint
A bonehead award should go to all those people who made it necessary for General Motors to put the following explanation for the "Low Fuel Light" into the owner's manual. "This light comes on when the fuel tank is low on fuel. To turn it off, add fuel to the fuel tank."

Neighbourly advice
A woman called the fire department and said, "Look, I've just had a new rock garden built and I've just planted some new roses, and…" The fireman said, "Where's the fire?" She said, "Some of my new plants are very expensive..." He said, "Look, lady, you want a flower shop. "She said, "No, I don't. The house next door is on fire, and I don't want you clumsy firemen stamping all over my garden when you come over.

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