(15 Jan '04)
Thursday, 15 January, 2004
Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
The 108 families living in Amrita Kuteeram, Rameshwaram were very excited. Amma was coming to give a programme just in their neighbourhood. Only a year before they had been living in leaky huts thatched with coconut leaves, but–thanks to Amma–they now had simple but strong houses in an attractive, well-maintained neighbourhood to call home.
All the families were intent on properly receiving Amma when She arrived. They knew that en route to the stage Amma would drive past their homes, so each family lit an oil lamp on their portico and decorated their doorsteps and walkways with flowers. Their children sat along the path where Amma’s car would come, waiting with small flags in their hands. And when Amma’s car finally did come, each family showered it with flower petals–so many petals, in fact, that the hood and windshield of the car were covered and the driver had to run the wipers in order to see the road. Inside the car, Amma–whose window was wide open–was also covered in this physical expression of Her children’s gratitude and love.
Looking at the Amrita Kuteeram residents that day, it was not so easy to tell just how poor they were. The women wore colourful saris and gold earrings, bangles and bracelets; the men had decent shirts on; the kids were neatly dressed. But then when we spoke to them, we came to understand that most of the saris were borrowed, the gold was fake and the children’s clothes were all hand-me-downs. They wanted to look nice for Amma.
That night, all the Amrita Kuteeram residents–and other poor Rameshwaram villagers–came for darshan, Amma took a lot of time with them, inquiring about their health and their finances. So many were struggling so hard to make ends meet.
Earlier that night, Amrita Nidhi, the Ashram’s free pension programme, had been inaugurated in Rameshwaram, but many desperately poor people coming for darshan were not enrolled in the programme and Amma’s heart went out to them. So She told one of Her Swami’s to start distributing pension allotments. He took down their names and an account of their troubles; they would be processed later. Amma had some 700 saris distributed and, even had arrangements made for some of those suffering from heart trouble to be treated at AIMS, Her super-specialty hospital in Cochin.
They offered flowers to Amma. Amma offered them love and hope.