Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 13, 2017

My plane landed in Trivandrum soon after 3:00 a.m. on the 13th. Before every visit, I look forward to the sweet smell of India. I always feel like bowing down and kissing the earth when I arrive, although I only do it in my mind. I am so thankful that in 1989 I discovered Amma, or maybe Amma found me. Regardless, through that experience, I found my “home in the universe” in Amma, and in India.

It seemed like it took a long time for me to get through immigration and collect my baggage, but by 4:00 a.m. I was in the taxi headed for the ashram. I shared the taxi with a young man from Chicago who recognized  me and told me he knew Sreejit and Chaitanya. And it turns out that he is going to be one of the singers in this year’s Amritapuri Christmas play!

I’m used to the drive to the ashram being wild, but this one was more so than normal. In India, the cars, taxis, trucks, and buses weave in and out as they pass rickshaws and each other at high speed, returning to their own lanes just before head-on impact. The drivers are incredibly skilled and have nerves of steel.

This time was different though, because two vehicles didn’t get back into their own lane at the appropriate time and our driver had to partially pull off the road to avoid a collision. There was also a small vehicle that tried to cross the road at a time when it was impossible. That driver stopped before we hit him but it was still a jolting experience. We arrived at the ashram in record speed and unscathed. I felt very graced.

By 5:30 a.m., we were pulling into the ashram grounds. I was home.

Since it was too early to go see my son and daughter, I went directly to my room and started unpacking. I own a flat at the ashram, which means I can store some of my belongings in my room in-between visits. At the end of my last visit, I gave the ashram flea market any items that I did not use regularly. I was able to store everything except my standing desk in two small trunks even before I gave things away, but now everything fits into two loosely packed trunks. (The top trunk is 2 feet long, 11 1/2 inches wide and 8 inches high.)

[Note: The arrangement between flat owners and the ashram is similar to a time share in that I can use the room whenever I’m at the ashram but it is rented out to other ashram visitors when I am gone.]

Having fewer belongings made it so much easier to set up the room. Also, when I came to India in August, I had a broken wrist. As I put things onto the shelves this time, I was aware of how much easier it was to accomplish tasks when I had both of my hands/arms available to me.

Chaitanya lives in the same building as I do. By 6:30 a.m., I couldn’t wait any longer so went upstairs to see her. I don’t have as easy access to Sreejit so had to wait to see him until 8:00 a.m. when he was in the kitchen starting lunch preparation. It was, and is, so nice to be with them again. I am truly blessed.

After spending time with my kids, and having breakfast, I went back to move-in activities. This was the first time that I have been able to use the SIM card from my previous visit. (You have to use pay for minutes monthly and If you are gone for more than 3 months you have to purchase a new SIM card.) Since I had been out of the country less than 3 months, I was able to activate the phone within a few hours of my arrival. During my last trip, I had discovered that using my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot gave faster internet speed than the internet wi-fi thumb drives I usually use, so within hours of my arrival I had access to both my phone and the internet. Generally, it has taken 3-5 days or more for everything to be up and running.

[Note: As I write this, I am remembering my first trip to the ashram in January 1990. At that point, I had to take a rickshaw to Oachira to use a phone. It was a red phone and was located in the middle of an alley. A group of people gathered around me as I made the call. Now everyone has a cell phone and internet cafes are abundant.]

The phone plan I purchased was even better than the phenomenal one I signed up for in August-September. At that time the plan included a SIM card and 1 GB of data a day for 84 days. The cost: 450 rupees ($7.03). This time, the cost was 348 rupees ($5.43). For that fee, I will receive free phone calls in India and 2 GB data a day for 28 days!  (As always, I am aware of how inflated prices must be in the United States; the cost of purchasing medication here being the other obvious example.)

In the evening, I watched my first play practice. The cast were rehearsing one of the dances and it was fantastic. I will not be sharing much about the content of the play until after it is performed on Christmas Eve, but I will say the dance was electric and I loved it!

Wednesday, the day of my arrival, was a darshan day. (For those of you who don’t know, Amma’s form of blessing is to give a hug to each person who comes to her. At this point, she has hugged more than 37 million people world-wide.) When I asked for a darshan token, the person handing them out asked me if I would mind waiting until the next day. That was perfectly fine with me. It would give me more time to anticipate the experience of once again being in Amma’s loving arms.

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