Forget Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Sopranos, or Seinfeld. I am up to Episode 849 of a quaint series that has been running on Sony and YouTube since 2017, and which continues to entertain and inspire me every night. Mere Sai is about the life and adventures of the Yogi, Sai Baba, a real person who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century in a small Indian village called Shirdi. If you've been to India you've probably seen images of Shirdi Sai Baba, with his neat white beard, wearing a white robe and bandanna knotted at the back.
Like most long-running TV Series, there is a collection of larger-than-life characters who we come to know and love, or love to despise. There's the corrupt village head, Mr Kulkani and his henchman, who bully and exploit the people of Shirdi, when they are supposed to be protecting them. There's the various families who undergo one drama after another, and who grow wiser, stronger and more compassionate as they work through their various relationship, work and health problems.
And then there's our spiritual hero - the wise, kindhearted Sai, a sort of blend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master Shifu, Merlin, and Mother Theresa. Sai quietly goes about his daily chores while looking out for the people of Shirdi. As each drama unfolds, he watches from a distance with unflappable patience, intervening ever so lightly at just the right time with a parable, some words of guidance, and the occasional miracle when the injustice of a situation demands more direct action!
While I have tried to interest friends and family in this lovable series, most barely last two episodes, rolling their eyes at the drawn-out stories and the slow-motion camera shots, which I actually think is part of its charm. But the main reason I continue to watch and chuckle my way through this series, despite the dodgy subtitles and the overacting, is the way it bravely and creatively tackles contemporary challenges such as mental health, inter-generational rivalry, money problems, family conflict, irrational biases, racial prejudice, and especially the repression of woman. In fact, the plots are often complex and multilayered, with deep psychological significance.
I especially love the way Sai encourages people to learn from their own experience and come to their own conclusions, rather than preaching. And the way each adventure contains positive life lessons, especially around important values such as tolerance, generosity, empathy, forgiveness, humility, self-discipline, and courage.
With various types of media filling our minds each day with so much negativity, violence and self-indulgence, I'm grateful for positive programs such as these that address important issues in a fun but serious manner. After all, the best learning often comes when we can laugh out loud while simultaneously reflecting on life's deeper questions. If you are facing some difficulties of your own at the moment, let me share with you a classic Sai line. "Have faith and patience, for life only throws to you what you can handle." I don't know about you, but I like that sentiment.
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