26 September 2003
The tone for the evening was set by singer Sri. Shankar Mahadevan, who enthralled everyone with his renditions of Karnatic pieces, bhajans, abhangs and devotional songs from movies. His rich and vibrant vocals were captivating as was the repertoire he had selected for the evening. Many remarked that the devotion in his voice seemed to make the music even sweeter. When he went to Amma, She held him in a close embrace and kissed his cheek lovingly.
The next performance was by Carvajales, a flamenco group from Spain. A percussionist, acoustic guitarist, electric bassist and female singer spurred on a stunning dancer. As the singer called out passionately, the dancer moved about the stage in high-heals, swishing the hemline of her skirt.
While giving darshan, Amma often turned to watch the dancer. At one point, She noticed a young man sitting near Her who didn’t seem to be enjoying the dance. Amma told him, “Try to appreciate the artistic performances from other cultures. Open yourself up to the culture of a new country. That way you will be able to become more accepting and expansive.”
As the clock struck 12, all eyes were on Amma. For it was now the morning of Amma’s actual birthday. Soon thousands upon thousands of voices welled up singing: “Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You. Happy Birthday, Dear Amma… Happy Birthday to You!” It was as if each person in the stadium was thanking Amma for all the peace and happiness She had given them, and Amma’s face seemed to take on an extra glow.
As the darshan queue got smaller, Amma seemed more and more reluctant to leave. She kept calling more and more of the devotees to come for darshan. Finally, after much coaxing from those who were thinking of the full day of programmes that was to commence in only a few hours, Amma got up. As She slowly made Her way across the stage, another chorus of voices from around the world rang out once again in song: “Happy Birthday to You…”