Sunday, June 28, 2009

two FABULOUS weekends -- shopping and sharing

In June, the kids at Karunya Mane enjoyed two incredibly amazing weekends.

The First Weekend
One Sunday in June, a very generous and kind man, Paul from the US and his family, and Sharath, Shemi and Saraswati from the Ashtanga yoga shala in Mysore, sponsored a shopping spree for the kids!

Paul wanted to take our kids shopping to buy whatever clothes and toys that they wanted! Sharath suggested Big Bazaar, a mega-store in the heart of the city. And even though our kids have come a long way in terms of good study habits, cleanliness, and overall excellent behavior, you have to remember that--just a couple of years ago--our kids were the kids who stood outside these stores, begging and selling their trinkets. They could never have imagined stepping into a store like this.

But this particular Sunday, all 43 kids at Karunya Mane went shopping! Words can't begin to describe their day, which began with a visit to KM, then a drive to the store...

... getting organized into groups outside ...

... and then, after figuring out how to get on the escalator for the very first time in their lives and then staring forever at the incredible quantity of toys and dolls and cricket bats and cute clothes and more, buying stuff...

... if that wasn't enough, afterwards there was chocolate for everyone!

Jeevan: mmm, yum

Before parting ways, Paul and Sharath had a few words for the kids...

... telling the kids that they got some great gifts today, and that everyone must ...

... share their presents with each others, because that is what we do, we share what we have.

Big Bazaar graciously offered lunch to all of our kids in their employee lunchroom.


We wonder what Prema was thinking as we drove away...

The Second Weekend
During the second weekend, our kids decided to give some toys--four big bags full--to another children's shelter, since their kids had no toys.

And Asha, our oldest girl, donated the 50 rupees she had in her pocket to help buy some snacks for them.

Asha, Lokesh, Amita, and Sharath came along to deliver the toys and visit with the other kids.

We hope your June was as full of fun and sharing as ours.

third photo courtesy Mysore Mitra.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


A field social worker found a little girl at the bus station a couple of weeks ago and brought her to us. She's almost four years old, and was a little shy for her first two hours at Karunya Mane, then she opened right up!

Tunmai enjoying her milk at KM

Tunmai loves to talk with the other kids, and she shared with them that she used to play at the bus station while her mom drank and slept there. The social worker and her organization placed mom in a rehab facility, where she'll stay for a few weeks. Nobody knows where dad might be, although the little girl talks about him leaving their house and going to work.

The other newcomer to Karunya Mane is little Adarsh. He was abandoned by his mom, and a social worker brought him to us. Nobody knew his name, so our kids named him "Adarsh," which means "perfection." He seems to be about two years old, and is still adjusting to Karunya Mane. His hair is a little thin, he has a big belly (usually a sign of malnutrition), and a runny nose but should be fine in a few days, as he's got lots of love around him, with all of our kids watching over him.

little Adarsh after a week at KM

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sanju is back

Do you ever wonder who the street people are, especially the ones who look like they haven't had a bath or a decent meal in years? Or do you just walk by them, trying not to look because they stare at you with the most pitiful expression in their eyes, begging for something from you? They're just humans, with their own stories, and sometimes have fascinating personalities and life dramas, and a host of strengths and weaknesses. Just like the rest of us.

Often, it is difficult to understand where they came from or how they got to be in their situation. Many are mentally challenged, meaning that talking with them to find out their story is even more difficult.

Regardless, some display a warmth, an innocence, and a genuineness that is sometimes rarely seen in our fellow humans, who are busy with earning money, taking care of the house, and trying to climb their respect "corporate ladders."

Maybe by having absolutely nothing to their name except for the clothes on their back, the odds and ends packed away in the ever-present plastic bag ("plastic cover" in India) that they carry, and the two or three rupees in their possession makes them so open, so free of judgment, so carefree, that getting to know them forces us to look inside our own selves and reevaluate our own lives.

Sanju in 2007

Sanju, an endless wanderer, is such a street person. We met her in 2007 when she arrived at our area on the street. She immediately became everyone's favorite because of her smile, her genuine warmth, and her absolute inability to pester anyone for money. She even turned down coins when she felt that she already had enough for her day's meals.

Sanju talked to the street kids about her "computer brain," and they laughed when she laughed. At times she spewed out phrases in such perfect English ("It is raining!" instead of "Rain coming!") that we wondered where she came from and what her experiences have been along the way.

Then after a few months, she left suddenly and without warning, and without saying anything to the new friends she made. We didn't see her for two full years.

Recently, Sanju returned and seemed the same as before, maybe a little more melancholy. Sanju told us that she went far away, to stay with the Tibetan nuns who cut her hair and gave her food.

Sanju, back at Sayyaji Rao in 2009

Older by two years, Sanju seems a bit less happy and carefree, and is a little worried about her eyesight. We took her to the eye clinic, and they told her to come back the following Wednesday for cataract surgery, but she was too afraid to go. Hopefully, she'll be ready one day.

And we asked her, "Sanju, do you have enough money for food today?" "Oh, yes!" she responds in English, and shows us her seven coins and a ten-rupee note. We offer her another ten-rupee note but she said "beda" in the local language (meaning "I don't want it"), and our other street women friends -- who all knew her two years ago -- tell her to take it so she can buy more food later. But she refuses. Funny Sanju. We do love her complete honesty and transparency, hiding nothing.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A new baby...

Banu, a young woman who lives on the street, just had a baby, who we named Venkatesh. We're not sure where Banu is from, but she looks about 17 or 18, and came to the street a few years ago.

The baby's grandma is Kaveriamma, one of our other street women, and her grandson Rajesh, who is also about 17 or 18, is the father.

Mom Banu and baby Venkatesh

Monday, June 8, 2009


We just a note from Regina, the volunteer who spent a couple of months with the kids chanting and singing with them twice a week. She recently went back to Australia for a few months, and plans to return to Mysore in August, to continue her volunteer efforts with our kids:

Anyway just wanted to say thanks again for the opportunity to be with the children. We had so much fun, I must say that I miss them very much and feel so energized from being with them and learning new chants with them, we danced we played we laughed and rejoiced in this wonderful universe, I cannot remember the last time I had such a wonderful time, for me this experience has been the essence of yoga.

As you know our beloved Guru [Pattabhi Jois] left his body but when I think about him leaving I also think about the gift of life that the orphanage holds and the opportunity to serve and and be humble within our life. I suffer on one hand from arthritis but I rejoice on the other for now it is time for Seva which is another school of yoga: Service and Devotion.

Many thanks to you and the board at Operation Shanti for allowing me the opportunity to do some service, I look forward to continuing in some capacity when I return to Mysore in August.

Aum Shanti Aum

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Charity Yoga Event in Los Angeles for Operation Shanti

If you are in the LA area, please click on the following image for details on how to participate in a charity yoga event for our kids, held by Garth Hewitt.

The events include a raffle for great prizes from excellent corporate sponsors, an art auction, and an exhibition of Garth's photographs from India.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Project Dog House

Another summer project for our older kids was building a dog house for our three dogs, who came with our kids from the street. Here's what they came up with. Not bad for using extra materials around the facility and a bit of cement -- and all for under $10!

Mom Maggie and her puppies arrived last year. Puppies Gundha and Shirley are now fully grown. Having pets around teaches the kids not to beat them and hit them, and to take good care of their animals.

The older kids are also responsible for washing and walking the dogs when they aren't studying. Considering our dogs are street mutts, they sure are nice and clean. And friendly!

Sumitra, Devaraj, Manikanta, Jyothi, Netra, and Pallavi
hanging out in front of the dog house.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Online in Finland

Thanks to our friend Satu for writing about us on a travel blog in Finland:

(Google translate does a decent job translating from Finnish to English...)

Vishnu, Vinuta, Imran, Darshan, Jyothi