If it weren’t for Amma, I wouldn’t be here

Called the most glamorous city in the world, and famous for its sophisticated culture, residents of Paris lined up for hours to receive a quick hug from a spiritual teacher from a far away country, born in an obscure fishing village. Although many were coming for the first time, Amma didn’t seem to be unknown to them, perhaps due to the wide publicity she has gotten in France, such as the film Darshan and the publicity from her 3 ashrams in France. (The largest ashram is located in view of Chartres, one hour outside of Paris.) Information on the work of ETW was much sought after and many visitors were clearly astonished by the scope of Amma’s charitable work, her educational network and the amazing organization of this huge program, where people had no difficulty spending the hours waiting for darshan entertaining themselves by scanning the bookstore, eating a crepe or a masala dosa and watching one of the many video displays, on Amma and her work. Many people came up to our table expressing a strong desire to “do something”, so motivated were they by hearing about Amma’s wide range of charitable activities. They were equally interested in meditating and archana. Despite the many chances for socializing, the gregarious French were often seen in deep introspection, meditating on stage or on their chairs, sitting in a corner reading an Amma book or mesmerized by watching Amma give darshan on the big overhead screen.

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Local musicians offered a variety of musical fare and one young man was particularly noticeable. Amma often asks him to play his trumpet and gives him sweet attention. We spoke to Etienne Ravaud after his set and he graciously told us about his experiences. He was lucky to meet Amma when he was only 8 years old and always comes to her programs in France and around Europe. His parents also come every year and make delicious pizza during the program. He formerly played the clarinet and saxophone and planned a career as a music teacher. However, three years ago a hit and run driver smashed him into a wall and seriously injured him. He lost the use of his right arm and hand and could no longer play the clarinet.

We asked him if Amma had said anything to him after the accident. He said that she didn’t say much, but she gave him an unforgettable look. It was a look of such compassion, love and understanding along with some other indescribable energies, that his life was transformed. He said that before the accident, he didn’t think that either he or his life was worth much. But after that look he changed, and somehow had the enthusiasm and confidence to revise his life plan. He changed careers, became a computer technician and switched his instrument to the trumpet, which he could play with one hand. Despite being in chronic pain, he aims to maintain a smile on his face. In fact, this young man is like a walking satsang of Amma’s teachings of enthusiasm, persistence, self-confidence, patience and experiencing the joy of life in all circumstances. Having met Amma at such a young age, we asked him if he could summarize the impact of Amma on his life. He simply said, “If it weren’t for Amma being here, I would no longer be here.”

A highlight of the evening program was the speech by European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Martine Reicherts. She was onstage with Amma to launch Maisons Seniors, ETW’s first elder care home in Europe. She said that before meeting Amma she had struggled with how to merge her spiritual life and her life in the world as a politician. After meeting Amma, she saw that the two are not different and that she could also find a place for compassion and heart in her meteoric rise to her current position. Actress Helene De Fougerolles, a special guest at the program, also expressed her appreciation for Amma. She concluded her speech to a huge ovation by thanking Amma existing on the planet and being there in Paris.

As usual, the Paris Devi Bhava continued until late the next morning. One memorable moment among many was watching Amma give mantras to the hearing impaired. Amma was so expert in how to clearly mouth each word, like a professional teacher of the deaf, that they could clearly understand her, without the need of the interpreter in sign language standing nearby. Amma was so happy to see them, they were so happy to see Amma and receive the mantra, that the joy was palpable. Hearing impaired people are seen at Amma’s programs around the world and are given special seating and arrangements to be sure they can understand Amma’s satsangs, bhajans and receive her darshan.

Amma had to give rapid darshan, but at the end she spent so much time with the ceremonies, acting as if she had all the time in the world, even letting the babies play with her garland and kissing them again and again. The tireless volunteers continued cooking, cleaning, and organizing the crowd until the curtain fell. At that moment, out of the previous 25 hours, Amma had been with us for 21.5! The petal drenched crowd waited silently for Amma to emerge and smile at them one more time before walking to her camper. However, the silence was broken by a Downe’s Syndrome boy who has been coming to Amma since he was a toddler. He was crying out, “Amma, dépêche toi!” (Amma, hurry up!) He couldn’t bear the wait without seeing her. And so it is with Amma, no matter how much we are with her, the experience is ever fresh and we want more. Such is the nature of pure divine love.

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While we waited, the organizers announced that it was Divali, a festival that celebrates the victory of light over darkness. Usually charming small clay lamps are lit to symbolize this victory, but here fire regulations did not permit this. So, it was suggested that everyone who had mobiles, use the flashlight function to symbolize the light within by showing the light without. When Amma came out, she was surprised and happy to see all the lights waving in the hall. Then she led all in chanting Lokaha samastaha sukino bavantu before leading the final chants of Mata Rani ki jai! At Amma’s camper, lamps spelled out Happy Divali in Malayalam, however, happiness had a sad edge as Amma pulled away. Yet there was not time to indulge in sadness, as Amma’s army of volunteers needed to go into action to pack the hall. With amazing speed and organization, as well as a lot of laughter, within an hour, the majority of the hall was packed, although it would take a few more hours to finish every detail. It can’t be repeated too often how amazing it is to see the group and local volunteers arrive and the program arrangements rise up like a mushroom overnight and then dissolve 3 days later. The staff said farewell to new and old Parisian friends, packed a lunch which included pizza made by Etienne’s parents and then the caravan rolled toward the canals and windmills of Holland.

Rta S.
Paris, Europe Yatra 2014

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Our Mother Tounge is Love

While some of our doctors started seeing patients in Sub district hospital, others were directed to Primary Health Center in Ashtangoo. After an hour of drive, the team went through an uphill trek. Our team of doctors started patient diagnosis and disbursing the medicines. Soon we were directed to another area in plains – Ashtangoo ghat.

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When we arrived in Ashtangoo ghat, we saw a flock of people already waiting. Someone from the village offered their house for our medical camp. Soon the pharmacy table was setup for dispensing the free medicines.

None of our doctors except Dr Puneet could speak Kashmiri. But even he was struggling to speak in Kashmiri because he has been away from Kashmir for long now.

And I have to confess that though I hail from Kashmir, I too was finding it little difficult to translate things to Kashmiri. Even though most of our staff could speak hindi, not all local people could understand hindi.

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Everyone of us was putting their maximum effort in trying to communicate as best as possible. Soon some local ladies offered their help in translating. And that really helped a lot.
One of the mothers brought one small child who had a burnt leg. Soon after the first aid was applied and medicines provided, the child’s crying face turned serene. More than the child, the Mother seemed happier.

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In addition to our prescriptions and diagnosis, it was the caring words that were healing the wounds much more effectively. Even though initially it seemed somewhat difficult, but soon the barrier of language disappeared. The breeze of love removed the clouds of language barrier. The fact that Love knows no boundaries, just got more obvious.

Isn’t it quite amazing how people from so many different countries, speaking so many different languages are able to connect to Amma just like a child connects to its mother – without any formal language!

All of us realized that our only real mother tongue is Love, and where there is love, language is not a barrier.

At the end of the day we all felt deep satisfaction in being able to light some lamps of happiness. It was drizzling, and getting colder. But inside we felt warmth of Amma’s hug.

– Amit

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Kashmiri Nurses

Throughout Kashmir, we have been assisted by wonderful local volunteers. Few patients speak Hindi, so there is nearly always someone sitting with each doctor, translating to Urdu. They also help speed the flow at the pharmacy, where proper instructions are essential.

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At Community Health Center Magam, a cadre of nurses took a more active role. They obviously enjoyed working side by side with our lady doctors and took full advantage of the opportunity.

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Doctor Lipi is showing a group the A.I.M.S. Intensive Care Ambulance.

-Scotti

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Mobile Telemedicine Unit

The medical team in Jammu Kashmir with the Tele Medicine unit

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I have shown you earlier the blood testing that is done in the Mobile TeleMedicine Bus non stop during each Medical Camp.

EKG Heart Testing

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Packed in the same small space are many other diagnostic capabilities including:
Ultra Sound scanning for kidney stones.
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Dr. Maddipati would have technicians to do these tests for him at A.I.M.S., but here he performs his own scan.

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-Scotti

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Cow whisperers in Kashmir

Although he spends most of his time working in the pharmacy, Dr. Ratish is also our staff veterinarian. Many animals were lost in the floods and far more are severely stressed. A few find their way to our medical camps where expert help is provided.

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Seva with Amma transports us out of our personal comfort zones into a world of new possibilities. Our General Surgeon, Dr. Yuvaraj, is used to a sterile operating room. But here he gives his first B12 injection to a cow, while being very cautious not to get kicked.

-Scotti

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Swiss Cheese in Switzerland

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Food is often mentioned in reports from the Europe tour and it’s unavoidable as there is so much excellent organic food, and sharing food is so much a part of the social life and culture of Europeans. Despite eating well, Europeans are not overweight as a group and are seen biking, walking and running regularly. There is a culture of fitness and it reflects in both young and old.

The tour staff is well nourished by the devotees who provide three meals a day to keep them going during the long program days. On this tour we have been treated to several donations from local food growing ashrams and devotees, like jams, olive oil and olives from the Spanish ashram, more jams and organic apples in Germany and here in Switzerland, along with nuts, syrups and jams, Swiss cheese donated from a dairy 5000 metres up in the mountains. It was really touching that they would send a big wheel of cheese produced with so much work and care, and the cheese was very delicious.

The program in Winterthur is in a very lovely location, next to river and under a small mountain. It was a nice chance to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature between programs. Balmy weather and an early arrival the day before the program saw most of the staff enjoying a chance to exercise and soak up some Vitamin D in the sun. Small kitchen gardens surround the hall where the program is held and the unusually warm autumn weather meant that many flowers and greens were still growing, along with the seasonal squash, pumpkins and cabbage.

We encountered some early morning gardeners and asked about their plots. It turns out that small pieces of land can be rented from the town for a nominal amount and the locals can grow their own flowers and vegetables as well as have a place to picnic. Many of them have constructed tiny huts, like playhouses, where they keep tools. They also collect the rain water from the roofs in barrels to use to water their gardens. They asked if we were from Amma and were interested when we told them how Amma is encouraging everyone to have kitchen gardens, grow organic produce and harvest rainwater. They then asked how they could meet Amma, something that hadn’t entered their minds before. It reminded us of how many routes Amma has created to form a relationship with her.

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The local volunteers and tour staff had an unexpected treat the night before the program when Amma made the surprise announcement that she would serve dinner. The kitchen scrambled to come up with something very quickly for many more people than expected to need dinner. We just had time to assemble before Amma arrived, beaming at everyone. She was shown a sample dinner plate and frowned, seeming to tell the cook it looked skimpy. He made a helpless gesture, like what can I do Amma. No time. However, people ran around and collected “donations” and more diverse items were added to the plate, like a small boiled potato, half a cookie, a cracker or a biscuit garnered from different stocks of provisions. Little Aikyam continued his adventures with potatoes as Amma peeled five small boiled potatoes one after another and fed them to him.
Amma asked for the usual spiritual jokes and stories and gave a short satsang on the importance of focusing on spiritual practices here and now and not procrastinating. She then sang “Guru Vani Vadi” and indeed how sweet are the Guru’s words. Refreshingly, there was complete silence at the end of the song and Amma sank into meditation along with roomful of people.

Amma also sang at the end of the second night of the program, an unexpected boon, as there is only one evening bhajan program in each city, as the first night is an all day and half the night continuous program and the final night is Devi Bhava. Some people at the very end of the darshan queue seemed to have very serious problems and perhaps that influenced Amma’s mood as she chose very deep and philosophical songs, rather than the rousing bhajans that are usually the evening finale.

Smiles mixed with tears as Devi Bhava ended. The sun looked like the moon shining through the thick mist that had descended into the little valley of Winterthur. After one last trip to the staff room for that Swiss cheese, bread, cucumbers and tomatoes for sandwiches, the group began the journey to Paris, where enthusiastic volunteers were preparing for the Sunday program that would be the biggest of the tour so far.

Rta S
Winterthur, Switzerland
Europe Yatra 2014

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Mobile Pharmacy in Jammu kashmir

Always working in cramped quarters, the pharmacy is our busiest department. Everyone is doing double duty as it is staffed by a dentist, veterinarian, nurse, doctor, and EMT. In addition to allopathic drugs, we are providing a large amount of nutritional support for both children and adults.

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The clinic shown above was held in a Shia Muslim prayer hall as the local hospital was flood damaged.

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Jayan (with mask) is our master traffic policeman, maintaining some order in the line.

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-Scotti

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