Painting minds with the colour of love: Amma celebrates Holi

15 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan, and the Rajasthan–Haryana border on NH 7 –Bharata Yatra 2006

Holi is mainly a North Indian tradition. As such, in Amma’s youth she never threw about the celebratory powdered paints as people do in places like Mumbai, Jaipur and Delhi. And even though Amma has been in the North during Holi almost every year since 1985, she had never joined in…. But there is a first time for everything.

This year, Amma was in Jaipur on the holiday. Her programme there finished around 4:00 Holi morning, and Amma then returned to the devotees’ house where she was staying. The brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees travelling with Amma also returned to their accommodation at a nearby school.

Around 11:00 a.m. Amma came down to the living room where all the members of the joint-family household were waiting. The devotees requested Amma to sit on a couch and then began singing their favourite traditional Holi songs to her. They also played the harmonium and kept time on large hand cymbals. Holi is a very popular festival in Jaipur, and the family was obviously in bliss to be able to have their beloved Amma in their home for the occasion. The joy of the family reflected on Amma’s face, and she soon began to clap along enthusiastically to their bhajans.

After a few songs, the head of the house approached Amma with a tiny, silver pichkari [water-pump gun] and a finger bowl of sandal-paste water—the perfect squirter and “paint” for a refined and reserved Holi celebration. Amma picked up the pichkari, drew up some sandal-paste water and, to the delight of the devotees, began squirting them as they sang.

After some time a second offering was made to Amma—a tray carrying generous piles of green, orange, red and pink powdered paint. Would Amma take things up a notch?

Try ten.

Grabbing handful after handful of powder, Amma began tossing the colours around, hitting everyone, young and old alike. The beautiful living room was soon consumed in a massive cloud of colours.

When the fog cleared, the family began playing more bhajans, and Amma clapped hands with various members of the family to the beat. As the music raised in tempo, the men, women and children all began dancing. This inspired Amma to throw another round of colours and, eventually, to begin dancing herself. At the end of one song, the devotees started standing up, pointing their finger at the ceiling and joyously calling out, “Radhe!” Eventually Amma too rose to her feet and, with both hands pointing upwards, called out the longest “Radheee!” of the celebration.

In her satsang the night before {news}, Amma had prayed that her children’s lives become “filled with the colour of bliss.” Certainly, in Jaipur that prayer came true.

*****

Later that day, just before sunset, maybe a 100 metres before entering Haryana, Amma met up with all the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees accompanying her on the tour. Her camper and all the buses pulled off to the side of the highway.

By this time almost everyone had heard that Amma had celebrated Holi at the devotees’ house. In fact, back in Jaipur, many of the ashramites themselves had been “Holi-ed” {full report}. They had been accommodated inside a wall-fortified school, but almost everyone that had ventured outside—to the delight of a few and to the chagrin of most—had been caught by various packs of celebrators. In the end, some of the ashramites had fully joined in, and, as such, about a third of Amma’s children wore signs of the celebration on their white saris and dhotis, heads and faces. However the majority had escaped unscathed.

But almost as soon as Amma sat down in the field, someone handed her a packet of florescent orange powder… then a packet of florescent pink powder… Amma then told everyone to close their eyes. Nervous laughter began to erupt here and there. A mischievous smile began spreading across Amma’s face. She then reached into the bags of powder and began tossing handfuls this way and that. It was like the morning all over again. You could hardly see for all the paint. The brahmacharis, brahmacharinis, devotees, Amma—everyone was covered in colours.

When Amma finished her initial joyous attack, she then reached up and liberally smeared orange paint across her own two cheeks! Everyone sat there looking up at the beaming smile upon her glowing face.

A young Japanese lady was sitting to Amma’s right. She was one of those who had been hit back in Jaipur. Now her face and sari showed the aftermaths of not one but two Holi celebrations. Lovingly looking into the lady’s pink and orange face, Amma reached down with her right index finger and painted the mantra “Om” on top of the lady’s cleanly shaven head.

As the sun set, the sky also joined in Amma’s celebration.

It is said that Sri Krishna used to throw the colours around with his devotees, the gopis of Vrindavan. Through such joyous and loving actions, he stole their hearts and forged in them an unbreakable bond—a bond that would eventually transcend time and space, and take them to the divine realization that, in truth, there is nothing but God. Had Amma been doing anything less?

—Kannadi

 

The colour of bliss, the Pink city on Holi

14 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan –Bharata Yatra 2006

Amma’s visit to Jaipur fell on Holi {read more} , the festival associated with Sri Krishna, wherein powdered paints are thrown around, painting everyone with bright pinks, oranges, greens, reds and yellows. In fact, looking out at the people who came for Amma’s programme it was clear that some of them had already been celebrating.
vasundara raje offering to Amma

In the beginning of her satsang, Amma wished everyone a Happy Holi said, “Holi is a symbol of joy and celebration. May your life be filled with the colour of bliss. Once you apply the paints, everything looks the same. Similarly when you apply the paint of love to the mind, all differences disappear, we become one and we will be able to move ahead in unity. Holi reminds us about the greatness of faith. Prahlada was sitting on the lap of Holika, but the fire couldn’t harm him*. That was due to the unshakeable faith Prahlada had in the Lord. May my children’s faith be similarly formed. Amma prays to the Paramatman that this be so.”

The Honourable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Smt. Vasundhara Raje, came to the programme to seek Amma’s blessings. After bowing at Amma’s feet, she took a seat on the dais to Amma’s right.

In her address, the Chief Minister said, “When someone came to me and said, ‘Mother will be coming here on the 14th, will you take some time out of your busy schedule?’ And I said, ‘I believe that I am very lucky that I will have the opportunity to come and pay my respects to Mother.’ The question of being busy just doesn’t arise! Because for people like us, blessings of people like this are very few and far between. And when you work towards keeping a family as large as that of Rajasthan, I can tell you that you need every blessing. So I believe I have that affection, I have that love, and I am happy with that. I believe that is what will see us through. It is the blessing of souls like this, it is the direction of souls like this, that take us and the state very, very much further.”
ghana shyam tiwari

Sri. Ghana Shyam Tiwari, the Honourable Minister of Education of Rajasthan, also addressed the gathering. In his talk he said, “Amma is the representative of the spiritual shakti [power]. From Kerala, Shankaracharya travelled the width and breadth of India spreading his teachings of Sanatana Dharma. Today, Amma is doing this throughout the entire world.” He also told a story involving Sage Narada about the power of Mahatmas to alter one’s fate.

The CM also helped distribute certificates of enrolment into the Amrita Nidhi lifetime pension programme to a dozen or so widows and handicapped people in Jaipur. The new beneficiaries also received the first three-months installment of their pension. These people were representatives of 1000 new beneficiaries in the Jaipur area.

Sri. Ashok Parnami, the Mayor of Jaipur, was also present on the dais. As part of her bhajan set, Amma sang, “Ayiye Holi Bhari Pichkari,” to the delight of all the devotees. Around 12:30 a.m. a familiar face came for Amma’s darshan, Sri. Ram Singh Chauhan, the man with bragging rights to “The World’s Longest Moustache” who performed with a Rajasthani dance troupe for Amma at Amritavarsham50.

A Happy Holi to all.

–Kannadi

*Prahalada was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlada’s father, the Demon King Hiranyakasippu, wanted Prahlada to worship him, not Lord Vishnu. When Prahlada refused, Hiranyakasippu tried to kill him in many ways. One such way was by putting him on the lap of his aunt Holika. Holika had a boon that made her impervious to fire. With Prahlada on her lap, she then jumped into a fire. But due to his unshakeable faith in Lord Vishnu, was Prahlada was not burned, and Holika was destroyed.

Where there is darkness, they need light: A unique darshan in Indore

13 March, Indore, Madhya Pradesh –Bharata Yatra 2006

It wasn’t the first time that 100,000 people have come to one of Amma’s programmes, but it was the first time that all of them tried to come for darshan at the exact same time.

In fact, from the minute Amma reached the dais in Indore, politicians, reporters, policemen, men of industry, pensioners—not to mention thousands in the crowd—began struggling to make their way to Amma. To say it was difficult to manage would be an understatement. It was impossible. Then, when darshan officially began, thousands of others who had until then been waiting patiently also began pressing forward. Perhaps they did not know that one is supposed to come only when his token number is called.

For the entire duration of darshan, the brahmacharis, brahmacharinis and devotees travelling with Amma had to police the boundaries of the stage to prevent the massive crowd from creating a stampede upon it. In fact, the situation was such that Amma’s satsang and bhajans were delayed for almost half an hour simply because no one would leave the stage. At one point during darshan, Amma herself stood up and spoke over the sound-system, telling everyone not to worry that she would give darshan to everyone but that they had to be patient and not push. “In 35 years of darshan, nothing like this has ever happened,” said one of the senior brahmacharis.

When darshan finished around 9:30 the next morning, many ashramites commented, “It clearly was only due to Amma’s sankalpa [resolve] that no one got hurt.”

On the way to Amma’s next program in Jaipur, Amma stopped in Kotta, Rajasthan and, sitting on the banks of Chambal River, a discussion about the Indore darshan ensued. Some of the devotees who had helped with crowd-control shared their feelings and experiences. One woman explained how at one point she had held onto a man’s shirt-collar to prevent him from walking on to the stage, only to suddenly find herself holding the shirt—minus the man! Amma, the swamis and everyone on the tour laughed. The whole night had been the kind of situation where either you laugh or you cry. Better to laugh.

“They had devotion but no knowledge,” Amma said referring to the people who rushed on to the stage. “There were 15,000 people crowding into spaces meant for 1,000. Amma could not stop thinking of their safety. I was afraid there could be a stampede. Also, what if someone in the crowd was a heart patient or suffered from high blood pressure? But by grace nothing bad happened.”

One man described to Amma how he literally spent 16 hours in the middle of the sea of people, trying to make sure only those with tokens came for darshan.

“To be honest, I don’t really like crowds or people to touch me,” said one young man from America. “But when someone said they really needed help with the crowd-control, I came. Initially I was a little scared, then I got angry that no one would listen, but finally I realized, it was all pointless and just Amma’s leela [play].” In the end, he said, he decided to simply do his duty without tension and enjoy the bhajans.

“I am not sure if they were childlike or childish,” Amma said, laughing. “But if there is a bag of chocolate in front of a group of children, there will be no discipline.”

Amma first stressed how the people doing crowd-control needed to have not only discipline but also compassion. She then gave some practical advice as to how try to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again in the future.

Amma told everyone that they must try to learn to from every experience in life. “We should never become slack, expecting all situations to be the same,” Amma said. “We cannot expect peace and safety in each place. Rama’s life was not like Krishna’s. Each situation is different.”

Towards the end of the Kotta stop, one brahmachari told Amma that he had a suggestion for the spiritual evolvement of the people who’d rushed the stage. “Amma, I feel the ideal path for them is that of devotion,” he said. “Just like the gopis of Vrindavan, they should spend their whole lives yearning for the Lord to return… but she never does.”

It was meant as a joke, and everyone including Amma laughed. But Amma felt otherwise: “Where there is darkness, they need more light. We should go there more often!”

—Sakshi

The colour of bliss, the Pink City on Holi

14 March, Jaipur, Rajasthan –Bharata Yatra 2006

Amma’s visit to Jaipur fell on Holi {read more} , the festival associated with Sri Krishna, wherein powdered paints are thrown around, painting everyone with bright pinks, oranges, greens, reds and yellows. In fact, looking out at the people who came for Amma’s programme it was clear that some of them had already been celebrating.

In the beginning of her satsang, Amma wished everyone a Happy Holi said, “Holi is a symbol of joy and celebration. May your life be filled with the colour of bliss. Once you apply the paints, everything looks the same. Similarly when you apply the paint of love to the mind, all differences disappear, we become one and we will be able to move ahead in unity. Holi reminds us about the greatness of faith. Prahlada was sitting on the lap of Holika, but the fire couldn’t harm him1. That was due to the unshakeable faith Prahlada had in the Lord. May my children’s faith be similarly formed. Amma prays to the Paramatman that this be so.”

The Honourable Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Smt. Vasundhara Raje, came to the programme to seek Amma’s blessings. After bowing at Amma’s feet, she took a seat on the dais to Amma’s right.

In her address, the Chief Minister said, “When someone came to me and said, ‘Mother will be coming here on the 14th, will you take some time out of your busy schedule?’ And I said, ‘I believe that I am very lucky that I will have the opportunity to come and pay my respects to Mother.’ The question of being busy just doesn’t arise! Because for people like us, blessings of people like this are very few and far between. And when you work towards keeping a family as large as that of Rajasthan, I can tell you that you need every blessing. So I believe I have that affection, I have that love, and I am happy with that. I believe that is what will see us through. It is the blessing of souls like this, it is the direction of souls like this, that take us and the state very, very much further.”

Sri. Ghana Shyam Tiwari, the Honourable Minister of Education of Rajasthan, also addressed the gathering. In his talk he said, “Amma is the representative of the spiritual shakti [power]. From Kerala, Shankaracharya travelled the width and breadth of India spreading his teachings of Sanatana Dharma. Today, Amma is doing this throughout the entire world.” He also told a story involving Sage Narada about the power of Mahatmas to alter one’s fate.

The CM also helped distribute certificates of enrolment into the Amrita Nidhi lifetime pension programme to a dozen or so widows and handicapped people in Jaipur. The new beneficiaries also received the first three-months installment of their pension. These people were representatives of 1000 new beneficiaries in the Jaipur area.

Sri. Ashok Parnami, the Mayor of Jaipur, was also present on the dais.

As part of her bhajan set, Amma sang, “Ayiye Holi Bhari Pichkari,” to the delight of all the devotees.

Around 12:30 a.m. a familiar face came for Amma’s darshan, Sri. Ram Singh Chauhan, the man with bragging rights to “The World’s Longest Moustache” who performed with a Rajasthani dance troupe for Amma at Amritavarsham50.

A Happy Holi to all.

-Kannadi

*Prahalada was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Prahlada’s father, the Demon King Hiranyakasippu, wanted Prahlada to worship him, not Lord Vishnu. When Prahlada refused, Hiranyakasippu tried to kill him in many ways. One such way was by putting him on the lap of his aunt Holika. Holika had a boon that made her impervious to fire. With Prahlada on her lap, she then jumped into a fire. But due to his unshakeable faith in Lord Vishnu, was Prahlada was not burned, and Holika was destroyed.

Amma in Indore

11 March, Indore, Madhya Pradesh –Bharata Yatra 2006

Amma’s first-ever programme in Indore was attended by a large number of the city’s politicians, captains of industry and media barons, as well as more than 100,000 people thirsty to experience Amma’s compassion.

Dignitaries included Union Minister Kantilal Bhuria, State PWD Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya, City BJP Chief Ramesh Mendola, District Congress President Ujaagar Singh, Congress MLA Ashwin Joshi and Mayor of Indore Dr. Umar Sushi Sharma. Also garlanding Amma and sitting on the dais were Saint Mata Kankeshwari Devi and a few of her disciples.

On behalf of the Chief Minister, PWD Minister Vijayvargiya offered 50 acres of land to the Ashram for it to build Amrita Kuteeram houses for the homeless upon. He also helped distribute certificates of enrolment for the Amrita Nidhi lifetime-pension programme to a dozen or so new beneficiaries. The widows and crippled people who received their certificates onstage were representative of 1000 such new beneficiaries in the Indore area.

Free dinner was served to one and all.

–Tulasi

 

Bang a drum for the whole world to hear

9 March, Bharata Yatra 2006 — Amdavad, Gujarat

Not only did the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Sri. Narendra Modi, come to the Amrita Vidyalayam in Amdavad to seek Amma’s audience, he also rode beside Amma to the programme site at Education Society Grounds. There, young men and women dressed in traditional Gujarati clothing were dancing dandiya to welcome Amma. The dancers used the sticks associated with the dance to form an archway for Amma to walk under on her way to the stage, and the CM passed under it along with her.

Addressing the crowd, the CM said, “The life-force of India lies in spirituality. Without spirituality we cannot even dream of India. This spirituality has been passed down for ages and ages through India’s parampara [lineage] of rishis, acharyas, saints and mahatmas. It is this parampara that constantly refreshes and inspires the human mind of India, and it is because of this parampara that—in spite of so much opposition, obstacles and difficulties—God’s will wins.”

Modi then lamented the fact that many Indians seem to be ashamed of the country’s spiritual heritage. He also lamented that many Indians seem to believe the only people serving society are missionaries and those working in the social services. As proof to the contrary, he put forth the example of everything Amma’s Ashram is doing, including its rebuilding of three Gujarat villages following the Bhuj earthquake of 2001. “But this is not missionary work, nor is it social service,” he said. “It is simply to uplift the suffering. Her work is compassion in the true sense of the word. Is she not the Mother of Compassion?”

Modi continued: “It has been the tradition of this country to help the poor, to wipe the tears of the suffering. It is the tradition of this country that nobody should go to bed without food. To insure this does not happen, we have the tradition of providing free food in temples. I don’t understand why we are not proud to display this tradition before the world. Why are we ashamed of it? In fact, we should bang a drum so that the entire world knows the glories of our mahatmas—our embodiments of seva and spirituality, our embodiments of compassion and love, who have realized the meaning of vasudaiva kutumbakam [the world is one family]. We should be proud to show this tradition of ours to the world. That we do not is truly a tragedy of the country. … In the face of such warped situations, people like Amma, who are wedded to the parampara, are trying to rejuvenate this nation on the foundation of love, compassion and spirituality, without feelings of hatred towards anyone, without leaving the path of Truth.”

The CM concluded by welcoming Amma to Gujarat: “I offer my pranams at the feet of Amma and her spiritual strength, compassion for society and her motherly sankalpa [resolve] for the benefit of the world. May she give all of us the inspiration and strength to do something good with faith.”

Modi then helped distribute certificates of enrolment to 14 new beneficiaries of the Amrita Nidhi pension programme. The programme has been extended to 1,000 more widows and handicapped people in the Amdavad area. He also released a Gujarati translation of Satya Sanatana, a book of Amma’s teachings.

Other dignitaries on the stage included the Mayor of Amdavad, Sri. Am it Shah; Sri. Kailashnathan, Principle Secretary to the Government of Gujarat; Sri. J.M. Mahapatra, Additional Secretary; Sri. K.V. Bhavjan, IAS; and P.G.J. Nambootiri. IAS (retired).

Amrita Vidyalayam children of Amdavad performed dances of different states of India for Amma.

At the conclusion of darshan Amma travelled on to the next programme in her Bharata Yatra, Indore, Madhya Pradesh.

–Kannadi

 

A dance for devi, a dance for Krishna: Surat welcomes Amma

7 March, Surat, Gujarat – Bharata Yatra 2006

When Amma came to Pandit Dindayal Upadhaya Indoor Stadium in Surat, she was greeted by eight young women performing garbhi, Gujarat’s traditional dance for the Divine Mother. The dance was not limited to Amma’s immediate arrival, the women danced alongside Amma as she walked into the stadium. Traditionally performed during the nine nights of Navaratri, the dance is said to be Devi’s favourite.

Amma was officially welcomed to the city by the Mayor, Sri. Kanudhai Mamani. Speaking from the dais, the mayor said: “Amma’s darshan has uplifted many of the world’s poorest of the poor. By her grace, the poorest people in the world are relieved of their worries. Through her educational work and philanthropic activities, Amma is uplifting the poorest people in the world, providing them with the basic necessities of food, shelter and clothing. We should bow down and touch her lotus feet.
amrita nidhi pension to the destitute

The mayor then helped Amma distribute certificates of enrolment to more than a dozen new beneficiaries of the Ashram’s Amrita Nidhi lifetime free pension programme. This was symbolic of how the programme has been extended to an additional 1000 beneficiaries in the Karwar area. The enrollees were also presented with their first three-month pension payments.

To the delight of the Surat devotees, Amma sang a number of bhajans in Gujarati, including a version of “Jinki Karuna He Apar.”

When Amma began giving darshan, 11 girls performed dandiya, the traditional dance of the gopis of Vrindavan, involving the rhythmic striking of sticks. The music was a little modernized from that of Krishna’s day and some of the steps had a little more attitude, but it was a wonderful welcome to Gujarat, the land of Sri Krishna, nonetheless.

–Kannadi

 

The colour of inspiration

6 March 2006 — Pandagasalai Village, Nagapattinam District, Tamil Nadu

For the seventh time since 1998, members of Japan’s International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) are participating in the Amrita Kuteeram house-building project {news}. This year more than 80 such students have traveled to Nagapattinam to help build tsunami-relief housing in the villages of Pandagasalai, Akkarapettai and Mele Pattinacherry.

There are many familiar faces in this year’s group, as many students have participated two or three years in a row. But there is one new face in the crowd that is hard to overlook.

Due to birth complications, 22-year-old Taka Aki was afflicted with a severe case of cerebral paralysis. Intellectually he is just like any other university student, but he has very limited control over his muscles and is thus constrained to a wheelchair and has difficulty even speaking.

Taka Aki has longed to participate in Amrita Kuteeram since first meeting Amma in Tokyo in 2003. He has come to see Amma in Tokyo every year since and has been active with IVUSA throughout the year. But due to his condition, traveling to India always seemed unrealistic to him. In hi-tech Tokyo, he moves about freely using a motorized wheelchair and communicates via computer. But if he came to India he knew he would have to leave these supports behind, and he did not want to be a burden for others. For two years, Taka Aki told himself that traveling to India was simply not in the cards. However when faced with the fact that this year would be his last at the university, he decided he had to try.

This year, the students’ flight from Japan arrived in Mumbai on the night of Amma’s program at Shivaji Park {photo-news} . They all thus we able to have Amma’s darshan before traveling on to Nagapattinam. When Taka Aki was carried up to Amma for his darshan, Amma was both surprised and delighted to see him. {photo-news}

The first day in Nagapattinam was no different than any other at a construction site in India—extremely hot with lots of heavy manual labor. There was nothing that Taka Aki could do. His wheelchair even got a flat tire and he had to be pushed and carried along the dirt roads and over the thorny bushes. He simply sat in the shade, watching everyone else and longing for an opportunity to serve.

Then the next day someone suggested that maybe he could paint. He was thrilled by the idea and immediately agreed to try. Soon, a few people carried him onto a scaffolding, taped a paintbrush in his hand (he is unable to grip things), and he was ready to go. Someone guided his hand into the paint bucket and then, with great effort, he moved the brush back and forth along the wall. Paint was flying everywhere, spraying anyone within range, but no one seemed to mind or even moved out of the way. The scene was too inspiring to leave. A small crowd began to gather, and tears came to many people’s eyes. One of the site supervisors was visibly touched and, with his hands over his heart, said, ‘This is real service.’

Taka Aki spent the next several hours painting. Every so often the scaffolding would be shifted so that he could reach another section, and different people took turns supporting him on the scaffolding and helping him to dip his brush. Throughout the day the other students continually shouted encouragement, some joking with love that he had painted himself as much as the house.

By the time the sun began to set, the house had been transformed from the lifeless gray of cement to the inspiring pink of the horizon.

–Dass

Activities in Africa

Kanni Village, Machakos, Kenya

Following Amma’s October 2003 trip to Nairobi, a group of devotees there have formed an Amrita Kutumbam [Amrita family] {news} and have started engaging in various selfless-service projects in Amma’s name.

For the past year the group has been sponsoring the monthly feeding of 60 orphans at a Salvation Army orphanage in Nairobi, as well as providing them clothing and shoes.

Then, on 29th January, the Kutumbam members pooled together enough money to provide three-weeks worth of food to 290 tribal families in Kanni, a village in Machakos about 80 kilometres outside of Nairobi.

“For almost two years there has been no rain there at all. So the people are suffering from famine,” says Sunil Kallungal, 40, who participates in the Amrita Kutumbam’s bi-weekly Sunday gatherings and charitable work.

“The initial plan was to feed 100 families for three weeks,” says Sunil. “We planned to give every family 24 kilos of maize meal, four kg of beans, four kg of cooking oil, four kg of sugar and two kg of salt. But when we arrived, 290 families were there. So we had to adjust so that all the families could be fed.”

The bulk food was transported to the village in a lorry, and a programme of sorts was put on upon issuing it to the families. As part of the programme, a 22-member troupe from the Kamba Tribe performed some traditional dances.

Sunil says it is the hope of the Amrita Kutumbam members to start supplying food to the village on a regular basis.

At Amma’s instructions, Brahmachari Shubamrita Chaitanya recently in January conducted satsangs in Nairobi, as well as in South Africa and Botswana. He also held an IAM Meditation camp in Nairobi, the second such camp held there since Amma’s 2003 visit.

-KaliCharan

Amma in Mumbai: A city with many sides

2 March, Shivaji Park, Mumbai, Maharashtra –Bharata Yatra 2006

“Matching!” Amma said, first pointing at Mayur’s T-shirt and then at his hair—both were golden yellow. A big grin crept across the young man’s face. He then handed Amma a folded-up letter.

“Is it about your career, your future aspirations?” Amma asked.

The young man’s smile got even bigger.

“When she knew what my letter was about without even reading it, it really put me on top of the world,” the 24-year-old aspiring fashion designer, model and author later said. “I came tonight because I want Amma’s blessings and grace for a safe passage through life. I know she will help me fill my ambitions.”

Mayur has come to see Amma in Mumbai each year since he was 13, and he feels his relationship with her has helped him negotiate the often-confusing, fast-paced world of modern Mumbai—a city where East mixes with West, the contemporary blends with the traditional.

“Without Amma, I would not know how to walk through life with a relaxed soul,” he said. “She has been my guide, my wisdom. She has made me a better human being.”

Like Mayur, Mumbai is impossible to stereotype. It’s the business capitol of India, the show-business capitol, the party capitol, the cricket capitol, the shopping capitol. But it also is pervaded with temples dedicated to Devi and Ganesha. The streets can be jammed with black-and-yellow taxis or a procession of pilgrims chanting out and dancing for Lord Vithala.

Says Mayur: “There’s many sides to this city; many sides to me too.”

Amma’s first couple of days in Mumbai truly reflected the city’s multi-faceted appeal. Within her first 24 hours in town, Amma met with Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, the film-industry family the Kapoors, the vice chairman of Tata and musician Mahadevan, among others. And seated on the dais of her program at Shivaji Park on March 2nd were the legendary director-producer Ramesh Sippy, santoorist Shivakumar Sharma, playback singer Sreya Roshal, the executive director of the All-India Association of Industries, Smt. Rupa Naik, MP Tukaram Range Patil and the city’s mayor Sri. Dattaji Dalvi. Also in attendance were the former sheriff of Mumbai, Jagannath Hegde, and Gopal Shetty, MLA.

Perhaps Shiva Kumar Sharma said it best when he addressed the devotees. “The word ‘Amma’ itself generates feelings of selflessness and love in the heart. Amma has selfless love towards all kinds of people. Only those who are representatives of Ishwar can be like this.”

–Kannadi