7 January, 2004 — Amritapuri/Thiruvananthapuram
The first bus full of brahmacharis left Amritapuri late last night for Thiruvananthapuram, the first stop on Amma’s annual South India Tour. After arriving at the local ashram by 1:15 am, there was still the unloading of the bookstall and kitchen supplies to complete, which wasn’t over until 4 am. By 8 am it was back to work, setting up the sound system, unpacking boxes, sweeping and mopping the dorms, all in preparation for Amma and the rest of the tour staff and passengers, who are expected sometime in the early evening. This is the type of schedule one must simply adapt to on Amma’s tours.
Meanwhile, Amma was still in Amritapuri. She came down Her stairs to leave for the first leg of the Yatra at 5 pm, and of course there was a crowd waiting, as always. As Amma made Her way to Her car, She paused and looked up. At the top of the main temple building’s spiral staircase stood a lone resident of the ashram, one of those not coming on the tour. It would be three weeks before she would see Her beloved Amma again, and naturally she was sad. Amma took this moment to look directly up at her, lingering with Her gaze. Falling into Amma’s line of sight at this time were also the three eagles that always seem to know when Amma is out. They came like everyone else – to see Amma off and wish Her a good trip.
Arriving at Her Thiruvananthapuram ashram by 8.30 pm Amma was received with open, outstretched arms. As Amma entered the temple hall, the crowd surged to get closer, and was held back by the valiant efforts of the local Assistant Police Commissioner, A.K. Venugopal, and his security team, who were able to somehow keep things from going totally overboard. It was then with a fervent enthusiasm that the traditional garland was draped around Amma’s neck, despite the fact that the devotee doing the honors was being jostled to and fro by the waves of bodies around him. Still, he was one-pointed, and succeeded.
It took quite a while for Amma to transverse the short distance from the entrance to Her room, because She was too busy being present with Her children, stopping to ask after their health and happiness, answer a question, stroke a face, wipe away a tear, and of course hug one, then two…
Amma finally made it to the next floor, where Her room had been arranged. As She came to the balcony which overlooks the center of the hall, the devotees below erupted in a united cry: “Amma! Amma!” Wall to wall with outstretched arms, the room undulated with a single upward prayer. Amma couldn’t resist. She stood, eyes brimming with the divine love that only Amma can give, and showered flower petals over them all. It was a beautiful moment
Then, to our surprise Amma back-tracked toward the stairway, and began receiving devotees, who were streaming up the steps. One, two.fifty. Amma didn’t even sit down. Standing the whole time, She comforted Her darling children, embracing them and giving out prasad, completely forgetful of Herself.
Finally, almost an hour after She walked through the ashram entrance, Amma was in Her room.