Last weekend I was privileged enough to visit the Hugging Saint, Amma, at her home in Kerala. Having never met a saint and having never been to an ashram, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
I arrived and was greeted with an “Om Navah Shivayah” by the devotee who was working (volunteering) at the front desk. He told me which room I would be sharing with three other people and directed me towards the laundry where I could borrow some sheets. Seeing the sign that read “Rs. 200 deposit required,” I reached for my wallet – but the volunteer at the desk handed me my linens and, grinning, said not to worry about it and just leave them in the hamper when I checked out.
I made my way up to the ninth floor and spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out how to use the combination lock before gaining entrance to my room. Laundry hung everywhere, photos of Amma decorated the walls, there was less than a metre between each of the four mattresses on the floor, and small statues of deities from all religions graced the windowsill. There was a small sink next to the bathroom, which (standard for India) was essentially a tiled closet with a toilet and a shower head. Everything was clean, but definitely well-worn and snug – doubly so since it was the week leading up to Ama’s 60th birthday, and 200,000 guests were expected to come and go throughout the week!