So much for my nostalgic plan to arrive at Amritapuri gliding on the backwaters by boat. Services from Alleppy are not available during monsoon months, so I ended up taking the bus.
Even though Amma is on tour in the United States, life in the ashram is busy and I was not surprised to see a lot of changes and more constructions. The old cow shed is now a juice bar and two more apartment buildings are on the way. The university campus across from the backwaters also grow everyday, with more housing for students and extensions to the facilities.
Amma's charity work is a solid presence in India. The AIMS hospital in Cochin is the best in Kerala; two million people are fed everyday in the remote tribal areas; 100,000 widows received financial aid, vocational training and micro loans and the same number of children in agricultural communities were awarded scholarships. The victims of the 2004 Asian Tsunami received US$46 million in aid and the same amount of money has been given away in the form of free health care since 1998. Amma also participates in green initiatives – one million trees have been planted since 2001 under her direction. There is also a multitude of university and school campuses in India just to mention a few of Amma's projects. She even has a TV channel, Amrita, where she appears every day at 9pm.
I only spent the weekend at Amritapuri but it was a great way to end my trip. I have known Amma for 15 years now and have met a lot of people in the international community throughout the years. In a way it was like going back home. I have donated a flat to the ashram which also serves as my home base when I am visiting.
Tomorrow very early in the morning (4:40 am) I head back to Amman where I spend a couple of days and then fly to Seattle. I have been away in the Middle East and India for 10 months. Now I need to get life and some business in order in North America.