Meet Madam Maa

Meet Madam Maa of Guntur, the lady who has transformed the lives of rural children in the Naxal-prone area of Andhra Pradesh. Exuding an arresting personality, she makes her way purposefully towards the sprawling campus of the Sri Sri Seva Mandir school, nestling against the backdrop of three picturesque hills. The determination is written strongly on her face, yet the lines are soft, covered with boundless compassion and love.

The same lady has persuaded Naxals in many other states across the country to drop the gun and learn the art of love and sharing. Indeed, Madam Maa has been instrumental in spreading the message of the Art of Living in the most impregnable regions, amidst those who were considered beyond help and reformation.

From Violence to Love

Using the same hands that once toted the guns, the same minds that plotted massacres ruthlessly, Madam Maa developed five villages, where she built biogas plants, health centers, good roads, and rain harvesting, besides teaching the residents the technique of relieving stress and healthy living.

Locals realized that they no longer want their children to be budding Naxals. Particularly, if they have experienced it first-hand, and returned to appreciate the beauty and true meaning of life. The Sri Sri Seva Mandir school was a natural consequence of this. Thus was born the school amidst a picturesque backdrop, in the year 2002, in Palanadu, a remote village in the district of Guntur. 

It was certainly not easy to get started. Because, in addition to strong helping hands and willing minds, finance was required for the physical construction. Yet, the strong-willed lady that she is, Madam Maa circumvented all hurdles and soon was created a humble structure large enough to impart the most precious knowledge to the young minds, steering them from the path of violence to a way of love.

Holistic Education

Apart from training them in modern the students are also initiated into yoga and meditation along with academic renditions, a perfect blend of modern education with ancient tradition. Interestingly, some of the classes are held in the open under the Banyan and Berry trees in the campus, allowing the students to study amidst nature.

“It is a result of the holistic education that we impart, combining spirituality and age-old learning techniques based on the Gurukul system of education, with the most modern interactive methods. This makes the process of learning a joy as well as strengthens the young minds in both approach and manner of handling life”, says Madam Maa.

The school also lays prime importance on sports education, and this is amply borne out by Mr. V. Kishor, Director of Sports, NU being the visiting faculty. Not a surprise at all that Madam Maa’s next dream for the school is a sports track beside a Vedic Wisdom Section. “We have sent 15 students to the University for a 20-day sports-training Program,” she beams. Her long-term vision is to produce world-class athletes and sportspersons from her school.

Growth & Accolades

Over the last decade, the school has indeed come a long way. With what started as word of mouth to enrol students; the current strength stands at over 250. The school has classes till grade eight, with a hostel facility for over 60 students who incidentally were orphans abandoned or handed over by the police. 

The children hail from a varied background; ranging from those who were rescued from child marriages to those who cannot afford education. Some of the students are making family history by being the first to step into the revered hall of an education arena.

Commendations have poured in aplenty from the District Collector, the local MLA, IAS officers, and administrative bodies who now find the future generation on track, easing their pressures of tracking and reforming prospective deviators. Noticing the good work, many parents have shifted their children to Sri Sri Seva Mandir. The school, not surprisingly, has been voted as the best school in the district of Guntur as well as the State.

Recognising her creditable work in these Naxal-prone areas, Madam Maa was recently conferred the “Best Seva Award” from Nagarjuna University (NU) in the field of ‘rural service in education.’

Inspired by a Spiritual Mentor

Madam Maa is however, quick to add that all this would not have been possible without the inspiration from her spiritual mentor, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who showed her the path to make the difference, transform lives – fearlessly, tirelessly, without losing her smile. And smile she certainly does, at every opportunity, not because she always has plenty to smile about, but because it has become her second nature and one of the most prized teachings she learned from Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

“When I came here, there was intense negativity, fear, rage, impressed upon these young minds, impeding the possibility of imbibing new and different way of thinking, understanding. The Sudarshan Kriya, meditation, and the holistic education which made learning fun, helped erase many negative impressions, opening up their minds and spirits to a new meaningful life filled with joy and free of stress,” Madam Maa concludes.

Indeed, a well-rounded education that she has every reason to be proud of. After all, she had built this brick by brick, on the firm foundation of the teachings of the Art of Living.