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Ladies' Satsang

My mother-in-law had been invited by the ladies of a neighbouring family to attend a satsang, that is, a prayer meeting.  She didn't feel like going.  My father-in-law had passed away only recently and she didn't want to start going out again just yet.  Besides, her two sister-in-laws were staying in our home on a long visit, so she wasn't bored and in need of getting out of the house.  There was, therefore, only one thing to do.  Send her daughter-in-law (me!) instead.  At six o'clock in the evening, having made sure that my kids had all been given something to eat and were all busy with homework, I go over to the neighbouring house, my youngest son accompanying me.  As I left, my father-in-law's two sisters remark that there was very little point in my going as I don't know Hindi.  My mother-in-law assures them that I will manage.  She obviously has more faith in me than I thought.

Our neighbours are a combined family, just like us.  There is, however, only one child in the house.  The child's grandmother, Ramya bhabhi as I know her ('bhabhi' means sister-in-law) attends prayers in a local ashram (prayer centre - Hindu) on a daily basis.  It seems that someone from Ramya's ashram will be conducting the meeting.  Quite a lot of ladies, mostly middle-aged women, some even elder, arrive, one by one and two by two, leaving their shoes at the door.  They come in and make themselves comfortable sitting on the floor, and those who are unable to sit on the floor sit on the airmchairs.  The room fills up.  The gurumaa, a woman with a very humble and simple appearance, wearing white, arrives and is made welcome.  The meeting starts with everyone singing bhajans, that is, hymns.  I can't join in as I don't know the hymns.  But I listen carefully.  They seem to be in Hindi and are very beautiful and simple songs.

After several several hymns have been sung, the gurumaa speaks.  I am not very good at Hindi but I can certainly make sense of her talk.  God is everywhere.  God has made us for Himself.  We should always keep Him in mind.  We should think kind thoughts and be good to everyone.  If we let God live in us, we will be full of love.  The food we cook will taste lovely.  We will bring peace to our homes and families.  All very worthwhile and good sensible thoughts.  Whatever  religion you happen to be.  I'm glad I came.  One or two people remark on the fact that I am representing my mother-in-law.  What will I understand, they wonder.  How do I make them understand that people from the West also believe in God?  I have gone past the stage of even trying to make people understand anymore.  People only think what they want to think.  I adjust my sari and just look down.  I check to see if my son is happy.  I think he's getting bored.  I tell him that if he would like to go home, I can easily walk him to the gate of our house and rejoin the meeting.  But he doesn't want to leave me.

Some more bhajans are sung.  The gurumaa speaks a little more.  Always think of God, never forget Him, she admonishes us.  I couldn't agree more. More bhajans are sung.  Some of the women are playing percussion instruments to accompany the singing.  One by one, as the time draws on, everyone starts to leave.  Ramya bhabhi, always smiling and gracious, makes sure everyone has a packet of 'prasad' (blessed sweets) to bring home when they leave.

Suddenly, sobbing is heard.  Everyone looks around, that is, the few of us who are left, to see the recently widowed Nirmala, a woman who lives in the next lane, weeping at the memory of her husband who died suddenly six months before.  A mother of  two grown up sons, Nirmala is somewhat prematurely widowed at only fifty five years.

The gurumaa sits down beside Nirmala and consoles her, having become familiar with Nirmala's predicament.  She reminds Nirmala that nothing is guaranteed in life, not even our next breath.  Leave it all on God, she advises the widow, firmly.  She reminds Nirmala of her two grown up sons, yet unmarried.

"They still need you.  Live for them," says the gurumaa.  "And above all, don't forget God.  He is there to help you in everything."  Along with the other women, I try to console Nirmala.  I know that nothing I say will make any difference.  Just give her a warm hug and let her know that she's not alone.  Let her know that I understand her pain and loneliness.  That's the only thing anyone can do.

Time to leave.  Collect the prasad, say namaste to the gurumaa, Ramya bhabhi and the family head, Mr. Singh.  Thank them for the invitation and tell them how much I enjoyed the prayer meeting.  I give them my mother-in-law's best regards.  Cross the road and home in one  minute.  Share out the prasad and tell my mother-in-law everything that happened.  Then into the kitchen to prepare the evening meal for my children and husband.

I'm glad I went.  It was a nice meeting.


  1. Is a satsang part of a special festival or just a regular prayer meeting? How often does it occur? Does your MIL hold such meetings in your house? Questions, questions, I have hundreds!

    I would love to learn more about saris. Any chance of a post?

  2. I like hymns better when I can't understand the words. Just let the sounds wash over me and carry the meaning.

  3. You are a very dutiful daughter in law and I do admire you for that and also I am pleased that you and your son received something spiritual from that meeting too.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  4. My Guru was once asked by a young lady student as to why there has been no change to her mother in law's behaviour despite attending his lectures and other satsangs. My Guru answered - just imagine how she would be if she had not been attending the lectures and other satsangs! The student had a grin from her ear to ear!



  6. Popped in from SITS! I'm so curious about all this!

  7. Interesting, very interesting.

    Is this like ladies worshiping together... as in like Sunday church but only ladies?

  8. Sweet lady, as Maggie say's, you are a very dutiful daughter-in-law. I am glad you brought something back from the meeting, but I also feel a little sad you seem fated to be mostly an outsider in this community, sitting on the edges of it, held apart by being separated both by the language and a culture you were not born to.

    Your life is so different to mine, no better or worse, other than I suspect you must work hard to adapt and fit in to the path you have chosen. You must love your husband dearly. (x)

  9. "...the gurumaa speaks...We should think kind thoughts and be good to everyone...One or two people remark on the fact that I am representing my mother-in-law. What will I understand, they wonder."

    Sounds like they needed to listen to the gurumaa some more.

    Glad you had a good time.

  10. I always love these peeks into your daily life which is so different in many ways from mine. You did a marvelous job in the way you told this story. I could see it and feel it as if I was there. It's a really nice piece of writing and reminds me of a river somehow..

  11. So beautifully written. I identify with feeling out of place yet fitting in. When I was in India or when I attend satsang at the ashram here in USA I was always reminded that the sacred energy would permeate and I would understand on a deep level. I felt the experience even though I did not know the language.
    As you wrote, we should not forget God. Many paths, one destination....
    With much love and light to you.

  12. @Grannymar - it's a prayer meeting - some are regular, some are once off.

    @ Ellen Abbott - I actually agree with you.

    @ Maggie May - Thank you.

    @Rummuser - I knew I could depend on you for the bit o' spiritual enlightenment, you being my guru...

    @ Anki - I know what you mean

    @ Blonde Duck - Glad you found it interesting...

    @ Reenie - Yes, that's what it's like. Ladies only..

    @ Shrinky - I never really think about that - I just get on with it......

    @ Cat - Well, that's the irony, isn't it?

    @ giftsofthejourney - Thank you so much Elizabeth

    @ Margaret - I'm glad you found this piece interesting...

  13. Your openness is a gift. I'm glad you're using it and finding your life enriched as a result. I enjoyed this post-Thanks :)


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