I lived at Amritapuri for almost 20 years until circumstances brought me to South Africa. I had a lot to do with Gail; I saw her and interacted with her more or less every day from the time I came to live at the ashram in 1989 until she left.
When Gail left Mother, a lot of people were deeply shocked, but I wasn’t the least bit surprised because I had closely witnessed the whole process leading up to it. Nor did it surprise me that a small group of women who had been part of Gail’s “inner circle” left at that time as well because I had seen how she groomed them and slowly turned them against Mother.
When I first came to the ashram, Gail seemed quite a different person. She had a softer side and could at times be kind and considerate. I had a great deal of respect for her because of her proximity to Mother. She was a senior monastic disciple, and I looked up to her as my elder sister. But I soon noticed that she was actually entirely self-centred – in Gail’s world, everything revolved around her only. She could be astonishingly cruel towards anyone who disagreed with her or displeased her in the slightest way. She could also be cruel towards people seemingly for the sheer pleasure of it. She was extremely controlling and could turn on you out of the blue, just like that, using her power to make your life a misery at the ashram. One always had to be on one’s guard around her; it was like tiptoeing on egg shells. I often found myself the recipient of her cruelty, of her vulgar verbal attacks and the clear abuse of her power.
One day when she was shouting at me as if I were a dog or something, with unspeakable things coming out of her mouth, simply because I had misunderstood her, I asked her not to talk to me in that way. That was the first time I dared to stand up to her. Well, I had to pay for that! She started hitting me. She later told everyone who would listen that I had been rude to her and for weeks she used her position to make sure I wasn’t allowed to do any of my regular sevas in or around Mother’s room. For months afterwards she would remind me of the day when I had been so rude to her!
She once started shouting at me when I was really sick with vomiting and diarrhea. She was in a bad mood that day, and when I tried to interrupt her in her rage to explain that I was sick, she responded by swearing at me and telling me that she didn’t give a *&%#$@ about how I was feeling.
Gail beat me and pulled my hair more than once, but that was nothing compared to how she treated Lakshmi. Many times I was right there when she beat Lakshmi really hard, yanked her by the hair, spat right in her face and even kicked her. And I was not the only one who witnessed this. I was there when Gail, in a fit of rage, threw a hot iron at Lakshmi, and I saw the blood on Lakshmi’s neck after one of Gail’s particularly ferocious attacks. Needless to say, none of this happened in Amma’s presence.
“I’ve never mentioned to anyone what Gail did to Amma that day because Amma, out of her immense compassion, forbade us who knew what had really happened to tell anyone or to confront Gail. She simply asked us to pray for Gail.”
If Lakshmi made the slightest mistake or, on certain days, if Lakshmi uttered even a word or laughed, she would be attacked. And because Lakshmi and I were like sisters, Gail wouldn’t allow us to talk to each other. We became so afraid, we’d whisper if we had to say anything to each other in case Gail would come charging and screaming.
I’ve just read Lakshmi’s account of what happened in Sweden, when Gail made the little boat capsize with Amma in it, and I can verify that it really happened because I was right there. I saw how Gail completely ignored Amma’s pleas and made the boat capsize. Amma took a long time to resurface because she found herself directly under the boat and, as she told us later, became disoriented when her head became covered with her sari. I’ve never mentioned to anyone what Gail did to Amma that day because Amma, out of her immense compassion, forbade us who knew what had really happened to tell anyone or to confront Gail. She simply asked us to pray for Gail.
As the ashram expanded and more and more people came to stay there, I watched as Gail’s power and position went to her head. After she received sannyas initiation, people would touch her feet and look up to her even more than before, and she began to believe that she was truly great. She had a clique of women around her, her “inner circle,” who sadly believed that they were somehow closer to Mother because of their proximity to Gail. They served Gail and obeyed her every whim, and agreed with everything she said, no matter how preposterous. As time went by, the lives of those in Gail’s inner circle seemed to revolve more around Gail than Mother. I watched as Gail carefully groomed them, took over their lives and gradually made them turn away from Mother. One day I came across a young woman, sitting on the floor with her head in her hands. I asked her what the matter was. She began to weep and said that thanks to Gail she was losing her faith in Mother. I told her to talk to Mother about it. I don’t know if she did. She left the ashram at the same time as Gail. I felt incredibly sad about this because this young woman had really loved Mother. So, this was how Gail gradually, in her calculating way, poisoned the minds of the women around her. Almost all of them ended up leaving Mother at around the same time as Gail.
During the last few years, Gail didn’t do a stitch of work at the ashram. She was usually in her room, where should would have massages, talk to friends, etc. It used to get hot in Gail’s room because it was situated directly under the roof. She had an electric fan, but, even so, in the middle of the day when the temperature was at its hottest, she used to order me to fill buckets of cold water and climb up the ladder onto the flat cement roof above her room and pour the cold water over the roof, again and again, to cool her room down. It was an arduous, exhausting task. But because of my reverence towards the sannyasa tradition, it never occurred to me to say no.
“I also find the whole drama of Gail’s “great escape” from San Ramon rather puzzling because when we were still in India, weeks before the tour, Gail explicitly told me and others that Mother had given her permission to take a long break after the tour and stay at San Ramon for a few months.”
During the last tour before Gail left, I would stay at Amma’s house and often sleep in the same room as Gail. It’s interesting that in her book she places me in situations I never experienced and puts words in my mouth that I never uttered. In her private room at Amritapuri and on the tours, Gail slept more than any of us. On the tours she would wake up long after Amma had left for the darshan hall in the mornings. I know this because I assisted Gail in the kitchen during the day, so I stayed back at the house, and I used to bring her a cup of tea when she finally woke up, often close to ten in the morning. So I find it quite amusing when she says in her book that after she had left Amma she got her first good night’s sleep in years!
I also find the whole drama of her “great escape” from San Ramon rather puzzling because when we were still in India, weeks before the tour, Gail explicitly told me and others that Mother had given her permission to take a long break after the tour and stay at San Ramon for a few months. She told me that she wouldn’t be back until the end of January at the earliest. This was made totally clear to me, and we spoke about it many times during the tour. So, why all the drama of sneaking out of San Ramon during the night when Mother was still in America? Of course it added to her vicious plan to try to destroy Mother’s reputation and depict her as some strange cult leader.
Gail’s preposterous accusations against Mother, Swamiji and Amritatmananda Swami are too absurd to respond to. But to any newcomer to Mother or someone who hasn’t met Mother and may feel confused because of what Gail has written, I feel I should say something. From 1991 onwards Mother allowed me to spend the evenings with her after bhajans. For 18 years, I had the huge privilege of being with Mother in the evenings and often into the early morning hours. I would sit on the ground right next to her chair as she spoke to people. And when Mother’s reception room was built next to her room, I continued to spend the evenings with her. There were countless times when I was there alone with Mother and Swamiji or Amritatmananda Swami or the other swamis. Not once did I ever detect the slightest hint of the flirting Gail accuses them of. I also cleaned Mother’s room twice a day for ten years, during darshan and bhajans, and I would make Mother’s bed and change her sheets. She would use the bed from time to time just to sit on, and she always slept on the floor. During many years I also washed Mother’s clothes, sheets and towels during the tours. Needless to say, not once did I come across anything even remotely inappropriate.
“Gail’s accusations against Amma and the swamis are so deranged I find it hard to get my head around the fact that even someone of Gail’s ilk could stoop that low. Even so, I know that Mother continues to love Gail more than any one of us could possibly conceive of.”
More than anyone, Amritatmananda Swami was a target of Gail’s hatred. For some odd reason, she seemed to project the shadow of her own darkness onto him in particular. I have always known him as a very kind and friendly swami, but in her eyes he could never do anything right.
However, I hardly ever heard Gail say anything negative about Swami Amritaswarupananda, who is known as Swamiji (formerly known as Balu). I remember her telling me that Swamiji was the only swami whom she liked, and that she really felt he was her brother. So, it boggles the mind that, apart from Amma, it was Swamiji that Gail chose as the character in her fiction book to wrap her most disgusting lies around. I believe she chose him simply to hurt Amma all the more because Swamiji is the most senior swami at the ashram and as such he is highly respected all over the world. He is also extraordinarily innocent and devotional in his relationship with Mother.
It’s not out of vengeance or hatred that I have shared these recollections—the truth cannot be altered or changed by someone’s malicious intentions. Given the utter lies Gail is trying to propagate, I cannot sit still and remain silent. In fact, Gail’s accusations against Amma and the swamis are so deranged I find it hard to get my head around the fact that even someone of Gail’s ilk could stoop that low. Even so, I know that Mother continues to love Gail more than any one of us could possibly conceive of. May Gail one day come to realise this fact.