Our Om Shanthi Home is complete. Young widows are happy with donated goats, March 2023

It’s that time again: The rice fields have been harvested and the ripe peanuts are growing on the still green fields. Plucked out of the ground in bunches, lying on the road, waiting for workers to separate the peanuts from the drying greenery – which will be used to feed the cows. With that, our imminent departure for home to Germany and the USA! Saying goodbye has never been quite so difficult. What a wonderful stay for the first time in the new apartments, allowing us to stay at Om Shanthi Old Age, dwelling in a loving community with the widows and support staff. We were always free to have the morning 6 o’clock tea lovingly brought to wake you up, to participate in the 7 AM puja at the little on site Ganesha temple, then to share in the freshly made Indian breakfast with the widows.

Our widows enveloped us in their love and joy all day. These women are for us as both mother, grandmother, and sister.  We experience unbelievable feminine, maternal attention, gratitude and love with a power that is amazingly experienced and now consciously digested for the first time from living with them in such an intimate manner for almost two months.  A miracle of sorts happens:  adjustment to a very simple way of being, wholly in the present: a truly heart-opening experience, which does not need language to experience nor communicate! Every moment with these wonderful women is a gift.

The amazing thing is that every visitor feels this magic of love, whether  they come during one of our kirtan concerts hee at the home, or come to visit the Old Age Home, as this has become a key point of interest to many western visitors, as the Home has become known for its good works far and wide. As one visitor said some  years ago while on a pilgrimage here – “This has been the best part of my time here in Tiruvannamalai!”

One of our current visitors, Jürgen, is a generous and talented photographer and filmmaker who has offered to film (gratis) the widows everyday life at Om Shanthi, so that we can share it with our donors – and the widows are also happy to share in their own happiness with their “forever home”.   We look forward to the result – and will share it when it is finished (first, in German…some time later, we look forward to it in English).

So, now for something “tangible”. Early on during our time here, dear Rotarian friends
whose generosity allowed the construction of our 4 second floor apartments. As referenced in previous newsletters the construction work had been delayed for more than 2 years due to Corona, as well as flooding. The trust our donors placed in us has now been realized, this space for women and children in emergency need now completed.  The commitment and diligence of our project partner Manoharan is so greatly appreciated.

We also visited the gypsy village with some friends, where the fruit and medicinal trees beautify government-built purpose-built  housing and now provide residents with shade, food and opportunity for income. Whole avenues full of trees were planted in  and around the villages during the Corona period with the cooperation of the village population, especially the young people.
Back at the Om Shanthi home, Kannama quietly, peacefully, and gently left her body. She was one of our first  residents. Dear Kannama, thank you for the gift for all of us to be able to be present –  being able to accompany you  on your journey to another dimension.  (Our critical / intensive care nursing unit (with the only air conditioning system at Om Shanthi) was not used: Isolation of the dying – what a crazy idea that is here in India! Kannama died among us all  as she always lived, and no one would have dreamed of isolating her during her process. The respect, the calm and the peace with which all women naturally accept death in their midst was for all of us an unforgettable experience and gift. No pathos, just surrender and acceptance of what IS and great and gentle silence when it happened.

(Indian funerals are celebratory in nature:  includes dancing, fireworks, and massive amounts of beautiful flowers and celebration for the release of the soul.)

Manoharan presided over the ceremony for Kannama in the same room where she spent most of her time here. Kannama’s body was then taken to the cemetery, and a big “cleanup” began. Streams of water flowed through all rooms, all clothes were washed, all bodies, all hair and – then, daily life resumed anew.

More on the widows:  Valli, one of our women with dementia, unfortunately had a stroke in the last few days and is paralyzed on one side. She is receiving daily physiotherapy to help restore function.
Kasturi, another resident,  suffered from a hernia of the abdominal organs and is in the hospital where she has had surgery just the other day.  She is thankfully doing well! Both emergencies and costs have exceeded our budget, which we had to downsize due to the financial impact of three years of Corona.

The pairs of goats you donated created a shopping event of a special kind. At dusk, we drove to a goat market about 30 km away to buy the goats for which you had donated. Staff at Premalaya  from the accounting department made well-considered selections among countless healthy goats.
24 female goats  were then loaded onto an open truck. Then, in front of our fair trade shop Manoharan, Paulette and I distributed pairs of goats to 12 young widows and their children.  Despite “wading” through little puddles made by the frightened goats, the joy of giving and receiving was palpable and unabated!  Some goats were taken home in auto rickshaws, some even on the back of motorcycles!

The procedure with the cows you donate is different: we provide the widows with a check made out
to the seller, and they choose their cows themselves.  Going forward, we have decided to only provide pairs of goats. They are more resistant to diseases and easier to keep than cows.

After 3 years of Corona, our Om Shanthi widows and their caregivers have once again had a
“Road Trip”. All able women enthusiastically boarded a rented bus at 7.00 a.m, returning to Om Shanthi at 9:30 p.m – tired, but happy!  This time the destination was Mahabalipuram, a seaside town with ancient temples, which they visited.  A restaurant meal, to include ice cream and chai tea breaks
are always eagerly anticipated and enjoyed.

During our trip through the villages, we visited many recipients of the cows you donated,
Along the way,  we witnessed Malathi’s (one of our young widows who continue to live in the community) emergency situation: in the middle of the night, lightning had hit her tiny house, and
set fire to where she lived with her four children and her mother, completely destoying it. (They were
able to get out, unharmed). A dear guest who accompanied us spontaneously offered to donate the 2,500 euros needed  for the repairs of their small house. Within 5 weeks, this family now has a new house to live in. We are so grateful to everyone who steps forward to help in such situations!  One cannot be there, witness such devastation and poverty, and not want to help!

As such, we continue with your kind help, because only with that we can do this beautiful work here.
Paulette and I have been on Facebook during our time here reporting and publishing many beautiful photos (search for Widows of India Om Shanthi).  We will also put more photos on our galery. Our administrative costs are very minimal, as the project operates on primarily a volunteer basis. (Also, you should know that Paulette’s and my own flight, lodging, and meals are paid by us, personally.)

Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts, and from the hearts of the widows and their children.
I wish you all could see the blessings materialize through your support. All our visitors and guests at Om Shanthi Home are very impressed and enthusiastic about our work. (Maybe you would like to come next year?)

At the very end of our stay here, we received a quick response to our appeal regarding the need to
rehabilitate our old toilets and shower rooms in the first Om Shanthi house. It was in a bad condition with 10 years daily usage by the 12 widows in that building. Now there are many beautiful blue butterflies adorning the new, white tiles in the toileting and bathing areas of the washroom!

We have faith, and will keep on, keeping on!  Good works generate God’s blessings, and we are so grateful!

With best wishes to you and your loved ones, we greet you warmly!
Anna and Paulette