Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Sunday April 5, 2009
Motherly touch
Story and picture by GRACE CHEN

Shanti Kunchaloo pours her love to those in need of support and understanding.

INSTEAD of becoming bitter because of a painful past, Shanti Kunchaloo, 45, has opted to shake off the shackles of resentment and help others who are experiencing the mental anguish of life’s hardships. Today, they call Shanti, “Mathaji” – the divine light who touches the soul.

Her story began 11 years ago, when Shanti and her husband, Muthukumaran Velu, now 49, were on the verge of suicide.

Maternal affection: Shanti Kunchaloo, better known as Mathaji, reaches out to others via motivational talks and sharing sessions.

By all standards, Shanti had all the makings of a bright future. The third child of six siblings, Shanti grew up at 18th mile in Bagan Datoh where her father, Kunchaloo Engkana, now 73, worked as a taxi driver.

A former student of SMK Johari, a Telugu school in Sungai Sumun, Perak, Shanti was a popular figure in sports and the school’s debating team.

By the age of 17, she garnered the place of second runner-up in a beauty contest held at the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre and had no less than five marriage proposals to consider.

But Shanti felt that she was too young for marriage and instead, opted to stay with her sister and her husband in Sabah where she taught at an elementary school and gave tutoring services to upper secondary students. It was there that she met and fell for Muthukumaran with whom she married in 1989.

“She was homely, well-mannered and a great cook. She made the best crab, fish and chicken curries, the softest chappatis and the sweetest chakera ponggals (sweetened brown rice) I had ever known. I put on 30 kilos after marrying her!” recalled Muthukumaran.

But alas, the happiness would not last. After 13 years of taking care of a cocoa plantation in Sabah, they lost their jobs after a verbal promise of employment in the Peninsula failed to materialise. To add to the pain of losing a steady income, Shanti had to deal with several miscarriages and her last baby, born in 1994, died three days after she delivered him via Caesarean-section.

“My father brought my baby to me and told me to kiss him. It was only after they put him in my arms did I realise that he had passed on,” recalled Shanti, tearing at the painful memory.

But in her book, Divine Light, which is a compilation of her spiritual experiences, there is a saying and it goes like this:

I asked the Almighty to give me happiness

and He said, ‘No’.

Instead He gave me his blessings

and said that happiness was up to me.

Through a cloud of emotional pain, Shanti sought to seek answers through prayers and meditation. What was her true role in life? Why was she here? Why had she been made to go through so much pain?

The turning point, she recalled, had come about in 1998 during a telephone conversation with Guru Mahan, the founder of Universal Peace Foundation, an institution for yoga, naturopathy and holistic science in Thirumurthi Hills, South India.

During the telephone conversation, which lasted 45 minutes, Shanti would hear Mahan utter these words: “To gain something, you must lose something.”

“Guruji told me that the most important thing was to condition my mind to accept all the life challenges that had come my way. It was not easy because I had a stubborn nature. I was insistent that for someone who had done no wrong in her life, she shouldn’t be made to go through so much pain,” recalled Shanti.

But eventually, Shanti realised that if she did not change her mindset, she would forever be trapped in the pits of despair. And so, with the support of her husband, Shanti began to reach out to others via motivational talks, seeking her listeners to sort out their problems with calm and understanding in spite of the adversities they may be facing

During her talks, Shanti is known for touching and hugging her audience with a maternal affection and addresses everyone with a warm sounding “Ma”, explaining that it’s the equivalent of calling someone “Dear” or “Love”.

In 2002, she was given the title of “Mathaji” by Datin Padmabathy, the wife of a Johor politician, during a seminar at the Muneswaran Temple in Tampoi, Johor. Thinking back, Shanti recalled seeking this “title” because she had felt odd that no one had ever addressed her as a mother despite the fact that she had had three babies.

“When I asked Guru Mahan, he said that I should let the world know me as ‘Mathaji’ (mother) and hence feel satisfied for being known as such. He said that though I have no children of my own, henceforth, all living beings on Earth shall be my children,” said Shanti.

Today, as Mathaji Shantiekumar, she is a regal sight in her yellow robes. It is the only colour that she wears, in public as well as at home, as she strongly believes in the rejuvenating energy of this vibrant shade. Black is one colour she eschews, insisting that it attracts negative vibes.

And though she admitted that she still finds it irksome when it comes to dealing with unpunctuality, she has come to accept that one can never be completely free from life’s frustrations.

“The best way to deal with frustration is to smile. Through experience, I have discovered the immediate effect of this simple gesture. The moment you smile, you experience a positive energy which will bring on a sense of gladness,” she said.

“And remember,” she said as a form of parting advice, “whatever that may happen in your life, accept it. If you don’t, the problem will continue to fester and become serious”.

To find out more about Mathaji Shantiekumar, call 016-651 7629 or visit her website at www.mathajivvv.com.

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