Mumbai, February 2001

Vrajabihari prabhu asked me to accompany him to the airport to fetch Prahaladhananda Maharaja and Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja.  I was looking forward to seeing Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja and meeting His Holiness Prahladananda Maharaja.  Vrajabihari prabhu garlanded Praladhananda Maharaja and I garlanded Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja.

Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja asked, ‘Where are they taking us?’  I wasn’t sure.  I asked a rhetorical question, ‘The Temple?’  Maharaja said, ‘Aren’t they taking us to the hospital?’  It was distressing to see Maharaja looking so weak.  He didn’t speak much, just chanted.  When we arrived at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, we took the sannyasis suitcases to their rooms.  They spoke to one of the main doctor’s at the Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Sri Krsna Caitanya prabhu.  I offered obeisances to Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja.  He thanked me for coming and gave me his garland.  He said, ‘Sorry for being such a nuisance.’  I replied, ‘No, Maharaja.  We were looking forward to receiving you.’  I then asked, ‘Is it an emergency?’  Maharaja said, ‘Yes…it’s serious.  We had to leave Mayapur directly.’  Maharaja had a severe case of asthma.  I asked Maharaja if he required any service.  I would cancel my Mayapur trip if necessary.  He said, ‘If you like.  But you can go ahead.’

As it turned out, several other sannyasis and senior devotees checked into the hospital.  I soon met Niranjana Swami and Vaidhinath prabhu.  The hospital was also offering relief for the victims of the Gujarat earthquake.  I shared a room with Niranjana Maharaja’s personal servant for 20 rupees a night.  I developed the habit of taking breakfast at the Mira Road Temple and dosas and sambar in the canteen for lunch.  My main service, in the beginning, was cleaning Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja’s room with the help of Savya-saci, Niranjana Maharaja’s servant.  I ended up, however, cleaning the room every morning and washing cloth for Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja, Niranjana Swami, Prahladananda Swami and Vaidhinatha prabhu.  Other services included serving prashadam for these devotees and performing various menial services in the hospital, such as accompanying His Grace Vijay prabhu into the operating-theatre and assisting the servants of the various Maharajas.  It was a great opportunity to serve, but very intense.  On one of the nights, we sang in Niranjana Maharaja’s room.  On another night, we visited Sridhar Maharaja (who had severe hepatitis) and chanted in ‘Nrsimha Kutir’.  The apartment was across the road from the Hospital.

I accompanied a young Indian bhakta, Manoja, to Sridhar Maharaja’s apartment on one of the mornings.  We presented Maharaja with a garland of marigolds from Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari.  Maharaja was very happy with the garland.  He asked what I had done before I took up Krishna consciousness.  I informed Maharaja that I had been a student of History and had written a thesis on the slave trade to the Cape.  Maharaja told me that his brother had been a Rhodes scholar.  He then asked, ‘Why History?’  He seemed bemused by this.  He said, ‘My brother studied South American history.’  ‘Do you think it’s practical to take initiation from Radhanath Maharaja.  After all, Maharaja never visits South  Africa.  Maybe I am being idealistic’  Sridhar Maharaja replied, ‘You have to have faith in that person.  The person you receive initiation from has to inpire you your whole life.’  I offered obeisances to Maharaja and took his permission to leave.

Something extraordinary happened in the afternoon when I returned to the Temple to get maha sweets from the pujari (priest of the Deity).  The altar was closed and there were no devotees around.  As I was leaving the Temple compound, a devotee called Premavatara offered me a garland.  It was the same garland which I had presented to Sridhar Maharaja in the morning!