Sunday, 23 March 08
The Cooking & The Boat Cruise with HH Devamrita Swami
– This pic is from the 2006 cruise
– Nanda Mandira Prabhu with HH Devamrita Swami on the boat
I was woken up by a devotee friend Shambu Prabhu around 3:30am. He had sat up all night burning CD’s of kirtan for the boat cruise that day. He started the previous night at 10pm, finished at 3am, took his shower, got ready, woke me up and went to Mangal aarti. Talk about commitment!
I got up shortly afterwards and finished my morning chores and walked to the temple. The streets were lit by the bright full moon and the trees looked silverfish. As I enter the temple room, I notice HH Devamrita Swami already seated in front of Srila Prabhupada murti and chanting. I paid my obeisances and did a quick job of offering my prayers to the deities. Also were some “hari bol” to devotee friends around the room before I step out into the slightly cold court yard and reported to Vaishnava Charan Prabhu in the kitchen for my duties.
Vaishnava Charan Prabhu (VCP) was surprised that I had reported an hour early for the work. He had also woken up early in the morning to set up the kitchen for the making of the morning prasadam and the prasadam for the boat cruise. VCP is clearly the quietest, calmest and gentle of all the Indian devotees. And I would also learn through the course of the day, that he is a good leader & friend.
So what did I do in the kitchen from 5:30am to 1:00pm?
- Carried huge cooking pots to the cooking area
- Cleaning and carrying certain utensils for the cooks every now and then
- Cut up and fried the cottage cheese for the curries
- Fried the potatoes to a golden brown complexion
- Stopped for breakfast prasadam – Hot cross buns and oats
- Stirring tomato gravy for the kofta balls
- Helping to add some spices into the chick pea curries
- Labeling and adding crushed ice to the pineapple juice, water and “Cha”
- Helped VCP in offering them to the deities
- Transfer of prepared food stuff to buckets and then to the waiting van
There were many other devotees who did an excellent job of helping out in the kitchen with cooking and cleaning. They did all this with extreme delight. Every now and then, one can hear someone mutter a few lines of their favourite kirtan amidst such hard and laborious work. Not to mention the jokes that goes around.
By 1:30pm, Melbourne was turning out to be a hot Rajasthan desert. We stuffed ourselves into the van along with the buckets and were ready to drive away to the docks when we realized that we didn’t take any plates, cups or spoons. So we had to alight squeezing past the hot buckets and then run like mad men all over the temple court yard in search of these items. Some 15 minutes later, we replayed the activity of getting back into the van and this time drove to the docks, leaving the temple, the kitchen and the visitors behind. At the sunny docks, we were greeted by our fellow devotee friends who all looked like ‘first class vaishnavas” with well decorated foreheads, nicely pressed dhotis & kurtas and a palm missing in their bead bags. That’s when I realized how dirty I was. I had grease marks on my elbows, paneer sauce on my dhotis and a sweaty top. Nothing much can be done now. It’s not like I can walk up to David Myers clothing mall across the dock and get myself a new pair of dhotis and kurtas.
We transported the items to the waiting boat which was the same one we used last year. Someone told me that this was the largest they could find for such an occasion. Soon, there were many people arriving and I am sure there were over a hundred people finally. With a 30 mins delay, the engines roared and we moved away from the docks. We saw people fishing, some getting into their expensive private yachts, gazed at the mighty gigantic tour ships and crossedbridges. There was a nice recorded kirtan going on and I chose to sit inside and listen.
HH Devamrita Swami gave a nice lecture on the importance of being Krishna Consciousness. The lecture was mainly aimed at new comers to Krishna Consciousness and you can listen to the complete lecture at:
Around 4pm, it was time for prasadam ! And there was plenty of it. I asked Brahma Kund Prabhu if I could man the book distribution table after prasadam and he said, “Go for it!” I quickly took a corner of the boat and settled to the floor to enjoy the prasadam. I looked around and people were enjoying their food as well. Phew ! The potatoes and paneer came out well. But VCP told me later that we could have made the paneer even softer by immersing them in cold water. Next time!
I was a bit nervous but still excited while I made my way to the deck for book distribution. Why? Because it was my first time!! So, on Gaura Purnima weekend, on a boat with 100 odd devotees and HH Devamrita Swami on board, I entered the world of book distribution. How did I go? A total of 25 books ! WooHoo! I felt so ecstatic! I must admit that I received some guidance from Brahma Kund Prabhu and Seva Amrita mataji from New Zealand. One of the passengers who got the Bhagavad Gita was actually from Kurukshetra! I took that as an added sign for all the luck I might have in book distribution from now on!
As we entered the docks, many of the restaurants by the side were occupied with diners. It was funny to see many stop their eating to glare at this boat with hundreds of devotees jumping and singing with hands in the air. By now, HH Devamrita Swami was leading a very energetic kirtan on the decks. I also saw some people from sea side apartments gaze at us through their binoculars, others took snaps with their mobile phones and others waved. Once we touched down, I quickly alighted with another devotee and handed out the CDs of kirtan and lecturers. I noticed that everyone who alighted looked fresh and ready to go for another cruise.
VCP and I decided that we would take the tram home. This was a 15 minute walk to the tram stand in our dirty devotee clothes. And as we walked past the busy & partying Melbourne streets, people turned around to see the “weird trousers” that we were wearing. It was exhilarating to be at the centre of attention. Actually, we were immersed in a conversation about the importance of the quality of chanting. We touched this topic because I had a complete 16 rounds to do!! And by the time we reached home, it was already 8:45pm.
Once home, I washed myself, took my bead bags, sat on the veranda to start my rounds. I look up and see the same beautiful round moon shining away whom I had seen early that morning. And with full energy, I slowly start chanting. At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about.