Power of Faith ~ Vadam Maker Lakshmi Subramaniam

by on April 5, 2016

What does it take to be a true karma yogi? This was the question I came back with after the conversation with Mrs. Lakshmi Subramaniam, a Tamilian residing in Mumbai. Independent, articulate and hardworking, she lives life with a few simple rules and a disciplined attitude. A professional vadam maker, at 88, she enjoys her mornings making many crispies and sun-drying them in her verandah, all on her own.


For Lakshmi Maami, right action is not a choice, it is the only way. “Or else, I would also be lying down in bed and complaining of ailments which many of my friends do,” she quips, but the wisdom behind the remark shines through.


To comprehend the nuances of her thoughts in Tamil, my friend Priya Ramakrishnan assisted in the interview. As they shared a few light moments in their typical Tamil Brahmin accent, I could not help but appreciate her simple faith in God which gives her the equanimity to deal with life’s hardships. She truly believes that one must perform one’s duties as an offering at the lotus feet of the Lord. “My duty is to do my work sincerely. Let Him decide the fruits,” she declares.


Vanakkam Lakshmi Maami, how are you today?

As good as always. I woke up early, completed my prayers and then made some tasty elai vadams.


Who helps you in making vadams and in your housework?

I don’t require much help. I am quite fit and manage to complete my work on my own. Earlier, I used to make many varieties of vadams, but now I make only elai vadams.


Maami, have you always lived in Mumbai?

I have been living in Ville Parle for more than seven decades now. I enjoy living in this city now. I was married when I was 14. My maternal family was very simple and in fact, no dowry was given in my wedding. My husband passed away at a young age in 1971.


I am so sorry. That must have been tough on you.

It was. It was really difficult. Life is not always easy, but it is the will of the Lord. Our action alone is in our hands.


What about your children?

I have six children. My elder son passed away. One son lives in Dubai while one of my sons lives in the flat below and takes care of me as much as he can. My daughter lives in Mumbai and visits me quite often.


Have any of them inherited your love for cooking?

My younger son, who is no more, enjoyed being in the kitchen. He worked in the hotel industry and had a flair for cooking.


When did you start making vadams? What prompted you?

I have been making and selling vadams for 18 years now. I like to be independent. Many of my friends used to praise my vadams and pickles and that just got me moving ahead.


So you must have been 70 when you started this venture. That is amazing. Hats off to you Maami!

I always liked being busy. Earlier I used to sell liquid soap. I also enjoyed stitching my own blouses. But I like my quiet life. I have never hankered for publicity. If my customers are happy and speak with me warmly, I feel quite delighted. I am glad that they appreciate my work. Perfection is important in whatever you do. Even when I would stitch blouses, I did them very meticulously and never left a loose thread anywhere. Even while making vadams, you have to ensure that they have dried fully. I have a balcony which is 21 feet in length and gets bright sunlight in the afternoons. By four in the evening, the vadams have dried well and I remove them.


How do you take care of your health?

I have a few blocks in my heart, but I don’t constantly dwell on that. I remain brisk and active. I enjoy my evening walks in the park below. I feel sad when I see some other women of my age staying in bed and complaining all day. Why should you complain? Get up and take care of yourself.


Do you have any other interests?

I am a member of a satsang group called Srividya Upasagar. I enjoy singing devotional bhajans with other people in that group. They organize pilgrimage trips and I have travelled extensively with them. I have visited more than hundred temples. I have visited Sabrimalai four times in my life. It gives me so much joy. I climbed the entire stretch on my own by the passage. One of the most beautiful things that we can do is buy flavoursome flowers and offer to the Devi.


Maami, you are truly immersed in karmayog and a bhaktiyog. Thanks for sharing your life with us. One last question – what is the formula for being happy?

Impartiality is an important quality, whether it is family or friends. You will then find peace.

Photo Courtesy: Harmony Magazine


Part-2 of this post is the recipe of Lemon Pickle, a simple and healthy pickle with fresh lemons from Lakshmi Maami’s kitchen.
First published in ‘Heart to Hearth’ – a column in Harmony Celebrate Age magazine. A series about elders who believe in nurturing the body and mind as the key to joy.


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