Children of Parippally: Who says they are orphans?

10 December 2017, Amritapuri

Late last year, just one day after Amma had returned from her annual European tour, a group of very special visitors came to Amritapuri to see Amma. They were all alumni of the *Amrita Niketan orphanage and Higher Secondary Sanskrit School at Paripally. Though they may have lived in the orphanage and attended the school at different times over the last 30 years, they keep in touch with each other and support each other, having formed a network that they say is like a giant extended family.

On this day, they had come to share with Amma where they were at in their lives, what they had learned from Amma and from the brahmacharis and brahmacharinis who cared for them at the orphanage, and above all to thank Amma and the ashram residents for all that they had received.

On the day they came to the ashram, Amma was giving darshan just for the ashram residents, as she had just returned from her 2017 European Tour. All the same, the Paripally alumni were invited inside the temple as members of the ashram family. Hearing their stories, Amma found it so touching that she invited them to speak on the mic. Then too, their messages of gratitude were not only to Amma but to her ashram children that had cared for them with so much love and attention, and Amma wanted the residents to hear the changes their love had wrought.

One by one, the alumni spoke. Many of them were fighting back tears, so moved were they to have this chance to express their feelings about their life with Amma and at the Paripally orphanage and school. What follows is an outflow of their heart.

Suresh: “Most of the children came from the Attapadi (tribal area in Kerala), where they had no means even to eat a full meal. Amma brought us all here, educated us till high school and even supported us after school if we wanted to study further. It was a great blessing that Amma undertook this school. It changed our lives or rather gave us a life itself. Amma’s brahmacharinis and brahmacharis have put in a lot of effort in our upbringing. Many times, in the early days, they went to bed hungry because there was not enough food, but they always saw that we were well fed. They washed our clothes and took care of our cleanliness and health. They taught us values, Dharma and disciplined us. Even today, many of us try and follow the same discipline. They worked day and night for us and that is the reason today we are all successful and happy in life. I bow down to their love, dedication and renunciation.

Even today, when I leave my workplace I see to it that I switch off the AC, lights, etc. The people working with me ask me, ‘Why do you bother to do all that?’ But may it be a glass of water or electricity, we have been taught since childhood in the ashram that nothing should be wasted.”

Suresh owns 2 companies in the Gulf and now has recruited a few Paripally alumni, giving them jobs in his companies.

Rekha: “I am very happy to say I was in Paripally school for 6 years. Today, I work at Air India in Kochi. Yesterday the whole day we were with the children in Paripally and all my old friends were saying you are so lucky. You get to see Amma each time she leaves and when she comes. And it’s true – even now I make it a point to be there in the airport, even if I’m not on duty at the time, to see Amma, to talk to her and to tell her about all of her Paripally children.”

Harish, Palakkad: “At a very young age, my parents passed away and I didn’t know what to do about my education. That is when I heard about Amma and this institution. Somehow, someone brought me here and I joined the Paripally school. In my life, loneliness was a permanent companion till I came to Paripally. But from that day until even today, if I need something, the alumni have helped me in many ways and above all Amma has always guided me. I have been living here for the last 13 years. Right from grade six, all the way to my engineering degree, Amma financed everything for me. I had the desire to join one of Amma’s seva activities after studies. Fortunately, I got a job in the Amrita Create lab. My job here is to educate the children in the village. I see this as a great fortune to be able to educate them, to be able to pass on to the underprivileged that which I got from Amma when I was in the same situation.”

Tintu: “I live in Palakkad, where I am a health worker. My husband Rakesh is also an ex-student from Amma’s Paripally school. People at work praise the way I talk and behave and like my work too. I tell them it is all the discipline and love that I was taught in Amma’s Paripally school. I impart the same teachings to my children also.”

Nanjan: “I did my schooling in Paripally and then my engineering in Amma’s college.  I am now working as an assistant engineer in the Kerala State Electricity Department. Amma is more than a mother and a father for me because she has done much more for me than parents do for their kids. Also, I am filled with happiness knowing that Amma has mentioned me on many occasions.”

Amma responded directly to Nanjan’s sharing, saying, “It was my dream to see him as an engineer and; thus we financed his studies. He took 9 years to complete it, but after that became very educated. He got married and now has a child. At work, he has many people working under him… Many children come to Amma when they fail their exams. Amma gives them the example of Nanjan, saying, ‘If he could do it, why can’t you?’  At one point, Nanjan had 36 papers to write. To keep him here, Amma gave him a job in the lab and gave him multiple tuitions. In this way, he slowly managed to pass. Amma always mentions his case to the other students who lose their interest in studying further, just because they fail in a subject or two. Hearing about Nanjan’s persistence and ultimate success, they too are inspired to continue in their studies.”

Athira: “I was in Paripally from 2005 to 2010. It was at Paripally that I first learned about Sanskrit and began to study it. I developed a great liking for it, and decide to continue to learn this language. I went back home after my schooling at Paripally and found a college which had courses in Sanskrit. Now I have completed my Bachelor’s and my Master’s in Sanskrit, and am happy to announce that I have earned the first rank in my Master’s programme. I am doing a 2 year B. Ed course now and after that want to join one of Amma’s schools as a Sanskrit teacher.”

Ratna: After my 10th standard, I asked Amma what I should do with my life. Amma advised me to go Amrita Hospital and then study. So I joined the hospital as a cleaning staff and then after a couple of years completed my 11th and 12 standards. Then I joined the course to be an Operation Theater Technician. Now, I work in the operation theatre, and I am well liked there by the people there.”

Sunimol: “I grew up as an only child in my house. There was a lot of social pressure in the neighbourhood when they learnt that I was going to go to Paripally to study. But because I studied in Paripally, I came to know what it felt to have a brother, what it was to have a sister. At Paripally, I learned what love was.

Today, I work as a teacher back in Paripally. I have maintained my ties with the graduates of Paripally. And when a child from my neighbourhood fell ill with a shortage of white blood cells, I reached out to the network of Paripally alumni. Many of the alumni from Paripally, especially those who lived in the child’s community, sent money to his family’s account to help cover his medical expenses. Today, the people in my neighbourhood praise Amma greatly, saying Amma’s school has nurtured the kids with so much love and affection. The kids who have studied there are today supporting and giving life to another of their own locality.”

Soumya: “I had two siblings, and all three of us were in Amma’s school in Paripally. We are really proud to have studied there because we have been trained to courageously face situations. Whatever problems we face in life today we can at least stand and face it. Today, I am a beautician. I have my own salon. I have two children. My sisters are to be married soon and one of them is marrying yet another boy who had studied in Paripally. Amma did the Annaprasham (first feeding) and the naming of both my children. I am living a very happy and contented life.”

Suresh: “Amma had sent me to Paripally with another boy from my community. I am working as a contractor now. The one who went with me also became a contractor and is doing very well in his life. In my neighbourhood, there was a mother who had three daughters. They lived under a tarp which was not safe from the elements nor from people. So I intervened and alerted my friends who were also Paripally alumni. My friend who is a contractor came down, and many of us contributed and made a small house for the family. All this is just because we were taught discipline and love in Paripally. It has been 23 years I met Amma. If I were asked to recount all my experiences, it would take me another 23 years to share all that Amma has given me.”

Animon: “I was in third grade when I came to Paripally. That was before Amma took over the orphanage and school. Most days under the previous management, we used to be starving without food. And the food we got was not good – it was then that some kids died in the school due to food poisoning. The Kali temple was half built when Amma used the money set aside to complete the temple, to take over the dilapidated Paripally orphanage and school instead. After Amma took up the management, we were given all kinds of facilities. We were well fed, given new clothes, and the school got bigger. More and more platforms were given to children to portray their talents. Today Paripally is the best school in the whole locality. At the district level competitions, 114 schools take part. Today, there is almost no event in which the students of Paripally don’t win the first place. Our kids have won many awards since the last 20 years even on the state level. Amma’s Paripally school is very popular and well known all over the state.”

Lakshmi: “It has been 27 years since Amma found me. My mother had two sons and two daughters. My mother threw my younger sister into the sea and took me to the train station to throw me on the tracks. When I understood what she was about to do, I ran from there but my mother threw herself instead and died. After that, a man took me with him to his house. I was only six years old. That man started beating me and ill-treating me a lot. People there used to watch these incidents. One day another man approached me and said, ‘If you can trust me, I will take you to Paripally, where you will be safe.’ I went with him, coming here to Amma wearing a just a torn dress. It was Onam that day and all the children usually go home to celebrate with their family. But I had nowhere to go. Amma told me that day, “Daughter, you can stay here with Amma. Amma is always here for you. Since then, Amma became everything for me. My friend and my mother. Amma has given me a lot of love and support. It is only because of my life at Paripally that I was saved. Amma initiated me into the alphabet and sent me there to study. I did not persist in my studies, but Amma never gave up on me. Amma then married me and now I have two kids and have a very loving family.” {read her story}

Radhika: “I came to Paripally after a very tragic incident in my life. My father brutally murdered my mother. I didn’t have anyone in life to tune to them. It was at this time that I joined Paripally. Later, it was Amma’s desire that I study and take an MBA. So I first did BBM and then MBA here in Amma’s college. Now, I am working in Amma’s Amrita SeRVE,  101 Villages project. Amma also conducted my marriage and now I have a small baby of my own. Today I have come for the first time with my newborn baby. I don’t have words to express my feelings.” {read Radhika’s story}

Many of the Paripally alumni were in tears as they expressed their gratitude to Amma and the ashram residents who had cared for them with so much love. In turn, many of the ashram residents who had volunteered at Paripally over the years were moved to tears as well, recognizing in these healthy, happy, successful, values-oriented adults the eyes of the needy forlorn children who had arrived at the gates of the Amrita Niketan orphanage so many years – in some cases decades – ago. By the time the alumni were done sharing their experiences, there was nary a dry eye in the hall. Amma’s own expression perhaps best expressed the feelings of all – eyes moist with tears, and yet beaming with joy and pride in the achievements of these young adults who had faced so much trauma, and come from such difficult beginnings to craft joy-filled, service-oriented lives for themselves and their families. These young people had taken the pain and trauma of their early lives, added the fertilizer of Amma’s compassion, and built lives infused with love, and guided by the values they received at Amma’s school. As Amma says, “Even a lotus flower blooms in the mud.” These young adults are living proof that no one is beyond help, and no one is worth giving up on. Rather, loving attention, compassionate care, and service can turn any life around.

At the end of Darshan, all of the Parippally children took a group picture with Amma to relive the joyous moment.



* (For those who don’t know, Amma took over the orphanage at Paripally in 1989, after it had run out of funds and was about to turn the 500 children out on the street. Prior to Amma’s intervention, the orphanage had been run nearly into the ground, with the children often going without food and living in squalor and abject poverty – not long before Amma took over, some children died of food poisoning from food that had been carelessly prepared in the orphanage’s kitchen. Hearing of their plight, Amma took the money that had been set aside to build the ashram’s first prayer hall and used it to assume care of the orphans instead, quickly bringing about a complete transformation in the orphanage facilities, standard of care and in the children themselves. Watch the story of Amma’s decision to adopt the orphanage here: )