Clad in a dhoti and sweating under the midday sun, a software engineer from the United States is busy cleaning a long line of dilapidated toilets. Another group of foreigners -- from the US, Holland, Germany, and Japan -- is carrying wooden planks and polycarbonate sheets to build temporary toilets. A few others -- doctors, engineers and businessmen from across the world among them -- are cutting the unkempt grass and applying a fresh coat of paint to the walls.
This unusual scene is on display 24 hours a day at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi, Kerala.
The sprawling stadium in the heart of the port city is getting ready for the country's biggest spiritual meet -- Amritavarsham, the 50th birth anniversary celebrations of Mata Amritanandamayi on September 24-27.
Koyichi aka Vivek, a businessman from Japan and ardent follower of Amma, came from Tokyo two weeks ago. Since then, he has been doing all kinds of manual labour at the stadium. "I have been carrying bamboo poles the whole day to build temporary restrooms for guests," he told rediff.com "I am ready to work hard everyday for Amma."
Koyichi said he earns quite well in Japan. "But I spend my money serving Amma. I get satisfaction earning money and spending it for charity, all because of Amma."
"It is a great experience," Miranda, from Holland, told rediff.com "I have been cleaning toilets since morning. I never feel tired when I think that I am doing all this for Amma."
Miranda has been a follower of Amma for the last six years. "I met Amma during one of her European tours in London," she said. "I felt heavenly when she hugged me. I then knew the meaning of life."
Miranda now lives at Amritapuri, global headquarters of Amritanandamayi in Kerala's Kollam district. Scores of foreigners like her and Koyichi are working day and night to turn the stadium and the huge adjoining ground into a mini-city for the celebrations.
A new sewage system has been installed. A large number of temporary toilets and bathrooms has been built. A huge kitchen that can serve meals thrice a day to 200,000 people has been set up. A state-of-the-art media room with 60 computers, email, fax and Webcasting facilities has also been created.
Swami Amritaswarupananda, spokesman for Amma and one of the key organisers, said the preparations are "in grand scale because some five lakh followers of Amma will be coming".
"This will be one of the largest spiritual get-togethers India has ever seen," Amritaswarupananda told rediff.com
The Kerala police has opened a special office at the stadium. Tight security will be provided for the celebrations. The VVIPs who are expected to attend include President A P J Abdul Kalam, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani. Scores of ministers, businessmen, eminent spiritual leaders, and other VIP devotees of Amma will also be at the celebrations.
One of the key programmes will be President Kalam discussing his dream concept -- Vision 2020 -- with top CEOs of Indian origin from across the world, including the likes of Sycamore Systems founder Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande, venture capitalist Kanwal Rekhi, B V Jagadish of Exodus Communications, Rajeev Dutta, chief financial officer of the online shopping site eBay.com, Ajit Singh of Siemens Medicals, Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia, Prem Jain of CISCO, Yomesh Joshi of Hewlett-Packard and Sreeram Vishwanathan from Intel.
An array of top Indian businessmen, including Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, Sunil Mittal of Bharti, K Krishnakumar of Tata Sons and S D Shibulal of Infosys will also attend.