My mother, Purnamasi, was born on August 15, 1922, in Surat, India. At the tender age of twelve she married Purushottam Patel, who brought her to South Africa.
They had nine children. In order to support the large family after her husband’s early demise, Mother Purnamasi held three jobs: at a creche in the morning, at the local Gujarati school as a teacher between 2 and 5 p.m., and doing tuitions from 5:30 to 9.
The creche was in a two-story building on Victoria Street in Durban. On the first floor, the newly arrived Hare Krishna devotees had a preaching center. His Holiness Partha Sarathi das Goswami, then a brahmachari, recalled that Mother Purnamasi was the first devotee he met in 1974.
She soon started serving the devotees by taking bhoga and little gifts for them. The devotees also performed sankirtana in the courtyard of the house where we lived in Durban. In 1975 they invited Mother Purnamasi to the City Hall to attend Srila Prabhupada’s lecture, and she brought back a copy of Back to Godhead (BTG).
A few years later, Maharaja visited our new home, in the Woodhurst section of Chatsworth, and made me a life member. He also had a tent program near our flat. Afterwards, the devotees started a nama-hatta program at a Woodhurst primary school, and we started attending regularly.
After the Sri Sri Radha-Radhanath temple opened in 1985, Mother Purnamasi started serving at the Govinda’s restaurant, and she also worshipped her Sri Sri Radha-Damodara, Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra, and Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurahari at home.
She was very inspired by His Holiness Giriraj Swami and soon took initiation from him. They developed a loving, friendly relationship. She loved cooking for him. She had implicit faith in guru and Krishna, was very serious about her devotional practices, and very carefully tried to avoid offenses. In her Vyasa-puja offerings, she sometimes implored fellow disciples to avoid causing offenses, as they would in turn affect Guru Maharaja’s well-being.
She developed such a strong attachment for Guru Maharaja and his service that she would cry, saying, “I just want to see my guru maharaja’s smiling face. I just want to cook once more for him.” She would cry, “I am so insincere that despite my repeated prayers, my desires remain unfulfilled.” Thus lamenting in deep separation, she left her body on the Ekadasi following Sri Rama-navami in April 2003.