16 June 2006

Nataki meets Bhavani

This is an extraordinary story that will have to be told in many parts. But to begin with I'll tell you how Nataki (an old lady) met Bhavani (a beautiful child) and how their lives have joined.

Bhavani was born on January 24th, 2003 in a small village about 27 kilometres from Tiruvannamalai. Her family are of a good Hindu Tamil caste and are pious devotees of the Devi; even to the extent of participating in fire-walking ceremonies that still take place in Tamil Shrines and Temples dedicated to the Divine Mother.

The day after her birth, Bhavani's Mother (accompanied by a close relative) travelled to Tiruvannamalai to plead with Nataki to arrange for someone to take the child. There was the fear, as already there were three girls in the family, that a near relative might finish off the child with poison.

For someone living outside the harsh, survival realities of the ordinary Indian, it is difficult to conceive that a girl child could be so targeted. The reality is money. In India a girl has to marry and move from the protection of her father's home to that of her husband's. But in order to get a husband, the bride's family has to pay dowry. And where is a simple, ordinary man, living a day-to-day existence, going to get a minimum of Two Lakhs (Rs.200,000/-, i.e. approx U.S.$5,000/-) for his daughter's dowry?

It's tragic but there is a reason why in India having a girl child is regarded as, 'watering another man's garden'. The reason is the girl's family have to actually pay (i.e. dowry) for her to go and live in another man's home (i.e. with the husband and his family).

Nataki, who was born a high caste Brahmin, had remained unmarried throughout her life so as to dedicate her life to God. She had lived permanently at Arunachala since her move in 1950 and had selflessly dedicated her life to the poor, deprived and most disadvantaged in the community.

In 2003, Nataki nearing 70 years of age, had a small room at Ramana Ashram, was serving both in the Mother's Samadhi at the Ashram and also attending to patients at the Ramana dispensary.

With little money, no thought for her own comfort or whether she would even be allowed to live at Ramana Ashram with a tiny new-born child, Nataki unhesitatingly took the child from the distraught Mother and from that day has raised the child as her own. She did in fact have to leave her Ashram room and take accommodation outside for herself and the child.

Bhavani is now 3 years and 5 months old, and as you can see from the photograph a shining, lovely, happy girl.

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