Venkamma, Sai Baba’s elder sister in focus
Posted by robertpriddy on May 15, 2013
Sathya Sai Baba’s elder sister Venkamma, who knew him from birth, lived in Prashanthi Nilayam along with other family members. The young US lady devotee known as ‘Divya’ (Eileen Weed) did long and arduous service to the sisters, especially Venkamma with whom she stayed and served in her small household in a standard apartment in South Prashanthi. Fortunately, Divya preserved her thoughts throughout the period of her stay in India (altogether 1984 to 2005) in the form of letters to her parents (also devotees until the sex allegations broke in 1999 when they left and soon created an exposé website ( http://www.snowcrest.net). Divya made many of these letters available in full on-line (see here). Some excerpts from those letters and Divya’s e-mails follow:-
About Venkamma’s letters to Divya:
I dug out the letters she wrote and reread them. Funny thing I notice: no matter how serious something is, mum’s the word. Is it any wonder I never heard anything about unsavory things going on in PN? We would all silently observe, and know, but speak not – and especially not in letters! Of course there was the other side of it too, the endless gossip about other family members. But rarely would a negative word be raised in connection with sb. Venkamma would never allow talk against her brother. (The only time I can recall offhand, was during her last illness when she declared to me, in utter seriousness, that there was no god and elders only declared there was such a thing as god to put fear into young children.)
I got Typhoid in 1992 (no one told me – I had stolen my own medical chart when the nurses were not around and read my test results and diagnosis) and was stuck at the General Hospital for 10 days. In the attached letter, Venkamma wrote (sending it with a Seva Dal to deliver to me) saying she talked to the doc and I had “nothing”. Next line was about how I can’t come home because I was contagious! Haha! Since it was me who was slaving day and night, she let me know that the office assigned a Seva Dal (actually, several of them who exchanged shifts, because Venkamma always needed something or the other 24 hours a day!!) Here’s the translation of the attached letter:
1 April 1992
Dear one, to Divya,
I am fine. Yesterday they did all tests and found you don’t have anything. Dr. Shantamma said you must take a few more days of rest. She said there’s a danger that your disease could spread to others. Because of this, take a few days rest.
Whatever you want, I will send. This girl (Seva-Dal) is with me only. I have no trouble.
The original letter in Telugu written in Venkamma’s own hand is scanned here (click on thumbnail to enlarge). Telling Divya that she was healthy while she knew she had typhoid can hardly be correct behaviour? Adding that she could be contagious (and had a disease) seems like an April Fools trick. I consider that this well shows the naive but tricky mentality that prevailed in SB’s family, not uncommonly among Parthi villagers too.
To learn the conditions under which Venkamma was left to die by SB, with only Divya to attend her, read the letter written by Divya to her parents at the time.
Comment on the very revealing letters: After reading Divya’s accounts of life with Parvatamma, Venkamma and the female side of Sai Baba’s family on her Wattpad letters, one must conclude, that life with them was far from being one of light, love and ‘supreme peace’ (Prashanthi), as one would have been led to expect by all the hype in the biographies and accounts put out under Sai Baba’s supervision. That Divya was able to countenance this after having been brought up to believe in the highest ideals of Indian spirituality without losing faith in this family and its ruler (SB) is remarkable . To stay and contend with the many most unpleasant challenges and frequent very hard words that were thrown at her by Venkamma, to persist in serving her selflessly and putting up with diverse accusations by this demanding woman, can only be understood on the basis of the indoctrination that all SB followers have to adopt and extend to themselves if they wish to remain aspirants for salvation from all the ills of the world. It says a lot about the tolerant attitude of Eileen Weed, her determination to do good, strength of purpose and truthfulness. These qualities have no doubt been important in her being able to overcome the entire spiritual fraud involved and ‘bounce back’ without falling into depression or another guru’s clutches.