World Mother, village Mother

10Mar 2002,Gujarat

Poster of Amma

Mother is a marvellous blend of the planned and the unpredictable. How could She travel the globe giving programs that need their times and places publicised if She lived only spontaneously? But how could all the surprises that so enrich our experience of Her occur if She lived only by schedules?

Like in Gujarat last month: the inauguration of the 3 villages Mother had rebuilt for earthquake victims was planned for the morning of the tenth of March.

State and national dignitaries were an integral part of the celebration, so of course there had to be a precise schedule: “Home Minister Advani will arrive at so-and-so o’clock,” and “The Chief Minister of Gujarat will speak from so-and-so to such-and-such a time.” And “Keys to the homes will be distributed at this time,” and “Mother’s satsang will occur at that time.” A carefully planned program, so that devotes would know when to come, the press could be on hand, security for the VIPs would be in place, and all would go smoothly.

Amma with Advani and Modi

And it did.

But that was only one part of the program.

Here’s what Mother’s incurable spontaneity allowed to happen:

Dusk was gathering, the last darshans were happening, and the train to take Mother and Her group from Bhuj back to Mumbai was due to leave in about an hour and a half. She stood, swept the huge tent area with Her gaze, gave a few last embraces, called out some final endearments to these new children of Hers, and left the stage. Her car was waiting, the police helped clear a path for Her, and She was inside, ready for the drive to the train station in Bhachau. But really, there was time for more than a drive to the station, there was about half an hour spare. She would not waste the time. No! The program had been held in one of the three villages She is reconstructing; now She wanted to make a whirlwind visit to the other two villages. The residents had hoped, no doubt prayed, that She would do this, but until the very last moment no one knew whether She would, whether time would permit, whether She would make that choice.

The cars sped off into the near-night. At the first village those who had managed to reach home ahead of Her had gathered to welcome Her. They were chanting what people all over the globe chant when Amma is approaching: “Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha”. The villagers had spread a white cloth for Her to walk upon, and set a chair on a small platform so that all might See Her. The men were gathered on either side of the walkway, the women behind Mother’s chair; all was orderly and smooth

Amma praying

The villagers garlanded Mother, gazed respectfully as She walked to Her seat, and joined in when She led them in chanting the prayer Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu: “May all beings everywhere be happy.” It came forth loud and strong in the voices of people who a year ago were subsisting in piles of rubble, all that remained of their homes; people who today had met the Mother of their new homes.

Can it be that in less than ten minutes Mother had returned to Her car and was speeding towards the next village? Can it be that in these few minutes the prayers of these people had been answered? For it was a year ago that one of them had said, “If Mataji steps one foot into our village, we will be blessed.” They were blessed.)

The second village: dark had truly fallen. In the local tradition, women balancing large brass pots on their heads danced where Mother arrived. She emerged from the car, and wove Her way among Her eager new children as they crowded close, hoping to touch this One whom they had only heard about until today. She reached the porch of one of the newly constructed houses, stepped onto it so that She could look out towards the mass of Her children-and suddenly above Her small five-foot form there towered a strikingly lean man in flowing garb, crowned with a pure white turban. He leaned forward and placed in Mother’s welcoming hands not an armload of flowers, not a ceremonial stole, not a commemorative plaque…none of these things that come as part of a program.

Amma holding a baby

Into the hands of the Mother he placed his tiny baby. Amma cradled close the small bundle of hope and life; She gazed softly down into the tiny face and pressed the child to Her heart. Smiling up at the father, She returned his baby. Mother sat down, then, cross-legged on the carpet spread there on the porch and immediately there stepped forth another man, offering Her his child. And another, then another. A mother came with her infant and placed him in the lap of the Mother of All.

What does it mean when a community loses all its homes — truly, all: nothing survived that quake and when every family suffers deaths and crippling injuries, and still children are conceived and new life happens? Last year, immediately after the quake, before repairs were even started, the strong and faith-filled people were telling us this: “God gave us prosperity for a long time; now He has taken it away. When he chooses, he will give it again.” Consider the will and faith of people who lose all and don’t despair, who suffer immensely and do not grow bitter.

Mother led them, too, in chanting — first Bhakti do Jagadambe” (Mother of the Universe, give me pure Love; bless me with devotion….) and then Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. Her hoarse voice — hoarse from all day long murmuring the Gujarati equivalents of “My son,” or “My darling daughter,” or “Mother is with you,” into thousands of ears-chanted: “Om,” and the villagers responded, “Om”. And then Her voice: “Lokah,” and theirs: “Lokah”. Hers: “Samastaha” and theirs: “Samastaha”- a father held his young son in his strong arms, and his big hands moved the boy’s tiny ones till the four hands were clasped together in prayer —”Sukhino” and the echo “Sukhino” — the little fellow’s hands stayed palm to palm and the father’s left hand supported the child while his right rested on his own heart — “Bhavantu” intoned the Mother, and “Bhavantu” repeated Her children. “May all beings everywhere be happy.”

This happened in Gujarat, rocked and ravaged a year ago by earthquake and this year, exactly at the time of Mother’s visit, by violent communal conflicts. On this dark night, on a simple porch in a newly rebuilt village, the people placed their smallest and newest babies in the lap of the Mother, entrusted their hopes and dreams to God, and joined the final chant for peace:

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

Mother rose, gesturing as if reluctant to leave, “Train,” She explained.

Her car sped off into the night, leaving behind three new villages, all blessed; Mataji had done even more than “step one foot” into each village.