A couple of years ago when Amma called a young female dog ‘Bhakti’, some wondered: how appropriate can such a spiritual poetic name be for a mere stray dog!? ‘Tumban’, the name of the other ashram male dog, was an OK name; Tumban is a comic character in Malayalam lore. Bhakti (or devotion) is a spiritual ideal, a spiritual path Amma prescribes for multitudes round the world, how could a dog assume this as its name!? Some ashramites are given this spiritual name too.
Then we reminded ourselves and each other: Amma knows best. And today we understand more clearly: Bhakti, the dog, has displayed since then a remarkable and special form of devotion for Amma.
When Amma is on the peetham for bhajan or meditation, while Tumban frankly goes up and takes position by Amma’s side, Bhakti does so in her own feminine manner. She sulks a bit, displays coyness by pushing her earlobes backwards; she gives some expression through her widened eyes and goes up to Amma. But Bhakti doesn’t dare take up seat by Her side. Sometimes she pushes herself under the peetham’s sheet and huddles hidden from everyone, feeling Amma just above her.
Every day as we wait for Amma’s descending from Her room, Bhakti comes down as the precursor. Every day as Amma comes down the ramp, Bhakti pranams to Amma with her fore-legs flat, chanting her ‘Uuuuooo!’ mantra; as Amma returns to Her room the pageantry is incomplete without Bhakti.
“If the small children can go, why not me?” Bhakti pushes her way up to Amma’s room. And she is indeed welcome.
On non-darshan days, by forenoon, ‘If Amma’s steps entry is blocked, or if the front door is closed, no problem… she goes through the kitchen upstairs. Girls are supposed to take that path itself, anyway….’ Bhakti succeeds in reaching her destination.
Later in the evening when Amma comes down, much to everybody’s amazement Bhakti is happily trotting by her side!
More prominent is her restlessness as she Uuuuooos like a conch, running past the pageantry, when Amma returns to Her room. (Bhakti is not a dog, so she doesn’t bark, you see!) Bhakti goes up the steps ahead of Amma. Amma smiles lovingly and looks around sharing the understanding. Bhakti turns round the landing, runs further up, and once again Uuuuuooo’s, meaning, “Amma, please come fast!”
Suppose for some reason Bhakti doesn’t show up, within half an hour the sound system boys are seen looking for her, for Amma has missed her and asked about her! In great dignity she is carried to Amma’s presence.
Now it feels like we have all fully understood how deserving of her name this darling Bhakti is.