Day 31, Thursday, 08/05/08
Gurudev worshipped Giriraj, whilst I used the (common) bathroom. We had a full morning program, then japa. Whilst Gurudev was settling into His armchair to begin chanting, Paramisvarah offered to cover His legs with a blanket. Gurudev graciously accepted. When Paramisvarah asked Gurudev if He was warm enough, He replied, “As snug as a bug in a rug.” Whilst serving Gurudev His breakfast, I asked Gurudev about the identity of the beautiful Deity in the picture on the wall above Him. He said that it was a Deity from Udipi. After He had taken His breakfast, Gurudev went to His room. I followed to check if there was anything else I could do. Gurudev asked me to take prasadam as soon as possible if I was going to have anything, and then we would do the final packing for His trip to Durban. I opted to pack first. Gurudev gave me exact instructions about precisely what He wanted done. The packing completed, I took a little prasadam. We were then off to the airport in East London, about an hour’s drive away. On the way, we encountered one obstacle after the other. From traffic lights, a herd of cattle, road renovations and potholes to a “quicker route” that wasn’t really so quick!
Gurudev was starting to get anxious about His flight. He is never late. Ever. Rather, He is in the habit of going through the boarding gates, and chanting His japa peacefully. To our great relief, we managed to get to the airport in time. As He passed through the x-ray and security gate, I noticed that I was still holding His jacket. The security personel kindly handed Gurudev His jacket, and He shook His head. I guess He couldn’t believe how “spaced out” I was! Then, with a final wave, Gurudev passed out of our sight…
Day 32, Friday, 09/05/08
Svetadvipa, Gaurasundara and I were on our way the Port Elizabeth airport when I got a call from Gurudev asking where we were. I apologized for not being there for Him on time, but He said that it wasn’t my fault. Gurudev said that He was standing outside the airport in the drop-off zone. As we raced to get into the airport, we saw Gurudev standing by the side of the road with His bag. Although He was inconvenienced, Gurudev wasn’t resentful, accepting the devotees’ sincere apologies for being late.
As we drove back to the Port Elizabeth Preaching Center, where Gurudev would be staying, He asked about the welfare of the devotees. Gurudev noticed an MTN outlet as we drove through town, and said that I should phone them later and get some quotes for a new cellular phone. Madhumangal, Bhakta Jakes and Bhakta Neo had started a kirtan outside the Center to welcome Gurudev. He was ushered into the temple room and we had a somewhat delayed Deity Greetings of Their Lordships Sri Sri Nitai-Gaurasundara, Jaganath, Baladev and Subhadra. We then honoured Srila Prabhupada with Gurupuja. Gurudev then gave a Srimad Bhagavatam class on 1.19.29. Then Gurudev went to His room to perform puja to Giriraj. I had set up things in preparation, including some water for bathing the Lord that Gaurasundara had just bought from the store a few minutes earlier. I then left Gurudev for a few minutes to check up on the Lord’s bhoga offering, consisting of some fruit that I had cut up. When I returned to Gurudev’s room, He said, “This water is cold. It’s impersonal.” I was shaken by this statement. At the same time, I could understand that Gurudev was speaking out of concern for the Lord, being very sensitive to His care. Gurudev was urging me to be more careful and conscious about the way I related to the Lord.
Gurudev then placed Giriraj on the altar with the other Deities so that He could be offered His bhoga. I then served Gurudev His breakfast of fruit. I had neglected to remove the white part of the peel completely from the grapefruit and Gurudev pointed this out to me.
Gurudev worked on His computer for some time before going with Svetadvipa to the local prison. Svetadvipa has been cultivating some inmates there and Gurudev wanted to encourage them. As He left, Gurudev handed me the key to His room. Gaurasundara kindly bought Gurudev a new phone. It was a state-of-the-art HTC tytn 2. Gurudev said, “It’s pretty complicated, almost as complicated as my computer.” He then requested that I download all the contacts from His old phone onto the new one. I didn’t have a clue as to what to do, and was even considering loading the numbers one at a time. In fact, Gurudev said that I may have to! Fortunately, Gaurasundara said that there was some software that could do the transfer very effortlessly.
Gurudev took prasadam at around 13h30, and the meal was prepared by Svetadvipa. Vrnda devi also brought quite a few preps, and we began the marathon of making everything hot. When we began serving the prasadam, Gurudev joked with Svetadvipa, “A simple brahmacari meal?” Indeed, it had developed into more of a feast!
Gurudev then took to chanting japa in the temple room before the evening program – the first of a three-day seminar on the Ramayan.
We performed bhajans in the temple room whilst waiting for Gurudev. There was a fair-sized audience, and Gurudev gave a basic introduction of Lord Ramacandra’s appearance. After the class, Gurudev spoke to some of the devotees as the others took the prasadam feast. Gurudev was then served some snacks, and a dessert made by Bhaktin Radharani, Gaurasundara’s daughter. When almost everybody had left for home, Gurudev spoke to Gaurasundara and his family for a long time. Gurudev retired by 21h30.
Day 33, Saturday, 10/05/08
Gurudev joined the morning program as we were chanting the Siksastakam. I found this most interesting because this is a prayer by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and Gurudev was at this same venue last year at this time doing a seminar on the teachings of Lord Caitanya. The morning program was somewhat shorter because there was a meeting with the cellular phone agents early in the morning.
Gurudev took His lunch at Hari Darshan Prabhu’s home. It was Gujerati-style and Gurudev ate well.
The evening’s seminar began at 18h45 with bhajans, and Gurudev began His discourse by 19h10. He apologized very much for being late. The topic was Hanuman-katha, and the devotees enjoyed the humourous pastimes and wonderful lessons this great devotee of Lord Ramacandra exhibited. Gurudev then lead a “fired up” kirtan.
Hari Darshan had brought some snacks for Gurudev and was concerned that it be served immediately. Gurudev however showed how His constant focus was preaching, “I will have them, after I have spoken to all the people who want to meet with Me.” There were then several devotees who wanted to have Gurudev’s darshan. The DVD’s had arrived from Gauteng, and many sets were sold. Gurudev was served some prasadam from the feast by Radharani. Gurudev took rest by 21h30.
Day 34, Sunday, 11/05/08
Gurudev joined us for mangal arati. He lead the chanting of Nrsimhadev prayers and the tulasi arati. During the japa period, Gurudev asked me about what arrangements had been made for “padkos” for His trip the next morning.” I said that I was still making arrangements with Vrnda devi. After the gurupuja to Srila Prabhupada, Gurudev gave Srimad Bhagavatam class. It was “shock therapy”. By this I mean that it shocked me back to reality! The message penetrated my heart, and inspired me to seek a darshan with Gurudev. All was clear…at last.
Gurudev took some crepes and coconut chutney for breakfast. These were preparedby Prema Manjari. Paramisvari also assisted by cutting up some fruit.
Gurudev worked on His computer for most of the day. At 13h00, Gurudev went to Gaurasundara’s asram to take His lunch. There was only four preps: a lasagna, a butternut soup, a salad and ice-cream, yet it was extremely well-prepared. During His meal, Gurudev spoke to me about some of His early days, “Back in the early days, when we were collecting for Radha-Radhanath, we were only eating salads. Ramanuja and I. We called it the “sankirtana salad”. (I laughed) “The ingredients were mainly lettuce, sprouts, tomato, cottage cheese, olives and cashews.”, He explained. “A good salad is extremely hard to beat.”
Gurudev then adjourned to the lounge, where He spoke to the family. He then requested from them to be excused so that He could “prepare for class”. I found this most interesting. Gurudev was displaying His humility here. Everybody who knows Gurudev, and has heard Him speak, knows what a scholar He is. Still, He recognized the need to keep studying, keep studying, keep studying.
Once at the Center, Gurudev went straight to His room and continued to work on His computer for some length of time. The temple room had filled up by this time and Svetadvipa began a bhajan. Gurudev, however, didn’t come out of His room. Then after some time, I decided to ask Gurudev if He was ready to come to the temple room. Gurudev said that He wasn’t aware that the devotees were waiting because nobody had called Him. I felt very sheepish. The first thing that Gurudev did once He sat on the vyasasana was to apologise for being so late. This was yet another display of Gurudev’s humility. Today was Mothers Day, so Gurudev dedicated the class to our merciful Mother Sita.
There was then a huge kirtan, made even more ecstatic because of the bigger number of devotees. The devotees were then served a sumptuous feast. Gurudev sat on the vyasasana, granting darshans and signing DVD’s. Dr. Paramar also came to see Gurudev. This medical doctor is most fortunate to have met Srila Prabupada in person, and has been very helpful in assisting the spreading of Krsna Consciousness in Port Elizabeth. Gurudev told him about His ear problem, and the doctor brought some special drops for Him.
There was then a long meeting with Gaurasundara’s family and Svetadvipa.
I was not able to contact the airline to double-check my departure time of my flight the next day, ad Gurudev allowed me to use His wireless modem to access this information on the internet. This was after Gurudev had retired and was chanting His japa, so I felt awful to disturb Him. After apologizing repeatedly to Him for the disturbance, I greeted Him and then retired. It was nearing 21h30.
Day , Tuesday, 12/05/08
Gurudev was up by 03h45. We had to really get moving, since He had to catch a very early flight. Whilst Gurudev was in the shower, I set up for puja and then cleaned up the room. I packed away whatever I could. Then we were all in a sandwich-making marathon… Gurudev had asked for sandwiches as “padkos”, and I had neglected to ask Him what the ingredients should be. This delayed things severely. I told Gurudev that we had a limited amount of ingredients. He said, “Do what you can.” Gurudev was getting anxious about being late for His flight, “We’re running late.” I was working as fast as I could, and Jakes also lent a hand. In fact, Jakes had stayed up until 23h00 to bake the bread since the devotee who said that he would, changed his mind at the last minute. Eventually we were done. The sandwiches were not offered, since Gurudev would offer them to Giriraj later, at the Johanesburg airport.
As it turned out we were just on time, if not a few minutes early. We sat around Gurudev in the waiting area and talked for a while. Neo was very curious about Gurudev’s choice to wear non-devotional clothing. Gurudev explained that it would be safer, since certain places He would be traveling through were not so favourable. He related some pastimes which occurred in Singapore, where the people are extremely strict about these things.
As we sat in a very relaxed mood, Gurudev turned to me and asked, “Did you put in My sleeveless jacket?” I shuddered. “No. I packed it in my bag to take back to Durban along with the other jackets You said You didn’t need. I thought You didn’t need it.” “I’m going to Russia, you know.”, He said with a shake of His head. It is quite cold there at this time, hence Gurudev wanted to have the sleeveless jacket. I suggested that some of our Godfamily or well-wishers could buy Him a new jacket in London. “Perhaps” , He said.
As Gurudev walked through the boarding gates, He greeted us with “Hare Krsna”, individually. I was still feeling quite disturbed that I had forgotten Gurudev’s jacket, but Jakes had the presence of mind to say, “Thank You for everything.”
Gurudev, in His humility said, “Thank you.” Then, with a final wave, He was off…to preach…
It had been a real “whirlwind tour” by Gurudev! Indeed, several devotees commented with amazement that Gurudev’s itinerary was unbelievable. Had I not been with Him for (almost) the entire duration of this trip to South Africa, I would not have thought it possible for a person to do what He has done, and continues to do – for Srila Prabhupada, and for all of us…
H.H. Srila Bhakti Caitanya Swami Maharaj ki jaya!
Your insignificant servant,
Caitanya Carana dasa