12 March 2001, Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Mumbai

I attended the Morning Programme at Radha-Giridhari Temple.  Prahladananda Maharaja gave me a garland during Tulasi Arati.  Savyasaci prabhu went to Mumbai to purchase some electronic equipment.  I cleaned Prahladananda and Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja’s room.  Prahladananda Maharaja said, ‘You are a good cleaner.  A gentleman and a scholar.’  I served him breakfast.  Then I performed my daily seva of washing the senior devotees’ cloth.

Lunch was ecstatic.  I assisted Giriraja prabhu (one of the doctors at the Hospital) and Siksastakam prabhu (Radhanath Maharaja’s personal servant) with serving lunch to the sannyasis – Suhotra Maharaja, Prahladananda Maharaja, Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja, Niranjana Maharaja, Vaidhinatha prabhu and Radhanath Maharaja.  I was told to serve Radhanath Maharaja separately (‘special prashada‘ for his health).  Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaja rebuked me when I served him, ‘When you serve with your wrist going that way, that is how you sere a dead man.  Serve this way!’  He grabbed my wrist and showed me the correct way of serving.  Giriraja prabhu disappeared.  I was left alone to serve the waiting sannyasis.

The matajis sent me with the dal. Prahladananda Maharaja asked if that was the only preparation.  I scurried off to the kitchen, bringing back chapatis and several other preparations.  One of the preparations, some khichari, was for Radhanath Maharaja.  This was the first time I had the opportunity to offer Maharaja some personal service.  The meal ended with buttermilk (chaas) and the sannyasis gradually left their make-shift prashadam room.

Mother Nama Cintamani and another Mataji arrived from Juhu Temple with a bouquet for Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja from His Holiness Giriraja Swami.  They also gave Niranjana Maharaja a bouquet and presented Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja with a garland from Radha-Rasabihari.  They also gave the convalescent sannyasis some maha-prashadam from Rasabihari.  They also had a garland, from Radharani’s hand, for His Holiness Radhanath Maharaja.  They had also brought a beautiful vase of flowers and a card for Radhanath Maharaja from Giriraja Swami.  Radhanath Maharaja was talking to his sannyasi godbrothers at the end of the hall.  The devotees all offered obeisances when Maharaja stopped by the kitchen.   Maharaja saw the garland that was intended for him and asked that it be sent to his room by someone.  Dwarkadisha prabhu’s wife said I should take the garland down to his room, along with maha prashadam from Lord Gauranga.

Radhanath Maharaja was occupying a room in one of the wings of the hospital.  He had given strict orders not to be disturbed – even by the doctors.  Practically no-one could see him, unless he called for them.  And here I was, following Maharaja down the passage with garlands in both hands.  Maharaja seemed shy.  I think he could sense my nervousness.  He pressed the keys on the combination lock and pulled the latch in a dramatic manner…as if opening the door of a dungeon.  KLUNK!  He turned, half smiling half grinning.  I got the feeling that Maharaja did not like being in the Hospital.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I offered Maharaja the garland.  He asked me to put it on the shelf.  I placed it next to another garland before pictures of Gaura-Nitai and Radha-Gopinath.  The room was decorated with pictures of Varshana, Madan Mohana and Radha Kunda.

Maharaja opened his card from Giriraja Swami.  He pushed his reading glasses to the front of  his nose.  ‘Can you read this?’ he asked.  ‘Arjentaria’, I replied.  He corrected me, ‘Carpentaria.  That is where Giriraja Maharaja stays.’  I then gave Maharaja Radharani’s garland.  Since there was no string to tie the garland, Maharaja wound it around my neck and said, ‘Be careful with that.  There’s no string on it.’  I then presented Maharaja with Radha-Rasabihari’s maha prashada. Maharaja took a cake crumb and said, ‘You can have that.’  Maharaja placed his hand on my sikha, then embraced me.  I held his arm.  I felt there was hope in my life.  Maharaja asked, ‘Who brought these things?’  I told him that some disciples of Giriraja Swami, matajis from Juhu Temple, had brought them.  He said, ‘Please call them here.  I would like to thank them.’    I looked everywhere for them.  I even made several announcements on the Hospital intercom.  I eventually found them in the canteen.

The matajis were delighted to have Maharaja’s darshan. Maharaja was curious to know how Giriraja Swami knew he was in hospital.  The ladies expressed their appreciation for association of Mother Yamuna, Mother Malati and Mother Vishaka at the Pune Yatra.  Maharaja mentioned that Mother Yamuna wanted to write a book about the early days of ISKCON with Srila Prabhupada.  He mentioned that she wanted to stop, however, because she felt unqualified.  Maharaja then cited the example of Krishnadas Kaviraja Maharaja who wrote the Caitanya Caritamrita at the provocation of the other devotees.  Maharaja then said, ‘To feel unfit.  This is Vaisnava.’  The ladies left.

Maharaja said he would not meet me today as he had spoken so much already.  I offered him my obeisances.  Maharaja graciously said, ‘Thank you for your good service.’   I took his leave, marvelling at my good fortune.  Krishna had fulfilled my desire to offer Maharaja a garland.  And I had gotten my first opportunity to render personal service to him.

In the evening, I served prashadam to the sadhus with Giriraja prabhu. This time there were no complaints.  I went down to the laundry with Satyavaan (one of the hospital-workers) to collect the sannyasis’ washing.  I got back just in time to see the second half of Bhakti Caitanya Maharaja’s ‘Vrindavan Parikrama’ slide-show.  Radhanath Maharaja smiled blissfully as he watched the slide-show.  The evening ended with a brief kirtan by Niranjana Maharaja.  All in all, it was a blissful day.

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