It was one of the coldest nights in Northern India – January 31, 1947. The Calcutta bound Delhi Express was about to leave Delhi Junction Railway Station. I was rushing frantically from one end of the platform to the other in search of accommodation on the train. The porter led me to a vacant compartment and then went away to his other duties. I occupied one of the upper berths – a fact which eventually proved to be of great significance.
Soon after, some important looking gentleman claimed that the compartment had been reserved for Anandamayi Ma and I realized that law, equity, and convention – everything was against me. I deserved to be turned out of the compartment as a trespasser. However, I was not; on the contrary, I overheard the sweet voice of a Bengali lady – “Leave Baba (Father) alone; he is so tired!” I could not see the lady, but was agreeably surprised and deeply touched by the sympathetic tone of her voice. The sense of words uttered by her was comforting, the sound simply captivation. My first impulse was to be chivalrous and to leave the compartment. But expediency prompted me to feign sleep. in fact, I did fall asleep within a few minutes, not caring for my fellow passengers, nor did they bother themselves about me.
Early the following morning I awoke, refreshed by sound sleep. The glow in the eastern sky indicated that sunrise was near at hand. From my upper berth I could see the lower one on the opposite side occupied by a motherly lady with a radiant face and a pair of sparkling eyes. A cluster of her black silken hair was overflowing her pillow and swinging in rhythm with the movement of the train. Her gracious gaze, focused on me, seemed to penetrate into every fiber of my being. It was so loving, so soothing!
I was told later on that she was Anandamayi Ma and that by such a gaze she often made, as it were, an X-Ray examination of a person’s personality. Be that as it may, I seemed to read a mystic message in that gaze – a message of love and peace. My eyes were automatically closed in silent salutation. after some time I recovered from the bewildering effect of the first darshan and opened my eyes to find the Mother’s face covered. I was disappointed. As the day dawned, I came down from the upper berth. I wanted a seat on the berth below mine. It was occupied by a lady saint who looked the very picture of peacefulness. Later on, I was told that she was Didima, the mother of Anandamayi Ma. Didima was then immersed in meditation. She did not speak to me but offered me a seat on her berth and then sprinkled holy Ganga water on my head. I appreciated her courtesy, but not the chilling effect of the drops of water that had moistened my forehead that cold winter morning. However, I accepted the kindly gesture without protest and quietly sat down.
Soon I realized to my dismay, that my fellow passengers were all ladies and I was the only male in the compartment. I felt extremely embarrassed and out of place. The Mother continued to remain covered up as before and was absolutely motionless. The impression of my first darshan kept my mind fully absorbed. Barring the noise of the running train, there was complete silence. Concluding that discretion was the better part of valor, I packed up my bedding and prepared myself for a change of compartment. Meanwhile, I noticed that the Mother had uncovered her face and was sitting on her berth, tenderly looking at me. The train stopped at a wayside station and I tried to leave the compartment. However, the Mother would not let me go. Gently she asked me, “Where are you going?” Instead of replying to her question, I simply apologized to her for my trespass into a ladies compartment. She uttered two words in East Bengali dialect offering me a seat beside her. I gratefully accepted the kindly gesture and was thrilled with a peculiar sensation of love, peace, and joy. The Delhi Express moved on slowly. Sitting so close to the Mother, I had the delightful feeling that I was being caressed by my own mother. It was a unique experience indeed! The Mother’s very presence inhibited speech. For some time there was no exchange of words between us until she broke the silence with several questions of a personal nature, and then we talked on various subjects, which did not include religion or spirituality. The Mother asked me whether my people would expect me in Calcutta on the morrow. I said, “No Mother”. “That’s very good!” observed she. I failed to understand the implication of such a remark. Her second question was: “Is anyone coming to meet you at the Railway Station?” I said, “No.” The Mother repeated her first remark, “That’s very good!” I was unpleasantly surprised, because a repetition of the same remark seemed to confirm her apparently unsympathetic attitude. A mother who alternately attracts and repels seemed an enigma to me. Indeed, her “That’s very good!” remained a mystery to me for the time being. Within a few minutes, however, I discovered that it had a deep significance for my future life.
The train stopped at Allahabad, the Mother’s destination. I was about to bid her good-bye, when Didi told me that I was to break my journey at Allahabad. Without my knowledge or consent a lower berth from Allahabad to Calcutta had already been reserved for me on the Bombay mail, the next convenient train for Calcutta. I helplessly saw my luggage being carried to the platform by two bright looking boys who had come from the city of Allahabad to receive the Mother at the Railway Station. I got off the train as instructed. Apparently I had no option in the matter. The Mother asked me to get into her car. I did so and sat by her side. Our destination was the famous Triveni, the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Ardha-Kumbha Mela, a periodical congregation of saints and sages was taking place there. The “Anandamayi Ma Camp” consisting of a large number of tents, had been set up especially for the occasion under the supervision of Dr. Pannalal, I.C.S. since deceased. I stayed at Allahabad as the Mother’s guest for about eight hours. She introduced me to Dr. Pannalal, who treated me with parental care, accommodated me in his own tent and told me in detail his rich experience at the feet of the Mother. Then he took me to the dining place for prasad.
The food served there was more delicious than any I had ever tasted. What added to its charm was the fact that the Mother served one of the items and smilingly told me that I should not feel shy nor hesitate to ask for more, if I wished. Her hospitality was unexcelled. It deeply touched my heart. After prasad Dr. Pannalal again took me to his tent. I asked him many questions regarding religion from a scientific point of view. He genuinely tried to be helpful to me. From his experience he warned me against a strictly rationalistic approach and advised me that in the spiritual field there was no alternative to faith. Though not fully convinced by his arguments, I was touched by the ring of sincerity in his words, which seemed to carry conviction. His views were supported by some elderly devotees, benefited by their long association with the Mother. I was much impressed by the narration of the experience of these venerable persons as recipients of the Mother’s grace. It set me thinking from a new point of view. My mind was thus being prepared for the climax to come. The time for my departure was drawing nigh. The sun was sinking down to rest. Its mellowed rays were reflected on the Mother as she was proceeding from her tent to ours. Her face, as seen by me at dawn, was charming; at dusk majestic. The Mother came right up to me and blessed me with her affectionate touch. Then she uttered a few sentences, which touched my soul. Her words, too sacred to be repeated and too personal to be disclosed, kindled in me a new type of spiritual aspiration and a new awareness of my duty as a human being. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
(Introductory Prelude to the excellent book “Anandamayi Ma the Mother Bliss-Incarnate” as told by the author Anil Ganguli.)