I decided to make this post a random list of some of the things that have happened during the last few days!
As we were driving from the airport to the ashram on Saturday morning, I noticed at times there were huge puddles covering a good part of the street. There were also big potholes in the roads. The rainfall must have been tremendous. That monsoon type of rain is usually over by this time of year, so I was surprised.
After evening bhajans (devotional songs) on Sunday, it began to rain again. You could hear the rain pounding on the metal roof of the auditorium. It started raining harder, and harder. When the rain seemed like it couldn’t possibly get any heavier, it did; time and time again. The sound became so loud it was hard to hear what people were saying.
Tuesday night there was thunder and lightning and more rain. I love the array of dramatic sights and sounds that occur when that happens in India. (I later heard that Chennai is “under water.” That certainly puts a different slant on my story. All is not beautiful about torrential rains.)
It has been hotter and more humid in the last few days than I can remember in any past December.
On Monday, Amma gave darshan (hugs, which are her form of blessing) to all of the brahmacharis (male monks) and brahmacharinis (female monks) as well as to the ashram residents who stayed at the ashram during the months she had traveled in Europe and North America. I enjoyed watching them get their hugs. They are so devoted to Amma and love her so much.
On Tuesdays, Amma comes to meditate with the ashram residents and visitors. Afterwards, she either asks or answers questions and then leads a song before serving lunch to everyone. That may sound simple but keep in mind that 3,000-5,000 people are living in the ashram. She hands each person their plate of food. Over the years, that process has been refined so that it happens with amazing speed. After everyone has received their food, we sing the meal prayer together and then eat. Afterwards Amma gives darshan to the visitors who arrived that day.
Three friends and I have been eating together at least one meal a day. We all met Amma in 1988 or 1989. Three of us took our first trip to Amritapuri in January 1990. This is my twenty-sixth trip to Amritapuri and they have come here many times as well. Sometimes we reminisce about the “old days.” Very few of the “oldtimers” we know come to India anymore; many seem to be content with seeing Amma when she comes to the U.S. I can’t imagine being with her only once a year, and if I had to pick between the U.S. programs and India, my choice would be India!
I’ve been going to the beach each day for a Tai Chi class. (There will be more about that in future posts.) This morning I went to the beach early and watched the waves. I remembered a tragic incident that happened last year. A young village boy was swimming in the water and was pulled into the sea by the undertow. I will never forget the blood curdling scream his mother made when she was notified that her son was gone. So many villagers, ashramites and the local coast guard looked for him, to no avail. His body washed up on the beach the next day. Such a sad situation.
I get much more exercise when I am here than I do in Seattle. I wear a Fitbit that counts my steps. In the U.S. I average 3,000 – 4,000 steps in a day. On my first day in Amritapuri, I walked 13,000 steps. Most days are between 8,000 – 10,000. In addition to walking from building to building, I also walk down five large flights of stairs eight to ten times a day. I walk up them two or three times. One of the two elevators in our building hasn’t worked since I’ve been here. I don’t know if it is broken or if they are saving electricity. Regardless, I am thankful my room is on the 6th floor instead of the 15th. If I don’t want to wait in an elevator line I just climb the stairs.
Every year, on Christmas Eve the ashram residents put on a Broadway style musical. Chaitanya (my daughter) writes and directs the play. Sreejit (my son) and his friends compose many tunes for her to select from as she creates the songs and lyrics. While Chaitanya and the musicians work on the script and the music throughout the year, the bulk of the play preparation starts after Amma and the tour staff get back from the Europe and U.S. programs. That means there are only three weeks for the cast to be picked and the dances to be choreographed. The musicians have to work on the instrumentation and the actors and actresses have to learn the scripts, songs and dances. Simultaneously, props, costumes, backdrops, sound, lights, subtitles and much more have to be made. The play work goes on night and day. The cast also do their normal ashram jobs during that time. The energy in the ashram becomes electric as the big night gets closer!
I won’t give any hints about the content of this year’s play, but I will mention that last year’s was about the life of St. Francis, St. Sebastian, St. Claire. I will share a few of the pictures so you can get a sense of the intricacy of the work.
There is more that I plan to share in a future post, but as I was coming to a close on this one, I had an experience that is a perfect ending.
Several years back, Amma decided she wanted everyone who is staying at the ashram to have the opportunity to sit near her for 30 minutes every public program day. Sometimes I go for my shift and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I often slide in just as my shift begins. Today, I decided to go early. I ended up being the first person in line for that opportunity. I was led to a seat about six feet from Amma in a position where I had completely unblocked vision the whole time! What a gift that was for me. Thank you Amma.