Devotees often marvel at the astonishing success of ISKCON Chowpatty, in Mumbai. This inspiring project has been painstakingly developed by His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja and his dedicated followers since the late eighties.

Those who have read Maharaja’s autobiography will know something about Maharaja’s life-long friend, Gary. Gary was Maharaja’s travelling companion during his odyssey from America to India in 1970/71. In March 2007, I, along with Jai Gauranga prabhu (my dear friend and godbrother from LA) had the good fortune of hosting one of Gary’s dear friends, Mike, at Chowpatty.

We took Mike to Ban Ganga, a holy place of pilgrimage in the area. It is here that Lord Rama shot an arrow into the beach, to slake Sita’s thirst, and Ganga Devi manifested. Laksman built a Siva Lingam out of beach sand which is worshipped today as Valkeshwara. So this place is known as Valkeshwara or Ban Ganga (‘the place where Ganges manifested from Rama’s arrow’). Caitanya Mahaprabhu also visited Valkeshwara. And Jai Gauranga and I bathed here with Mike.

That night, Mike jammed with his djembe and flute to Jai Sachinandan’s enchanting kirtans. Amongst other things, we took Mike to the local music shop. When Mike went to Hrishikesh to meet with Maharaja, I wasn’t sure if I’d see him again.

Six months later, however, I joined Nitai prabhu and a party of frontline Hare Krishnas at the Burning Man, in the Nevada Desert (near Reno). On the second day of the Burning Man, I went for a bit of a walk around the playa. Lod and behold, I met Mike! I consider this meeting even more amazing, since it was my last day in America! I was so happy to meet this simple and gracious soul again. Plus, I wanted to know what had transpired of his meeting with Maharaja. Mike informed me that he had not met with Maharaja in Hrishikesh, but had met ‘Swami’ at Gary’s place in Malibu. ‘What did you think of Maharaja?’, I asked. Mike said that Maharaja was very nice and very down-to-earth. I said, ‘Was there anything in particular that struck you about Maharaja?’ Mike replied, ‘Yes. I asked Swami how he managed to get so many people to do so many things. And Swami said, ‘I don’t do anything. They come to me with ideas; and I let them do it.’

When I met Maharaja in Dublin some weeks later I told him of my unusual encounter with his friend Mike.