13 January 2002, Madurai
Last night on our bus ride from Trivandrum to Madurai, Mother had the buses pull over. Earlier, She seemed to have orchestrated the perfect travelogue. She is quite a tour guide! We got to see elephants being lead down the road, water buffalos being bathed and scrubbed in rivers by their owners, bustling city life and tranquil, open, tropical country side. All of India condensed into a few hours’ bus ride. But now, Mother had chosen a quiet place for us to be together.
I am on my first trip to India, and part of the devotees on Amma’s tour of the South. Before it is over, we will have journeyed to Trivandrum, Madurai, Madras and Coimbatore. Through Amma’s grace, my heart is already opening its creaky doors, while my eyes and ears take in the diversity of this place of Mother’s birth.
It is an amazing experience to be around Mother in this context. Before now, my only exposure to her had been in an environment of complete external comfort. All programs in the USA are held in air conditioned, carpeted, hot- water- available, sterilized places. What is so interesting about this trip with her is that She quickly strips away the external comforts we are used to and replaces them with what is truly important: the spiritual peace that money can’t buy.
It was about 8 pm, and time for chai. She seemed to have location radar because there just happened to be a large millwork building along side the road with sprawling steps and a large courtyard for all of us to gather in. Where her children are concerned, Amma provides everything for our needs. She thinks the thought, and the deed is done!
As She sat in a chair on the courtyard steps, She looked like a fairy princess with her children garlanded around her like a mala while the stars in the black sky twinkled above her head like a crown of diamonds.
She led us in lovely new bhajans in the Tamil language. A Brahmachari played the harmonium, while someone offered Mother a tambourine to help keep the rhythm. Amma used a microphone which was on hand as an amplifier and a toy. Perfect for getting someone’s attention.
Between songs, She played with us. With Her overflowing motherly affection, She teased those sitting closest to her with a fun remark, mussed hair, pinched cheeks and giggled in her distinctive voice. But the effect of the singing was that of a soothing balm. Healing the world with every note.
I don’t understand Malayalam, but I didn’t need to. What was conveyed was that Amma was happy and radiating that happiness like a thousand suns. Being there was a beautiful grace. Words cannot convey the heart warming that Mother performs.
The setting was intimate and special even though the group of us travelling with her numbered about 360. I imagined us like disciples of Lord Jesus, caravanning with him while he spread the same lesson of love and compassion.
As we sipped the tea She made available for us, it was suddenly clear that what we were really drinking in, was her unconditional love. As those who wanted tea would get into a serving line, the others who were seated would scoot up to get a seat closer to her. We looked like a group of children on a darshan merry-go-round. Next, Amma asked for stories, and a couple of devotees jumped at the chance.
When Amma was ready to move on, She stood up and moved quickly through the group. I could only see the top of her head, but it seemed to float by. It didn’t make the bobbing motion of someone who steps on the earth.
Many of us gathered around her vehicle and waved her off with blown kisses. She smiled that brilliant smile that seemed to light the darkness we would journey through, and led the way toward our next tour stop.