Sandra in Tiruvannamalai strongly encouraged Dominika and I to visit Preethi, a 29-year-old Indian woman totally confined to a bed and wheelchair. Ten years previously, Preethi had gone to Pondicherry with college friends. They waded waist deep into water (Preethi was an experienced swimmer taking part in swimming competitions) when a sudden freak wave turned her over breaking her neck). It has left her paralysed ever since.
Her mother and father sacrificed everything for Preethi, their only child, and moved from Chicago , where they lived for two years, to Tiruvannamalai to be close to their guru, Sri Ram Surat Kumar (I had known Sri Ram Surat in the mid 1970s when he slept under the stairs in the centre of the town. He spoke excellent English, gave lovely comments on life while living totally as a beggar. A dear soul). Six months ago, her father died from a heart attack – a few hours after pushing Preethi along the street in her wheelchair.
Preethi had lost not only her father but also one of her two great pillars of support and one of her two guardian angels. She now relies totally upon her mother. She told Dominika and I that she knew the time had come to open the doors to bring others into her life. She became the highlight of our stay in Tiru. Her warmth, kindness and natural wisdom flows out of her being.
It is hard to communicate what a totally paralysed person has to endure. Take a small example. Any time, day or night, a mosquito can land on her face. She cannot move her hand to her face to knock it off. Does she call her mother? If she does, perhaps other mosquitoes will come a little while later. Does she just endure? There are countless issues for heart, mind, body and spirit to deal with on a daily basis. One naïve Westerner said to her: “You are so lucky. You don’t have to experience the painful bodily sensations that we have to experience.” Clueless….
One of the satsang teachers in Tiruvannamalai, Mooji of Caribbean origin and living in Brixton, South London, visited her several times and carried her up the stairs to listen in on his satsangs on the roof of the guesthouse where he stays.
Her body may be very frail but there is an inner strength there. People are now going regularly to spend time with her. She is unassuming and disarming. Dominika, an Ayervedic masseur, gave Preethi massages. The two women made a lovely intimate friendship together. We keep in regular e-mail contact with her.
Preethi has much to offer in terms of the wisdom of acceptance, being with what is, a lack of self pity and a depth of kindness and hospitality. Dharma practice is all about that. It is the confirmation of wisdom.
Some satsang teachers are fond of saying “there is nothing to do and there is nowhere to go.” Preethi knows what that means in a way that few dharma teachers can ever know. She has to live with the truth of the moment every moment of day and night. Such dramas bring about the making of the being or the slide into despair. Preethi expresses something greater than her limitations. She would probably giggle if she reads this….