Amma is a storehouse of little stories. She conveys deepest spiritual teachings through little stories. During her satsangs, Amma occasionally shares a few personal anecdotes too from her life which will have some great teachings of values and also some fun elements too!
1. Amma Rows a boat
(Note: The exact period in which this incident took place is not known. Perhaps it might have happened when Amma was in her late teens or early twenties).
Amma went to Vallikkavu once to buy some provisions and was returning by noon. Those days, there was no bridge across the backwaters that seperated Vallikkavu from Amma’s village Parayakadavu. People have to cross the waters only through the rowing boat. The boats belonged to Government and the boatman was missing. Perhaps he had gone home for his lunch.
When Amma reached the jetty, several people were waiting for the boat there. A woman was seen crying. Amma asked her the reason. The poor woman said, “I have left my children there at Parayakadavu and came here this morning. There is nothing to eat at home and the children are starving since morning. I came here to borrow some money from my relatives and bought some provisions. I have to go back and cook. Only then the children would get something to eat. I have been waiting here for the past one hour and the boatman is nowhere in sight…”
Amma felt very disturbed. Her heart swelled with compassion. Acquiring an extraordinary bravery, she said, “Come on! All of you come and sit in the boat; I will row the boat across the back waters!” Everyone rushed in. Amma took up the long stick meant to row the boat and felt for the first time how heavy it was! It was about 20 feet taller than her! In her own self styled way, she started rowing the boat by plunging the long staff into the soil under water. The boat gradually started moving slowly towards the other bank.
As they progressed, one or two large fishing boats came in the middle of the backwaters; those riding in the boats shouted at Amma warning her to stop so that she does not accidentally bang at their boats! Somehow Amma managed to manovre her boat by hook or crook to avoid any collision and gradually getting closer to the other bank!
One or two who happened to notice the happenings from the two banks started shouting excitedly and soon many people had gathered at the banks to watch the maverick little woman rowing a boat with lots of people successfully across the backwaters. Once Amma reached the bank at Parayakadavu side, there was a huge clap from the onlookers! It looked as if they were excitedly watching a cricket match!
When Amma got down, there was another kind of ‘reception’ waiting for her! Yes, it was Damayanthi Amma, Amma’s mother who too had rushed to the bank hearing that her ever unruly daughter was rowing a boat; she was angry with rage and was waiting with a stick on her hand to beat Amma! Once Amma got down, Damayanti Amma started beating her, shouting, “Edee, how unbecoming of you to row a Government boat like this? You don’t have any experience in rowing such a boat and what a calamity it would have been for all these people, if you had sunk the boat midway? How disastrous it would have been, had you hit a fishing trawler? You are a hopeless rogue of a girl…” After receiving a few beats, Amma writhed herself free from Damayanthi Amma’s grip and fled from the scene!
2. Not one extra leaf
Amma’s mother Damayanthi Amma was a strict disciplinarian. She had the highest respect for nature and was very particular to preserve nature and consuming only that much as minimum needed from the nature.
In those days, some poor people who go for Sabarimala Yatra by foot and pass through Parayakadavu in their journey were offered food by Damayanti Amma. Despite poverty and shortage at home, she had the magnanimous heart to share their kanji (gruel) and curry with them. When one such visitor came, Damayanti Amma offered him a bowl of Kanji.
It was the practice those days to use a leaf of a jackfruit tree, by judiciously folding like a spoon to consume kanji. Damayanthi amma called Amma to get her a leaf of jackfruit tree immediately to give to the visitor. Amma went to the jackfruit tree near her house and there she noticed a broken branch of the tree containing some 60 leaves on the ground. She immediately brought the branch containing the leaves to her mother.
Seeing it, Damayanthi amma became furious. “Edee, what I wanted is just a leaf and you have done an atrocious act of breaking a branch of the tree containing so many leaves! How insensitive and careless you are!” shouting so, Damayanthi amma started beating Amma! Amma had to somehow manovre herself to get freed from her mother and explain that she had brought only what had already broken and fallen.
Similarly, Damayanthi amma would always give strict instructions to her children that they should not urinate of spit in a river as rivers are forms of Devi. Even though backwaters are not really rivers, the same respect was to be extended them. Whenever Amma, as a little girl, used to get into backwaters, the chill of the water would trigger in her a tendency to urinate; but she would immediately remember Damayanthi amma’s words and instantly, as if a switch is pressed off, Amma would control herself.
Damayanti Amma was dead against doing any wastage, however insignificant it may look. When Amma used to sweep the courtyard with a broom (broom made of coconut leaf-sticks) even if a single stick falls from it and found discarded, Dhamayanthi amma would scold her. She used to say, “If you lose a stick a day, then in about 100 days, the whole broom will disappear. Never be careless like this. You must see the whole broom in every stick”.
3. Atithi Devo bhava (Guest are Gods)
During Amma’s childhood, her mother Damayanthi amma was extremely adept in welcoming and feeding guests. Whenever she cooked, she made sure that some extra amount of food was always cooked so that if any visitor came to the house at odd hours, food was always there to feed them.
Even when the meal time came, Damayanthi amma would tend to delay it a bit so as to wait for any possible guest landing unexpectedly at that time. Even when food was just enough for feeding the children, if some guest happened to drop by, Damayanthi amma would ensure to feed the guest to his full. If no rice is left after feeding the guest, she would mix scraped coconut with boiled rice water and feed her children.
Poverty was a common problem in Amma’s neighborhood where most were fishermen families; feeding of children in a day would be possible only when the fishermen return from seas with their catch of fish. Sometimes, their arrival would get considerably delayed and the family members would not have eaten anything since morning till late noon. Especially during rainy seasons, as fishermen could not venture into seas, there were families which found difficult even to have a single meal a day.
Damayanthi Amma, before serving meals to her family members, would send someone to the neighboring houses to inquire whether anyone is going hungry there. If so, she would immediately send a few vessels filled with food to them and then only serve food to her own family members.
(Amma’s Tuesday satsang 21/7/20)
4. Amma shares her food
During Amma’s childhood, she was attending an elementary school nearby. (She studied upto 4th standard and then discontinued due to family problems). Most of the children who studied there were from fishermen’s families. Most of them lived a life of hand to mouth existence. These families lived each day by the income they got from that day’s catch of fish.
If a class contained 50 students, at least 10 to 15 children in the class will not have anything to eat during noon meal time. Many children would bring their noon meals in a tiffin box and eat at lunch time. Some children, who lived close by, would run to their homes to eat their lunch. While those children who brought food took their lunch, those who had nothing to eat would while away time in the corridor or in the grounds.
Noticing this, young Sudhamani (Amma) felt sad. She used to take her lunch box. She took a portion of her food and shared it with another girl who did not have anything to eat. Noticing this, other children who had brought food too kept aside a portion of their lunch and started sharing it with other children. That way, all the children in the class had their lunch that day.
When this news spread, those children who went home to eat their lunch started bringing some food with them on their return to share with other hungry children.
This way, in the whole school, no children had to go without food during lunch time.
(From Amritam Gamaya – Malayalam – Part 2)