Berlin- The Europe Tour 2012 started in Berlin, a city of deep historical and cultural roots and associations. For many years, the Berliners came to Amma, asking her in heartfelt and humorous ways to come to their city. (news) One memorable year, a six footer dressed as a bear danced up to Amma during darshan in another German city and delivered an “engraved invitation” to her. And now, as Amma finally had agreed, she, the tour group and the devotees were ensconced in a great Velodrome built for the Berlin Olympics.
On the way, we had passed the remains of the Berlin Wall. Many of us had wanted to see this iconic landmark, this concrete slab that had cost so much heartache and so many lives. Fragments of the wall lined a busy thoroughfare and an occasional guardhouse still stood sentinel. We saw crosses marking the spot where someone had been gunned down making a bid for freedom. There was a strange heaviness in the air here. Even the buildings and the environment still seemed to somehow carry the sadness and weight of past trauma. Even as the last of those who experienced World War II and the worst of the Cold War leave their bodies behind on the planet, the painful memories still lurk in the corners of minds and memory.
I remembered that before I tried to learn the one, two, threes ( onu, randu, munnu) of Malayalam, the first non-native language I learned was as a toddler at my father knee. He taught me ein, zwei, drei and to say guten morgen and guten nacht among other words that he had learned while a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II. It always gives my French and German friends a shock when I tell the story of how my father was captured in France after the Normandy landing and, missing in action for six months, then survived a year in a German POW camp, and I almost didn’t get born! However, he never bore any ill will about this experience and even made friends among the German boys who came to the fence of the camp to trade souvenirs for goodies from the Red Cross packages the prisoners sometimes received. From them, he learned the German words that he taught to me and forged friendships that lasted decades.
The night before the program began Amma came to the hall and served dinner to all the volunteers and tour staff. It was an international dinner of spaghetti (Italian), potatoes (German), green salad (Europe, USA), and chai ( India). After the meal, Amma asked for jokes and stories and then led everyone in singing “Bandalo.” She asked for everyone to clap hands with each other. She loves to see her children clapping hands and dancing together, as she says it shows Unity. I looked at the various nationalities eating, singing and clapping hands with each other. It looked like a party at the United Nations! All past history and present economic and political disagreement was forgotten in the joyful atmosphere Amma created.
The next morning the program opened to a large crowd and a stunning backdrop emblazoned with a quote from Amma- LOVE IS THE BASIS OF THE UNIVERSE. Amma’s love transcends all differences and shows us the way to do this ourselves. She is leading us from sneha to Prema, from untruth to truth and showing us how to BE peace and love. A new song was introduced at evening bhajans with the refrain, “Shanti, salaam, pace, shalom”- meaning peace in the languages of the world’s largest religions. That peace we are learning to become, through Amma’s example. May we attain that uttama prema ( the supreme love) that transcends the individual, family, state, nation. May all the walls between us come tumbling down!
Berlin, 2012 Europe Tour