I was there. And I never thought that there would be a time in my life, when I would spend my precious new year’s eve with thousands of drunk, zapped, loud, sun burnt, lusty, scantily clad, meat loving, young rock fans. But Krishna Consciousness took me right to the middle of such a situation. During the beginning of this ordeal, I couldn’t help wondering how this involvement was going to help me progress in my spiritual growth.
Pyramid Rock Festival is an open air rock show featuring musicians from Australia, USA and New Zealand. Last year, tickets were sold out in a record 4 days. The music styles include Pop, Rock, Punk, HipHop/Rap, Funk, Blues, Acoustic, Folk, Electronica/Experimental, Indie/Alternative, Reggae/Dub, Electro, House, Breaks and Techno. The following sentences from an online writeup basically lets one know what to expect from the event:
“Traditionally, a five year anniversary is a wooden anniversary. In 2008, Pyramid defies tradition and delivers a platinum, diamond-encrusted line-up. Featuring three spectacular days of music, sea, surf and on-site camping for thousands of Australia’s music lovers. Set on a private coastal property on Phillip Island, The Pyramid Rock Festival is ideally located in between picturesque Cape Woolamai and Phillip Island’s famous landmark and the festivals’ namesake Pyramid Rock. In 2008, Pyramid Rock Festival will continue to offer early-bird camping tickets for primo camping possies, ample shower and toilet facilities, a wide variety of market stalls, an international food village that will cater to every taste and the ever-popular shuttle bus services to local surf beaches. ”
Shortly after the morning prasadam on 28th Dec 08, a car carrying Koti, Chaitanya Vallabha Das, Pritesh and Vivek prabhus plus the above van carrying Adrian, Rupesh and me along with plenty of vegetables left for Philip Island, where the much anticipated rock show was to take place. Our job was to provide these youths with clean, fresh, healthy vegetarian food options. I couldn’t see how this was possible.
We reached the venue after almost 2 hrs on the road. When we reached the place, it was very windy. But the view was spectacular. We could see the sea in the distance with an uneven terrain all around us. Had it been a sunny day, the place would have resembled a part of heaven. It was not possible for the general crowd to get to the waterfront as they had barricaded the venue with steel fences.
Chaitanya Vallabha Das and myself immediately set out to fix the 3 tents. The wind was so strong that it took us close to an hour to get them all up. Had it been a normal day, perhaps we would have taken around 20 mins.
By the time we finished, we could see so many other tents mushrooming all over the place. After all, the ground all around the main stage, had to house close to 15,000 youths and their cars. Not to mention the various service providers and staffs. It was a mini village. After we set the tents up and unloaded our luggage, I went for a quick stroll to check out the pictured tents. Some were good, some didn’t make sense. Some tents even had a full living room couch installed !
Let me introduce the crew from left to right – Pritesh, Rupesh, Vivek, Koti and Adrian prabhus. We all assembled at our catering tent to start with our cooking chores.
Adrian prabhu managed to get a photo of this sign inside our tent. It was truly incredible that we were assigned the number ” 1008 ” for this event. We knew instantly that Krishna was going to make our 4 days very special.
1. ” I am so glad that you guys are here”
2. ” Hey, we saw you at the other rock show…you guys here too…awesome !”
3. “Hare Krishna rocks!!!”
4. ” Its the best food I have had”
5. “How come you are all so happy?”
6. “Thank you for feeding us so well?”
7. “WoW…look at how much they serve”
I am sure we got a lot more but I can’t remember.
The Man : “Its ok….you guys can keep it”
Me : “Really? Are you sure?”
The Man : “Yes…I am sure…”
Me : “Thank you very much”
And then he said….
The Man : “You know, early this morning as I walked past your tent, I saw your menu sign board had fallen to the ground. I could not bear to see Lord Jagannath’s face on the wet and dirty ground. So I took it, cleaned it and put it back. As soon as I did that, the rain immediately stopped and it has not rained since. And I am telling you, it won’t rain hard for the next few days of the show as well”
I stood there shocked. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even expect him to say “Lord Jagannath”. My eyes welled a little. After I explained what had happened to the crew, we all fell silent. We felt that Krishna was giving us many chances to remember Him during such a busy day amidst such austere conditions. The entire day I thought about this incident. The man came back again on 31st Dec. This time, after serving him….
The Man : “Yes…”
Me : “Today is New Year’s eve…and I have been trying to get some flowers for the altar over there in the kitchen..but I couldn’t find any…and the nearest town is 15 Km away….and we have so much work here…we can’t leave the tent….”
The Man : “Do you want some flowers?”
Me : “Yes…if you don’t mind…are you able to get it for me?”
We would start our day from 5am and work till 12:30 midnight and on new years eve, we took it all the way up to 2am. Nonstop work. We would get up at 5am in our tents amidst heavy noises of raging wind. There would also be a slight drizzle and the 10 minute walk to the portable loo and shower areas was an ordeal in itself. But, we knew it was important to get to the toilets early before any of the drunken youths got there. Because after 9am, you just can’t get inside because of the long queue and the filth. Very dirty. The organizers had arranged huge trucks that had number of toilets and showers. The showers had nice hot water and no time limits. After I finished my shower, a few of the Australians who had also woken up early and decided to shower was spell bound when they saw me apply tilaka marks on my body. It was funny. I think they looked scared.
The wind was so strong that it damaged one of our tents and this happened on day 2. We still had 2 nights to go. Anyways, going back to our routine, it wasn’t tough to wake up so early as we get up between 3:30-4am for the 4:30am mangal aroti at the temple. The habit came in handy. Once we were back at the tent by around 6am, we would start our chanting of 16 rounds of the Maha Mantra. I love chanting inside a tent. Its like being in a cave and your own voice echos within it…so clearly listening to your chanting is not a problem. Between 8:30 – 9am, we would make our way to the catering tent to clean the tent, rinse the cooking utensils, chopping up vegetables, cooking them, transferring them and then serving to the public. This year’s Pyramid Rock festival attracted around 15,000 people…so we had plenty of work to do.
We were motivated. We were inspired. We had a purpose. We knew deep in our hearts that we were different to other food caterers. They served food. Frozen and stored for long periods. We cooked fresh vegetarian preparations right there. We knew our food had the potency. It was cooked with extreme love and devotion. Right from 9am, while we did all the chores, we chanted and sang along with the loud speakers. There was so much care taken while preparing the food. Krishna must like it and then once that’s done, we need to give it to the people with much eagerness. Why? Because we saw this as medicine. Ours was the only food that had a purpose of helping these young drunk youths.
I don’t recall ever seeing 15,000 beautiful youths get drunk…so drunk that they couldn’t talk or walk. A good majority of the people by the final day had spent all their money on alcohol that they had no money to buy food. They would come to our stall and basically beg. How crazy is this? And guess what…parents and the governments are not bothered. But you talk about spirituality and they get irritated. We saw 18-21 years old get glasses of alcohol one after another throughout the entire day.
And then they would dance all night long to loud music and loosely mixing with strangers. Then, from our tent we would hear them party back at their sleeping tents from 2am till 4am before they would drop dead asleep wherever they could. Some had the sense to locate their tents but not others. By late evening, the whole ambiance looked unhealthy – the landscape, the toilets, the shower areas, the tents, the dance floor, the air, the breath, people’s clothes – I mean everything. But these people were enjoying. They couldn’t care less. Their agenda was simple – drink as much as you can, dance as wild as you want, get a sex/flirt partner as soon as you can, sleep as less as possible and yell with rock stars as loud as you can. By the 4th day, the people looked terrible. They looked like zombies. We saw some fall asleep at the wheel while waiting in line to get out. Some couldn’t open their car locks. Others found it tough to fold their tents. It was terrible watching all these things.
A major factor that helped us become a big hit with the diners was that we served with a huge smile. Every single customer was greeted with a “Hare Krishna”. Many of them were new to the stall and it looked as if it was the first time they had seen men with markings on their forehead and instead of saying “Hello” or “Hi”, they heard “Hare Krishna”. Initially, they only smiled back. But we never stopped. Guess what happened? When they came back for their second and third serving, they would respond to our greeting with a “Hare Krishna” too. And some even greeted us first with a “Hare Krishna” !!! We also ensured that if people came back for more, we served them some free food or gave them more serving. Customers looked pleased that we remembered them and that we were wanting them to eat as much as possible. As the clock struck 12am on New Year’s eve, we had many customers come back to our tent to wish us. Some even ordered a complete feast and said, “This is our first meal for the new year, Thank You so much guys!”
And we felt so satisfied.
“The Pyramid Rock Festival”, was turning out to be a “Prasadam Rock Festival” !!
Here are some of our happy customers whose satisfaction kept us going:
I am absolutely, completely, 100 percent, positively and forever convinced. The best way to reach out to Australians and deliver Krishna’s mercy is through the food cooked for Krishna with love and devotion. This food needs to be delivered to the general public whether they are intoxicated or not, with great happiness. We must feel so lucky that we have the chance to do such an important service. With a huge smile, with great care, with great love and humility, we should hand it over to them. They will buy us first, then the food and then with time, they will understand the significance of true spirituality. This is the only way.
Prasadam: The Lord’s Mercy. Food prepared in pure consciousness with pure products and offered with love to the Lord. Our scriptures and Srila Prabhupad have clearly given us the following instructions:
‘Any sacrifice performed without distribution of prasadam is considered to be in the mode of ignorance.’
”Temple worship necessarily includes distribution of prasadam . One should exhibit compassion for ignorant living entities by distributing prasadam. Distribution of prasadam to the ignorant masses of people is essential for persons who make offerings to the Personality of Godhead.’
(Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB) 3.29.24 purport).
‘Distribution of prasadam, even to the ignorant masses of people and to animals, gives such living entities the chance for elevation to Krsna consciousness.’
(SB 3.29.23 purport).
‘In this age, distribution of prasadam has replaced distribution of money. No-one has sufficient money to distribute, but if we distribute Krsna-prasadam as far as possible, this is more valuable than the distribution of money’.
‘Somehow or other everyone can manage to perform such a yajna (sankirtana) and distribute prasadam to the people in general. That is quite sufficient for this age of Kali. The Hare Krsna Movement is based on this principle: chant the Hare Krsna mantra at every moment, both inside and outside of the temples, and, as far as possible, distribute prasadam. This process can be accelerated with the help of the state administrators and those who are producing the country’s wealth. Simply by liberal distribution of prasadam and sankirtana, the whole world can become peaceful and prosperous’.