Bombay, 1975, Sanka's tiny garland
Once when Srila Prabhupada came out from his quarters in Bombay for his usual morning walk, his path was suddenly blocked by Sanka dasa who happily presented him with a flower garland made of fresh gardenias. Looking at the garland I could not help but notice how small it was. I kind of wondered what Sanka was going to do with it. Sanka suddenly attempted to place the garland around Srila Prabhupada's head. But to everyone's surprise and panic the garland got stuck on Srila Prabhupada's head. So for a little while Srila Prabhupada appeared to look like Julius Caesar. While everyone stood frozen and melted in shock, Harikesa Prabhu immediately came to the rescue and started to roll the garland down Srila Prabhupada's head, which ended up right below Srila Prabhupada's chin. Srila Prabhupada tolerated the whole affair and folded his hands in respect and continued on his way. (I guess the garland probably had to be cut off later on.)
Bombay, 1975, Birds chanting
Half way along the left-side of the road on Hare Krishna Land towards the entrance gate stood a very nice tree which had a dense foliage. The tree became the dwelling place for many hundreds of birds of one kind. One morning during a morning walk, these birds were creating an enormous pandemonium, chirping very loudly so that it was almost deafening. Srila Prabhupada stopped and looked up while pointing his cane toward the tree and commented, "They are discussing Krishna Katha." He turned, and continued on walking. Everyone was flabbergasted by what Srila Prabhupada had just said and we were all looking at one another, not really knowing what to make of this one.
Mayapur, The Klompen affair, 1973
When a political temple climate change forced me to leave the temple in Amsterdam in 1972, I had not really decided which direction to go. Go East or West? Which direction to go? Going North was out of the question, the South didn't appeal to me at that time. Nevertheless I was psyched up for a big adventure, being 20 years old, I had sufficient spark and was ready to take on the world. My brother after all traveled twice by himself to India, so why couldn't I? A tossed coin came up tails and revealed that I was going East. Because I lacked owning regular shoes, I decided to wear wooden shoes, the same ones that were used on the German TSKP not long before. In Holland they call them klompen. Here they're named clogs. They were white and quite large. It takes a bit of practice to conveniently walk in those things. So I began my hitchhike to India, because of not having sufficient money for air fare. On route through the various Middle-Eastern countries, people gave me various kinds of surprising looks. In Turkey I was a big attraction. In Iran nobody knew what to make of it. In Afghanistan they were thinking that I was clearly out of my mind, which I was of course, and in Pakistan the mussies barely took notice of me. After 3 months on the road I arrived finally in Amritsar. I visited the Golden Temple and took advantage of the free daily kicari lunch. After a few days I moved on to Vrindavan. After that I traveled to Mayapur just a week ahead of time for the Gaura Purnima festival, which Srila Prabhupada would also attend. Jayapataka Maharaja gave me a slap on the shoulder type of a welcome, and thus I proceeded to settle in the temporary residence in the Mayapur Lotus building which was under construction. When placing my first klomp step onto the newly poured concrete staircase, the klomp broke apart right down the middle. Having done it's duty and become useless at that point I discarded both klomps amidst the construction rubble near the staircase. The next morning when Srila Prabhupada came down for his morning walk he noticed the left over klomps. Poking at them with his cane he commented "what is this?" I stood away from the scene in the back. One of the devotees answered that "a boy from Holland had just arrived wearing these as shoes." Srila Prabhupada stood there for a while contemplating. He expressed some amusement and went on his way. Everybody else present there had a good snicker as I stayed out of sight.
Calcutta, Relaxed friends reception, 1973
Having seen Srila Prabhupada only a few times so far, it was always in a formal type of mood. I was shocked and very much delighted seeing him conversing with his guests in a very congenial relaxed mood. He looked extremely happy and completely content. He appeared like a small boy completely undisturbed and aloof from the world. Being a very young aspiring servant in the movement at that time, I thought, "Hey, this spiritual life has got some definite potential. Wouldn't it be wonderful to feel like he does permanently?" These were my neophyte thoughts then, and still are. Every time I see a picture of His Divine Grace in that setting, like the one in Bombay on the rooftop, it reminds me what I experienced in Calcutta back then.
Bombay, Gurupuja, 1974
Once during a gurupuja in Bombay when the devotees each took their turn offering flowers and paying obeisances, I decided just then before my turn was up to act very "so-called humble." So when I appeared before His Divine Grace, circling my flowers around him as is the custom, I kind of loudly within my mind declared myself to be a fool number one, a rascal not deserving to be there that instance. I deliberately avoided eye contact with Srila Prabhupada. I paid my dandavats and again took my spot where I was standing. One of the devotees elbowed me exclaiming "did you see that?" I said "see what?" "Srila Prabhupada gave you a gigantic smile." Hearing that, I became very embarrassed, understanding that Srila Prabhupada actually had read my mind and even though I lacked complete seriousness, he still accepted the offering! All glories to Srila Prabhupada.