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January 15, 2000
Vedanta in Real Life
J M Shenoy
For a long time Lakshmi Sukumar has been telling her guru, Swami Chidananda, that she would love to get involved in a humanitarian cause on a long-going basis. "I am a student of philosophy and Vedanta," the Saratoga-based Sukumar says. "Naturally, I want to give back something to society."
Though she has been involved in a number of spiritual programs, Lakshmi Sukumar wanted to do more than spiritual counseling and conducting religious retreats. Wife of a manager with Hewlett-Packard, and mother of two daughters, Maya, 18, and Asha, 15, she divides her time being a mother and a volunteer for the Chinmaya Mission.
Last week not only did she give something tangible to an Indian family, but she also got her family involved in the act, particularly Maya who gave a Bharatanatyam performance at the Hindu Temple and raised $ 15,000 to help the Kulkarni family.
Ranjana Kulkarni, 32, the mother of two, became a quadriplegic following a car accident about 15 months ago and has been in hospital since then. The accident happened in Arizona when the family was on vacation.
"She needs round the clock care, but her insurance pays for about six hours," says Sukumar. "Now she is prepared to move into a home, her family is looking for a place that has amenities for wheel-chair bound persons."
The dance recital, held last week, was organized with the help of the Chinmaya Mission in San Jose. Swami Nikhilananda said the divine gift Maya Sukumar has received was being shared with someone who cannot dance. Ranjana watched the entire performance, Lakshmi Sukumar said.
Sukumar has been giving lessons in Indian culture and philosophy for the past 12 years under the auspices of the Chinmaya Mission. She also conducts adult study groups on Vedanta. She has made presentations at local elementary schools and high schools on Hindu culture and also conducted workshops for public school teachers on understanding Hinduism.
At several local hospitals, she has presented lectures on Hinduism's view on life, illness and death.
When Ranjana was moved to a Bay Area hospital in February last year after spending several months in an Arizona hospital, the Saratoga hospital approached Sukumar to help Ranjana deal with her trauma and provide her with spiritual counseling.
Lakshmi says Ranjana has endeared herself to the doctors and nurses, and "whoever came in touch with her."
"She is an inspiration," says Lakshmi. "She is bearing her tragedy with dignity and courage."
She said many people in the community have offered to help the Kulkarni family. Some have come forward to baby sit the children. Some have offered to continue fund-raising efforts. Rashmi Singh, an author of children's books, sold some of her books at the dance event and donated the money for the Kulkarnis.
For details, Lakshmi contact Sukumar, (408) 867-3193.
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