Village Uplift, Amma and other Institutions

February 8, 2008 Link Amma's Grace

Dearest Friends and Family,

Since we last wrote, we managed to get the letter with the original newspaper article about the starving fishermen in our area translated. We put it on Amma’s peetham for the Tuesday satsang. I did not put it with the clipboard questions as it was not a ‘spiritual’ subject, eg. Metaphysical question. It was on her left side. I was told that she glanced at it for about 2 seconds. I managed to collect it back, and later gave it to Lakshmi, Amma’s room Lakshmi, with the request that she show it to Amma….we’ll see.
When Amma came out, she said she had another program in the big hall at 2:00 to go to. We were not told what it was about. I ambled to the Big Hall after the Prasad lunch, and waited to see what it was about. I asked several brahmacharinis and ashramites what it was about. No one knew or seemed to understand clearly. After waiting till nearly 3:30, not getting clear information anywhere, I came back to the room to collect laundry, etc . I saw Link coming over the bridge, and called to him that Amma was out. We both went to the big hall…I saw many people dressed in ‘set sari’s’ leaving the hall. We went and asked them what the function was about and were very happy to learn of it.
The program was a way for the ashram, in conjunction with the Dhanalakshmi Bank to give ‘micro-loans’ with low interest rates to low-income women living in the area to start businesses from their homes. The ladies who had organized themselves into groups of about 20 each, picked small areas of industry that they wanted to develop into more marketable arenas. All of these industries are at the local level, and put more money and food into their pockets and mouths, as well as serving the wider community needs. Very Gandhian. We spoke with women who were going to start businesses drying fish, making paper bags, making coir from coconut husks, book binding, tailoring, pickles, soap making, there were many who wanted to start small retail shops….already the island has one every few feet, with so much competition, I don’t know how it will all work out…I think the shop concept has a lure of position and riches….The proverbial “Indian corner shop” is a world wide phenomenon. Some are going to become milk
distributors, and so forth…many ideas for generating incomes from the homes.. At any rate, our hearts smiled to learn of these events…None of these home industries is polluting or destructive to the earth.

To date, I have not been able to find anywhere a comprehensive list of all the work that the ashram is doing in Amma’s name…then there are also the branch ashrams….and the youth groups…and individuals who outside the circle of the organization are doing things inspired by Amma…Amma has really embarked on a nation wide reconstruction program, very similar to Gandhi’s ideals…Like a plunk in the pond, the ripples are spreading out over the planet…from what I can see, as far as possible she seeks to join hands with the government…its really government work anyhow…but when the government doesn’t do, the people have to, thankfully, India is a democracy in name at least…hopefully, it will become a socialist democracy in the future…no one should confuse democracy with capitalism anyhow…

I find great similarly between the ideals put forth by Gandhi and Amma’s teachings. I have not yet found any dissimilarity, other than perhaps, whilst Gandhi was wedded to Nature Cure, Amma is open to anything that works…particularly allopathic, but this may be due to environment and circumstances, which in a newly independent India was massively westward looking in its leadership….

When one examines Indian history, it is evident that for millenniums, India has been a rural economy, based upon village life. India was an international leader in export and trade centuries ago. Historical accounts from travelers over 1000 (Yu’an Chen) years ago attest to the beauty and well planned nature of some of the cities existent then. It was before the age of machinery, so the cities were not the filthy heaps they are today. It changed quite suddenly with the British and Dutch east Indian companies, in the late 1700’s and the later British Raj, which made the huge cities of Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, that were actually depots to process raw good and resources for export. India has been sapped of everything, and worse now, She saps herself, rampantly exploiting the poor and weaker sections of society. There are no nation wide labor unions fort the poor that can guarantee a meaningfully living wage for their daily labors. The divisive nature of caste, the pressing population of the
just above starving masses…its so heart rending to see the huge disparity….there are more Mercedes Benz in Bombay than any other city on earth…. Unless it is by donation, the rich have risen on the backs, strangled necks and shrunken stomachs of the poor.
India’s real remaining strength as I see it at present, lies in the ties of love between parents, children, elders and community. These ties are inherently non-violent in nature and inclusive of the environment. They have produced a basically peaceful people. Because this love is natural, entailing cooperation, and the subjugation of individual interests for the good of the family unit, eg., personal sacrifice, one sees that non-violence is the natural state of the human race. I find that contrary to newspaper reports, generally, the Indian psyche is developed in understanding and relating to events in non-violent means and methods. It is the particular genius and gift of India to the world. Because it is inherent and natural, Indian’s themselves are unaware of its import….Genuine self respect is all that India really needs to overcome every single one of its problems….It is my prayer that She will gain it….globablization should be showing Her how desperately the real values of Love and caring and
remembrance of one’s Maker are needed all over the world…but, instead of seeing that glaring picture, Her youth are caught up in the mesmerizing and squanderous dream of material indulgence….not their fault, it’s the education they are receiving, the appetites that they are being encouraged to entertain. Its what some call progress. I differ.

Perhaps I digress. But it is nice to be able to write out one’s thoughts, we always enjoy your feedback….my heart is heavy today….we ran into our old friend Smita who got married last October. She didn’t know about Anni. We both ached together. She has a baby boy now, named Bhagat….hailing from a poor family, I had gone to her wedding while Anni and Link were at school…Anni wasn’t feeling well then…always tired….I thought it was the school….We had met her when she worked as a sales girl in a cooperative store that used to be nearby. Sincerity and truthfulness crown her brow, and we all took to her immediately. She wanted to be a brahmacharini, but could not go against the wishes of her father. She especially loved Anni.

The experience of Smita’s wedding was unique. They are very poor, so the reception which was held directly afterward had a table where those who wanted to make a gift could give some cash. I looked at the ledger that was recording names and amounts given…most of the donations from these very poor people were around 5-25 rupees…I loved the wedding. It was a very practical affair…the couple were given a starting little nest egg by their community and friends…it was unostentatious, simple and humble…
Her husband is a KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation )bus conductor, and was in his mid 30’s as compared to her early 20’s…he seemed a nice man. I can’t imagine a more tiring, irksome job…and generally the conductors are all very civil people… 12 hour shifts constantly being shaken up all day…the situation on the public buses is often untenable, especially at peak times…the horrendous jamming, packing of people almost to the point of suffocation, the lurching of the vehicle, the noise, dirt and dust…Hail to the Indian public bus conductor, who serves all with civility, despite all! Truthfully, I cannot imagine an American, or any other person from a ‘first world country’ being able to carry out that job, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, and still retain their sanity. I don’t think I myself would last more than a few hours…

When the children were younger, they used to commute together every day to Kollam for school at the Amrita Vidyalayam there. It was a 2 hour trip in and sometimes a 2.5 – 3 hour trip back. Their school uniforms would have a black soot on them from the bus ride back. Several times, Anni got vomit on her from other people who were sickened by the lurching and crowding in the vehicle. Often times they rode the whole way back to the ashram standing with one arm up, holding onto the supports…I used to think that alone was enough for any human organism to endure, never mind what the Darling had to go through later…however, if you can catch the bus at non-peak times, it can be a reasonably pleasant experience…a seat, window, air, etc. All these experiences, and the general mind set of the society at large encourage the development of deep tolerance and endurance. Tolerance and endurance are somethings that mechanically efficient societies do not inculcate much of on the personal level.

Smita had an arranged marriage. I find the institution of arranged marriage to be a wise one. My beloved advisor Dr. W. once told me that the state of ‘being in love’ had more to do with a bio- chemical imbalance…In India generally marriages are arranged by matching the astrological charts sensitively…in such cases there is great harmony evidenced in the marital relations…arranged marriages put the goal of life squarely before the couple – dharma and adherence to dharma…the greatest dharma of which is not to neglect our Soul, or spirit…If you go that route, make sure the chart is well matched….Smita and her husband are happy together…

I’ll stop now, I see Link coming over the bridge…he is finished with the first set of internal exams of the semester…its time for his coffee enema…hope you all will give those a try…we try to do them about 2 times a week, and only after the bowels have moved naturally…it makes a big, really big difference to health and outlook…

Loving you,
Kamala Aunty

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