Category Archives: women’s empowerment

A Tribute to Kamu Ayyar: Gone in a blaze of Brahmakamalams

My mother Kamakshi, alias Kamu Ayyar, reached her heavenly abode on Friday, August 24, 2018 after valiantly battling renal failure.

My Inspiration and first love

She has been my inspiration, my reason for writing. At times, I felt we were part of the same soul energy in two bodies. She was in my eyes the epitome of love, her love for me was not tied to any condition; it was selfless and didn’t waver no matter what I did or said. And I felt exactly the same way about her.

In 2008, I began writing When the Lotus Blooms to tell the world the story of her incredible birth, the outcome of a divine blessing from Parama Shankaracharya graced by magical Kamakshi Meru. During the writing process, I would have long conversations with her several times a day where she would bring to life the customs and traditions of the time, creating a beautiful painting in my head about all of my ancestors, some of whom I had never met. She was a natural storyteller and it is her stories that finally became the books I wrote in her honor.

In 2009, she fell ill. She was undiagnosed for several months and would call me unable to sleep or focus. I would sing to her, chant with her and guide her with meditation into slumber, night after night. There wasn’t a moment in the day when my thoughts were not filled with worries about her well being. It gave me physical pain to even think of her suffering and I focused all my energies willing her into better health. Then, in May of that year, I went to Bangalore determined to heal her with the power of my intention, the purity of my meditation and the universal force of my positive thoughts. For nine weeks I sat by her bedside editing my manuscript which I had then entitled Rajam. Having completed only half of it, there was a niggling fear within me that she may not live to read the completed book.

The Magical flower blooms

Then one night, nine Brahmakamalams bloomed in her garden and as I slipped out with a flashlight to witness its magical blooming, I knew in my heart that she would recover. And I had the title of my book; When the Lotus Blooms. I decided to create a myth about the blooming of this rare and beautiful flower and connect it to her birth. And thus was created the myth of the Brahmakamalam. So it was no surprise to me that she went out in a blaze of 11 Brahmakamalams blooming.

Her final days

For the last four months she was battling renal failure brought on by her heart condition. For six weeks that I was with her this summer, I tried to motivate her to fight and get back to her earlier health again as I had done over a dozen times in the last decade. But this time I knew in my heart that she was not going to recover. I persuaded my sister to prepone her ticket and come to care for her which she did, and was able to help Mummy get a lot better, able to speak and walk. For a while, she seemed to be recovering but in the last few weeks prior to her passing she was losing the ability to move her legs. She told me that every night my father was sleeping next to her. I knew then that I had to stop praying for her to live, but instead plead with the Universe to end her earthly suffering. She had lost the will to fight.

The Monday before she went, she told me she was tired of battling her illness and wanted to go. Lack of sleep, inability to eat and digest her food, open wounds in her leg and crippling body pain  combined with the strain of dialysis had depleted her strength. I listened to her and realized that we were all being selfish attempting to prolong her life when she was in so much discomfort. I then told her to give herself permission to die and ask Appa (my father) to help her release herself from earthly bondage. And she said “Kanchi can you teach me how to do that?” Unfortunately I had no clue.

The final blooming

That night, the first batch of flowers bloomed in my patio and I knew that she was going to pass on very soon. That afternoon in a dream, I saw my father taking her away. His face was blazing with tejas, beaming in joy. After several years he had appeared in a dream and I was at peace knowing she was finally going to be reunited with him. When she passed that Friday, August 24th on Varalakshmi Nombu, I knew that all her Devi Puja, the hundreds of songs she had written dedicated to Devi had finally borne fruit, and she had merged with the Divine.

I felt a wave of relief. She had passed, and her suffering was finally over.

Kamu’s story

Kamu, daughter of Parthasarathy and Rajam, was born on October 11, 1935 in Chidambaram. As I have described in my book she was a vivacious person and touched the hearts of anyone she came across. When she met Kandu at the age of 16, they fell deeply in love and remained that way for the next 44 years until his untimely death one Diwali night when he was hit on the forehead by a firecracker. I never thought she would survive his death, so deeply committed were they to one another, but her resilience astonished me. She learned to meditate and slowly started living once again. She had for twenty years run a

bhajan group called Shaankari, and the ladies came faithfully each week venerating her as their spiritual guru. Her love for music and her “Devi Kataaksham” (her aura as the divine mother) was perceivable, and resulted in 400 wonderful keertanamas and bhajans, compositions which will remain as her legacy. Karunai Pozhiyum Kanngal was written about Shankaracharya who had blessed her mother with Kamakshi Meru resulting in her miraculous birth. It has been popularized by the late Maharajapuram Santhanam, who was a family friend.

But it was the Internet that completely transformed her life. One day, she called the Help Line which is a directory inquiry, and told them she was 75 year old lady who wanted to learn to use the computer and could they help her. Young Syed came to the house twice a week and taught her to use Facebook and Gmail. She learned to upload pictures and for the longest time typed Like for every picture she liked on FB!! LOL. But her favorite was Whatsapp.  Every morning she sent a video or Vedio as she called it, and I really miss waking up to her messages.

In spite of not having a formal education she was a social butterfly, as much at ease throwing a formal dinner for the Chairman of Rolls Royce and shaking Prince Charles’ hand as she was conversing with her relatives in Mylapore. She had the uncanny knack of being able to discuss a wide variety of subjects (from her tamil Magazines) to people of all ages, talking to them at their level with what interested them. Her zest for life was apparent in her appearance. She took pride in dressing up and bought saris for each season. Malmals one year, kalamkari printed silks the next and when she walked into a room in a whiff of perfume, you had to stop and look at her. No one could ever ignore her. Her double Mookuthi, the silver keychain at her waist, her sari draped impeccably with matching necklaces and adornments. In her later years when she switched to colorful kaftans, she wore matching beads and plastic bangles and just last year forced my sister to buy colorful watchstraps to match.

And she took pride in her home. Everything was impeccably arranged. Each week she would bring out her collections. Bells from around the world one week, brass lamps the next, dolls from every country, quartz grapes and eggs from Mexico. She never lost her enthusiasm till the end.

Her devotion to God was admirable. She celebrated every festival  making Subbu the cook, make the necessary food items that were customarily prepared. Navarathri in our home was always spectacular with one room cordoned off for the Golu doll display. She initiated me into performing Varalakshmi Nombu and in our last conversation I told her about all of my preparations for the pooja including Maavu Kolam which I normally would skip. She had even given me the menu a few days before and even though she had passed, I still prepared each item in her honor. Instead of placing the Amman in the altar I had the misfortune of placing a photograph of Amma and worshipping her, for she was  daivam(God) for me. Always has been, always will be.

She lived a full life and enjoyed her six grandchildren and even saw great-grandchildren. She had a special relationship with each grandchild and many of her traits live on through them. She was the matriarch, the role model for all of us and we all miss her vibrant personality. All three daughters loved and cared for her in their own special way. My husband was the son she never had and he made sure that she never lacked anything. No expense was spared when it came to her comfort from getting her business class air tickets to the US to attend her grandchildren’s wedding, to buying her a bed, a TV and a computer and so much more. She only had to mention it and he would ask me to buy it.

When she lived I had the rare privilege of taking care of her completely and now I leave her in the loving care of my father, her one true love.


Her life has been immortalized in my two books, When the Lotus Blooms and A Rose from a Dream. If you haven’t already, please do buy a copy in her memory.

When the Lotus Blooms: 


A Rose from a Dream 
















Maya Angelou: A Legacy of Hope

Maya Angelou  born Marguerite Ann Johnson; (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet, who is best known for her seven autobiographies, based on her incredible life experiences. Her books focus on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. Added to this list are several books of exemplary poetry and plays.

When I read her biography, I was dumbstruck by how much she has achieved in a single lifetime with all the odds stacked against her. She was an African American woman, a single mother with two known marriages. (One inter-racial) In addition she had no spectacular college degree or wealth to speak of. Yet in her lifetime she was honored with over 30 honorary college degrees besides winning the Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her life was filled with rich experiences, a painful and difficult childhood and words that emerged from her pain were poignant, because they surfaced from her core, her spirit. She didn’t stop at writing, she was also actively involved with the Civil Rights Movement both with King and Malcolm X.  She had the honor of speaking both at Bill Clinton’s inauguration and more recently at the historic Obama inauguration.

One record of her past touched me deeply. At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She confided in  her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou’s uncles Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing that it was her voice that killed him.  In the silence that enveloped her, Maya developed her love for the written word and the ability to dissect human emotion and drama at a cellular level. Maya Angelou often checked into a hotel and wrote her stories on legal pads. No computers and no typewriters!!

Maya Angelou represents the quintessence of African American writing and her absence will be felt in the literary community. Her legacy is not merely one of literary achievements, it represents hope, to achieve an impossible dream, motivation to maximize ones hidden potential and inspiration to break out of imaginary boundaries and conquer uncharted territories.

Spotlight on Nigeria

Spotlight on Nigeria

This week in the news, the spotlight is on Nigeria where a local Islamic Fundamentalist group, Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 200 young girls . The Twitter hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” has been trending at various points since the girls were taken, with many users from around the world demanding a swift rescue of the girls. The horror of their plight is worsened in the knowledge that the group plan to use and sell these women as sex slaves.

What is Boko Haram?

Loosely translated from the local Hausa language, this means “Western education is forbidden”. Boko originally meant fake but came to signify Western education, while Haram means forbidden. The group is fundamentally opposed to the education of women whom they believe are born to serve men, to cook their food, bear their children and provide free sex.

Schools were the hunting grounds for new “Jihadis” but as the group escalated into horrific violence, now commonplace in so many parts of Africa, they popularly came to be known as the Nigerian Taliban, despite no official connection with the mother organization. The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau gloated “I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.

Islam and women

Neither the Koran nor Allah ever expounded any theory of deliberate suppression of women. In fact men only took more than one wife only if they could treat them all equally. Islam is one of the few religions that allows the woman to divorce her husband-Talaq. In fact, the husband has to return the “Mehr,” the bride price paid at the time of marriage. Mr. Abubakar is delusional and is venting his own psychological emasculation by enslaving innocent girls. It is unfortunate that men, Islamic or otherwise contort religion to give rationale for their own inadequacies. Education of women is seen as a threat, as men don’t wish to lose their control, which is a natural corollary when educated women  join the work force and gain financial freedom. Here in the US, women still earn 30% less than men and it makes me wonder, if Hillary Clinton becomes President, will they pay her 30% less? It is regrettable that one needs an incident as horrific as this one to make the world rise from their slumber and examine more fundamental issues. Issues that govern how men view women but more importantly how women view themselves.

World view of women

Women’s issues have preoccupied me and it comes out in my writing. When the Lotus Blooms, my first published book highlights several issues pertaining to women and though set in the 1930s are valid even today.This world view of women as basically inferior is at the core of all violence against women and this disease is rampant, touching every society in every country. Why do we raise our daughters to cook while our sons can play outside? How many women, after a 40 hour work week, cook Sunday dinner while their husbands watch the game with a six-pack of beer handy. Our children learn from our habits and imbibe hidden messages through our body language and the legacy persists. A 30 year old unmarried daughter is a liability who could potentially become an “old maid” while her male counterpart is a bachelor “enjoying life.” Hindu marriages concretize the belief that women are “property” in a ritual called Kanyadaanwhere the father gives his daughter as a gift or offering to her husband. Today, we continue this ritual in our marriages without examining its hidden meaning and what this means for the emancipation of women.

Emancipation of Women

Freedom doesn’t come solely with voting rights and equal opportunities. As long as we treat women differently from men, as long as we assign roles to women, as long as overtly or covertly subscribe to the superiority of men we can never stop the rabid abuse of women. The plight of these Nigerian women should make each one of us examine why world over this patriarchal belief system reigns supreme? Why do women need looking after? Why should  the destiny of women need to be controlled by men?  Are we unconsciously enabling the subjugation of women? Does the very fabric of society, the complex web of inter-gender relationships need to be re examined? And the last rhetorical question- Are we as women in some way responsible for these crimes being perpetuated against us?

New Jersey Book Reading

March 25th my dear friend Rajeswari arranged a Book Reading at her neighborhood Community Center in New Jersey.

I met Rajeswari in ’98 when I moved to New York from Argentina. I started music classes with her and our children Lavanya and Shyamala were buddies. We hit it off really well and the connection was deep enough for our friendship to mature over the years. What can I say about Rajeswari? She has the voice of a nightingale and is the gentlest and sweetest person I have met. There was really no reason for her to go out of her way to arrange the readings in New Long Island and New Jersey. She could have been like a lot of my acquaintances who encourage and support me verbally. Yet for no apparent reason, she decided to undertake this special event to promote my book and for that I am truly grateful.

We were around 7 ladies that met that morning. Rajeswari was a little disappointed, but it turned out to be an extremely animated and gratifying reading. The guard at the Center did everything he could to make us miserable including forcing Rajeswari to pick out her trash from the garbage and take it with her. I applaud her for remaining calm. I know I was ready to explode. Instead, taking my cue from her, I focused my energies on greeting the group of ladies that had honored me by taking the time to be present. Almost all of them had read the book and I had no need to introduce or promote the novel. They picked up on the characters and were generous with their compliments. One of them had tears in her eyes as she spoke about Velandi the untouchable and his wretched condition.

One lady remarked about how she was fed up of reading about immigrant “desis” who mix chutney in their cereal and are awestruck by the cars and technology in the US. ” We are not villagers from some remote corner of India. I have lived a very comfortable life in India and I’m tired of reading about the desolate, stereotypical Indian immigrant. This book touched my heart because it brought back memories of my own grandparents. The stories were familiar and the characters so vibrant I felt I knew them and had met them before in my life. The nostalgia was overpowering.”

When the lotus Blooms will probably appeal to that generation of Indians who spent their childhood in India. Although the book is set in Tamil Nadu and East Bengal the situations of the protagonists apply across the board to that generation of Indians.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the Power of Womanhood

In an effort to express themselves women sometimes lose sight of the power that they innately possess. Being a housewife/ homemaker all my life, I was at times despondent at not contributing to family income and therefore believing I was nothing financially. It was while I wrote my book that I started appreciating my ancestors; women like Dharmu, Rajam, Nagamma and Mangalam, each wielding and controlling their circle of influence, some with authority and  others with a sense of helplessness. For them, like most women, power was either misused or untapped and they never took the time to seek answers and search  for strength within. 

Yes, I do believe that some women need to be empowered but strongly affirm that for most of us the empowerment is largely from within. We need to start believing in ourselves, stop doubting our place in society and instead focus on channelizing our energy to spread love, peace  and harmony that is our innate nature.

This is what SriSri has to say about women.

In Indian mythology, the female energy is depicted as Shakti  the embodiment of strength against injustice combined with beauty, love and compassion. Shakti is also represented in the trinity of Durga, goddess of valour and vitality, Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and well-being, and Saraswati, goddess of knowledge and art. Women just need a reminder that all these Goddesses are holding such important portfolios (Defence, Wealth and Education) and that they better start claiming their own portfolios too. Women must be proactive. Somebody else has to empower us is itself a sign of weakness. Women are innately powerful and they only need to realise it. Every woman has within her the right blend of strength with grace, courage with compassion, affluence with values, and wisdom with vision. In her lies the seed for a profound social transformation. In many facets of life the world over, the modern woman has epitomised this ideal of Shakti, using her innate strength to create a more humane and just social order. In public life, many women have worked to highlight issues that increase global peace, social welfare and international equity. In economic life, they have worked to make corporations more socially responsible and communities stronger. In literature, they have found new voices to raise social consciousness. Women always make an impact wherever they go. They can shape societies and countries. It is women who can inculcate values in the many people around them. I see women as a source of introducing values into children, the family and society. She is the glue who can keep everyone in the family intact. To keep them together, a woman brings celebration into the home. If the woman of the house is depressed, there can be no celebration. Neither can there be celebration where womenfolk are not participating. Women should be more celebratory, watch over and keep their family and society together. In fact, that is their responsibility. The real strength of a woman is her emotion when she channelises it in the correct way. Womens freedom and empowerment should not take away from their motherhood and their maternal or feminine qualities. The fine female qualities like softness, gentleness, compassion, nurturing instincts should not be lost while becoming powerful. So, women have a challenge to maintain two aspects of their empowerment  being in a certain amount of dominance and retaining the submissiveness, which is a womans beauty. It is indeed a challenge to bring about a balance between feminism and dominance in any field. A truly empowered woman is one who is confident, creative and one who brings people together rather than create disharmony. Only her own sense of insecurity and her lack of confidence in herself can prevent a woman from being truly empowered. I want the women of India to bring back the glory to the country, the culture and its civilisation. Our whole civilisation is based on the woman-force  Sthree Shakti. Thats why we call India Bharat Matha. We never say Bharat Pitha. Our country is named and personified as a woman. Though Bharat is a male name, we associate it with the mother/woman. Strength of a woman is persuasive not aggressive. Strength of a woman is elastic not brittle. Strength of a woman is subtle not obvious

My Debut Novel “When the Lotus Blooms”

Dear Friends.

There has been a lot happening preventing the book release on the scheduled date of October 1, 2011. I have since got a book deal from a publisher in India, and the manuscript now sits on the editor’s desk. I should have the updated manuscript by the end of the month and will inform you about the US book release which should take place by November.  I would also like to share with you the exciting news that Dr. Shashi Tharoor has written the Foreword to my book, a huge feather in my self publishing cap. You can read his entire review on my blog. By November 1,2011 my website should be up and functioning. You can access it at www.kanchibooks,com. Please do check out new updates on my blog and visit my Facebook author page at
Please support a first time author and like my fan page
Thanks for your support
Kanchana Krishnan

Say NO to Fifty Shades of Grey!

I love drinking my coffee and watching the morning shows, flipping between NBC and CBS depending on what interests me. Last week, no matter which channel I switched to, every show was talking about 50 shades of gray. It’s almost as if the whole country is in the grip of sex fever. No, I am not a prude. I am not against sex but to watch the media glamorize rape, subjugation and sexual slavery makes my blood boil. It’s a good thing that fads don’t last. If they did, can you imagine what a monstrous society we would be living in with all of us controlling, subjugating, demeaning, and raping each other. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Fifty Shades of Grey

Women for years have carried the burden of subjugation, sexual and otherwise and we experience the pain from lifetimes of such assault as PMT: Pre Menstrual Tension. Yes ladies. That irritation, moodiness, desire to simply burst into tears, lower back and leg pain, the cramps, all of which you feel right before or at the onset of your period is a result of impressions from pain from all your past lives. You carry the burden of womanhood which is expressed through all these symptoms. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

For all of recorded history, as long as men have walked the earth, women have constituted their property. What originated as division of labor became a symbol of subjugation. For years, across societies and cultures women have raised their daughters to become “good wives.” Education was secondary, outdoor games and jobs were for boys. Girls could never work outside the home, where they remained chained for centuries relegated to raise children, provide free sex on demand for their husband and keep the home sparkling. That was fine as long as women never questioned this arrangement and never wanted to enter the workplace which so far was the arena for men.

This did not mean that women were always happy with their lot or that their men were kind and caring. For most women, questioning and wanting something different was met by violence and sexual subjugation, the pain of which then got embedded in their psyche as karmic impressions. For women in the modern world, the opportunity to be treated equally as men at least in the eyes of the law has taken back breaking effort, pain and disillusion. This constant power struggle with men has taken a tremendous toll on women’s psyche and movies like 50 Shades take us back to the middle ages in one mammoth sweep. They virtually wipe out all the effort over centuries made by women wanting to escape sexual subjugation, wanting to express their identity, wanting to be heard. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

The audience in the US consist largely of middle aged women from the Bible belt. Perhaps you have been repressed and unable to voice your individuality. But seriously, do you wish to “find yourself” through rape? And is rape justified if its perpetrated by a millionaire? To the rest of the audience comprising of “Curious Georges” you might believe that movies don’t affect you but the subliminal messages seep into your subconscious and then surface, hammering messages of inferiority that bomb your self-esteem. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

In most parts of the world women are still treated as property.

Say NO to Dowrydowry

One woman dies every hour due to dowry related reasons on an average in India, which has seen a steady rise in such cases between 2007 and 2011, according to official data.
In the US, there is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.

Every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted.
In India, if one goes by the latest statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every day 93 women are raped in the country.

According to NCRB data, there is a gradual increase in the number of rapes 50 shadesreported in India – from 24,923 in 2012 to 33,707 in 2013.
According to the UNICEF using data between 2005-2013 child marriage still exists: Afghanistan 40% Bangladesh 65% Central African Republic and Chad 68%

What are we talking about here? Virgins being raped every day. And not by millionaires.They are being subjected to sex even at the age of 8 or 10 years. There is no glamour here. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Have you ever spoken to someone who has been raped? Have you ever seen the pain they go through ? The effect of violence on their physical and psychological bodies devastates them. They really suffer and can never trust men again. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

Is lust what we want for ourselves? Will it lead to strong enduring relationships? Is that what we want for our daughters? Are you raising them to believe it’s okay to be raped. And how about your sons? What would you have them do? Forge respectful relationships with women or just randomly rape them?

While promiscuity may give the illusion of freedom, it actually binds you and destroys you from within. One sexual act may feel exhilarating in the moment, but what follows makes the act regrettable. Emotions are dark and confused, and satisfaction is momentary, leaving you spent and listless until the feverishness begins afresh. This is why I say NO to 50 SHADES OF GREY!!!

The only way to handle lust is to understand its nature. See what you feel as lust arises in you and realize how it prevents you from feeling love. You have a choice.

You can live with lust and the tension and anxiety it brings, or you can relax in love.
You can drive yourself crazy manipulating and planning to satisfy your lust, or relax in the ease and restfulness of love.
You can obsess with possession and grasping even though there is nothing to own but a few minutes of pleasure, or you can surrender in timeless and ever expansive, divine love.
You can wrestle with violent thoughts and loveactions or sacrifice and surrender to a higher energy, freeing you from the bondage of base desire.
For heaven’s sake choose love. Teach your sons and daughter to seek relationships of mutual respect and never subscribe to ugly headline seeking fads like 50 Shades of Grey.