Amritavarsham 60, as expected was the biggest event I have ever attended in my life. I have started my seva on 20th of September as Br. Ashish said there is lack of people in doing sand seva. So I joined them for the first two days (18 hours per day shift). We cleared up around 1 acre of land (near the stage where the VIP’s sit) with coarse sand and with the help of around 150 volunteers.
As more than half a million people were expected to attend the b’day, there was accommodation arranged for 6000 people in our college football ground (8 acres of land), 30 tents (each tent capable of accommodating 200 people) were build there for the same. There were only very few (5) tents which was floored properly with tiles. In rest of the tents, the floor had red sands (indeed mud). Hence the accommodation in-charge thought to put the bunker beds for the same. Within a week before the birthday, the Ettimadai metal industry had manufactured the parts for 2500 bunker beds at a record speed. From 22nd morning onward, Br. Hariji (our cyber security Hariji) asked me to help Br. Babuji (he is the incharge of preparing upma and idily in ashram kitchen) to assemble bunker beds. On the first day, we (around 30 people including Vipin sir, Jinesh ettan, some cyber security staffs, ashram inmates and few students who work under Robotics Srinivasji) were able to assemble only 300-400 bunker beds. As I was new to such work, there were several cuts and wounds on my palm. It took 3 days to heal the wounds and It was really painful (indeed burning) while having food. That’s why I was using a glove during the birthday. A bunker beds sheet had fallen on my feet while unloading from that truck hence my left leg was swollen. I took an anti-septic injection at the end of day 1 from the temporary clinic setup near the darshan stage. But on next day, by Amma’s grace, around 150-200 people from Ettimadai had come there to help and we were able to assemble all the 2500 bunker beds within 24th afternoon. I was surprised how the Tamil devotees were working hard to finish the work. They were so enthusiasts and most of them are working in cultivation field and metal, packaged drinking water industries run by Ashram at Ettimadai. That’s why I think even the kids in their group are working like labors. Amazing stamina they have I would say. Even the head master of Amrita Vidyalaya, Ottapalam was there to help us assembling the beds in all days. On the second day, the ground accommodation in-charge Br. Babuji was impressed by my work and had given me a box spanner which can be used to tighten the nuts within 10 seconds. It takes atleast 2 minutes to tighten a nut using an ordinary spanner.
These 5 days were really good and there was no mental distress as it involved only physical activities (which indeed requires muscle power) and you don’t have to argue with someone. Food will be served at the place where you work and you don’t have to travel at all if you are not planning to have *luxurious* (comparatively) mess food!
Officially, I was one of the food coordinators of VIP/VVIP section, in which my duty was just to carry/transport food from college canteen to VVIP dining hall 1 (guest room near AUMS office) and VVIP dining hall 2 (near Vidyut office) and transport food from temporary kitchen setup near engineering boys hostel to VIP dining hall 3 which is the mechanical class rooms (at the entrance of college). We have to carry the food from the entrance near the Acharya hall all the way to the respective dining hall (around 100-150 meter). And each vessel weighs more than 60 kgs. Except last two days, we were given only first year cse student and most of them were lean and were not capable of capable of carrying food vessels which weighs more than 60 kilograms. So we (me, Bijoy sir (an ex-staff of Amrita), Br. Sudharshan ji (works in cyber security) and Murali sir (husband of Gayathri ma’am, ece dept)) had very hard time carrying heavy vessels.
As I have mentioned earlier, the food for the VIP dining area is prepared in the engineering boys hostel kitchen and its the same food which is served in common food counters served near the darshan hall. The peculiarity of VIP dining area is one can sit and eat in a neat and clean place. We were told strictly *only to allow* special invites, swamijis, aghoris and people with food coupon on 25th and also for 26th morning breakfast. VIP dining area started functioning from 24th night and it went really smooth till 26th morning (before Sri Narendra Modi arrived). After he arrived it was full of chaos and none of the vehicles were allowed to enter the campus for security reasons. We had to carry food from the entrance gate at the back end of the college to the mechanical class room for the lunch (around 500-600 meters). There was only single dining hall for VVIPs and VIPs i.e in dining hall 3 (mechanical class room) as Modi and other cabinet ministers had their lunch from dining hall 1 and dining hall 2. The situation became worse as the main food coordinator (name I am not mentioning due to security reasons) of food had issued many food coupons without informing us and left everything on us to handle the situation (so we had to use dynamic management :-P).The 26th night was horrible for the people who had dinner from dining hall 3 as the rice which we had brought from the kitchen was spoiled as it was cooked in the afternoon. Later, they gave us upma as a replacement for the rotten rice. As Amma came to know about the spoiled/rotten rice issue, she appointed Abhayamrita Chaitanya (pro chancellor of our University) to take care of food. And its amazing that only due to this management on 27th September, even though there were 1/2 a million people were there, there were only 3 vessels of rice, 2 pulisherry and 2 avails were left at the end of the day. He has such a good managing capacity and he is such a nice person to talk who has a lot of experience in dealing with various situations.
One of the most funniest conversation which I had with a bramacharini teacher in our campus is given below:
On 26th afternoon, when I was standing at the entrance of the dining area 3, Bri. XOXO brought 2 of her relatives to counter who didn’t had any ID card or food coupon. She was arguing with me a lot telling so many moral stories about food, hunger and humanity. This is the last dialogue she told me: “You must show some humanity to people”. And I replied: “You must show humanity to your students too”. By hearing this she ran away with her relatives 😛 I just did my duty. Hence I don’t to worry about the consequences. On the same day, initially we were told not to allow any swamiji’s or aghoris from entering the dining hall till 2 PM as there are several VVIPs having their lunch. Dealing with the swamiji’s (not from our Ashram) was the most bitter experience I have ever had in my life. The gaali from Swamiji’s are worse than the politicians. They abused me in various Indic-languages which I think even Google translate cannot understand. Uff! I don’t know how they became swamiji’s and aghoris. I think, congress leader PC George is decent when compared to them.
27th September was the most busy day when compared any other seva days as it was the birthday of our beloved Amma. I just got 1 hour of sleep as the VVIP food counter was wrapped up after Sivamani’s and other cultural event’s were there. All the cultural programme guests were coming and having food from the same dining hall. We had to collect the breakfast from the kitchen and college canteen at 6:00 AM as usual. On 27th, collecting food from the kitchen was the most tedious job as we have to literally fight with Abhayamrita ji and Gopan ji (mess in-charge of Ettimadai campus) to get food. They will always give very less food as they are afraid that we’ll return food back as it was the last day and they cannot reuse it unlike other days. So we had to do several trips to kitchen to collect the food required for the dining hall 3.
The lunch on 27th afternoon had given us the most mind stressing work. The main food in-charge had given us the wrong information regarding the count of people who will be having lunch from dining hall 3. The food in-charge had given a count of 1200 people and around 5500+ people had lunch from our count. We ran the counter for more than 4.5 hours to give food for those who came with coupon. When the food transport was not there, I was standing near the entrance to block people without coupons and also fake people who tries to tress pass the queue with various reasons. As per the initial count, we had brought only 13 vessels of rice and equivalent amount of curry, sambar and payasam for the same. We had to do such 4 trips to feed the people who had come with the token. And that was really tiring. Without the help of S1 M.Tech mechanical students, I would have died then and there due to blood pressure as I had carried around 30 vessels in 4 hours. We had closed the dining hall 3 at 4:30 PM. It was a nice experience to see how people behave vigorously when they are feeling hungry. I have seen various VVIPs including music director Rahul Raj and Dr. Vijay Bhatkar who had waited in the queue along with his family to have Amma’s prasad. Where as its really hard to manage those who are not physically old and enact like old (they come with various diseases starting from gas trouble, diabetes to heat patients). The other set of busy people are news reporters who held up the collar of one of student volunteer for not allowing them to go to the stage through dining hall 3 corridor which is a short cut for them and its sad to know that they are from Amrita TV. A similar incident happened at the entrance of college main gate. As India vision’s sticker less car was stopped by the security guys. The reporters beat two of them. If we had done something against them, they will write something against Amma that’s why we didn’t do anything to the Amrita TV reporters when they tried to tress pass our dining hall 3 security.
A photo taken while transporting food during Amritavarsham 60
Most of the people who tells me that “Your seva is just to have food where as we don’t even get food as we do XYZ seva where I have to sit for A hours daily or we do ABBC seva for H hours, where I have to grab all the wrappers lying down etc”. I have had meal only once from the dining area, rest of the time, I had food from thattukadas and various free food stalls which was installed near the darshan hall, as the food gets over in the dining halls. My intention for the Amritavarsham 60 was to do a lot of seva beyond my capabilities (stressing my mind and body) and not for being near Amma just to get my face printed on the newspaper photo or in live streaming video.
I am not happy that I was not able to see Amma’s paada pooja or hear Modi’s speech live. I was able to see the completed birthday stage only on 28th night at 1:00 AM i.e when a dance by Oddisi dancers was going on just before Shankar Tucker’s performance (as I was involved in various sevas). Sometime in the day time (1 or 2 hour between lunch and dinner), I used to do security job also. On September 27th night, we chased and caught two young local kids (aged around 16) from the college premises who were taking photographs of the girls sleeping in the lobby. We handed them to the security head Br. Abhiramji.
I stayed awake till 28th morning 8 AM. Then I was not able to control myself. I went and slept in the hostel till 29th 7 AM (23 hours). When I was sleeping I didn’t know what was happening around me. I didn’t even know when Arvind (my roommate) came to my room and I opened door for him. Before going to sleep, I had my last food on 27th evening i.e Amma’s prasad. When I woke up, I was feeling so hungry and searched for food at Vallikavu. I couldn’t find any shops opened at Vallikkavu as it is Sunday. I went all the way to Parayakadavu and finally found that Theeramaithri was open. It was like a situation in which a person searches for water in a desert and finally he finds a sea in-front of him. I had 3 full kutti puttu, 2 egg curries and 2 bananas. The bill had come around 50 rupees I gave her a 100 rupee note and asked to feed someone who is poor and hungry for free with the balance amount.
By doing all these sevas, Amma has taught me how to survive in such extreme conditions (sometime without food or without water and under red hot sun i.e while assembling bunker beds), how to manage situations under pressure, how to behave with various people. how to take decisions according to the situations etc. I have learned and leaned a lot at the end of this b’day with a lot of awesome memories and experience which my friends who were not able to attend Amritavarsham 60. I am feeling blessed to be part of Amrita Kudumbam and also to volunteer for Amritavarsham 60. I wish, I could also volunteer for Amritavarsham 70 in 2023. My four months workout at gym has helped me a lot to survive in such extreme condition. Only due to the same, I was able to do a lot (comparative, there are a lot of people who have done more than me) of seva. I wish Amma will give chance and strength to do seva like this always.
Amritavarsham 60: Main stage
Aum Amriteshwayai Namah!