Amma is a role model for the world

9 April 2005 — Trissur Ashram

Tomorrow Amma will install and consecrate the murti for Her 18th Brahmasthanam Temple. But tonight She handed house keys over to 10 of the Trissur District’s poor. The keys are representative of 100 houses the Ashram is constructing here as part of its Amrita Kuteeram project to build 100,000 free houses for the poor across the country. For Amma building houses for the poor and building temples for God are equally sacred. As Sri. Therambil Ramakrishnan, the honourable speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Kerala put it, “Amma has proved that manava seva is Madhava seva-“serving mankind is serving God.'”

Sri. Ramakrishnan, who handed over the keys blessed by Amma to the poor, was speaking as part of the Trissur Brahmasthanam Festival’s inauguration. In his speech, he said that Amma is the spiritual ambassador of the eternal culture of Bharat. “Amma is a living legend of motherly love,” he said. “Amma’s humanitarian activities are a model for the world to follow. In reaching out to the tsunami victims—helping them and consoling them—in an area where the government has failed, Amma has been successful. What no government has been able to do, Amma is doing.”

“In this dark world someone has lit a candle,” Sri. Ramakrishnan concluded, “Instead of complaining about the darkness, follow the light.”


Houses are ready in Ernakulam

6 April 2005

Concreating, plastering, wiring & painting of 18 homes are almost finished. Construction of the rest of the 32 houses are underway in Edavanakkad, Ernakulam District, Kerala

Construction materials for 150 homes is being transported to Arattupuzha, Alappuzha District, Kerala.

Materials for construction in Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala are being procured. Received the plan on evening of 5th April for constructing houses in Alappad Panchayat. This is the fifth time the Govt. has changed the plan of constuction.

Ashram distributed 4,500 kg of uncooked rice in Arattupuzha on 3 March and 25,000 kg on 12 March.

Ashram has sponsored 31 more traditional Indian weddings in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu and the weddings of six couples in Alappad Panchayat, Kerala.

Ashram has repaired 30 boat engines and 100 boats for fishermen in Karaikal, Pondichery.

Ashram is building fiber glass boats for the Alappad villagers

Ashram is conducting regular games and other forms of entertainment for residents of its temporary shelters in Samanthampettai, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

Swimming lessons are being provided for village children in the Ashram swimming pool to help them overcome their fear of water. One day, Amma Herself even came to help teach the children.

Ashram is also providing dancing, harmonium and table lessons for the village children of Alappad.

Healing through song: Music therapy for Tsunami survivors

2 April 2005 — Srayikkad Tsunami Relief Camp, Alappad Panchayat, Kollam District, Kerala

On April 2nd a small group of Amma’s devotees from the West and counselors visited the Ashram tsunami-refugee camp in Srayikkad. Dr. Sharada Sreedevi, a clinical psychologist and stress-management expert, led the group. Dr. Sharada’s group, which is organized by AIMS Hospital, has been meeting the tsunami-affected as part of a team of counselors organized by AIMS Hospital since the disaster struck. By now, everyone at the camp knows her well.

In one of the rooms where the therapists talked with the villagers, there was a picture of two children on the wall. When asked about it, one of the women said that they were her grandchildren, but that they had drowned in the tsunami. She then stared down at the ground. Another woman asked us to photograph her only remaining picture of her daughter, an 8×10 colour photo in a blue frame. She is lucky to have a photo—as many of the survivors not only lost their children in the tsunami, but also their photographs as well.

Another woman spoke about her 13 and 16-year-old children who had died in the tsunami, saying how they had been like her friends. She is known as a good cook, she said, but now she has no one to cook for.

The stories went on, a number of children and adults gathered in a temporary classroom and began talking to Dr. Sharada and her assistant Kala. They were very worried, due to the government-ordered evacuation [a false tsunami alarm] that had taken place four days earlier. With the evacuation, all their fears, sorrow and terrifying memories had resurfaced, and they were feeling very insecure.

Dr. Sharada began discussing their fears and drew the Japanese photographer Kevala into the discussion. She asked her about the meaning of the Japanese word “tsunami” and if she herself had been afraid when the tsunami rolled in. Kevala admitted that the tsunami was frightening. Sharada asked her how she was able to save herself from the wave, and Kevala said that she escaped by leaving when warned and running to a safe place.

Dr. Sharada quelled their fears by telling them that before they didn’t understand what a tsunami was, but that now they know how to save themselves. For example, many people died because when the sea receded, they went out to investigate. Now they know that if the sea is behaving strangely, they should leave at once.

Then they began to sing some of the songs that Dr. Sharada had composed for them, using their own words and images. Here is the translation of one song they sang:

Mom, my dear mom, can you tell me what a tsunami is?
It is the sweeping waves that reach us.
It is the waves hitting violently on the shore.
“Tsu” means harbour, and “nami” means waves.
The dangerous, untiring dancer, the waves,
The powerful waves that swallow us.
The powerful waves that destroy our houses.
The waves, high as the sky, that swallow all of our place.
The fearful waves, the waves that destroy our mental peace.
O my dear children, we moms cannot explain more than this.
So let us embrace each other and comfortably go to sleep.
The children stop asking and go to sleep.

As the adults and children sang, they visibly relaxed and began to smile and clap to the rhythm of the songs. The songs clearly had a powerful effect on them.

Dr. Sharada says that music can be a pathway to negotiate anger and aggression, to alleviate sadness and fear and to arouse, awaken and activate victims who are paralysed by depression and fear. Using simple tunes and the images expressed by the villagers themselves, the songs are both poetic and powerful. One song was composed for a grieving father from a dream he had after his 12-year-old daughter’s death:

Dad, why are you just lying there numb?
Listen to me. I am not dead.
I am alive in your heart.
Dad, many children are dead,
But many children are still living.
Dad, get up! Care for the living children.
Dad, get up! Care for the living children.

Songs were created expressing all the different situations and feelings of the refugees. At first the victims were incapable of singing. They couldn’t express their feelings. They were silenced by the profound and overwhelming nature of their tsunami experience. The therapists began singing to them, one line at a time, and slowly they joined in. Now they are eager to sing and compose new songs.

This singing therapy is a very simple technique, but very powerful and healing. Since time immemorial humans have used music to express their deepest feelings. In the past, village life revolved around communal songs and dances. With the advent of mass media, this has largely been lost. Here, on the tsunami-ravaged seashore, the survivors are reclaiming this ancient way of communicating and healing as a community.