Six tonnes of salt were used up and not all on serving the mini-United Nations that sprouted on the 3-day run-up to the big birthday fete. Of the one-lakh devotee delegates, 12,000 were overseas delegates, but it was the endless inflow of felicitators that the banquet tables addressed. When we planned the party five months ago, Amma (Amritanandamayi) had a single caveat- Either its free food and accommodation for all on all four days or no birthday, she had put her foot down said Amrithaswaroopananda, a trustee.
Not that the final 4-day Amritavarsham fete was an Olympiad or even a Kumbhamela. But it was, perhaps, the first time in the world that in a birthday party, scions of varying spheres, business, governance, music and spirituality came together to see how the other half lived. How many spiritual leaders had a President, a Vice-President, a Deputy Prime Minister, one US ex-Senator (Larry Pressler), a green activist and the daughter of Martin Luther King (Yolanda King) and tinsel glamour ranging from Hollywood (Linda Evans) to Bollywood walking in to say happy birthday
For the first time, a birthday party took upon itself to make interventions in the government of a countrys programmes and has even got its ideas rolling. Amrita Trust is not only backing one of the first of Rastrapatis Rs 100 crore each PURA projects with its Amrita-pura in Karnataka, but is also soon bringing out a blueprint for Dr Abdul Kalams 2020 Vision for the country. The World CEO Summit in Ammas Rs 500-crore hospital, attended by 165 heads of business, have produced a cluster of footnotes for the 2020 vision, which will be soon dovetailed together and handed over to the President. That is the new management model of public-private partnership for you, Indias most distinguished bachelor-boy explains away Ammas signature hug on the countrys economy.
The birthday girl is also the mother of all contradictions. A sanyasin who cleans toilets, when she is not setting up Asias biggest multi-speciality hospital, a vehement vegetarian born to a vendor of Keralas backwater fish and a dusky woman in white who can talk only in rustic Malayalam, yet connects famously with her white, brown and black devotees in 191 countries, Amma is one Indian miracle woman minus the vibhoothi-from-the-air magic.
She moves around in chartered flights and Mercedes Benz, but sleeps on the bare floor. For the compulsive communalism-hunter, there is another Amma enigma. Amma is all out the consummate devotee of the Hindu God Krishna during her Bhajan sessions, yet, when she starts building houses for non-Hindu riot victims also in Gujarat, she emerges the favourite target-practice for irked Hindu outfits. In fact, she inspires peace, says Pakistani scholar and director of London-based Institute for Muslim Minority Affairs Saleha Mahmood Abedin.
There is no fooling Amma in project management, says her disciples. But the Gandhi Peace Prize laurete is not beyond saying Harvard what despite the likes of CK Prahlad eating from her hands.
This was also one international banquet where champagne did not flow. Business or artists, the spirit all through was to mix the earthy with the sublime. The whole drill is for the salt of the earth, says Amma in her birthday lecture.
As a whole sea of humanity harked to the good work around, the flow of Indian pudding was missing. And that Guiness people.