It was Amma’s first visit to the city of Tanur, and one could discern the accumulated longing and the enthusiasm of the waiting devotees pouring out on that auspicious occasion. As I was coming out, bleary eyed, early in the morning for my cup of tea, I could barely believe my eyes when I saw the venue already half full, even though the program was to begin only late in the evening. Being a part of the crowd control team, my first reaction was that it was going to be a long and arduous day ahead trying to keep this overly eager crowd in ‘control’ – marred by confusion and chaos. Well, as it turned out, the only thing that was dented was my imperceptive presumption. We were to witness one of the largest and most well ordered crowds in recent memory.
They were here to wait as long as it was needed. The sun rose up, sizzled and came down again – the patient waiting continued. As it got too hot to sit, they gathered under some trees, but not before ensuring that they would not lose their coveted seats – reserving it with just about anything – books, shoes, hair clips, mobile number written on a piece of paper, even stones and twigs. The kitchen had immediately set out to provide lunch and dinner to all of them – free of charge.
By evening , people were sitting on the fence, and over it. As the sun came down, Light came in – Amma arrived and instantaneously the weariness of the waiting devotees dissolved. When we set out to give out the Darshan tokens – the delight and the reverence on their faces as they received it was really touching. All this for that one moment of true Love! Some even did not know what we were giving these tokens for. “Will Amma see ME?”, one woman asked. “That’s what she’s here for”, I replied. She looked skeptical, but I am sure she must have got her answer.
As Darshan started, Amma Herself implored the people to be patient, have their food and come back and remain seated till their respective numbers turned up on the board. These devotees really took to their hearts this piece of advice. The sun rose the next morning, and we could still find men, women and children, even babies still glued to their respective seats that they had been occupying for nearly 24 hours. It was morning, but the combined length of the darshan queue was still almost half a kilometer. Ever attentive to the smallest discomfort of the devotees, Amma asked for shades to be put up to protect those standing in the queue in the sun.
A devotee came and asked if his number had come. We told him it would – in just a short time. “But it WILL come, no?”, he asked with expectant eyes. Yes, I thought - it surely would. That is one promise which keeps us all going.
The marathon darshan finally ended around noon. Though we are used to it – still every time we are touched when we see Amma giving so much for our sake.
A woman, clad in burqa, was in tears as Amma was leaving, and she jumped across the barricades (that we had believed were foolproof!) in order to have one last glimpse of Amma as she was leaving. Well, Love knows no barricades – of religion, race, caste or planets. Even as Amma was leaving, she blessed some prasad, and asked everyone to partake of it before going home.
All this while, there was a huge army of volunteers tirelessly serving day in and out. It seemed that they were trying to compensate for the fact that it was going to be just a one day program . The students of Amrita Vidyalam, Tanur were there all over the place offering water to the devotees. The kitchen volunteers worked 24X7 to ensure that all were fed breakfast, lunch, dinner and then again breakfast - with enough balance to take home for lunch too. Tens of thousands of chairs, that I thought were going to take a lot of time, were unloaded, set up and then again loaded in a jiffy. The cleaning volunteers ensured that the place looked cleaner than when it started. And a whole team of them whose silent service only Amma would know.
In the end, it turned out to be a lesson. The devotees were so very patient even though all they might have been looking for is a couple of seconds in Amma’s lap. In the pressure cooker called ‘Amma’s tour’, I had forgotten that it is such a blessing to be near Amma, to be able to approach Amma whenever we feel like, to be able to serve Her devotees, to rest assured that ALL our needs will be well taken care of, to have chai stops, just to be……………