Interview With Mai, Nisargadatta’s Nurse & Attendant
Mai was the nurse and attendant of Nisargadatta Maharaj during his last years. I had heard a lot about her from Vanaja Narayanaswami and had always wanted to meet her. In 2007, a few weeks after my marriage, I and my wife decided to visit Ramanashram since my wife had not been to Thiruvanamalai and she was eager to visit the place.
At that time, I didn’t know that our visit would turn out to be a golden opportunity to meet Mai. For a long time, I wanted to record an audio interview with her about Nisargadatta Maharaj’s day to day life and her experiences with him. If I was able to record the interview during our visit, I knew this would not only shed light on Nisargadatta Maharaj’s life but also become a reliable source of inspiration for future generations to come.
Vanaja Aunty had given me a description of Mai and had informed me that she routinely came to Ramanashram every morning. We reached Thiruvanamalai in the evening and the next morning waited for her outside the Ramanashram meditation hall. After waiting for some time, we saw a lady wearing white clothes and matching the description of Mai. With trepidation, we went ahead and introduced ourselves. Mai was very gentle and soft spoken. I requested her for an audio interview, which she immediately declined. However, she invited us to come over to her house in the evening. I was a little disappointed first, but was happy at least she would be giving us an audience.
True to the spirit of Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharishi, her dwelling was very simple, just one large room. She was a gracious host and made us some great tea. Once we started talking about Nisargadatta, I could sense a shift in her. She could see the immense love and respect I had for Nisargadatta Maharaj and that I was very serious about walking the spiritual path. By the end of the evening, she said “come tomorrow, I am happy to record the interview for you. You have such love for him, who am I to say no.”
With a joyous heart we thanked her and came the next day and recorded this interview. It was an evening of great love, laughter, joy and a lot of tears!
Mai passed away in 2016, in Thiruvanamalai. I still remember her gentle warm smile and her immense humbleness. Although, the time I spent with her was short, I look back in gratitude for having opened up and given so freely to a crazy seeker like me. Over the years I listened to her interviews many times, and it made me smile laugh and cry.
Mai- Short Biography
Mai’s full name was hô Thi Tuyêt Mai, She came to India in the 1970s after reading Paul Brunton’s A Search in Secret India. In November 1978 while en route to Nasik to have darshan of Sri Anandamayi Ma, a friend persuaded her to come to Bombay and meet Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. The experience so affected her that after Ma’s darshan the next day, she left Nasik and immediately returned to Bombay. The next three years were occupied sitting at the feet of Nisargadatta Maharaj. While in his sickbed in the months before his departure in September 1981, Mai attended on Maharaj with great affection.
Mai took up semi-permanent residence in Tiruvannamalai from 1981 and settled here permanently in early 1993. She spent her days painting, meditating, reading, circumambulating Bhagavan’s Shrine and doing volunteer work at the adjacent Agastya Ganapathi Library. She always wanted to live in a house where she could have a good view of Arunachala and soon enough, she found it.
Born August 19th, 1949 in Biênhòa, at the height of the war, Mai and her family emigrated to France when Mai was just 17. Becoming a French citizen, she continued her studies in French schools and later trained in Belgium to become a fully qualified nurse.
In September 2016, Mai fell and broke her leg and a few weeks later took another bad fall. While otherwise healthy, on the 9th October she remarked to a close friend who had cooked for her: “Now this body is eating these vegetables and plants but soon the vegetables and plants will be eating this body”. A few days later, on the morning of the 13th of October 2016 while peacefully asleep, Mai merged at the feet of Holy Arunachala. All remarked how blissful she looked in her silent repose.
Loved by all in Tiruvannamalai, Mai was known for her kindness, humility, sincerity and acceptance of all people.
(The above is taken From Ramansahsram official newsletter Saranagathi (published in 2016)