Amma

Guruji’s writings often mention his love and devotion to his wife, Ramamani. The couple of times I have heard Geetaji mention her mother have also been with immense respect and love. I don’t know anything about this lady who was so loved and revered by her family. It got me thinking about how she might have lived her life. There is much to be learnt from the matriarchs of old. She was a daughter, sister, wife and mother and would have had the same set of everyday joys and pains as any other woman. From what I gathered, she sang beautifully, could whip up delicious meals, cared for her family and extended family as well as the helpers and people in her neighborhood. She also taught yoga as and when time permitted and was an unstinting supporter of Guruji’s sadhana. She supported Geetaji in her decision to remain unmarried which would have been a very progressive way of thinking back in those days.
As a wife and mother, I have certain duties and responsibilities which are mine alone. Until a while ago, I was resentful a lot of times when I felt that I had to do more than what I thought was my fair share. I had expectations, from my husband and my children. An example would be agonising over what should be made for dinner until one day the yoga teacher I used to go earlier mentioned the same thing in a women’s class and said that it was no big deal really. We made it big in our minds. It got me to stop and see that I needed just 45 minutes to an hour to put a simple yet balanced meal on the table. I remember her talking about there being a whole ritual connected with cooking meals like doing it after a bath and without footwear after reciting some shlokas, I think the Annapurna stotra. It reminded me of Amma (my ma in law) making Prasad for special days. She would wash the entire deck and hob, make a little dough idol that was marked with a tilak and say a short prayer before making the Prasad. It would not be tasted until after it was offered in puja. It always tasted wonderful, had to be, it was made with love and devotion. That was what I lacked, an attitude of unconditional love. It flowed naturally for her and there was never a feeling of martyrdom with her. Everything was cheerfully done in a spirit of service.
Most of my life I fought against what I thought were unfair job divisions and behaviour expectations. As I grow older, I can see the wisdom behind those old ways of living. For example, if a woman was menstruating, she was not allowed to enter the kitchen or do any work. In fact, when I just got married, my mother in law would not allow me to enter the kitchen during those days. I managed to argue and weaken her old ways and found my way into doing everything as always. I was energetic and fully assured of being a modern day woman and pooh-poohed what I thought was regressive thinking. Now, many years later I can see why that practice was prevalent. It gave women much needed down time to rest their bodies and refresh their minds. I find my time of the month a very intuitive period. Sometimes it can be dull when I am fatigued but when I am rested, it is a time of sharp understanding. The times we live in do not acknowledge the changes of our bodies and as working women, it is difficult to take time off. Nuclear families mean no relief from chores as well. And we build more stress by maintaining the same frantic pace of everyday life. When I look back to the time I first got to know Amma, I see that she and other women of that era were healthier, stronger and resilient. Amma is nearly 80 but she looks much younger and has none of the ailments like diabetes, high blood pressure etc. Women like her were the real power that ran the homes while making the men of the household seem like they called the shots. They had time not just for their own but also the neighbours and extended family as well as to maintain their religious practices. Till date, Amma never misses her puja unless she is very ill. There is never any procrastination about puja like what I sometimes go through before I move to practise my asanas. It is a joyful extension of herself and as natural as breathing for her.
I had rejected the feminine in my younger days because I wanted the strength and power of the male. Breaking was better than bending or so I thought. I now see that the softer qualities of patience and forbearance are more difficult to cultivate and demand a lot of strength. Guruji’s wife would have been an extraordinary teacher simply by virtue of how she would have lived her life.

In gratitude to Amma

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Amma and Anna

2 thoughts on “Amma

  1. This is very inspiring. Indeed, there is great wisdom in many of these traditional practices. As women we have made many advances, but certainly some significant losses as well. We need to try and find the balance…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. It’s easy to swing to extremes. I find questioning the ‘whys’ helpful in understanding the relevance of customs and traditions. Most of them had very scientific reasons but they were lost as people just followed then without understanding why. Very often, Amma would answer that her mother did something therefore she continued it even if she had her doubts. Back then, no one questioned the elders. It is so different now. My daughters are able to ask me things I would not dare ask my mother! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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