Mekala Bharathi Jayaram has been in Nigeria for almost 30 years doing charity work. She is from a middle class family in India and was so comfortable that even without working in her lifetime, she would not lack good life. But she left all, in her quest for fulfilment in life which is to serve humanity. She is a part of a team in Nigeria, providing free medical services and often funding operations that could not be performed in Nigeria for indigents. She tells Ahamefula Ogbu that service to humanity was the best way to please God and make the world a better place. Excerpts:
How did you come to Nigeria?
My brother in-law was working in Indian airlines, so through him we were invited. He said we should come so I did and I was working in Lagos Island maternity hospital when I came to Nigeria.
So how did you go into service to humanity?
I believe in the saying that there is God in man, so I have the intense desire to serve God. So how can I serve God, what is the way? So my belief is that God is present in every man and even our parents told us so and encouraged us but the main reason is the interest to serve, because I want to serve God; I can serve God only by serving the people because I strongly believe that God is there in every being.
Where were you born?
I was born in India, Hydraman. It is an urban area.
What kind of training did you receive growing up that prepared you for this type of service?
It was from the teachers and parents and from the example of Sai Baba. Mainly the teachings and training that there is God in man.
Apart from working in Island Maternity, I learnt at a point you were running a hospital in Agege area taking care of the sick and even the leprous. How did you transit to Agege?
After I finished my term in Island maternity, I went to Agege, which is like a rural or slum area; people are poor, poverty is very high there, so I was in charge of Grema Mohammed hospital. Alhaji Grema Mohammed was the owner of the place and I was in charge of operations and everything there, so I had a free hand and when I read some teachings like there is God in man and service to man is service to God, and there are four things that really impressed me a lot during that time when I was reading one book written by one great saint like that; that there are four days you can write in golden letters in your life. Number one is when you feed the hungry, when all the people gather together and sing the glory of God and third one is when you meet a great sage or a saint, what I mean by that is a person who has attained Christ consciousness and the fourth is when wisdom dawns on you. These are the days when you can write in golden letter in your life, so I thought I should follow something.
I had the intense desire to serve right from the beginning. Even in Island Maternity hospital, we do whatever service is possible because Jesus also did the same thing. I mean anybody comes to your door step, I believe the person was sent by God; nobody just comes accidentally like that, so I try my best to help anybody that comes.
We learnt you even took care of lepers in the hospital and rendered all sorts of services, can you tell us more about that?
Yes, I had a special training in India in taking care of leprous people and their treatment, so I use to go to Agege, near the mosque and I use to see a lot of disabled people, lepers, blind people, so many of them were suffering even without medicine, so by the grace of God, we started the feeding programme. We started a programme there like the free medicines, free food and all that. We use to cook in our place for 500 people and how funds used to come was mysterious like God used to send whatever was needed like that. Even my husband used to cook like God is coming to eat the food and our entire group, the Sati Sai Baba group and all our divine brothers and sisters, even outside people, whatever they can contribute they used to, like during the services, following us. That was like the miracle of God for me and then we used to have medical camps, giving out free medicines. We used to have donations for medicines; small small people used to contribute from Nigeria.
How did you fund the free feeding programme and medical outreaches?
We used to buy them with my personal money and then people used to contribute. Our organisation brothers and sisters in whatever capacity they can, they used to contribute. I firmly believe that whenever you want to do any good work you will never lack in anything including funds and people to help.
Are there some memories you had growing up that are indelible?
Nothing in particular; my mother used to tell us that you are in this life only to serve people, not for any other reason, every other thing has to be according to the desire of God. I don’t think it has anything to do with what people should be concerned with. But as a student of medicine, I used to do section of dead bodies, then every time I would think what is this life for? You know you think one day, your body would be like this. Either dead bodies or you are alive. I wanted to know the essence of life; I had the intense desire to know. I also had extra-ordinary talents as a child. Supposing you teach us something, after months, I can recall word for word that which was taught us; even if I read any book just once, I can recall everything in such a way that people won’t believe I read it only once. At a point I lost interest in other things because I was always pondering what the essence of life is and what will be the end of all these. My parents were not happy with that aspect of me because they were not able to answer me well. They were like you have everything life can provide, that is why you are asking us all these questions.
What kind of parents did you have, were they strict or lax with you?
They were mild with me and never beat me. They were strict in disciplining us.
Was it after working on cadavers that you decided that service to humanity was your ultimate essence in life?
After coming to Nigeria, I can say I have the intense desire to serve as though my life was on that. I came to Nigeria to work but my life changed and my mind has since been locked on service to humanity.
How long have you stayed in Nigeria?
Almost 30 years. I was in Lagos most of the time. So I was in charge of the hospital then and I can do a number of activities I had the freedom for and my husband used to encourage me and helped out every time he could. I left all that life had gathered for me to fulfill the sole desire of service to humanity. The same spirit of service is in everybody, if you serve others, you serve yourself. I have met a lot of saints and sages in Lagos, highly developed spiritual people who attend to others.
Did you come to Nigeria with your children?
Where are they?
They did not come with me but they are partly with me in Lagos and partly in America, both of them.
What was your experience like living apart from your children?
It is not like that, we are not living apart; we are in contact.
In the course of living a life of service, what has been your toughest experience?
We had a lot of challenges but I don’t take anything as hardest. Anything happens, everybody is an instrument. I am also an instrument of God to help the people; I feel that if you lift your hand to serve, to counsel, to entreat another man, you are lifting it for God, if you are serving others you are serving yourself because the same spirit rules all.
What disappointments have you met in the course of service?
You know some people when you are doing free service they may put so many blocks on your way but by God’s grace I am able to overcome everything.
What has been your happiest and most fulfilling experience in service?
Anytime I serve I feel happy. We used to serve anybody that comes to my doorstep, we used to do free surgeries where they cannot afford to pay but all the services we give, we do silently, we don’t believe in propaganda because I believe that when you are doing service, it is for your own transformation. You may not reshape or reform the world, it is for you to reform yourself and reshape yourself. I used to go to remand homes and when lives are in danger, we used to intervene to save the life and it gives me lots of joy, when lives are in danger like ectopic pregnancy, Caesarian section, when we intervene and save their lives, it gives me lots of happiness.
You lived in Lagos and you are living in Enugu, can you compare your experiences?
I have a very big family and as for the divine will, I am working here. I was happy there and I am happy here, it is the divine will. I learnt a lot of things in Nigeria at least they have helped in transforming me.
What are the things that you learnt in Nigeria that have transformed you?
Service. The advantage of doing service is evil eradication; all your negative tendencies and attributes, everything will gradually fade away, it gives you lots of joy, happiness. In the spiritual oath, service is very important. The simple formula in life is that when you serve others you are serving yourself, you should have that awareness and always you should do it for the sake of God, not for the sake of name, fame or publicity. We used to take some photos just for the sake of those that cannot attend the service. We used to go to leprosy colony to serve apart from remand homes and Agege center; we used to go to disabled homes, old peoples home, children home, who seek our help.
Can you recall any disappointment you have had in the course of rendering service and help?
Disappointments will be there but we use to always solve the problems. We once helped a patient in the hospital for ectopic pregnancy, so we saved the life of the lady. You know some patients cannot afford the cost of treatment but later they went to the police station and said I should pay N15, 000 and like a criminal they charged me with very high offences. The man and the woman had a quarrel and if I did not do surgery, the woman would have died, and without paying money or bringing anything, we did all free. Either because the husband and wife quarreled or because we are expatriates, they just said she took some herbal medicines and lost the pregnancy. I think the woman was just six weeks pregnant. We saved her life and she started something else because of the quarrel with her husband or boyfriend. It was looking really strange to me and they said she took herbal medicine but that was not true. I said I don’t give herbal medicine and that unless someone else gave her herbal medicine that I only performed the surgery. I called somebody and they resolved it.
How much did it cost you?
I didn’t pay anything. I did not do anything wrong.
How did you meet your husband?
It was an arranged marriage, my parents arranged it.
And it is working for you?
Yes, there is no problem.
What do you like in your husband?
He is like a great soul; he is like a saint with great qualities. He loves to serve people a lot. He is nice to everybody almost.
How do you cope leaving India where you have everything to live in Nigeria without earning income?
I believe in God, Whatever I need, God will provide and He always provides. I am grateful to Nigerians for all the chances they have given me to serve humanity as a result, there is transformation in me.
Are you part of the team running a no account counter hospital in Ebe, Enugu State?
So how are you people coping with it?
By God’s grace we are doing well.
On the average, how many people does the hospital handle in a day?
I am not the only Doctor, other Doctors are there. On the average we see about 60 patients daily.
Do you still operate on patients?
At present, we are not running an operating theater there, they are all out patients and we treat cases like malaria, gastro enteritis, kidney infections, respiratory tract infections among others.
To someone that has not been to Nigeria how would you describe the country?
I feel life is a game of luck, it depends on individuals, I feel Nigerians are good. I see good in people because in everyone here is some form of specialty, I always see the positive sides to life. We send patients to India for operations free of charge and God is providing. I used to coordinate and help children get treatment in India free of charge.
How do you earn a living?
We get something for food. I am okay in India so that even if I don’t have to work in my life I will be okay, my parents left enough for me and it is from that I subsidise my stay in Nigeria but God always provides and we get allowance for food.
What is your wish for Nigeria?
I want Nigerians to be happy and progress in all aspects of life; all beings in the world to make progress and be happy.