26th of September, 2000
“Should Amma go to Dubai? Is it really necessary? Isn’t it dangerous to go to a country where there is no religious freedom?” These were some of the doubts and questions expressed by the devotees when they heard about Amma’s decision to go to Dubai.
Amma’s parents were also extremely concerned about this trip. One day Acchan (Amma’s father) summoned me to his residence and said, “Son, Damayanti (Amma’s mother) and I are so worried about Ammachi’s trip to Dubai that we cannot sleep at night. Have you really thought about this? Is it safe to go there?”
Because I had been visiting Dubai and other Middle East countries since 1994, Achchan thought I would be the right person to give him a clear picture of the situation there. I tried to reassure him and said, “There are good and bad people all over the world. There are many broad-minded people in the Middle East as well. I have been visiting those countries for several years now, and I have never had any problems. In fact, I’ve had the great fortune to meet some wonderful human beings there. It is also important to remember that Amma is not a complicated person at all and Her message is so simple. Everyone can easily understand Her language, the language of the Universal Mother. So there’s no need for you to be concerned.
Poor Achchan and Damayanti Amma. They’d had enough trouble. Due to the constant problems created by the atheists and the local rationalist group of young men, they literally lived in fear when Amma first began the Krishna and Devi Bhavas. For them, those days were like a nightmare, and they hadn’t forgotten it.
However, none of us can even fathom the divine sankalpa (resolve) of a Satguru (realised being) like Amma. It is far beyond the capacity of any mortal human being to understand what the actions of a Satguru mean. There were a lot of opinions both for and against Amma’s first visit to the United Arab Emirates. But finally, Amma decided to go to the land of the famous Arabian stories.
I left for Dubai before Amma on the 23rd, just after Amma’s birthday celebrations, to help the devotees organise the programme. In three days we convened as many meetings as we could, discussing, planning and making decisions about the many aspects of Amma’s visit. The first announcement about Amma’s willingness to visit Dubai had come on 15th September. As far as I remember, this was the first programme of Amma’s that we had ever planned and organised in just a week and a half.
Thus, a long cherished desire of the devotees in the Middle East was fulfilled on Tuesday, the 26th of September, 2000
When Amma arrived in Dubai, Mr. Masood Muhammed, Managing Director, Civil Aviation, Dubai airport, Mr. Murali Nair, Financial Director, Civil Aviation, Dubai airport and Mr. Jayaram received Amma inside the aircraft. A limousine was waiting for Her beside the aircraft, and Amma was driven to a special V.I.P. lounge, where Mr. Ahmed Lutfi, Director, Finance Ministry, Dubai and his wife were waiting for Her.
Three public programmes were planned in Dubai, two of them in a gurudwara at a place known as Alkus, and the last day’s darshan was to be held at Hotel Astoria. But owing to the uncontrollable crowds, the morning darshan on the third day had to be shifted from the hotel to a bungalow belonging to Mr. Pagaria (Chairman, Al Mayalals Group of Companies). Amma also visited Mr. Vasu Shroff’s (Chairman, Regal Group of Companies) office and gave darshan to his family members and employees.
Even though we hadn’t originally planned any morning darshan programmes, the news about Amma’s visit spread like a wild fire and people arrived from all over the Middle East. They began to queue up in front of Mr. Jayaram’s (Amma’s host in Dubai) house from 6 a.m. onwards.
Other than word of mouth, there was absolutely no publicity. The law in these countries strictly prohibits advertisement of any kind. In spite of this, the crowds were so huge that Amma sat for almost eleven hours each day, giving darshan to the devotees
Except on Friday, 29th September, the programmes began at 4 p.m. and ended at 2 or 3 in the morning. The first evening programme began with Mr. Ahmed Lutfi’s introductory speech. He welcomed Amma to Dubai and garlanded Her. His talk was short but very sweet. (Mr. Lufti’s speech) After the speech, Mr. Lutfi presented Amma with a rosary specially strung for Her at his home. Thereafter devotees from Muscat, Kuwait, Bahrain, Sharjah, Abu-Dhabi, Salala and other Middle East countries also garlanded Amma.
When Mr. Ahmed Lutfi spoke the entire crowd became very excited. They expressed their appreciation and rejoiced by applauding at his every statement about Amma. It was quite thrilling to watch this orthodox local Muslim in his traditional dress talking about Amma to a huge gathering. I was so impressed by his broad-mindedness and readiness to accept a Mahatma belonging to a different faith. In him I saw the courage of a true lover of humanity. Indeed, he is a genuine believer and a servant of God.
On the first evening there were about 8000 people according to the tokens issued. Realising that the token system was an utter failure, we discontinued it on the second day. Eleven thousand people came the second day.
On the morning of the second day, as Amma was giving darshan at Mr. Jayaram’s house, I saw a young Muslim crying profusely in Amma’s arms. Wiping his tears with Her hands, Amma lovingly enquired about the reason for his sorrow. Through convulsive sobs he replied, “Amma, I have’t seen my family for the last fifteen years. I came here in 1995. With the help of my local sponsor and some friends from Kerala, I started a small business. But my friends cheated me and I lost everything. Somehow, by the grace of the Almighty, I still manage to survive. I have thought of committing suicide several times, but when I think of my parents, who are old and ill, and my wife and my only child, I cannot bring myself to do it.”
Hameed, as he was called, continued, “Every single letter I receive from my village contains a description of my family’s intense pain, especially when they see or hear about others who have returned from the Gulf to spend time with their families. Amma, just as they long to see me, my heart is pining to see them. I keep thinking about my poor daughter. Every day she is waiting for her father to come back. Amma, I am not even permitted to stay here legally now. What am I to do?
Having said this, the young man cried uncontrollably with his head resting in Amma’s lap. Amma was now wiping the tears that were coursing down Her own cheeks. She hugged Hameed and consoled him, saying, “Son, have courage. When times are bad, everything seems to fall apart. Be optimistic and patient. Every experience is like a passage. Some of those passages are filled with light and joy, while others are dark and painful. Amma knows it is hard to go through the painful ones. Ordinary human beings have very few choices. Committing suicide might put an end to your suffering. But what about the ones who are still alive? They will continue to suffer. In fact, their pain will be much worse than before, as you have ended your life and have left them alone to face the challenges of life, without any help. Do you think that they can bear the immense pain of losing you? Son, don’t jump into conclusions about life. Everyone goes through good and bad times. The light is just around the corner. You will be all right. Amma will make a special sankalpa for you.
The young man looked greatly relieved and relaxed as he walked away from there. I saw him again in the darshan line that evening at Mr. Lulla’s (Chairman, Astoria and Ambassador Hotels) bungalow. This time he was in a very happy, jovial mood. Out of curiosity, I listened to his conversation with Amma. He told Amma that one of Her devotees, a very well placed person in Dubai, had suddenly offered to help him to sort out his difficult situation. He expressed his deep gratitude to Amma for Her Divine intervention.
The above incident is not the only one of its kind. Hameed’s experience is just one among thousands of a similarly painful experiences that the helpless labourers of the Gulf countries face in their everyday life.
During the first and second day, I was involved in controlling the crowds. In their excitement to get a glimpse of Amma and to receive Her darshan, people became so impatient that they broke all the darshan rules, which, for practical reasons, had been formulated by the local devotees. During those chaotic moments I had to make a sincere attempt to pacify the devotees and assure them that Amma wouldn’t leave the place until everyone had received Her darshan. Standing in the middle of the extremely impatient, anxious crowd, I had to physically fight through the mass of people to protect a mother, her small children and myself from being stampeded by the violent crowd.
The place was jam-packed. Looking at the crowd, I was amazed to see a vast ocean of people surrounding me. They had been waiting for seven hours to come up to Amma for Her darshan. I couldn’t help but wonder at the tremendous attraction people have towards Her. Though it was eleven in the evening, the heat of the sun could still be strongly felt in the air. Everyone’s clothes were soaked in sweat as though they just had a good swim in a river.
Let me say without any exaggeration that Amma’s trip to the United Arab Emirates was an unforgettable event. The devotees experienced an unending shower of Amma’s infinite love, which they really deserved. Among the people who came so see Her were the unskilled Indian labourers who worked for long hours in the scorching heat at construction sites, or at other menial jobs, who were now being given a rare opportunity to experience the beauty and fragrance of true love. Fighting with the elements, day in and day out, these people had forgotten how to really live. For them, the time they had with Amma was like being in heaven.
Carrying the burden of their family and worldly responsibilities, these people work day in and day out to make money to support themselves and their families. Even when they go back to see their families once a year, the joy of meeting their family members usually doesn’t last long, because all the money they have earned through years of hard work will disappear within a few days. When it is time for these poor people to return to their workstations in the Arabian countries, the bank balance of most of them will be nil. And once a person is penniless, everyone, including his close relatives and friends, will disappear, leaving him and his immediate family alone to face their difficulties. At this point, the main interest of the so called friends and relatives will be to know when he is going back to the Gulf. Friends who have sipped from the liquor bottles he has brought will turn their backs on him and go in search of other new returnees to share bottles with.
When these people go back to the Deserts of Arabia after a one or two month visit at home, they still have the same old load on their shoulders, with some newly added burdens to the already existing ones. They have no choice but to continue to sweat and toil, and they dream about a bright and happy future with their wives and children. Countless such people live their lives building castles in air. How many of those dreams materialise? It is a terrible tragedy that many of these men wither away at the bud stage – before they ever get the chance to blossom.
For such people, who are looking for a shade to rest, to cool down their body and mind, Amma’s visit was a great relief. They had waited for many long years to see Amma. They had longed to rest on Her shoulders for a while, to look at Her face, to drink in that beautiful smile, to hear a word of love and compassion, to lie in Her lap for a moment, to weep like a child and unburden their life’s sorrows at Amma’s Feet. For them this tour was a dream come true, the realisation of a long cherished desire
Struck with awe, I have been watching this incomprehensible phenomenon known as Amma for the last twenty years. To me, She continues to be an unresolved mystery. Not just one aspect or mood, but whatever is being expressed by Amma has tremendous depth. As human beings, it is our nature to search for a meaning to everything we hear and see. The origin or source of that search is the ego. The very existence of the ego is rooted in this search for meaning, which the ego will always interpret in its own way, without diving into the deeper realms of Amma’s responses. Her answers are not always verbal. In whichever form they come, we need to have the attitude of utter acceptance to be able to hear the true answer, the voice of our own Self.
The iron filings may think it is because of their own power that they get attracted to the magnet. Poor things! How can they move at all in that direction without the power of the magnet? We, too, often have the same false notion as those iron filings.
The “iron filings” in Dubai were simply drawn towards the most powerful magnet known as Amma. They didn’t know why? The attraction was so strong that they couldn’t be still. They just moved towards that great presence.
The musk deer is constantly in search of the sweet smell emanating from its own body. This is what the entire human race is like. People are searching for the sweetness of life, the joy of living. In that search they are scattered in their thoughts, words and deeds. As Amma puts it, “We all are like totally isolated islands scattered in an Ocean. There is no glue – the glue of true love – to unite us.” Amma is the unconditional Love that we are searching for, the God of Love who will ultimately lead us to eternal peace, happiness and oneness.
Amma has come to wake us up from our deep sleep of ignorance which we have been immersed in since time immemorial. In the light of Amma’s all-embracing love and divine beauty, let us slowly progress towards the goal and find true meaning and fulfilment in every aspect of life.
– Swami Amritaswarupananda