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Diary Excerpt 5

Summer 2012 - a UK devotee visits Amritapuri ashram

Passage to India

There was a familiar pattern where everything ‘hots-up’ before seeing Amma ; my Indian visa was delayed, whereas John’s had arrived earlier. Eventually it arrived just a week before we were leaving, and my new wheel-chair was delivered only two days before we were due to leave! The airline had not only demanded a medical certificate but also an unprecedented diagnostic report! I was reconciled to being pushed to the edge, before being pulled back but as usual every obstacle cleared up, paving the way to Amma in India.

I remember well our darshan last November in London, when John Chidanand had asked Amma to come to Amritapuri for his special birthday. She had some fun, when I quipped I wanted to be included! We decided to drive through the night, to park long term at Heathrow and board the early flight to India. While Chidanand was parking, a stewardess wanted my medical record! It was to become a theme during the whole flight there and back. Once aboard though, the service was good, but with a stop-over in Abu Dhabi and a further flight to Trivandrum., my energy started to flag considerably.

In Trivandrum, we alighted in a modernised airport. Maybe it was because of the euphoria mixed with jet-lag, we found ourselves prey to a taxi-driver, who took us for a ride at an extortionate price! We had wanted to stop for a tea-break, before proceeding to Amritapuri, but the driver insisted on taking us straight to Amma’s.

In Amritapuri, we perked up instantly by the surrounding energy, with no need of sleep! Amma had just arrived the day before, from Her tour of the States. We went for Her ‘Beach Satsang,’ and towards the end, as we were waiting, a woman anxiously tried to wave me away as I was in a wheel-chair, and therefore might obstruct Amma in some way?! Just then, Amma came, and I stretched my arm to touch the tips of Her outstretched hands. The next moment, She had swung around and, holding both my hands in Hers, asked in Tamil, “When did you come?” – I can only describe how I felt - simply overwhelmed! I blurted out that we had arrived at nine in the morning. Chidanand announced it was my birthday the next day, which engulfed me in confusion, for I like my birthdays to be private.

We went for darshan the next day. I had asked Chidanand not to remind Amma of my birthday. When we drew nearer, a dog (Bhakti, I found out later) weaved between my legs, under my wheelchair towards Amma. Amma commanded in English, for the dog to join Her on the left of the peetham. Tumbhan, the other dog was curled-up on Her right!

I felt my darshan was special: She hugged me twice, maybe because I had given Her a picture of a dear nephew and of my mother, to be blessed. I had a Hershey kiss for prashad and was blissfully happy at having been hugged by Amma on my birthday!

The next morning, when the bell announced the early morning archana, I managed to climb the stairs slowly and make my ascent to Kali. A bell rings within me too, to see this forceful feminine force, so beautiful and enchanting bedecked with red hibiscuses or with roses... A tastefully lotus-patterned wrought iron gate in her sanctuary, meant I had to adjust myself in such a way I could focus on both Her laughing eyes. I managed to see Kali only three times the entire month we were there, as compared to the daily attendance during my visits before.

The awareness of how much my condition had deteriorated saddened me; before I managed to remind myself of how fortunate I was, to have a caring husband and the good fortune to be in Amma’s Ashram, basking in Her presence and Love. Besides, there was archana held again at about eleven in the morning, which was ideal for me! Also there was the evening bhajans, which usually start at a slow soulful tempo, building up to a crescendo, inevitably making me reach for an imaginary safety-belt. Yes, it had the effect of propelling us into space, while Amma concluded, repeatedly calling out, followed by the entire crowd in the auditorium, ‘Om Bhadhra Kaliki Jai! Om Maha Kaliki Jai! Om Mata Raniki Jai! I reconciled my earlier feelings of not being able to see the image of Kali in the temple, ‘Why worry when I’m in the presence of the living Kali?!’

We went for our darshans once a week and usually my active mind will not allow me to be completely open to Amma’s darshans. This time, happily my mind was no match to Amma’s darshans: She blew the cobwebs reeling over any illusions of control I had!

We made many friends, crossing age and cultural barriers, while we also had many a laugh, listening to their stories; a Satsang in itself.

The day came for John/Chidanand’s special birthday, and we were deeply disappointed there was no archana that morning, after Amma had started Her darshan. Watching Amma give darshan for each and everyone is always uplifting, but there was a rumour that She might be finishing Her darshan earlier than usual. We decided to go back to our room to shower and prepare to receive our darshan, when we heard the temple bell rung three times, as if to announce Amma returning to Her room. Also there was no bhajans to be heard ! We did not say anything much to each other, but proceeded to get ready like robots!

When we made our way to the auditorium, we found archana had started and the bell had been rung earlier to announce the daily chants at a later time. When it was time for us to go for darshan, Mike and Ray turned up quite by chance and helped to carry Chidanand’s birthday cake, while my close friend, Nilla wheeled me. Kamini and Varghini, whom we had known for about twenty years and Vakeesh and Yamuna from London were all present. Kamini held an image of Lord Ganesh to be blessed.

We were able to adorn Amma with special garlands of jasmines interspersed with roses, and She gave us heart-shaped chocolates to feed each other, while She also fed us chocolate cake and blessed my thalli/mangal shutram with kumkum. Amma had blessed John’s birthday beyond both our expectations and renewed our marriage. as is customary in the Hindu culture. Mary Ellen from Ireland observed that I had a smile stretching from ear-to-ear!

The next day, both John Chidanand and Deepdhi, celebrated their combined birthdays, to which Chidanand had invited Amma, the day before, albeit with a get-out clause of requesting Her presence in Spirit. Amma had laughed!

It was indeed a difficult passage to India, with even more hurdles on the way back; the stay fraught with challenges and as usual with lessons to be processed over time, but we came back with ‘cups overflowing’ with Amma’s love and birthday celebration to cherish.

- Sarada Thompson

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