ANNAMALAI SWAMI REMEMBERED
Ashram Food, part 5
Bhagavan had an ulterior motive in trying to prevent Echammal from bringing food. Although she was a good devotee, she was a very bad cook. Her standard offering of rice and dhal would always be under-cooked, and more often than not it would be permeated with rancid ghee [clarified butter]. Each day she would present this rather unappetizing mixture to Bhagavan in the form of a compressed ball. It was usually so under-cooked that Bhagavan often had difficulty in breaking it down into pieces that were small enough to swallow. About an hour after eating this food Bhagavan would have digestion problems. He would rub his stomach and make loud groaning noises.
If anyone asked him what the trouble was he would say, 'It is my destiny to suffer like this'.
The attendants tried many times to persuade Echammal to cook her food properly, and to use fresh instead of rancid ghee, but she never paid any attention. Bhagavan himself asked her on several occasions to stop bringing this food but she was a stubborn woman who rarely listened to anyone. 'If you force me to stop,' she told Bhagavan, 'I will commit suicide. Then my death will be your responsibility.'
Bhagavan accepted defeat. 'What can I do?' he asked. 'It must be my destiny to eat this food.'
Although Bhagavan requested Echammal to stop bringing food on several occasions, he was not in favor of issuing a formal ban.
When Chinnaswami once forbade her from bringing food, in the interests of Bhagavan's health, Bhagavan refused to enter the dining room when the bell for the midday meal was rung. He never gave any reason but the devotees soon surmised that he was protesting against the ban on Echammal. Echammal by this time had gone back to town, so a delegation of devotees was despatched to fetch her. At first, she was unwilling to come, since she was still angry with the ashram management, but when it was pointed out to her that Bhagavan would probably starve unless she came in person, she agreed to come and break the impasse. When she requested Bhagavan to go to the dining room and eat, he got up and went for his meal. No one in the previous hour had managed to persuade him to move from the old hall. After this incident, Echamma's serving rights were never challenged again.
Echammal continued to serve food but Bhagavan would always look at her in a very disapproving way whenever she approached him in the dining room.
- Living by the words of Bhagavan, p. 74