21 Sunday, September 2014
This Sunday in Amritapuri, Amma married Radhika and Rateesh, a young couple who came to Amma’s ashram as troubled youth. Here are their stories:
My name is Radhika. Today, the 24th of September, I married Rateesh, who works in Dubai. For both of us, life was a long tragic story before we came to Amma.
My home was in Pathanamthitta. But for me and my younger sister, Revathi, Mata Amritanandamayi Math is our home now. How did the Ashram become our home? Behind it there is a story soaked in tears.
Beyond Konni in the Pathanamthitta District there is a small beautiful village called Thekkuthodu, blessed with a river, rivulets, hills and rubber plantations…. Our house was not much more than a thatched hut. Six of us lived there, including my younger sister and grandparents. My father worked for daily wages tapping rubber trees.
As far back as I can remember, we were always half-starving. Furthermore, my father, being an alcoholic, used to beat my mother. For some reason he was always suspicious of her. Rare were the occasions when I saw her without tears in her eyes.
My mother said that until she came to the house, it was all but empty because my father would always waste all the money he earned on alcohol and other non-essential things. I cannot describe how much my mother had to struggle just to make sure our essential daily needs were fulfilled. The beatings my mother would get for this were unimaginable.
I don’t have one memory of my father ever buying anything for me. In all those years, I don’t think we even had one moment of happiness. I used to often wonder why we were born. I was not so bad in school. So, somehow I reached up to ninth standard. But it was then that my father developed severe mental problems. He thought he was being haunted by ghosts. Soon he fell slave to drugs. And with that, our family plummeted into total destruction.
Every day my father used to sharpen a butcher knife and keep it ready to kill my mother. Not one night did we sleep without fear. My sister and I used to shiver in fright if we ever even saw our father’s shadow. Each day we would pray, “May night never come.” Then, at night, we would cuddle close to our mother. We literally lived in the shadow of death.
One day, in the month of December, while writing my exams, I was asked to see the teacher as soon as I finished it. When I went to the teacher, she said, “Daughter, you must go home soon. Your mother had an accident. Don’t worry; it’s not serious. She was cutting firewood and hit her foot with the axe—that’s all. But you should go home at once.” For some reason, I didn’t doubt her.
From a distance, I noticed a crowd gathered in front of my house. Seeing me approaching, some of my neighbours came and held me tight and took me away to a relative’s house. Then I knew something serious had happened. When I enquired about mother, they said she was in the hospital and that my father was with her.
In the meantime, I saw vehicles coming and going to my house. Each time a vehicle came, I would look for my mother. Eventually a police Jeep came. One or two policemen went inside the house. A few moments later, I saw them coming out holding a knife with a towel. It was the same knife my father used to sharpen every day. It was like a thunderbolt. Suddenly I knew what had happened. Soon my father was apprehended and taken to the police station.
My mother’s dead body was brought home some time during the night. It was covered with a sheet. I drew back the sheet and saw my mother’s face covered in stitches, totally unrecognizable. I don’t know what happened after that. When I regained consciousness, some people were sitting around, fanning me. Relatives were all blabbering something.
I remember that I was woken by the sound of my sister crying. Then all emotions drained out of me and my mind went into a stone-like stillness. I was becoming just a witness to everything. Were there tears in my eyes? I don’t know. But part of me was happy that my mother had escaped from the hell that was our family life.
After that, my sister and I never returned home again. We stayed with my paternal uncle. The lives of all of our relatives were also more or less of the same order as ours—drinking, beatings and starving… After two or three days, three members of N.S.S. Karayogam’ [a social-service group] came. Many of our neighbours and some close relatives had also arrived. When I saw them all together, I knew something important was going to happen.
They were discussing our future. We were just two girls. No one was prepared to take responsibility for our lives. The final decision was to send us to an orphanage. “We are orphans now.” It was more than I could bear. Everything I knew about orphanages I had learned from movies and magazines. When I visualized my little sister and I walking through the big gate into an orphanage, I—who until then was emotionally withdrawn—broke down, clutching tightly to my aunt. No one said a word.
I read somewhere that if God gives us a big sorrow today, it is actually meant to prepare us for happiness tomorrow. My life proved to me that this is true. I did not know then that, from the hands of a beggar, I was going to fall into the lap of the empress of love and compassion.
The Karayogam members came again and explained to us about “Amma” and her charitable institutions. We had never heard of her before. So, when one of the elders said that we were going there the next day, I nodded with tearful eyes. The next day we reached Amritapuri.
Anxious and weary, we reached the Ashram. Amma was giving darshan. I looked at her with awe and wonder. For some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes from her face. Like dark clouds being dissipated by a cool wind, the darkness in my heart faded away.
The Karayogam members told Amma all about us. They showed her the newspaper article about our mother’s murder as well. The entire time Amma was listening to them, she was looking at Revathi and me. After hearing everything Amma nodded her head, appearing to accept us.
Amma said that she would enroll us in the orphanage and school in Parippally, and that she wanted us to study as much as possible. Thereafter Amma embraced both of us. She held us tightly and showered us with kisses. We had not had experienced such love before, even from our birth-mother. The bliss and peace we experienced were beyond words. Amma said, “Don’t be sad, children. Amma is there for you. Amma will help you study as much as you want.”
For some reason when Amma said this, the conviction “this is your real mother” entered me. And all my experiences thereafter have only made this conviction stronger.
Thus, we joined the Parippally School. Though hostel life was new to us, it really felt like one big happy family. Soon we got accustomed to the new situation. There were many different kinds of kids, including tribal children, studying and living there. Quite a number of kids had come from conditions even worse than ours.
Since there was so much mutual affection, like in a real family, none of us could even think that we had come from somewhere outside. Everything was done jointly, including eating and cleaning the rooms with the chechis [elder sisters] from Amma’s ashram who looked after the hostel. For this reason no one felt sad having separated from their family. Happy days passed quickly with playing, laughing and studying.
As the court case against our father was proceeding, we had to go to the courthouse to give statements as witnesses. We were seeing our father for the first time since our mother’s death. For a while that day I became the same old Radhika. When I saw my father, hidden memories of my mother surfaced. In the grip of disgust and grief, I couldn’t even look at his face.
When we visited the Ashram, I told Amma about this incident. Holding me tightly to her, Amma said, “What’s there to bother, my child? Don’t you have Amma now?” That buoyancy of love and motherly affection! How can I explain it? Once again all those haunting memories left me.
For the first time in our life, we saw a cultural program while studying in the Parippally School. Amma had us learn many traditional art forms, including Kootiyattam [a traditional Sanskrit drama style of Kerala]. We got many awards for these at district- and even state-level competitions.
I was not poor in studies either. I got the highest marks amongst all the hostel students. When I got a prize for that, I showed Amma. Amma was happy and excited and told everyone around her about me. Amma’s grace was flowing to me. In early days I doubted whether I would be able to complete even 10th standard, but went on to complete +2 as well. Thereafter, Amma asked me to get my BBM [Bachelor’s of Business & Management] degree.
Thus, I got my BBM degree from Amrita University. After I graduated, Amma recommended that I work for a few years and then go on to get my MBA. She then offered me a job at Amrita University. She said that, this way, I would have more experience and benefit more from my MBA once I got it. During Amma’s 60th birthday celebrations, Amma adopted 101 villages all over India for their sustainable development. New projects have been initiated as part of this initiative, and my job is serving in one of them.
Two months into the job, a woman who lives in Amma’s ashram, Radhamani Amma, asked me if I would marry her son. I replied, “If Amma agrees, I will also agree.” I then told Amma about this. She said, “You two meet and talk. Thereafter, if both of you are interested, I shall perform your wedding.” I felt very happy because Radhamani Amma and her sons were also living under the care of Amma. And I also knew that Radhamani Amma knew all about my family background but wanted me to marry her son nonetheless.
When I heard about the family background of Radhamani Amma and Rateesh, I felt a lot of compassion. Wasn’t my background even worse? I know the pain of a broken family life. Rateesh also felt a lot of compassion for me when he heard my story as well. In fact, it’s the compassion in us that brought our hearts together.
Amma, in fact, originally wanted me to get married only after I completed my MBA. But considering our love for each other and how Rateesh has promised to help me attain my MBA, Amma gave us her blessings.
We are hoping our family life will be much happier than the ones in which we were raised. For that, we pray for everyone’s blessings.
My name is Rateesh. I was born in a place called Korithotta in Mundakkayam in Kottayam District. My father, Thankacchan, was a tailor. I cannot remember even a single day when my father was not abusing my mother. He used to beat her even for trivial things.
My mother said that his abuse started from the second day of their marriage. Apparently my father was not at all interested in marrying my mother but had only succumbed to pressure from relatives. Whenever my father would enter the house, my elder brother and I would begin shuddering in fright. If he didn’t beat my mother, he would beat my brother and I. When I would visit my friends’ homes and see how happy they were, it was actually confusing for me.
He would often beat my mother so badly that she would have to be taken to the hospital. In this way, she eventually became permanently ill. Then, at one point, my father started threatening her with a knife. Because of our father’s constant abuse, we didn’t ever want to go home and our marks at school suffered.
One day when I returned from school, my mother was not home. I thought she might have gone on one of the small errands she did to earn money, but what really had happened was that my father had come at her with a knife. She had escaped, but in her panicked flight had tripped and fallen into a pit. She hid down in that pit for the rest of the day, listening to my father shout and rant and curse as he searched for her above.
When she got out, she went straight to Amritapuri, near Vallikkavu. She had read books about “Vallikkavil Amma,” so, she was she went to the ashram with full faith that Amma would help her. My mother sent word to my brother and I about her whereabouts through a close friend.
My father’s next target was my brother. He started constantly harassing him. Thus, following mother, he also moved to Amma’s ashram. Meanwhile, living with my father without my mother and brother, my performance at school really suffered. So, finally, I also took refuge at Amma’s holy feet as well.
Amma tried her best to educate me, but I was not interested. Through a devotee Amma managed to get me a job in a Margin-Free Market. I learned driving and got my licence. After a while, I was offered a job in Amma’s hospital in Kochi, but I did not remain there long. Despite wanting to enjoy worldly life, I was not interested in working. In short, I wanted to enjoy life without taking up any responsibility.
But Amma didn’t want me to waste my life like that. One of Amma’s devotees is the owner of a big company in Dubai. Amma sent me to him. Now for six years I have been working in Dubai. A few years ago, thinking about marriage, I bought a piece of land near the Ashram and intend to build a home there. Knowing my desire, my mother, Radhamani Amma, informed me that she had found a girl for me named Radhika. When I heard her life story, I was overcome with compassion and love for her. In fact, it is her tragic tale that moved my heart close to hers. We became close friends. Thus, we requested Amma to conduct our marriage. When I heard that Radhika wanted to do her MBA, I promised Amma that I would help her to do so.
For a happy family life, we seek and pray for the blessings of our Jagadguru Amma and all Amma’s children in the Ashram and elsewhere.