This has happened around the summer of 2001. That is the year our eldest son, Saketh Rahi, was graduating from high school. If I could recall, when I was growing up. passing high school is the minimum expected and there is no party at home other than pooja for passing high school exam unless it is a state rank. Unfortunately, things are not the same in the US. Passing high school is considered a big deal and students celebrate with parties at home saying thanks to friends. It is considered as the last big party before all friends split up to pursue college education at various institutions, in-town or out of town. Our family is no different at least in this regard - 'when in Rome live like a Roman". In addition, to Saketh's graduation, we had two other reasons to celebrate at that time, a baby shower for my brother-in-law's wife, Rasana, expecting their first baby and Ganesh Homam scheduled for the same time at our home to be conducted by eldest brother Rajeswar Rao disciple of a well-known scholar in Ganesh homam, Sri Mahadev garu. With all these celebrations scheduled for the same period, we were expecting about 60 guests at our home, friends and family from different places like India, Boston, Iowa, Dallas, Washington D.C., Detroit etc..
Our home was expected to be packed with out-of-town guests. A few guests were planning to stay in hotels and others were staying with friends. A few guests arrived early to help us with the arrangements and the rest were trickling in. We rented a tent, chairs etc., to accommodate homam in the backyard. With all this commotion, we assigned our eldest son Saketh Rahi as the designated driver to pick up guests from the airport and drop them off at their predetermined place. He still had a few more weeks of classes and he was swamped with all this additional work. In addition, he is also the chauffeur for our other two younger children who did not have a driver's licenses yet. They depended on him to take them to school and work also. Saketh was also expected to help with shopping, receiving guests and attending to the guests' needs etc., since he has his own car.
Oh. I forgot to mention, Saketh has already had two traffic tickets penalty and a third traffic ticket would result in a suspended license for him. If Saketh gets a third ticket, it will be a disaster since he is the only one who could take his siblings to work and school since there was no realiable and reasonable public transportation in this city. No way could either my wife or I take all three kids to school and to their respective works as we both have demanding work schedules.
By AMMA's grace, Saketh has been a great help to us as he shouldered bulk of the transportation demands of the family and his siblings. Alas, one day, just before the family celebration day, Saketh's luck simply ran out. On his way from the airport after picking up a guest, he was pulled over (overtaking) and was given a ticket for speeding. The worst that should not happen has happened. We were very upset and so was he. He knew that he should not be speeding and he also knew the consequences. Now we were in deep trouble. If his license is suspended, it will be a disaster for the whole event and family celebrations. We have to do something and do it quickly.
Saketh received court summons to appear before a judge for hearings about the status of his driver's license. We can't afford to have Saketh lose his license when we are expecting about 60 guests at home the following week. To avoid the imminent disaster, we contacted an attorney that specializes in traffic tickets. For a reasonable fee of $500, he promised to get an extension to get over the hump of family celebrations. We are relieved and delighted as the attorney was successful in getting an extension for the judgement. Now Saketh can drive until the next court hearing. But if he gets another traffic ticket, they will take him directly to the detention center and Saketh knew that. All we could do was to pray to AMMA that nothing happens to Saketh and his car. This is the price we pay as the parents sometimes.
By AMMA's grace, the celebrations, homam, baby shower, graduation party all went well. That was the first Ganesh homam in our home in US and we were pleased. Our two sisters, brothers-in-law, eldest brother and sister-in-law also came from India for the celebrations. We were fortunate to have so many coming from India to bless us. It was a huge success and it felt as if we just did a mini-wedding.
After few days, the Day of Judgement was here. We were nervous. Yes, the family celebrations are over but here comes the reality of date with the judge. If Saketh's license is suspended, it will be major hassle and a terrible inconvenience to my wife and me. So, respecting the local traditions, Saketh and I have decided to wear formal clothes (tie and a jacket) to the court. We were at the courthouse by 8 am but our attorney was not there as he promised. We were the first to arrive. Following the court procedures, we met with the prosecutor first for a plea bargain. Prosecutor was in no mood for a plea bargain. He insisted on suspension of driver's license and paying the court fee of about $300. Since we already paid $500 to the attorney, it doesn't make any sense to take this deal which is not much of a deal. So we declined the offer. (A prosecutor's annual performance is closely tied to the fines s/he collects. So he has no incentive to give us break.)
When we declined the prosecutor's offer of plea deal, our ONLY choice was to face the judge and be prepared for the possibility of harsher penalties. It was almost 9.30am and our attorney is not here yet.
We are getting nervous as the time to see the judge was getting closer and closer. As I always do, I was praying to AMMA. I told Saketh that I am praying to AMMA and asked him to do the same. It was almost 10.30 am before our attorney showed up. In a rush, we quickly told him what happened and sought his advice. His advice to us was to sit tight and face the judge and he promised that will be there with us. By then the court room was full with teenagers, their parents and attorneys all seeking leniency from the court for the traffic violations committed. Some of the parents with one or two tickets took the plea bargain from the prosecutor, paid the fine and court fee and left the room.
Slowly one by one was walking upto the judge as their names were called. As there was sufficient distance between the judge's bench and the attendees, we could not hear the judgments. So, we did not know whether the judge was lenient or not. All we could do was to pray to AMMA that Saketh's license is not suspended. It was almost 11.30 am. By then most of the courtroom was empty as cases were judged quickly one after the other. We are down to last 5 or 6 cases. Our attorney told us that most cases will be decided by 12 noon as the judge is scheduled to be in another court that afternoon. If, it is complicated, we may have to wait until that afternoon and see the judge in the next traffic court. That depends on judge's discretion. We were NOT looking forward to that scenario.
We are down to last three cases and the time is 11.40 am. That means the judge has 20 minutes to deliberate on three more cases. For each case, prosecutor takes about 5 to 7 minutes explain the government side supported by police documents and the presence of a police officer that gave the ticket. That means there is just enough time to decide on 3 or 4 cases depending on the complexity of the cases. Two more cases were decided before our case and I continued to pray to AMMA - may be little louder and with more intensity and trepidation. "AMMA - please protect Saketh and our family from this trouble."
It was 11.50 am now and we are down to the last case, our case. The Court Clerk called our name. Saketh, I and the attorney walked up to the judge's bench. While we were walking towards the bench, the judge, I believe, started looking at the case on the computer screen. When we arrived at the bench, the prosecutor read the charges and the extended the file to the court clerk for the records. It was set aside as a part of the proceedings with the rest of the cases. The judge continued to look at the case on the computer screen.
I believe it is almost 11.55 am. At that point, the judge turned towards us asking for our side of the story. The judge, instead of the current ticket, asked Saketh about the earlier tickets that he received for different traffic violations. Saketh briefly explained the incidence where he got a ticket on a rainy day. He was hit by another lady but the police officer gave ticket to both parties as he could not decide who the guilty party was.
At that point, the judge stopped reading the computer screen and turned towards us. I think that is when AMMA's 'maya' took over the situation. Instead of enquiring further about the Saketh's speeding ticket, the judge started to narrate her life story. That sounds so bizarre and unusual. But that is how AMMA's maya works, I guess. The judge is also from Ohio and she is from the area of Toledo. The judge said "Young man, when I was sixteen, in Toledo (a city in Ohio), I was driving one evening. It was raining that day. I was going home slowly and cautiously. But I skidded and my car hit another car. Yes, I got a ticket too. I understand - these things happen on rainy days. It happened to me. We have to be careful. Better drive carefully next time."
"Yes, ma'am' answered Saketh.
To everyone's surprise, the judge quickly closed the computer. Got up and said
The judge quickly walked away from her podium and towards her chamber. Court clerk followed the judge with his set of files to the chambers as he was supposed to do)
The time was 12.05pm. That means the judge has barely 55 minutes to finish her lunch to go to the next court at 1.00 pm which is down the hall.
We were relieved. I quickly thanked AMMA for HER grace and display of her 'maya'. Both the prosecutor and the police officer were disappointed with the judgment. They weren't happy that the judge did not even give them a chance to point out her error. The error by omission was that the judge never even saw the final speeding ticket Saketh got after the rainy day ticket.
She focused so much on the rainy day ticket that she did not even see the third speeding ticket. The prosecutor was visibly upset and we became the targets of his anger and feelings of defeat. He was rude to us as we won the case by technicality. He threw the papers at us and said.
"Pay the fine and court fee" and walked out rudely. The police officer simply walked out without saying a word as he felt that he lost a case. Our attorney showed us the cashier's office where we paid the fee and thanked him being there though he did not do anything and AMMA did HER magic.
As we were walking out Saketh said
"Dad, did you see what happened. I can't believe it."
My answer was "Yes, AMMA can do that - but when only when SHE wants."
Saketh could not believe his own eyes. He never thought he had a chance. Interestingly the attorney we hired did not even have to lift a finger. I am sure he was just also puzzled by the action of the judge but he kept quiet as there is nothing for him to gain by reasoning.
We walked up to the cashier's desk, paid the fee and penalties and walked out with ever growing gratitude to AMMA. I believe this is AMMA's ways to open Saketh's eyes. That is the first true experience of divine intervention in the life of Saketh. He slowly learned to believe the unseen hand of the divine and blessings of AMMA.
We all know AMMA differently. Some know AMMA as a mother, father, teacher, healer, doctor, trainer, master, giver, taker and as the divine. Here AMMA played the role of a judge!