“The Journey From Mercy to Daya”   9 comments

Relieving the atmosphere pregnant with anticipation, our maiden cries piercing through the otherwise silent corridors of the most selfless institution of our times herald the inevitable commencement of the journey of life. Far from the minor sojourns and the mundane expeditions which we accept after our births, the greater journey called life doesn’t have the destination etched on the horizon when we take the plunge. This missing jigsaw makes the journey all the more exhilarating. No mariner is yet to invent a compass which could help us navigate our ship of life away from the tempests which life brings along. No cartographer is proficient enough to chart a map anticipating the territories our thoughts could tread into along the journey of life. Because, you see, the ship of life is not all about being driven around by currents of perceptions held by the onlookers. Instead the helmsman at the top should steady the ship, steering it away from furious winds and choppy waters to the calmer seas. To escape these uncertainties of life, our plastic brains are moulded by ceaseless indoctrinations, refined aspirations and concocted obligations by the bystanders allegedly to throw light on the paths we should traverse upon. More often than not, the cacophonies emanating from this motley crew drown out the rendezvous between us and our inner convictions.

But The Real Question Is: How far a person should travel down the road less taken to find out the real purpose in his life?

But The Real Question Is: How far a person should travel down the road less taken to find out the real purpose in his life?

Instead of heeding to the onlookers and going down the beaten track, journeying down the road less taken earns you more admirers in our life and times. The gold standard of slipping away from the herd and charting one’s own course is always the super successful entrepreneurs. The-Dropouts-To-Begin-With-Entrepreneurs-To-End-With tribe is celebrated in manifold forms by the popular culture turning them into immortals. The chroniclers of our times sings paeans about the ever growing list of billionaires and urge the rest of us to search for our PASSION by emulating them. Rather than putting to rest all the queries related to THE REAL PURPOSE OF LIVES, they give rise to many questions hanging like Damocles’ sword all set to throw spanner into our plans. Meanwhile the real questions which vie for our attention lie elsewhere. One should really sit down and ponder over these: Is Life Purpose and Life Passion the same? How far a person should travel down the road less taken to find out the real purpose in his life? And therein, as the bard would say, lies the rub! And this is exactly where the journey of an out of the ordinary woman to discover the real purpose of her life begins!

Path of life sculpture garden, Windsor, VT, October 9th, 2010

Let’s Trace The Extraordinary Journey Of An  Extraordinary Woman

The journey begins in the year 1941, along the verdant Malabar Coast, in a quaint little town called Pala located amidst the Syrian Christian heartland of Kottayam in Kerala. For the 16 year old MERCY MATHEW, there was nothing novel about joining the monastery since the tradition of young girls becoming the brides of Christ was the norm in her father’s family. Nevertheless, the girl’s decision to get out of her comfort zone to go about the life of a nun was truly revolutionary! After convincing her father and quelling all the doubts of her concerned family she embarked on her journey from an affluent household to a convent in the nondescript tribal heartland of Hazaribag located in a landlocked Bihar. Her mind, far away from the fears of the unknown, was brimming with boundless euphoria driven by an old Christian song ringing in her head extolling the selfless service to humanity by Jesus Christ’s holy order! Thus quiet like Sister Agnes who at the age of 12 was fascinated by the stories of the lives of missionaries and committed the rest of her life to religion, Mercy Mathew too began her eventful journey!

Nevertheless, fate had something else in store for MERCY MATHEW! Reality poured cold water over her dreams of losing herself in selfless social service. The Convent, far from the austere building which she had built up in her mind’s eye, was a huge bungalow with a cornucopia of comforts rolling out the red carpet to her. After an year of introspection with copious tears and internal conflicts for company, she finally mustered the courage to bring down the curtains on her convent life. The intense spiritual turmoil brewing inside her prompted her to act rather than suffer in silence! Triumphing over her inner demons and defeating the devil leading her astray argument, Mercy Mathew, when she was still wet behind the ears, bid adieu to the convent driven by the conviction that her CALLING lay somewhere else. From her perspective, there was no Universalism inside the nunnery since the succour they provided was exclusive to a particular religious community making it a haphazard form of social work! Like Narendranath Dutta, who walked out on Devendranath Tagore unsatisfied with the answers he received, Mercy Mathew, dissatisfied with her stint in the convent walked away from the Holy Order with unanswered questions for company.

After severing ties with convent she marched, with steady steps but low conviction, into a tribal village within Hazaribag assuming the duty of a gardener\mali. Confusion tailed her like a shadow throughout that phase of her life. Even though Mercy Mathew desperately tried to strike a conversation to with her higher self in order to come face to face with her inner purpose, the latter it seemed was in no mood for a tête-à-tête. A visit back home lead to an outburst of grief from her parents throwing her into to depths of self-doubt about the soundness of her decision. She sailed through the darkest hours in her life with unconditional faith in Jesus Christ. Driven by the hunger for knowledge, she renewed her ties with education and came out with flying colours as a Bachelor Of Science from the St. Xavier’s college in Ranchi. With a degree in tow, her journey through the tribal heartland saw her work as a teacher across various tribal villages. But the voices from inside the head kept humming to her that her real calling lay somewhere else!

Her Real Moment Of Reckoning Came In The War Torn Bangladesh Which Left An Indelible Impact On The Way She Saw The World!

Her Real Moment Of Reckoning Came In The War Torn Bangladesh Which Left An Indelible Impact On Her Thoughts!

Her firm belief was proved right when the real moment of reckoning came knocking on her doors. The turning point, as she calls it, was brought along by the liberation movement in Bangladesh in the early 1970s. Thus when there was an exodus of people from Calcutta, owing to death and destruction, Mercy Mathew walked straight into the capital city of West Bengal responding to the call for volunteers from the Archbishop of Calcutta through an advertisement. After serving as a volunteer in the refugee camps in Calcutta, Mercy Mathew showed keen interest in taking her efforts across the border to the war torn Bangladesh where there was a shortage of volunteers. Throughout her three and a half years of stay in the war torn Bangladesh she experienced the trail of deaths, destructions and devastations first hand.

The chains which confined her thoughts mentally to the Church until then were broken and her thoughts finally united with a more secular perspective turning her world upside down. Despite annihilation all around, she blissfully worked with the refugees braving diseases, taming infections and offering them solace through her comforting words. It dawned upon her that all these man made calamities invariably left indelible scars on women and children who were the helpless victims of conflicts. The connect with the higher self, which until then eluded her, finally embraced her in the refugee camps of Bangladesh making Mercy Mathew realize the inner purpose of her life! Like Siddhartha, who had the awakening under the banyan tree, Mercy Mathew had her own awakening in the refugee camps of Bangladesh.


Having found her inner purpose, she wandered around the slums of Mumbai and had another short stint at Mother Teresa’s Old Age home and Orphanage in search of her real calling in life. Her project for the Master of Social Work which she enrolled for brought her in touch with the tribal villages of Madhya Pradesh. This journey ended revealing the real calling in her life. She earned the confidence of the villagers when she intervened on their behalf in the on-going wage dispute with the forest bureaucracy for picking up tendu leaves. From that moment on, like Verrier Elwin who dedicated his life for the upliftment of Gonds, Mercy Mathew too immersed herself into the lives of the Gonds of Tinsai village, lowering her own image as an educated person and accepting their way of life as beautiful.


After Wandering Around Many Places In India, Mercy Mathew Finally Made Up Her Mind To Speak For The Voiceless Gond Tribals Of Barul!

She brought sea change in her lifestyle to adapt herself to the ways of the village. This lead to the rediscovery of Gonds’ self-image, jettisoning the monkeys of the jungle label furnished by the Forest Bureaucracy. Gradually, she brought together the Gonds of the village inculcating a sense of togetherness and unity of purpose. What was once a village heavy on deprivation indicators transformed under the leadership of the lady from outside. Education, which till then had eluded the village, paved them a visit in the form of primary schools and non-formal education for adults. Piped water through handpumps, check dams for irrigation, lamp posts supplying electricity, rainwater harvesting et al came in tow transforming the erstwhile ghost village which was a picture of complete neglect into a unified village inhabited by dignified tribals. The rights of the gonds were demanded through numerous street plays in vernacular, uniting many villages by invoking tribal solidarity. The Gonds repaid her ceaseless efforts by recognizing the outsider as one among themselves by naming her DAYA BHAI.


Strangers Look At  Her Sheepishly And Ask: “What Do You Do?” Daya Bhai Replies: ” I Live!” Thats Epic!

Daya Bhai, true to her new identity, has made Barul village in Chindwara district of Madhya Pradesh her new home. She has no plans to retire from serving the tribals and empowering them and has expanded her works into fighting against human trafficking. Daya Bhai has no time to spare for she has forayed into Organic Farming. She hates hybrids and stays true to original seeds. She promotes vermicomposting and spreads the message about the need to protect dwindling wetlands. Daya Bhai doesn’t accept foreign funds and has no regards for NGOs who work in tune with projects and not in tune with people. Her source of finance is her friends and the occasional lectures which earns her some money. True to Mahatma Gandhi’s constructive works for the upliftment of the downtrodden, Daya Bhai too emphasise on self-sufficiency! She produces her own food through sustainable farming, doesn’t buy multinationals or chemical based products and urge others to lead a simple but fulfilled life.

dayabhai abuse

My Passage To Daya Bhai Was Through This Rather Odd Piece Which Appeared In the Hindu in December 2015!

Till December 20th 2015, I was in the dark about Mercy Mathew, Daya Bhai or the Barul Village. An ignominious incident involving the Kerala Government’s Road Transport Corporation employees and Daya Bhai on a fateful day was the beginning of my journey of discovering Daya Bhai. I didn’t arch my brows in disbelief about the alleged conduct of the personnel in question since courtesy and politeness have, over the years, become few and far between. What surprised me instead was this: What on earth has this woman achieved for THE HINDU to dedicate a piece covering her ignominious exit from a bus which was run of the mill for ordinary folks. Because, through her photo carried by the newspaper, she looked ordinary and odd for me: a city dweller. The unkempt hair, beaming wide eyes, sagging skin and the numerous streaks running across her forehead revealing her age coupled with her odd attire surprised me no ends.


Despite Many Versions Of The Incident Emerging In Its Wake, My Admiration For This Woman Has Not Diminished. Because Daya Bhai’s Story Truly Inspires!

I googled her name and it was the start of my journey discovering DAYA BHAI. I came across numerous articles, documentaries and other pieces covering her journeys and struggles and was left dumbstruck by the woman and her sheer will power. As I am concluding this blog post, alternate versions of truth is emerging about what transpired on that fateful night is emerging. As always social media as well as the general public is abuzz with haters questioning DAYA BHAI’s conduct. A person from the most literate part of India is coming to conclusion about a woman based on a single incident and passing verdicts. As always they can’t see the woods for the trees! Far from the growing list of entrepreneurs, I join one more name today to my humble list of people whose life journeys made them discover their real purpose on earth and in that process assumed multiple identities. Siddhartha to Buddha,Narendranath Dutta to Swami Vivekananda, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Mahatma, Agnes to Mother Teresa and Mercy Mathew to Daya Bhai.


This Blog Post Is My Entry For The Contest #SpreadTheWibe conducted by IndiBlogger In Association With Youth Ki Awaaz. For More Details Please Visit http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/



9 responses to ““The Journey From Mercy to Daya”

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  1. This is the story of a remarkable journey of an outstanding lady… kudos to her effort and achievements she has done to bring lights to the life of the Gonds…glad you wrote about her… 🙂

    Wish you all th best with the contest… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is no mean feat to give up city life and dedicate oneself completely for upliftment of tribals in a village. She is a wonderful source of inspiration for all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Had read her little bit hare and there but not so much in detail. Great post dedicated to her.
    Good to see you back.
    Happy new year to you and all your loved ones. 🙂
    Your wordy comment on my WW moment reminded me of your earlier posts. Keep writing! 🙂


  4. Thank-you for sharing this truly remarkable life of this stellar lady. It takes much more than a strong will to devote one’s life for a cause … She is one dauntingly great person !

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t heard of her before. I am going to read more about her. As you mentioned, she looks ordinary. But her extra ordinary nature is what made her venture out of her comfort zone and accomplish so much. I think a hundred times before stepping out of my comfort zone and there she is! Sammatikkanam le. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting post 🙂 Happy Holidays


  7. Nice post…☺☺

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Splendid..I was glued till the end..thank for sharing about Day Bhai..and truly people like her are true inspiration, they are the real teachers helping us to understand that all of us have come to this world with a purpose and if we put a little effort we can make a big difference..

    Liked by 1 person

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