Our friend in Thiruvannamalai, Gita Gayatri, introduced us to Anand Anna about eight months ago. "He'll help you find your house. He's not really a broker, but he can help you. He's really a Karma Yogi." True to her words, Anand Anna did find us the lovely house we live in, and also another lovely space where we host community events.
Soon, Anand Anna became a big part of our life in Thiruvannamalai. A cheerful and content person who was ever-willing to help and share what he knew and had without the expectation of anything in return. A Srilankan by origin, who first moved to Thirunelveli and worked in the Vivekananda Kendra, and later moved to Thiruvannamalai.
He tended to a small nursery, which was his source of livelihood. We got a lot of the plants and pots for our new home garden from him. He was very happy to see my deep interest in organic gardening and knowledge about medicinal plants, and liked to share things with me. A great believer in the power of gift culture, many times he would just give things away to us. Grafting our flowering plants, dropping off vermicompost and plant cuttings on his way, bringing over the electrician, carpenter, plumber whenever needed and overseeing the works... Not a day passed by without seeing or exchanging a word of greeting with Anand anna. He came home almost every other day for something or the other.
He worked with the local Siddha Vaidya by collecting herbs for his preparations and himself knew many remedies for common ailments. I was learning so much about herbs, wild edible plants and plant care from him.
He had a lovely bunch of medicinal plants in his garden, and some very exotic plants which he said he could never imagine selling howmuchever people offered to pay for them, because they had become a part of him. I once asked him if I could help by promoting his nursery plants in my network to get him a better income, to which he replied "God has blessed me with such a fulfilling life with all these amazing beings (plants), good health and three meals a day. To ask for anything more would be not honoring what has been given to me. I have abundance of everything, but thank you for the offer." He really wore torn shirts, cycled around the neighbourhood helping people, living in a small room nearby all by himself.
Suddenly, two weeks ago, down with fever and wheasing for a whole week, he started complaining of stomach ache. In just two days after it was diagnosed as 'cancerous', Anand anna decided to pass on. Another being lost to the disease that modernity has unleashed on life. Without much suffering, thankfully.
I can hardly believe he can't be seen around in the same form anymore. But the deep-red layered hibiscus carefully planted by him in our garden blooms as an everyday embodiment of his energy.