When there are fifty thousand or more devotees in Amritapuri to celebrate Amma’s birthday, “living with Amma” has a new meaning. It no longer means you sit with Her for meditation and satsang in the morning, as normally happens three days a week; nor does it mean you sit quietly in the temple, a yard or two away, watching Her give darshan, as you can on the other four days of the week. No, “living with Mother” on such days generally means distance – you are not likely to be close to Her Form, for you are working, hard, at lots of jobs you don’t ordinarily do.
Maybe you ordinarily work in the ashram press, but on this special day you are needed to make food for the thousands that throng to have a glimpse of Amma, or to serve food. Maybe you usually work in one of the offices – say, the School or Accommodation Office; but for Amma’s Birthday you have the every-couple-of-hours toilet cleaning duty. Perhaps on an ordinary day you work in the cafe or the small grocery store at the ashram; but on this day you are delivering leaf plates to the various food counters where devotees take their meals. Maybe your ordinary work keeps you in front of a computer most of the time – but on Mother’s Birthday you are not at your screen; you are helping with crowd control in the big new semi-outdoor auditorium at the south side of the ashram. Or, did you leave your Matruvani editing job to help distribute pensions to the poor who gathered near the hospital south of the ashram? Whatever you found yourself doing on 19 September 2000, it almost surely was not what you usually do unless you were Amma. Amma did what She usually does.
Of course, some details were different: She did come a little earlier than usual, and head out to the new auditorium instead of to the temple. The sound of the conch reverberated throughout the hall announcing Her arrival, thousands of throats chanted ‘Om Amriteswaryai Namah or called out ‘Amma, Amma’ a wave of love and devotion engulfed all. And when Amma got to the stage – She sat still, eyes closed, hands folded, the perfect image of humility, while one disciple, on behalf of all, performed a formal Pada Puja to the chanting of vedic mantras. Next, satsang, and greetings to dignitaries, and awards to Matruvani subscription competition winners, and keys to new homes for the poor. Yes, there were these little deviations from Mother’s ordinary day. But in the end She did what She does always: She sat hugging, whispering, listening, reassuring, caressing, scolding, patting, smiling, consoling – in short, interacting with each one who approached Her in the way he or she needed. Amma gave darshan, in Her own unique and truly inimitable way.
Amma began giving darshan late in the morning, and finished only shortly before 6 p.m. Finished? Not exactly. Finished that session, yes – but not darshan actually. After barely an hour and a half’s break, Mother returned, this time to the temple, for bhajans and Devi Bhava. Resplendent in a white-with-gold sari, which She traditionally wears for the Birthday Devi Bhava, Mother sat for yet another ten hours of hugging and holding and comforting – now, Devi darshan. Only after the sun was well up on Wednesday morning did Amma finally leave the temple and make Her way, smiling radiantly, back across the yard, up Her steps, and into Her room. So it was a day very different from most days for ashramites: their jobs were different and they hardly saw Mother at all except in their hearts. But for Mother it wasn’t really all that different. She spent it more or less as She spends all Her days: reaching out to meet the needs of Her children, and making it possible for all who approach Her to experience first-hand the truth of the phrase, “God is Love.”