16 Oct 2010, Milno, Italy
Amma’s program in Milano indeed has a unique Italian flavor. In fact, on arrival the staff was served pizza for supper, lovingly prepared by the devotees. On the evening before the program, the venue, usually an ice skating stadium was transformed into a beautiful sacred space. The central stage decoration was a three dimensional depiction of the rising sun, surmounted by the Embracing the World logo. It looked quite stunning. In fact, everything was arranged and decorated with panache and artistry, and an inviting settings were created for every activity from dining to recycling. Late into the night, as the staff set up the bookstore, we were serenaded by the Italian devotees who were rehearsing the beautiful bhajans that they would sing for Amma.
It seemed as if the Italians were always singing! The weather for the program was beautiful and there always seemed to be someone in some corner of the vast hall, or near the cook tents, or in the nearby park, playing the guitar and singing joyously! Usually the people who line up hours early for their Devi Bhava darshan token and entry to the puja, look rather bored or tired. Not the Italians! They were singing and talking to each other vivaciously. It seemed to be a celebration of the celebration to come.
The Italians also excelled in cooking delicious food (the vegetables were remarked upon by all) and making spectacular cappuccino and chocolate drinks! In the staff room, the locals who fed us seemed to be cutting slices of a variety of delicious types of cheese 18 hours a day! These are people who like to eat well, but we saw few overweight locals. We were struck by how polite and helpful everyone was and we really felt at home and like honorary Italians. The Italian devotees seemed to have opened their hearts to humanity and worked tirelessly to support Amma’s charities in all their forms.
That warmth was reflected in the devotees’ response to Amma. When she entered and left the hall, the devotees would burst into applause, but it was applause with a difference. It was an applause from the heart, that had a very different feeling from the ordinary perfunctory applause one normally hears.
Devi Bhava started with Amma wearing an unusual deep red sari with a multi-coloured border. The sun set and the sun rose and Amma continued giving fast darshan. Even after being up all night and doing so much seva, many had the energy to dance. In fact, the Italians were as enthusiastic about dancing as they were singing. They even danced off the stage after their darshan. During Swamiji’s rousing rendition of Mata Rani, I feared their enthusiasm might crack the temporary floor over the ice rink and that we all might end up involuntarily ice skating before the program was over!
Swamiji graciously handed over the mike to six year old Siddarth as the darshan came to a close. Siddarth did a fine job of imitating his bhajan singing role model, Big Swami, and sang a full rendition of Jai Janani as Amma stood up and showered flowers on the dancing crowd. When Swamiji began the final bhajan, Amma Amma Taye, the dancers stilled and reverently and tearfully gazed at Amma as she stood resplendently her hands full of rose petals. She gazed at the devotees with an unforgettable melting look of pure unadulterated love.
As she exited the hall at the close of Devi Bhava, the ashramite in charge of the webcast to India brought the laptop to Amma’s side and she glanced at it and began chatting to someone, asking if he had eaten. He said that he had and asked Amma if she had eaten. She said that yes, she had eaten. She had been eating love all night.
Indeed, we all had been literally eating the love of the devotees through the good food they served. We all “ate love” through the warm welcome they offered. We all “ate love” as we shared creating an Amma Program for the good of the world. But now we had to leave the rising sun and fly to the emerald isles of Ireland.