Tag Archives: Amma

Amma reading to Medha (Image by Author)

My Mother Kept Her Promise

Like many of us, one of my biggest fears was always that of losing my mother.  Life without her was not conceivable. 

When I was a little girl, and I was exposed to the idea of death for the first time, I remember asking her, “Amma, will you die too?” 

My mother sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and with complete confidence told me, “I will be here as long as you need me.  I will go only when you tell me that you do not need me anymore,”

In my childish mind, that was all the reassurance I wanted.  I would always “need” my mother, and that meant she could not leave me.

Life went on with my relationship with my mother evolving and changing as time went by.  By the time I was 44, my mother was older and frailer, and my relationship with her was that of one between two close buddies.  It was a two-way relationship with my relying on my mother for advice about raising my kids, and seeking comfort when some worldly affair troubled me.  My mother started relying on me to discuss her innermost worries about her health and the family.  The two of us settled into a very comfortable symbiotic relationship. 

This was until January of 2013 when my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  I was now in the US teaching at a university and raising two kids under the age of 10.   The news hit me like a ton of bricks.  I applied for a sabbatical from work to make the most of the time I had left with my mother.  The year was spent shuttling between India and the US, and trying my best to stay present wherever I was.  In March 2013, I was in India for my mother’s 74th birthday.  I got a cake, invited some neighbors, and had as normal a party as possible.   My mother and I both knew but did not acknowledge the elephant in the room – that this could be my mother’s last birthday with us.  My father was not aware of the gravity of the situation, and none of us had the courage to tell him the harsh truth. 

One of my brothers and I took turns to be in India to help our parents.  When I went back in June 2013, my mother, who by now was a lot weaker, still made trips to the local market with me.  Shopping for kitchen goods was our shared passion and, in a typical Indian steel kitchenware store, we both behaved like kids in a candy store.  I could tell that my mother was pushing herself to make the most of the time she had left.  When we sat down in a coffee shop, I could no longer hold the sorrow inside. 

I blurted out to my mother – “Amma, I cannot live without you.”

My mother looked deeply into my eyes and said, “I will leave you only when you are brave enough to let me go.”

I responded “Amma, that will never happen.”   

In my vulnerable mind, if my mother had promised not to leave me until I was ready to let her go, she couldn’t leave.  She always keeps her promises. 

Amma Sadabhishekam
Amma sadabhishekam (Image provided by Author)

September 2013 –  I traveled back to India to give my brother a break from caregiving.  My mother was in the ICU.  Her condition came as a shock to me.  She could barely talk and she could not see anymore.  We did not know this then, but the cancer had found its way to her brain.  The two weeks following that were a blur.  My mother faded into a semi-coma.  Her body was still there but we could no longer communicate with her.   It killed me to see her stare into space when we called her name. 

Then, the bad news arrived.  It was confirmed that the cancer was in the brain.  Our family doctor told us that this was the end and that we should not try any more life-saving measures. The next day, when I was in the hospital, I told the resident doctor in the ICU that we had decided to sign the “Do Not Resuscitate” order.  He pulled out a form and had me read through it.  From where I sat at the doctor’s desk in the ICU, I could see my mother – eyes taped shut, and all kinds of tubes going into her to keep her alive.  The doctor explained to me that when she fails to breathe on her own, her throat would be punctured to insert a ventilator.   Those words punctured my heart.  I looked at my mother feeling fiercely protective of her and told her in my mind: “Amma, I won’t let anyone trouble you anymore.” 

Without any hesitation and without any tears in my eyes, I signed the form.  I walked over to my mother and whispered in her ear “Amma, please go.  This body is not working anymore.  Don’t worry about Appa.  I will take care of him.  Look at me, I am not crying.  I am fine.  Please go”. 

My mother hung on for a few more days, giving my other siblings the opportunity to see her before she passed away on October 9th early in the morning.  I felt numb.  But, I also felt a strange peace.  My mother was no longer suffering.  She had escaped her cancer-ridden body.  She was free. 

A few days later, I remembered my mother’s promise to me –  “I will leave you only when you are brave enough to let me go”.  I cried.  My mother had kept her promise. 

I returned to the US back to my husband and my children. 

My 9-year-old son snuggled up with me one night and asked me, “Mamma, will you die too?” 

I said to him, “I will be here as long as you need me.  I will go only when you tell me that you do not need me anymore.” 

My son heaved a sigh of relief, hugged me tight, and fell asleep.


Shailaja Venkatsubramanyan has taught information systems at San Jose State.  She volunteers with the Plant-Based Advocates of Los Gatos.  http://www.plantbasedadvocates.com/


 

Desi Upbringing Prepares You For Rejection

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST!

Are you brave enough to face rejection?

Whether it’s a job, ideas with friends or co-workers, a romantic crush, or even your pet running away from you – we face rejection ALL THE TIME! My cat, Balasubramanyam never wants to cuddle with me. 

….But there is no rejection like your “amma” saying “NO” even before you finished asking your question.

Growing up Desi, sometimes, rejection feels like the NORM.

We eventually develop this fear and refrain from speaking up, sometimes even lying or hiding things from our families. And then the whole guilt trip after…oh boy. 

Oftentimes, the Desi family structure is very different from other cultures, which oftentimes contributes to the narratives we have in our homes. 

Desi family structures depend heavily on the concept of security.

Security includes financial stability, generational wealth, familial relationships and duties, religion, and education. Desi family decisions are based on these factors more than individualistic freedom.

The benefit of this choice is that you are guaranteed money, a long term partner, a home, and kids. Oftentimes I think to myself, if it was not for my father pushing me to pursue my Ph.D. in Engineering, I may not have the money to be independent.

But there can be downsides. In 1st grade, I wanted to do a science fair project on flowers but instead, I did a project on how a water wheel is used to generate electricity. It was a rejection of my idea and push towards something that I couldn’t take ownership of. The unhappy memory stayed with me for a lifetime. Without insight into my parent’s history, our relationship was strained by such experiences.

Things my parents did or said, just did not make sense.

Why couldn’t I have a sleepover like the other American kids?  Why couldn’t I date? Or have a boyfriend in high school? Or get permission to go to sex-ed class?

And now, 20 years later, I think I know why. Because it was the UNKNOWN.

Our parents did not grow up with that level of freedom and are, now, acting out of fear. That which is risky should be left alone. 

With the Desi upbringing, you get security at the expense of freedom, perhaps happiness. And straying away from that, you get freedom at the expense of uncertainty. But somewhere in the mix, I think there is a sweet spot, where you can have the best of both worlds. You can have security, happiness, and freedom. That all starts with effective communication

For parents, I think the key is to listen and then respond. Not react, but respond.

For the kids, let your parents know what you are feeling, but also be open to listening to what they have to say, cause it is most likely true. My mom always says, “I have been the age you are, so I DO know what it feels like.” Day by day, I’m starting to realize how true the statement – hindsight is always 20/20 – can be. 

So take a minute and appreciate your parents, for all the protective measures they took out of Love. By being engaged, possibly controlling, parents in our lives, they found a way to ensure that many of us were staying away from things that could be potentially problematic. I am grateful for my Desi upbringing and I am, also, proud of the choices I have made for myself. I still make mistakes and disagree with my parents, but I do not fear rejection anymore. 


Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.

Amma: 39 Million Hugs & Counting

Through her extraordinary acts of love and self-sacrifice, Mata Amritanandamayi, or Amma as she is more commonly known, has endeared herself to millions around the world.

Tenderly embracing everyone who comes to her, holding them in her loving embrace, Amma shares her boundless love with allregardless of their beliefs, their status or why they have come to her. Amma does not ask anyone to believe in God or to change their faith, but only to inquire into their own real nature and to believe in themselves.

In this simple yet powerful way, Amma is transforming the lives of countless people, helping their hearts to blossom, one embrace at a time. During the past 45 years, Amma has physically hugged an estimated 39 million people from all parts of the world.

Now, Amma is coming once again to North America. Amma will be here for an 11-city tour from June 6 July 18, and will visit Seattle, San Ramon, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago and Toronto for a series of free public programs and retreats. Thousands will turn out to listen to Ammas inspiring talks and to receive one of her profoundly touching motherly hugs.

COMPASSION IN ACTION

Ammas tireless spirit of dedication to uplifting others has culminated in a vast network of charitable projects in 40 countries around the world, under the global banner of Embracing the World. For this work Amma has been honored with a number of international awards, including the prestigious Gandhi-King Award for Non-Violence (2002), the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award (2006) and an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York (2010). In 2014, Amma joined Pope Francis and 10 other global spiritual leaders from a range of faiths to sign the Declaration of Religious Leaders against Modern Slavery.

A LIFE-CHANGING EMBRACE

If you attend one of Ammas free programs, one of the first things you will notice is that people come to Amma from all religions and all walks of life. Some have been walking the spiritual path for decades; others have never picked up a spiritual book in their lives.

Some come because they are suffering mentally, physically or materially and they hope Amma can help them. Some are simply curious. Regardless of why they have come, in Ammas arms many describe experiencing a feeling of radiant and unconditional love. Some are moved to tears and feel a cleansing of old wounds; others experience profound peace and even joy. Regardless of peoples different backgrounds or cultures, the experiences of the heart show us how similar we all arehow we are all searching for true love and compassion.

When supermodel, Gisele received Ammas darshan, she posted, What an honor to meet Amma, one of the most inspiring women in the world. Amma, thank you for all the love and compassion you share.

Inspired by Ammas dedication and tireless service, volunteers throughout North America serve more than 150,000 meals to the homeless and hungry each year. In the California Bay Area alone, Amma’s Pantry project has donated more than 20,000 lbs. of food staples to local food pantries. Throughout the United States, volunteers organize community clean-up drives, tree planting and conservation initiatives, and donation drives of clothes and toys for the homeless. Volunteers also write letters to those in need of reassurance, as well as to the incarcerated.  

All are invited to experience Ammas unconditional love in the form of an embrace. To watch a movie about Amma and her charities, visit: embracingtheworld.org/news-etw-movie/

Locations & Program Dates:  

Seattle:  June 6 & 7, Hyatt Regency Bellevue, 900 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue, WA  98004

Bay Area:  June 9-14 – MA Center, 10200 Crow Canyon Road, Castro Valley, CA  94552

Los Angeles:  June 16-18 – Hilton Los Angeles Airport, 5711 West Century Blvd, LA, CA  90045

Please plan to arrive at least 90 minutes before the program to receive a free token if you would like to have Ammas embrace. Tokens are limited by time constraints.

For information, please visit www.amma.org, call 510-537-9417

This article was provided to India Currents by the MA Center

Can “I Love You” be used within an Indian family?

Rain lashed on the windshield as my mother navigated our white Fiat car through the flooded streets of Chennai, the erstwhile Madras. I sat in the front seat craning my neck trying to watch out for any danger as she drove back home late in the night. Her simple courage in driving through flooded streets alone in the night was something I took for granted then. That’s who she was and is to this day. We’d just watched the famed actress Jalabala Vaidya perform at the Museum theater – a one-woman show on the Ramayana. A versatile actress, she sat in one place, and changed voices and characters as she brought the epic to life. I was probably ten or eleven years old at the time. Some of what was said on stage went over my head. And yet, I was there in that darkened theater with my mother because she knew that I would soak in everything I could from that theatrical and artistic experience.

Somehow, even though words come easily to me, I don’t feel like writing a long essay about my mother. My best memories of her were and are made as we sit side by side in an auditorium. We turn to each other with upturned eyebrows and a sigh when we both don’t like what we see, smile in appreciation at other times, and sit in a companionable silence that has bound us together for years. The discussions we have while coming back home and over dinner have always energized me in unexpected ways.

As a child, I loved to read books. She told me often, “When we read a book, we get to stand on the author’s shoulders and look out at the world.” That was an image that stuck with me and one I used often with my children when they were little. When she gave me books to read, took me to innumerable plays, dance performances and talks, that’s what she did for me. She helped hoist me up on the shoulders of artists, thinkers and creative minds so I could see far and wide.

Many years ago, when I first moved to the United States, I wrote a letter in which I said – I love you, Amma. On our next call, she admonished me saying – “What is this? An American way of saying that you love me?” I guess she’s right. To tell her that I love her would truly reveal how words can fail.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Amma and yours!

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing Editor of India Currents.