Just out of my higher secondary schooling in 1990, I was more than eager to pursue the subjects of my choice in the local college where I had got an admission ticket on merit. However, life had something else for me in store. My father brought home an application for a one year computer programming course offered by an ashram. Two thoughts pulled me back – one was the change in the subject that I wanted to pursue and second staying in an ashram was something unthinkable of having known about the living conditions and the choices of food available. My elder brother’s friend who was a professor at the local college confirmed that I could register myself for the subject of my choice and could pursue that once I am back from the training program at the end of my one year training. And with the ashram kind of lifestyle – I made up my mind to give it a try.
Though I was reluctant at that particular point in time, I now realize that I was indeed fortunate to be part of the first computer programming training sessions offered by the ashram way back in 1990. Little did I know the way my life was going to be transformed in the next few years to come.
I loved playing cricket and wouldn’t miss any opportunity to be playing whenever I had an opportunity. Now being in the ashram – I had no option to do so or had any possibility of engaging myself for a physical workout. My health consciousness was slightly pricking me and I was on the lookout for opportunities all around while at the ashram. One morning, I found a van full of groceries and vegetables in front of the ashram canteen and just one Bramhachari getting this unloaded. Flash – I need to join him in unloading this – indeed this was an opportunity to join someone who would have been looking out for support and also for me personally, it was an opportunity to have a physical workout. This got over in a couple of hours and we had a tea together. I could realize that I was really beaming with joy – not on getting an opportunity for a physical workout – but a joy that was beyond that in doing some service absolutely selflessly. I use the term selflessly because I did really extend my capacity of a physical workout. I did request the Brahmachari to feel free to reach out to me every time the load comes in so that I could join him.
Slowly I started recognizing that this opportunity was always available in various forms called as Seva. One of the most common seva during that time was the sand seva. There was some marshy land behind the Kali temple and the ashram wanted to utilize that area to bring up a structure later. The sand would be brought by boats and would be dumped near the banks of the backwaters. These were carried over in sacks and dumped into the marshy land to get that filled up. This seva used to happen most of the days. Many days there would be hardly 10 to 12 people joining in with the same set of Sannyasins and Brahmacharis who would be working on this every time. However, on some days Amma would lead the seva and in those days there would be a huge crowd of inmates and devotees joining in – as this was an excellent opportunity to be near Amma and share the lighter moments including jokes and we could see the joyous vibration all around. Every individual who contributed would be doing the seva much more than what they could imagine due to the fact that they were enjoying every moment with Amma.
Then we had this day before our semester exam. I assumed that I had sufficiently prepared for the exam and moved out of my ashram room at around 9 PM. That happened to be a day when the sand seva was on. I thought to join the 10 to 12 inmates in the seva. Few moments after I had joined that day, Amma came out and started leading the sand seva. This went on for more than a couple of hours and then Amma called out to stop the work as it was almost midnight. I took a glance at Amma as always, Her beaming smile would be a source of energy for most of the people who were present.
I proceeded to my room which was near to the green roof above the Kali temple where some of my friends from the computer center were continuing with their studies. While I was at the staircase, a Brahmachari from the canteen mentioned that Amma would be distributing Prasad to all those people who have joined the seva. He recommended me to collect the Prasad before I leave. Though I had started accepting the fact that there was something uncommon in Amma, and was also feeling inspired or energized in her presence, I wasn’t that much inclined and thought to still leave for the day without taking the Prasad. However, I did have a naughty thought in my mind – “If Amma really knows that I did the sand seva, let Her call me – maybe then I will go”.
Amma used be outside for some more time during such seva nights naratting stories, cracking jokes, singing bhajans – inspiring and energizing one and all of the hundreds of people who would be seated around Her. The brightly lit moonlight, the cool sea breeze, soul-stirring bhajans from Amma and Her beaming smile – was indeed an inspiring moment for all.
Being sand seva and carrying the sometimes torn sacks over the head and shoulder, we would be full of sand all over. Hence I took a shower and was about to get into my room when another Brahmachari came up and asked “Hey you were there for the sand seva – Amma told me that there can be someone near the green roof who would not have come to take the Prasad. Please come and collect the Prasad”. As I was the only person from the set of rooms at the green roof who had joined the seva that night – I felt okay maybe Amma is extending another call and I need to go and have the Prasad. I also thought of my naughty thought somewhat getting materialized.
I climbed down the spiral staircase and found Amma surrounded by all the devotees with their hands full of aval prasadam (beaten rice with coconut and sugar) and a glass of black tea. She called out to me – “why did you leave without the Prasad, come, come”. I went and sat just in front of Amma for her to give me Prasad. She asked me who all from the Computer Makkal (students who are attending the computer programming classes) had come for the sand seva. I mentioned being exam, it was only me. Then she told are they all still awake and studying for which I told in the affirmative. Then Amma asked me to show both hands and she filled it with the Aval Prasad and my hands were overflowing. Amma told me to share this will all the computer makkal who were studying as they would be feeling hungry as well. I was all the while thinking that She would be happy in me joining the sand seva. For Amma it was just all of us. I was happy that Amma had given the Prasad for all others too for me to share. I was soon back at the spiral staircase, proceeding back to my room – as usual a thought came in again. Being midnight and after a two hour sand seva – definitely a cup of black tea was something that would be refreshing. As both my hands were full of the aval Prasad meant for all of us, I just missed that opportunity. I was thinking “I just lost a chance for a cup of hot black tea”. Two steps up and here comes a call – “hey son”. I didn’t notice as there are hundreds of people all around and Amma could be calling out to any one – either son or daughter. However, the call propagated to me in fraction of seconds and the Brahmachari standing near to the spiral staircase told that Amma is calling out to me. Now…I was going back to Amma again! “Do you want black tea” – Amma asked. Goodness gracious – wasn’t that what I was thinking. I had already forgotten my thought in seconds and here is Amma asking that to me. I was delighted and said “sure Amma”. The black tea kettle had gone again to be refilled and I had a couple of minutes. By then I was already basking in the love and concern that Amma had been extending. I started thinking, I have my both hands filled up and cannot hold the cup unless I keep this down. I didn’t get enough time to keep this down and the cup was already in Amma’s hand that was to be for me. As my mind would – here comes another thought – Amma is said to be the embodiment of motherhood. If that is so, She could feed me just like any mother would have if my hands were full.
Soon I was near Amma and She asked me to sit in front of Her. While I sat, She held my head up and poured the black tea into my mouth. I was totally blank with the Love !! She asked “is the tea too hot for you?”. It wasn’t and I started hurrying up as I didn’t want Amma to be losing her precious time on me. However She mentioned “drink slowly son”. She gave me the full cup of tea and then asked “do you need more”. It was more than expected and hence I told “this is more than enough Amma”. I slowly proceeded to my room –a strange happiness filling me that words really can’t express. I could hear Amma’s voice tingling in my ears. I really feel that was one of the days in my life that was the most precious and happiest.
I strongly feel that the Universal Love and the feeling of oneness alone can make this possible and I slowly started feeling inclined towards Amma’s activities and services rendered. That was just the beginning to the transformation of my entire thought process – imbibing more values.