Help me get back to the boys of Anandanagar

by Bratisha Lucy Norman in Malvern, England, United Kingdom

Total raised £575

£5,000 target 12 days left
11% 5 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 10th June 2024 at 8:48pm

Help me get back to the boys of Anandanagar and seek justice after being falsely accused in India

by Bratisha Lucy Norman in Malvern, England, United Kingdom

2019 Chow mein tiffin

Namaskar everyone,

My name is Bratisha Lucy Norman and, since 2018, I have lived in Anandanagar, West Bengal, India where I have spent most of my time with the children and teenagers who grow up in our ashram there.

These boys follow a fairly strict routine from a very early age, getting up at 4.30 am every morning to start their spiritual practices and studying up to four hours a day aside of school, not to mention carrying out their daily duties - in turns preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for thirty plus residents in the home, taking care of the huge vegetable and flower garden, looking after the cows and seeing to general tasks around the home like sweeping the grounds, cleaning the dining hall and such like.  

They never stop.   Finally, in the evening, at around six, they have collective spiritual practice which involves singing Kiirtan* and sitting for meditation together. 

This is the most magical time of the day and this is the area in which I am involved.  

Originally, I wanted to make this appeal for the boys. They have grown up without parents in the children's home (usually they've lost either one or both of the parents) and they've had to do everything for themselves since they were very small, leading a life with very few comforts and learning to rely upon their own inner strength whenever they are ill or down in spirits.  

But I have to be honest, although their life is not easy they have a strong spiritual base and for that reason, they radiate happiness, ease and a positive energy that is contagious and difficult to find anywhere else.  I myself cannot claim to be at the ashram teaching the boys, rather I am learning from them as, in many ways, they have vastly more knowledge than I do in so many matters.  

So the reality is that this appeal is for me.  

For though I do, naturally, try to help the boys out with their occasional challenges in life - their worries, their fears, their upsets and frustrations, etc -  all in all, I feel they give much more to me.  The only level I have been of any use is on the spiritual level because, one thing I can say is that, in that regard, I am always there for them.  

For day and night, whenever I’ve been present, we’ve done our spiritual practices together these past years, we’ve sung Kiirtan* that has rocked the foundations of the building, we’ve sat together for meditation, they’ve recited their Sanskrit verses day after day in front of me as though they were reciting them to my heart. On a spiritual level I know, and they know too, that we can never be separated. 

But on the worldly level, unfortunately, we have been separated.

In March of this year I was falsely accused of working on a tourist visa by the immigration authorities in Kolkata.  The fact that I was volunteering and that the immigration authorities themselves advise volunteers to enter on a tourist visa was ignored.  So although I knew the accusations to be untrue I complied with the order to leave the country as I was assured I could simply come straight back in again on a new business visa.  It may seem naive on my part to have believed them but I didn't know what else to do at that point. 

So I said goodbye to my friends and told them I would soon be back.

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It's May 2024 and I'm in England, unable to go back to them, because, unsurprisingly some might say, my visa application was automatically refused. Of course, it had always been unwise to stay permanently in India on a temporary visa but I really had no other choice as there are few options available for volunteering. And due to the nature of my life, I've never managed to achieve any residency rights in India.  

In short, I am here and they are there.  Both waiting.  We speak from time to time on the phone but they stringently avoid asking the question that they can't bring themselves to say - when are you coming home?

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The only way forward now is to try to contest the order given by the immigration authorities even though, with me now being outside India, it will be more complicated and costly.  As it is a case involving a foreigner the costs are all the more elevated - to date the hourly price of a consultation with a solicitor is set at $150 whereas the cost of going to court will start at $2,500.

Some of you may wonder why I should even bother to go to the trouble of going to court and I can say that, ordinarily, I would never resort to such measures. but firstly, I am pushed into doing this because, as you have probably understood, my whole life is in India, and secondly, because I've recently found out that there have been cases where the immigration authorities' decision has been overturned by the court, albeit rare. 

So though this course of action is not at all pleasant it is necessary as, with the situation as it is now, I don't know how long I will be refused entrance.  There is the added worry that another reason for my being issued the order was influenced by old prejudices that the Kolkata authorities have harboured against my organisation.  In fact, when I first visited the office, (only for a routine enquiry) on mentioning my organisation's name they immediately shouted me down saying that Ananda Marga was banned in India when in fact it is not at all.  So taking the case to court would also be symbolic of fighting the old prejudices that are still held about Ananda Marga.  

Whatever the outcome, it is my wish that I can at least give an answer to the boys who are wondering why I'm not going back home.

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So my appeal is for help in any way you can.

If you can help by giving advice or moral support then that would help me enormously in moving forward.  If you can help by donating then I would be able to start legal action for as it stands, nothing has begun. 

If you can support by sending a message of cheer or encouragement then that also is very precious at the moment.  

Thank you for reading this,

Namaskar

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*Singing of the Universal Mantra.

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