Malaysia’s ‘Mother Mangalam’ turns 85

May 17th, 2011 - 12:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, May 17 (IANS) Malaysian Indian social worker A. Mangalam, who turned 85 Tuesday, is a self-confessed worry-wart who never stops worrying about her ‘children’.

“That is my defect. I cannot keep my mind away from that. So I keep trying to find solutions to make things better for them, and these come only through faith. Sometimes I cry…cry to the Source of all beings, the Great Supreme Guide, and somehow, while in deep meditation or reflection, the answers come,” she told the New Straits Times.

Honoured with the traditional Malaysian title, she is Datin Paduka Mother A. Mangalam, or just Mother Mangalam, who runs the Pure Life Society.

Over 2,000 orphaned, abused or abandoned children have called it home and regarded her as their “mother”. The present strength is 70.

Mother Mangalam is carrying out the task given to her by the co-founder of the body, Swami Satyananda, who founded the centre in 1949 to promote peace, interaction and understanding among varied racial and religious groups through welfare and educational services.

But what many do not know is that the idea for an orphanage in Pure Life came about from Mother Mangalam, the newspaper said.

“We were visiting the orphans who had been placed with other families during the weekends and the children didn’t look happy with their foster families. They didn’t have any self-confidence at all. I asked Swami, ‘Why don’t we start a home?’”

Burdened with concerns about the plight of orphans whose parents were the victims of World War II, Satyananda agreed and, in 1952, the orphanage was established.

For the past six decades, Mother Mangalam has continued to look after the orphanage, bustling about in her trademark white lab coat.

Although she seems frail in her 4 feet 10 inch frame as she leans on her cane, her steps are sprightly, her gaze clear and steady, and her memory sharp.

“Today, my schedule is erratic, but I always feel I must achieve something every day. I never feel burnt out. I just enjoy my work. When I am not in Pure Life, I feel as though I’ve lost my bearings. When I’m back here, I feel more comfortable,” she said.

The eldest of seven children born to an orthodox Brahmin couple, it wasn’t easy for her parents to accept that their daughter was going to forsake a life of matrimony for a life of service.

But they eventually relented under Mother Mangalam’s stubborn persistence.

“There have been many memorable moments, it is hard to pinpoint just one. I think I feel the happiest when the children come up (in society) and make a name for themselves,” said Mother Mangalam.

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