Read a tale of endurance, will & a daring fight against Covid. Click here for "The Stalwarts" by Soni Shalini.
Read a tale of endurance, will & a daring fight against Covid. Click here for "The Stalwarts" by Soni Shalini.

Sudha Narasimhachar

Children Stories


Sudha Narasimhachar

Children Stories

Amma's Lesson

Amma's Lesson

7 mins

“Amma, I am very hungry. Is the breakfast ready?” begged Hari.

“Today is Sunday. I woke up a bit late. Please wait for a few more minutes dear. It’s almost done.”

“What’s for breakfast?”

“Vegetable upma.”

“What? You are making that boring upma on a Sunday? I don’t want that. Why can’t you make something interesting?” shouted 12-year-old Hari. He was almost in tears.

“What’s wrong with upma? Amma makes such yummy upma. Stop being so childish and demanding”, said his sister Shalini. She was five years elder than him. 

“Lakshmi, poor Hari feels like eating something different. Maybe you could order something from Udupi Restaurant for him”, suggested Hari’s grandmother to her daughter-in-law.

“Amma, please do not pamper him like this. He is getting spoilt. He is becoming so adamant and demanding. He cannot have his way always. Today, he has to eat the upma. Otherwise, let him skip the breakfast”, said Lakshmi, as she set the table and started serving the breakfast for everybody.

“I will not eat this. Maybe, I will just have some fruits”, said Hari angrily.

“Do as you please. But remember and realise you are not going the right way. You will repent someday”, said Lakshmi. 

“Hari, sit down and eat your breakfast without fussing. You should not show your anger on food. Can you not adjust on one day?” said Krishnan, Hari’s father.

Hari was indeed a very pampered child. He always got whatever he wanted by being stubborn. Lakshmi started worrying about his nature, which will not be good in the long run.

On the other day, they all had gone to a wedding reception. It was a buffet. Hari was filling his plate with varieties of food laid out attractively. “Hari, I don’t think you can eat all of that. Why don’t you serve little by little, instead of taking so many items at the same time?” said Lakshmi.

“Do you make this many varieties at home? I will eat as I please and as much as I wish”, replied Hari.

“You eat as much as you want but don’t take all the items together. You can come back and take a second serving.”

Hari did not obey her. In the end, his plate was filled with a little of every item and he was struggling to finish it. Lakshmi and Krishnan were observing him. He just left his plate with a lot of left-over food and got up.

“Now, finish that. Don’t waste food”, said Lakshmi. Hari glared at her and walked off towards the ice cream counter. Lakshmi was very upset.

Most of the days, Hari brought back his tiffin box with left-over food. “Why don’t you eat all of it? That’s why you come back so hungry in the evening”, said Lakshmi.

“I didn’t like the puliyogare. You had not put groundnut and cashewnut”.

“You cannot eat puliyogare without ground and cashewnut? This is atrocious! You should not waste food like this. You have to change yourself, Hari.”

Lakshmi said, “let’s all go to Palanahalli on Sunday”.

“Palanahalli? Why?” asked Krishnan.

“That’s a surprise. Just be ready by ten in the morning.”

“Ten? Amma, I cannot miss the TV show at 11. I am not coming. You order some food for me and leave me alone. I will stay back with Ajji”, said Hari.

“No way Hari! All of us are going. Ajji too is coming along. You can miss the show on one day. The skies will not fall down”, said Lakshmi sternly.

On Sunday, they all got ready and left home at 10.15. Hari wore a long face and was yelling at his sister for everything. “Hari, stop doing that. Behave yourself”, said his father.

The car stopped in front of that old dilapidated building. ‘Sri Sathya Sai Ashram’ read a board in front of the building. Lakshmi led all of them inside the building. There were many old people sitting here and there in the corridor, on the benches in the garden and on the lawn. There were many children too. Some of them were sitting on the lawn and writing something, while some of them were playing in the play area. Some of them were going around the corridors doing some errands. Hari was walking with his family. He wore a boring look and wondered why his mother had brought them there.

Lakshmi went into the office room and spoke to the person sitting there. “Sir, I am Lakshmi.”

“Oh, welcome Madam Lakshmi. Namasthe. You are right on time. We will be serving lunch in another half an hour. Meanwhile, I will take you on a tour around our Ashram”, he said.

“Thank you, Mr Kumar! Meet my husband Krishnan. She is my mother-in-law, Shantha Murthy. My daughter Shalini and my son Hari. Wish uncle, Hari and Shalini”, said Lakshmi. 

“Namasthe uncle!” said the children. 

Kumar took them around the Ashram. Though the building was very old, it was maintained very well. Everything was in its place and all the rooms, the kitchen and dining room were very clean, spic and span. The children were involved in various small tasks like dusting the windows, arranging the washed utensils, laying the plates for lunch, serving water, etc., along with the elders who were working. 

“How many inmates do you have here?” asked Krishnan.

“We have 85 men, 66 women and 145 children. All of them are destitute or orphans. They have nobody to call on them. The youngest inmate is 6-month-old Chirag and the oldest is 92-year-old Seethamma” said Kumar.

“That is the school. We have very good teachers volunteering for us. Many of our children are doing very well in their studies. Last year 45 children passed out of our school and are now studying in different colleges. They are doing very well. This year we have 56 students in the tenth grade.”

The bell went off and all the inmates came to the huge dining hall. By then the plates were laid down in neat rows with glasses of water by the side. The inmates stood with folded hands, said their prayers for five minutes and then sat down. The staff members then started serving the food.

“Friends, today is Smt.Shantha’s birthday. Hence, her son and his family are serving you all a special meal. All of you pray for her good health and wish her. All of them looked at Hari’s ajji and wished her, “Wish you good health, happiness and long life, auntie! Happy Birthday! Thank you for the special meal.”

Then they all started eating eagerly. As the food was being served Kumar instructed, “all of you eat as much as you please but remember not to waste any food. You will be served after you empty your plates as many times as you want.”

Lakshmi looked at Hari and Hari turned his face shyly. 

Kumar took the family to a separate dining room and they had lunch there. Lunch was a simple course of bisi bele baath, curds rice, obbattu, masala vada and a banana. Hari ate silently and went to wash his hands. On the way, he peeped into the dining hall. All the inmates had finished their lunch and were leaving the hall. He looked at the plates and was surprised to see all the plates totally empty!

On their way home in the afternoon, Lakshmi asked, “Hari, how did you like the visit?”

“It was nice. But isn’t Ajji’s birthday on the day after tomorrow?”

“Yes. But since we are free only today, we went today. Did you see those children? None of them has a home or a family of his or her own. The Ashram inmates are their only relatives. Nobody to pamper them and meet all their demands. Isn’t that very sad?”

“Yes, Amma! It is very sad. But they all seem so happy.”

“They are happy because they are not on the streets unlike many other children and old people, who are abandoned by their families. Kumar uncle and all his teammates take very good care of them. They are very thankful for that. Did any of them waste any food? Do you think all of them as the same kind of food? Do you think they will not have their own likes and dislikes? However, since getting 3 decent meals a day is a luxury for them, they eat whatever is served to them. Today we served them a special meal but their regular meal is just a combination of mixed rice and curd rice. If anybody complains, he has to go without even that. Imagine the children on the streets who do not get even this and rummage the food thrown by people like us in the dustbin and eat or go hungry on many days! That is why I get mad when you are so demanding and picky about your food and waste so much food every day. Hari, you are old enough to understand all this. Thank God that you have such a good life, think of the less fortunate and respect food. Instead of throwing leftover food from your soiled plates, serve fresh food that is left over to hungry people. I brought you here just to make you realise the value of food and family.”

“Amma, I am very sorry. I have learnt a great lesson today. From today, I will not waste any food and not fuss over my choices. You are very sweet Amma. I love you”, said Hari.

“I too love you Kanna. I know you are basically good and just needed a small introduction to the other world. Let us all now go to the ice-cream parlour and eat our favourite ice-creams”, said Lakshmi, happily.

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