A Different Experience

Sannyasi Savitananda (Holland)

We travelled to India a week before the beginning of Sita Kalyanam so as not to miss a single day of this yearly event. We also wanted to offer our help for the preparations. When my husband, Suryamitra, and I duly reported to the gate of the Alakh Bara in Rikhia, we were surprised to see what had been built in the past year. A new three storey hospital building stood in place of Tripura. The smoky kitchen corner had been transformed and enlarged with a new marbled kitchen and dining room. A cowshed had appeared and beautiful cows and calves were standing happily in the nearby enclosure. The biogas tank, which Paramahamsaji had spoken about a few years ago, had been installed. With the dung of six cows this tank produces enough gas every day to cook meals for twenty people.

Not long after our arrival we met Swami Niranjan, who welcomed us with a loving, happy expression. We asked what we could do to help. He threw a glance at the dispensary where Swami Suryabindu wields the sceptre, and said, “That's a good place for you to work”.

A big clean-up and reorganization had begun. We saw the various drugs that had been sent from every corner of the world. The largest quantity of medicines were those for the treatment of TB, an illness that occurs often in this area, caused by malnutrition, lack of vitamins and low standard of living. The average body weight of a child of four years matches that of a western baby of six weeks: 4 kg. The heaviest of the patients who had visited the dispensary was a man of 65 kg.

After two days at the dispensary, it was time for a job where I could use my hands, so I started in Prasad Kutir. The swami in charge explained the secrets of making prasad bundles for the villagers. Each morning there were boxes filled with clothes that had been donated by devotees from all over India and abroad. Although women's clothes and blankets were plentiful, there was often a shortage of men's clothes, especially trousers, boys shirts and pants for the four to sixteen year age group and girls dresses for four to fifteen-year-olds. We worked constantly, collecting items, packing, organizing, placing and replacing the donated items. There were moments of disagreement and tension about different ways of doing things, but we all did what we could and learned from it.

The work kept me busy within Prasad Kutir during the program. Nevertheless, through the medium of the loud speakers we missed no sound, no voice, no song. I really felt I was working for Paramahamsaji, being his hands. Another feeling was missing seeing his face. When sitting in the audience, one only had to turn one's head to glimpse him. But my guru also took care of this desire and gave me his darshan many times totally unexpectedly. On the afternoon of the wedding celebration I finished up my duties in Prasad Kutir, hoping in my heart to be able to serve Paramahamsaji again next year.