Krishnammal and Vengopu arrived from San Jose, and I brought them home! For weeks, we had been borrowing cots and blankets and towels from friend, and drew up plans where everyone was to sleep. Not quite Indian railway station, and we knew enough to know that folks might self-organize when they got here.
Krishnammal has always been taken with idea that we have cornsnakes as pets. Just two, birthday presents for Aliyah when she turned six, so the snakes are now 15 years old. Not friendly creatures anymore (for lack of being handled), but they spend all day slithering about the bottom of their terrarium, eat (a defrosted mouse) every couple of weeks, and basically keep to themselves (when they aren’t singing?) So while she had some fear of snakes (I don’t think I’ve ever met an Indian who didn’t), Krishnammal was strongly attached to the idea that we’ve always had lots of animals at our home – dogs, birds, rabbits, snakes, iguanas, rats.
I delighted in cooking for all the guests – sambar (south Indian curry) and rice, ladysfingers (okra!) with mustard seed, rasam (spicy thin peppery soup – everyone agrees my sambar is better than my rasam, though most of it has to do with which package I managed to find at my local Indian foods store. But we did go out and buy an idli (steamed rice and lentil cakes) maker, and they came out good!
Prior to our three days with the Seattle University/Opus Award activities and awards, we had four days of virtually non-stop events for Krishnammal. I’d like to take credit for them – in reality, once I put out the word she was coming, the outpouring of support was extraordinary, and I didn’t have to actually organize even a single event.
Highlights included a talk with folks interested in Indian development issues at Microsoft, an event jointly sponsored by ASHA for Education and the Seattle University Department of Theology and Religious Studies, a reception at the Vedic Cultural Center, in Sammamish, a potluck at my local Friends (Quaker) Meeting (the food was great!), and topped off with 200-person fundraising dinner in Redmond that featured some magnificent bhajans, and a 45-minute bharatnatyam performance based on Krishnammal’s life that moved us all greatly. Amma gave a different speech at every event, with different stories, different details. She told me, “I am like a bird. I don’t prepare for any of them, and sometimes it is surprising even to me what comes out.” To me, they are always too short – I can listen to her stories for hours! (and do)
A special note must be made of Krishnammal’s appearance at a joint fundraiser with Habitat for Humanity. Only two blocks from my home, Habitat is building a “colony”, with some 20 homes for folks, most of whom are working, but who could not otherwise own their own house. My work place, the Health and Rehabilitative Services Administration of the state’s Department of Social and Health Services has adopted a family, a mother (who works as a nursing assistant in the hospice program in which my wife is employed), and her two young children. Krishnammal made mental notes of the houses under construction (she was of course surprised they were so large, until she remembered that for most of the year, people live totally indoors), and spoke movingly of the links between the project here in Olympia, Washingtonand her dream of building decent, weatherproof housing with the poor people of Nagai and Tiruvarur Districts.