Below is a letter from Laksmi, an ex-resident of Amma’s orphanage in Paripally, Kerala.
My name is Lakshmi. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is my mother; “mother” means: the one who made me what I am today.
I heard that one lady has recently written some very bad things about my mother. One of her allegations, I am told, is that Amma is closer to rich people. But the story of my life disproves this.
“One of [Gail’s] allegations against, I am told, is that Amma is closer to rich people. But the story of my life disproves this.”
I do not know anything about my birth, or my birthplace, or of my house. I do not even know the name of my father. My biological mother was Leena. The story she told me was this:
My father and mother were in love. After marriage, father started showing his true colours. He began drinking, and soon it was a daily occurrence for him to come home drunk and abuse my mother. When I was around three and a half, I was put in a nursery. One day my father came there drunk and beat up my teacher. After that, I didn’t go to school.
I had three younger siblings: Girija, Kumar and Vijayakumar. The brothers left home early due to poverty and abuse. My mother and my sister and I were only able to survive by begging. When we couldn’t go out to beg and when we received no alms, we went hungry. We lived in tattered clothes.
“Those who criticize Amma should remember at least one thing: How many such lives like mine have been saved by coming under the loving and kind protection of Amma. If, when the midday sun is brightly burning, one closes his own eyes in an attempt to make the world dark, only he will remain in darkness, no one else.”
We had a small hut to lie down in and sleep. One day when father came home drunk, he set fire to the house. After that, we started sleeping on the verandas of shops. Unable to carry the burden of extreme poverty, mother took my sister into the sea and drowned her. When she came to grab me, I ran away.
We started begging on trains. One day, when we were somewhere in Tamil Nadu, as a train was approaching, my mother grabbed me and tried to put our heads down on the track. Out of intense fear, I managed to wriggle away, but my mother died there.
After that, someone took me by the hand and took me to his house. I was not even five then. He was in need of a servant, but soon he realized that my undernourished body was too frail to serve him. After that, he no longer gave me food. He started beating me. Then he decided to return me to the same place where he found me. A neighbour came to know about this, took me and put me in Amma’s orphanage in Parippally.
That is how the relationship between Amma and me started. Back then, there were maybe 100 children living there. Many of them had some semblance of a home, and once a year, when the Onam holidays came around, they went there. When I saw them preparing to go, I became sad: I have no home, no mother, no one. Then, one swami told me that he would take me to a mother who is full of love.
“When Amma came to know that I could not read or write, she herself started teaching me. She started with the alphabet. While darshan was going on, she would make me sit by her side and write on a slate the Malayalam letters. Thus, I learned to write and read in her presence.”
Along with the elder sisters of the orphanage, for the first time, I reached Amritapuri Ashram in a bus. From then on Amma herself always made sure that I had everything I needed. When Amma came to know that I could not read or write, she herself started teaching me. She started with the alphabet. While darshan was going on, she would make me sit by her side and write on a slate the Malayalam letters. Thus, I learned to write and read in her presence.
When Amma’s South Indian Tour came around, I asked Amma if I could also go with her. She said she would take me with her only if I wrote what she taught me and showed it to her. I studied hard and met Amma’s condition. Thus, for the first time, I travelled with Amma to Madurai. Regardless of how busy she was, Amma used to call me to her room.
When I was about 20, Amma asked me whether I wanted an ashram life or a married life. I replied that I wanted to get married. Without much delay, Amma herself found a husband for me. She herself performed my wedding, giving me everything that is required for a bride.
Today, we have two sons. Due to Amma’s kindness, our life is very happy. When I go to the Ashram now, Amma receives us happily, welcoming us just like any mother would welcome home a married daughter.
Those who criticize Amma should remember at least one thing: How many such lives like mine have been saved by coming under the loving and kind protection of Amma. If, when the midday sun is brightly burning, one closes his own eyes in an attempt to make the world dark, only he will remain in darkness, no one else.
Lakshmi A., Ernakulam