For individuals like Siva Anbanantham, to do more for others than what others do for him defines true happiness and success in life.
He started off 20 years ago as a travel agent operating from a small rented room on East Masi Street. And then a decade ago a dream and a meeting changed it all.
From Mr.Siva Anbanantham, who helped scores of clients with ticketing and obtaining Visas, he became “Swamy” to scores of destitutes, disabled, ailing, aged and abandoned, poor, hungry and needy people.
But he ain’t a “Sadhu or swamy” as we understand in modern terms. It is a title people have given him fondly for his ‘Godly’ acts.
This absolutely simple and selfless ‘Swamy’ can be spotted daily at noon at the Telephone Exchange on East Masi Street feeding hundreds of hungry mouths. And yes, for the record, he maintains his time and service to such perfection that even Gods dare not interfere.
Apparently, he claims, even during the monsoon season, it has never rained during his feeding hour (12 O’Clock to 1 p.m.) allowing him to render his service without interruption.
“It is indeed unique,” vouch those who have observed, known and helped him in these last 10 years. “It will always rain either before or after his feeding time,” say several merchants in the area who donate ingredients for cooking meals (that includes rice, dal and one vegetable preparation) for nearly 150 people.
Yet another unique feature about Anbanantham’s service is not a drop of food goes waste. On first Saturday of every month he cooks special food for 500 people and rest of the days for over 100 depending on availability of ingredients. “The quantity may occasionally vary but somehow the turn-out of seekers matches exactly,” he says.
“I feed them in batches and also tell them they will be fined if they waste food. I too sit with the last batch and have my meal. And once we all finish eating, we thank the donor and pray for his welfare,” he shares his routine.
What does he attribute these freak coincidences to, I enquire. Without a blink he replies: “Divine intervention. In helping others, we help ourselves. And God helps those who help themselves.”
“If you do something with utmost devotion, even the impossible becomes possible,” says this ardent follower of Vallalar. A discourse by Vadalur Swamigal Ramalingaswamy which Anbanantham attended many years ago returned him with good thoughts.
He pondered over the Swami’s remarks for days that “those blessed with a helping tendency are privileged because self-realisation comes best through service.” Then on a full moon day, he suddenly woke up at 3 a.m. with his mind loaded with clutter of dreams about poor people crying for help.
Deep down Anbanantham felt, a hidden message nudging him and next morning after discussion with friends, he set about printing and distributing pamphlets in the bazaar announcing free noon meal for those driven by poverty and hunger. Immediately donations followed and 30-odd people turned up for his inaugural meal.
“Most of them were from the area only and about half-a-dozen of them have been regulars for the past decade. They now help me with washing the vessels,” he says.
Every evening, Anbanantham collects ingredients from donors and cooks the healthy food himself irrespective of the quantity.
This son of a goldsmith who studied up to Class X, also makes 25-odd breakfast packets and bikes around in the area from 8 a.m. distributing to mentally challenged individuals he comes across. Again at 8.30 p.m., he makes equal number of dinner packets for distribution in West Masi Street. In between at 5 p.m. he offers free tea and snacks to two dozen people who drop by the Exchange Office. At 6 p.m.
daily, another 15 to 20 people turn up at his house for prayer, meditation or discussion on values like honesty and sincerity, oneness and purity of mind.
“My mind is totally free and I feel happy seeing smiles of satisfaction on other peoples’ faces,” he adds. If daily reading of Manusmriti awakens him, God’s grace recharges him.
Call them his devotees or donors, Anbanantham is able to raise Rs.30,000 to Rs.40,000 per month with their generous donations. With this money, he not only feeds but also helps with medical treatment of the old and neglected people and even doles out small allowances to people whom he finds to be in real dire straits.
“I have never gone to anybody personally asking for monetary help. It is God who is helping me by sending good Samaritans, volunteers and donors. Life is never a struggle when you do things from your heart and enjoy what you are doing,” he says philosophically.
But he doesn’t quite like being called “Swami”, he confesses. “People whom I feed do not know my name and so they started calling me Swamy,” he says sheepishly.
If Dev Anand played this in reel life in the Bollywood film “Guide”, our local hero Anbanantham has showed it in real life.
It is commonly said that our deeds determine us. And undoubtedly 59-year-old Siva Anbanantham determines his deeds beautifully.
(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to tell about someone you know who is making a difference).