June-July 2000, US Cities
Because of the ever-increasing number of people coming for the programmes both the public programmes and the retreat were held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, in the north of the city. On Saturday afternoon, after the meditation, Amma served dinner to every devotee and then sat at the table with the smaller children. While Amma had been serving the meals, the children had been drawing. Carrying these, they came to Mother, one at a time, and handed Her their efforts. Delighted with their gifts, Mother would accept each drawing, touch it to her Head, and keep it aside. Then She would feed the child a piece of papadam. These were wonderful moments of innocence and laughter.
Afterwards, Amma left the tables and entered the glass-sided elevator which was to take Her to Her room. As it began to rise to the top floor, Mother stepped right up to the glass wall, gazing down at all the upturned faces and outstretched arms of Her children. Everyone wanted to look at Her for one more moment. She raised Her arms as if to embrace and bless everyone, and a chorus of “Amma!” filled the air. Those few seconds were magically transformed by Amma into a memory which will light the hearts of Her children for a long time to come.
San Ramon, California
Amma is now at the San Ramon ashram where sunshine and rain clouds make the grounds look especially beautiful. Roses and magnolias are blooming and fruit trees are bearing bright yellow lemons or baby pears with shiny red cheeks. Last night, as the darshan was finishing Mother slowed down, as if She didn’t want to leave, talking, joking and calling up those who still hadn’t come for a hug. As She walked out of the hall, She stopped and talked to different people, caressing cheeks and handing out kisses (Hershey’s Kisses) and gazing lovingly into their eyes. Finally, She left in the car, waving, and offering Her hand out the window to everyone lining the route. As people slowly dispersed, everyone shared in the joy of knowing that they could see Amma again, in the morning.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Santa Fe ashram lies in the beautiful mountain region outside of the city. For the very first time Amma’s programme was held in the historic, south-western style, hotel ‘La Fonda’ in the heart of the old city.
For some time now this area had been under a dry spell but surprisingly, upon Amma’s arrival in the city, it began to rain, and each day of the programme there were light showers, just enough to lay the dust and bring new blossoms to bloom. Large crowds attended the programs and Devi Bhava finished so late that as Amma’s car drove away the sun was just rising. Saying goodbye to Amma in those last moments, and watching Her car disappear into the mountains, it was as if the Divine Mother had come to the region, caressed Her tired and dusty child, holding her in Her lap for a few moments and restoring her to new life.
Vast crowds squeezed their way into the ballroom of the thoroughly modern Crowne Plaza Hotel and although some people had seen Amma before, many were coming for the first time.
There was a cultural programme during the darshan, and two small boys who treated the crowd to a devastatingly funny ‘dance-cum-fight’ stole the show. Dressed in expressive costumes depicting Shiva and Ganesha, they came dancing onto the stage, wielding spears and brandishing all kinds of fearsome weapons, attacking each other, and then dancing apart again. As the music reached a crescendo they became carried away with their play and exuberant games, and could not stop! On and on they went, even after the music had stopped-much to everyone’s amusement ….. including Amma’s. Finally, to the clapping of the audience, Amma took them on Her lap, laughing and holding them in Her ever-loving arms.
When Amma brought Her message of love to the heartland of America’s Midwest it seemed that the whole world was watching. For Chicago was the place where the press descended, calling Amma, ‘the hugging saint from India’. Newspapers and television stations sent their photographers, videographers and reporters, and the two major American networks, CBS and NBC, carried features about Amma, Her hugs and Her charitable activities.
News interviewers wanted to know why Mother hugs. She replied, “Do you ask why the sun shines, or why the river flows? It is Amma’s nature to love, and hugging is an expression of that love.” Then they asked Her, “People say you are a healer, or a saint, or a Mahatma, or an Incarnation. What do you say?” Amma only smiled and said that She makes no claims, She simply loves. Mother told the press, and through them the public, that She is trying to help bring out ‘the Mother’ in all people – the loving, forgiving, accepting aspect which all human beings, men and women alike, have deep within them.