Shri Shri Thakur and Bengal Famine 1943
(excerpt from Ocean in a teacup – R. A Houserman)
The author was with Shri Shri Thakur 1945-1969
Publisher –Satsang, 2223 Bayberry St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451,U.S.A.
The book is priced in India Rs 150/
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(taken from “Ocean in a Teacup – Ray Houserman)
When the Satsang rice crop, which the community cultivated was ready for harvest that fall, Thakur suggested that no contracts of sale were to be negotiated. Al rice must be stored for ashram use. He also advised those devotees in the community and throughout India who held private plots of rice land not to sell, but to store their new crop.
A wave of controversy followed this order. The European war had skyrocketed the price of rice. Already the speculators were offering the peasants two or three times its former value.
Many of his followers who owned private land could not resist sharing in their neighbors’ prosperity. Even devoted satsangees felt that a golden opportunity was slipping through their fingers and pressured Thakur to let them consider selling at least part of their abundant crop. “Just see,” they pointed out, “We would be able to buy Dalal’s land at his own price, since it is clear that nothing will come out of the legal proceedings. Then Ma’s dream of a university will be realized.” But Thakur was firm. Big granaries, looking like giant beehives, continued to spring up in Satsang.
The vision of untold wealth for the landlords and peasants of Bengal were short lived. By November of the following year, rice was selling at 100 rupees a maund (approximately 81 pounds), and the price was rising daily. The wealth disappeared faster than it came when they tried to by food to keep their families alive. By January, 1942, the Bengalis were selling furniture, jewelry, and even their children in order to eat.
Faulty distribution and the inflated needs of was brought famine to Bengal. Thousands of village people migrated to Calcutta in the vain hope of finding food. Leaves were eaten along the way and many trees were stripped bare of bark. In the city men fought with dogs, cats, and rats for the miserable contents of garbage cans. Each morning, the carts of the Calcutta Corporation went about the grim business of gathering dead bodies from streets and doorways.
To the Satsang community in Himayetpur, inhabitants from ten miles’ distance came to join the daily rice line. The storerooms which had seemed so extravagantly large a few months ago, were emptied one by one. Rationing was strict and just. But the supplies did hold out until the next crop was ready for the harvest: and no death from starvation was reported in that area.
“fight death to death…”
“Live and help live…”
“Fulfill and be fulfilled…” These and similar slogans had been shouted at Satsang meetings for many years but never with such strength of purpose, conviction, and understanding as during the horrible famine years.
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