To feed a hungry mouth is equal to ten days of tapasya. – Sri M
The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown created not only physical and economic stress, but also mental and emotional stress for everyone. During these uncertain times, Sri M launched the Satsang Seva Mission (SSM) to alleviate the suffering of the less privileged and frontline workers while reminding us of the common thread of humanity and compassion that bound us all by providing us an opportunity to connect and serve others selflessly.
The range of support provided has included cooked meals, weekly and monthly rations, protective equipment such as PPE kits, masks and gloves, sanitisation and medical supplies, clothing, school supplies, and other necessities.
However, the meal distribution or annadaanam seva has helped to assuage the most basic human need of hunger more consistently.
Since its formal launch in April 2020, approximately 21.6 lakh meals have been supported. About 3.9 lakh people from myriad communities have benefited directly: people below the poverty line; the middle class pushed into dire straits by the unprecedented nature of the pandemic; the homeless; migrant workers; slum dwellers; orphans; senior citizens; the differently abled; and others such as trans-people and sex workers, subsisting on the margins of society.
We are grateful for the opportunity that we have received to serve these communities and are happy to share some snapshots from our journey of the annadaanam sevas that have evolved very organically from immediate or emergency-needs, into sustained commitments that continue to support and enrich several other communities while creating an ever-widening circle of fellowship with them.
Slum Dwellers, Domestic Workers
The Sai Baba Temple, Chembur serves as the perfect venue to rally together the community of slum dwellers who live nearby. The men run auto rickshaws while the women take on domestic work for a living. Despite a high rate of unemployment and low wages, these formidable men and women ensure that their children attend the local school. Saturday afternoons begin with an aarati at the temple with the participation of the community members. A simple, packed meal of rice, lentils, curry, and a sweet is shared with everyone soon after. The women look forward to their first fresh meal of the day after work while the children rush back from school to enjoy the delicious meal and chat with the SSM team members. Such is their camaraderie that festive occasions are simply incomplete without their extended SSM family!
The Pourakarmikas, our frontline, municipal workers worked round the clock to sanitize hospitals and public spaces without protective gear during the peak of the pandemic at abysmally low wages. With no supplementary means of living, many struggled to provide daily meals to their families. Huge smiles of relief spread across their weathered faces as they received a month’s supply of dry rations at Sir C. V. Raman General Hospital and Bellandur from Team SSM Bengaluru.
Children, Youth, and Senior Citizens
The Vallabh Niketan Ashram, Bengaluru harbors young children and adolescents from single-parent families and senior citizens. Most of the little children, who have lost a parent to COVID, learn to cope with their changed family circumstances with the help of their older friends. Sundays are particularly special for the people at the Ashram for the nutritious breakfast of South Indian delicacies that is shared with their SSM friends along with carrom, games, fun, laughter and interesting and informative conversations.
The specially-abled children at ANIKET Seva Bhavi Sanstha, Pune bring to the SSM team learnings of patience, innocence, and boundless joy in the face of daunting challenges. During annadaanam sevas, integrative and activity-based sessions have brought out the creative potential of these wondrous children through little cards of gratitude made for their SSM friends.
The annadaanam sevas at the Desire Society, Mumbai present an opportunity to also offer essential items such as school bags, books, stationery, and clothes to the HIV/AIDS-affected children sheltered here. They learn to overcome the social stigma attached to their precarious health situation as they participate wholeheartedly and express their thoughts fearlessly.
The articulate and confident young boys and girls at the Mathru Abhaya Foundation have dependable foster parents in the founders of this orphanage in Medipally, Hyderabad. They understand the importance of a strong, basic education and often share their future aspirations in fluent English. Sweet devotional songs and Sanskrit chants greet the SSM team members during their monthly visits to provide dry rations and toiletries.
Namma Mane, Bengaluru is a safe haven for vulnerable girl children, victims of trafficking or abuse. These children have access to education, nutrition, and healthcare, thus empowering them to chart their own course as they grow up. Monthly dry rations ensure that their nutritional requirements are met and that they enjoy holistic development and growth.
Daily Wagers, the Homeless, and Itinerant Sadhus
The twin cities of Mathura and Vrindavan welcome itinerant sadhus, daily wagers, and the homeless even as the pilgrims and tourists flock there to have a glimpse of these sacred lands of Lord Krishna’s leelas. Steaming hot cups of tea at dawn and a filling meal of rice, lentils, and vegetable curry every evening have been served since December 2021 to Daridra Narayan, the Divine in the form of the economically distressed.
The holy precinct of the Malad Gurudwara, Mumbai reverberates with the divine chant of Satnaam Waheguru every Saturday afternoon as the weekly langar seva draws in a sangat or gathering of mostly daily wagers and pavement dwellers. Since December 2021 several hungry wayfarers have found succor in a staple meal of rice, lentils, curry, pickle, and a sweet. Some relish a community meal while others prefer takeaways as they continue to toil for their living through the day.
Caregivers of Patients
The caregivers of patients comprise an often-unacknowledged community in urban centres. Hailing from far-flung towns and villages, they usually spend sleepless nights in corridors of hospitals as they tend to their ailing, loved ones. The sheer relief of having at least one meal without having to worry about it is conveyed with the salutation ‘Anna daata, devo bhava’ as they take their meal boxes filled with a one-pot meal such as khichadi and vegetable pulao every fortnight at St. John’s Hospital, Bengaluru and once a month at the Chittaranjan Hospital, Kolkata.
At the Chandigarh Spinal Rehab Centre, patients endure a long and arduous convalescence due to the severity of spinal cord and brain injuries. Given the fact that their caregivers work closely with them during this prolonged period of hospitalization, the provision of monthly dry rations ensures that daily fresh meals are provided to the caregivers at the in-house dining facility.
As the Satsang Seva Mission approaches the 1000-day mark in December 2022, the SSM team members are constantly expanding their endeavors, forging loving bonds of empathy and fraternity amongst the recipient communities and their compatriots across the country.
To read more about each annadaanam seva and the entire gamut of SSM activities, visit www.satsangsevamission.org.
To be part of our efforts, to contribute funds and other resources, please write to us at email@example.com.