Hari Om Mama- a Karma Yogi in action!

He has no time to stand and stare was the headline of an article on Ayyasamy Hariharan which appeared in a leading daily in September 2008. He was 77 then. The description fits him even now when he is 93.

 He was popularly known as Thiruppugazh Mama during his stay in Delhi and now in Coimbatore, he is more popular as Hari Om Mama. This ever-generous and helpful man can be seen not only helping those in need but also very actively organizing cultural events to encourage talented young musicians and dancers in Coimbatore where he has settled since 1991. He is a popular figure in Nana Nani, Phase 4 where he has been staying for the last seven years. The nine-day Festival of Music and Dance that he organized during the Ram Navami celebrations this year at Phase 4, kept the audience spellbound by the variety and quality of the programmes. Seeing him constantly on the move trying to ensure that the programmes were conducted without any hitch was a sight to behold.

Born in Tiruvarur, Mama was the eldest among four siblings. His father was working in the Pay and Accounts department of the Government of India during World War II he was posted in Visakhapatnam and later in Calcutta and Delhi.

Mama says, "I have had the experience of staying in refugee colonies in Calcutta during the pre-partition days and in Delhi during post-partition days. I know what it means to stand in a queue with a plate to get my food and live without the necessities of life that we take for granted today." The seeds of his nature to help others in need were probably sown during this time.

Hari Om Mama had his early education in Trichy, where he completed his SSC at the prestigious ER High School. He did his intermediate in a college in Karaikudi and got an Economics Hons degree from Punjab University as his father was by then transferred to Delhi.

Mama recalled his brief foray into business immediately after he completed his Intermediate course in Karaikudi. Joining hands with another friend he started a business to buy and store items like Jaggery, Umbrellas, etc at a price and sell the same at a higher price taking advantage of wartime shortages. Unfortunately, the end of the war saw his business collapsing. His brief attempt to lease out a cinema hall also failed. End of Mama`s attempts at becoming an entrepreneur even as a student.

After college Mama joined the Ministry of Finance in Delhi and rose to become the Assistant Development Commissioner by the time he retired in 1990. His long stay in Delhi saw him get deeply involved in many cultural and spiritual activities.

Right from his college days, mama had the reputation of being a good organizer of cultural programmes, though his knowledge of music is limited. Mama is proud of the fact that his wife of 65 years, Sundari, more than makes up for his poor knowledge of music. She is a pillar of strength to him in all his activities.

Mama became one of the founder members of Delhi Bhajana Samaj organizing bhajans, and spiritual classes. He also started promoting Tiruppugazh with the help of scholars who could conduct classes on the subject under the auspices of Thiruppugazh Nanbargal. His abiding interest in the subject earned him the title Thiruppugazh mama.

 He was also active in Delhi Tamil Sangam which apart from organizing lectures by visiting dignitaries was also running a library. Mama fondly remembers his close association with M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, former speaker of Loksabha, who was the President of the Tamil Sangam.

Mama`s tryst with Chinmaya mission started during his Delhi days when Chinmayananda had not yet become the famous personality he became.

Mama says, ‘ When Chinmayananda was visiting Delhi to start a branch of the mission, he wanted to organize a meeting to get people to attend his lecture. Someone had told him about how I could help him get his audience because of my involvement with many institutions. When I clarified that I go around on my bicycle to meet people, he volunteered to accompany me on a cycle. The meeting was a success and later I was also involved in organizing the first Yagna of Chinmaya Mission in Delhi. Since then I have been actively associated with the mission which continues even in Coimbatore. As I always greet people invoking the words Hari Om, the people started calling me Hari Om Mama

A life-threatening accident to his wife and the consequent trauma that the family faced in Delhi made him shift to Coimbatore in 1991 with the blessings of Swami Chinmayananda. An irrepressible man that he is, Mama got involved in several cultural activities of Coimbatore. He also started the Coimbatore branch of the Tamil Nadu Brahmins Association.

He continued his interest in Thiruppugazh by organizing classes conducted by Mrs Lalitha Nagarajan, a well-known scholar in the subject. While he was conducting classes on Thiruppugazh and other subjects in different venues he decided to acquire a property in Vadavalli close to his home where the classes could be conducted in one place.

He started Sadhna Sadhan in 2003 to conduct classes on yoga, meditation, and other spiritual pursuits. Classes were conducted by experts on Thiruppugazh, Bhagwat Geetha, Narayaneeyam, Devaram, Sundarakandam, and Divya Prabhandam on different days of the week. Sunday was the Chinmaya Balavihar day reserved for children when they were told moral stories and taught to communicate.

The Sadhan which has a beautiful garden of flowers in front also has an acupressure walkway, laid with different-sized pebbles picked from river beds in Mettupalayam. Mama says, “ This fitness walk is an enjoyable exercise for those who cannot run, or jog and are looking for an alternative to normal walking. A walk on the acupressure walkway activates all nerve centers - all the cells from the foot to the brain are activated. You not only feel rejuvenated but you also get relief from neck and calf muscle pain besides other hidden benefits”

During the pandemic, the classes went online. Unfortunately, after the pandemic, students did not patronize the physical classes as they found it convenient to attend the classes online, saving them considerable commute time. Mama is planning to donate the property worth over Rs.1 crore to Chinmaya Mission.

Mama won an award from Tamil Nadu Brahmins Sangam in 2011 for his selfless service to the spiritual and cultural aspects of the society. He is also proud that the garden in Sadhana Sadhan won a prize at the Kovai Flower Show 2005.

He continues to attend important cultural events in Coimbatore besides taking an interest in the cultural activities in Nana Nani. It is interesting to note that while the management of Nana Nani provides the air-conditioned Meditation Hall with all facilities free, Mama bears the entire cost of the events including the honorariums to be paid to the artists. A man truly committed to a cause indeed!

Mama is blessed with two daughters and two grand children . One daughter lives in USA and the second daughter in New Delhi.

Sethuraman, a resident of Nana Nani Phase 4 who has known Mama for the last seven years says, ”Hari Om Mama is a role model for me in Nana Nani, in many ways. He is a true Karma Yogi, a nonagenarian with an active mind and body. Yadh bhaavam, thath bhavathi( As you think, you become) says our scriptures. Hari Om Mama is a living example of this dictum”. May he be blessed by Almighty with aarogyam, santhosham and santhushti.”

I also pray to God that Hari Om Mama hits a century in the service of the society!

( This is hopefully the first of a series from me about interesting people in Nana Nani)

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