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The Amazing Tale of Peddabottu: How she battled all odds, took leadership roles and defied conventional norms in a unique way

When we first come into the world, we mark our entry with a big cry.  The wise ones say that we loathe to leave the safety of the mother's womb. As we grow up, we learn to seek happiness in the things we do. We find different ways to be happy. The wise ones says, ''Pain makes you strong.'' [READ: Feeling depressed and low?]

The truth about happiness is that it teaches us nothing, whereas pain nudges out of our complacent comfort zones.  It teaches us to reflect, look within and find the answers from a zone that we are not usually familiar dealing with.





Pain and sorrow manifest in our lives differently and across different phases but how we react to it defines our the direction of our life. A newborn child undergoes pain when vaccinated but will a mother stop her child from being vaccinated simply because she doesn't want her child to undergo pain?
[Must Read: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]

So, there is pain that both protects and gives strength though it doesn't always feel like a great place to be in for the person undergoing it. 

The lives of ordinary Indian women and the emotional upheavals they tackle have always fascinated me.  I am now reading a fascinating autobiography of a woman called Peddabottu. Born as Sharada (later known as Peddabottu) in a rich family, she was always pampered by her elders and blessed with visions of Lord Krishna from childhood. Her family was told by a mystic that she should be trained in rituals and worship (at the time it was not allowed for girls to chant mantras or even listen to the Bhagawad Gita) because her married life would be short and her destiny shows that she will take refuge in spirituality. Her conservative family did not find this acceptable.

As used to be the practice, they got her married off at the age of six (this sounds like a nightmare!) and she became a mother of four children at the age of 18 years. Tragedy struck her life when all her four children died and her husband remarried and abandoned her. 

Her husband, a talented Carnatic singer, used to keep six women in their home as his concubines even after marriage and it was considered 'acceptable' as long as he did not marry them. Peddabottu did not dare voice her dissent as in those days, wives had no 'voice' as such when it came to matters of the husband. 

After her children died, her husband sought her approval to marry a second time, assuring her that it is only to continue the family line with children. A heartbroken Peddabottu approves, welcomes the bride and makes sure that everything is done for the bride's comfort. Later, her husband abandons her and moves out with his second wife. Not just that, he sells her house without telling her and runs off with the money, leaving her penniless and homeless. 

At this point of despair and pain, take a step back. Think: What would you do when you are abandoned by the person you love the most?

This is the worst case scenario, right? 

But this is how the young and strong-willed Peddabottu overcame it. 


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Peddabottu chooses to look beyond her pain and suffering. She begins to teach in the government village school. She finds joy in teaching children alphabets, prayers and drill. Her unusual teaching methods trigger jealousy in other teachers who complain to the higher authorities. Sincerity at the workplace, especially when it is a woman at work, is rarely valued as it is usually taken for granted. 

While the authorities knew she was working sincerely, they question her methods in a humiliating way and she resigns. When she resigns, all the children across all classes start dropping out. They want her back. Fearing that the school will have to be shut down, the headmistress convinces the authorities to bring Peddabottu back.

At every juncture in Peddabottu's life, she faces considerable pain and humiliation. She still finds ways to moves on and work selflessly. Whatever work she undertakes, she dedicates to her beloved Lord Krishna without complaining. Her only prayer is, ''Gopala, do not play this prank with any other woman.'' 

When her husband dies, she continues to wear 'bindi' or 'bottu'. She is criticised by others for not conforming to the social rules applicable to widows. She shows no grief or sorrow at the death of her husband. She doesn't hide the fact that she doesn't care for convention. She lives her life on her terms and her devotion. Whether her choices are 'right' or 'wrong' is not for us to judge. It's her life, her choice. She shines through by sticking consistently to what she believes in: her own sense of authenticity.




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As Rumi's words say, ''The Cure for Pain is in the Pain.'' [READ: What is Dark Night of the Soul?]

Peddabottu's life teaches us many important lessons. 

Life tests us where it hurts us the most. 

We are let down in life mostly by those whom we love and respect. 

Pain teaches us that our expectations from external factors including all relationships should be zero. 

When we cease to depend on others for our happiness, we find a divine strength from within to tap into.  


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In Peddabottu's life, she finds solace and ultimate refuge in her Guru - Sri Sathya Sai. [Do read: Pranams at the Lotus Feet]

His love and understanding transforms her grief into a zone of service and leadership. The challenges increased just as a good student gets tested more and more, but she finds amazing strength to evolve as a wonderful human being. She channelises her sorrow to serve humanity without expecting anything in return. 

Peddabottu's life is not known to everyone, not even among staunch seekers. Yet the important lesson she left behind is for us to:

love others as much as we can, 

look beyond our expectations and needs 

while finding satisfaction and joy in what we choose to do. 

Have you read or witnessed real life stories like that of Peddabottu? Do share here. [Do read my experience: The Power of LOVE]

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