Part 1 : Getting there
I went to bed on Friday night, earlier than usual. I had 2 missions in mind – to get away from the miserable cold wind outside and wake up in time for mangal aroti the next day. The next 2 days I would be spending yet another weekend at the Hare Krishna farm but this time with His Holiness Devamrita Swami and Melbourne devotees. That means, the temple will be packed in the morning. And I love a packed Hare Krishna temple ! All I need was a good and sufficient sleep. Setting my alarm for 3:30 am, I went to dreamland. The next time I looked at the clock, it was 6 am !! Oh man !
Surprised and angry at the late wake up, I shot into the bathroom to finish all the morning arrangements and within 45 minutes, I was ready and ran to the temple. There were plenty of cars parked outside and as I turned into the temple entrance, all seemed silent and no one seemed to be around. I bet everyone is inside going wild with their kirtans. Near the temple hall entrance, I could see a mountain of backpacks, sleeping bags and other baggage’s of devotees. Yes, many are here already. We can leave on time ! And with that I entered the temple hall.
And I was right. It was full. Very full. Just as I entered and stood in line to greet the Deities, the curtain and the gate opened. And behold, there was a very beautiful altar, with all personalities dressed in deep red outfits. The last time I remember seeing the Deities in red was in early January, I think. At that time, I was thinking how it matched the blood red F1 Ferrari racing car racing away loudly at the track nearby at Albert Park, where the temple is also located. I have noticed how silent the devotees and guests in the hall are whenever they gaze at an opulent altar. A friend came beside me and said, “When that curtain opened, the curtains of my heart also opened…They look so beautiful !”.
One of the highlights of farm retreats with HH Devamrita Swami are the transportation arrangements. None has to worry about the 1.5 hr long journey to and fro. It’s all arranged. It was no different this time as well. Outside the temple was parked, a nice and modern looking bus. I saw the bus arrive from the temple dining hall upstairs. I quickly finished my prasadam, ran down the stairs, washed my hands and mouth, ran back to the baggage area, picked my rather heavy backpack, put on my shoes and ran to the waiting bus.
Since childhood, I get excited when I see a bus. Or a train. It’s important to be selfish when it comes to these 2 types of transport. The entire ride is based on the best seat you can get. Material thoughts, you say? I accept. If I don’t get a good seat, then my whole trip is guaranteed to be of no fun. If I sit in the middle, there are too many people around. If I sit in the back, its too much of a bumpy ride and so, the best seat is the one right in front, behind the driver. I hand over my backpack to the driver who throws it into the luggage compartment underneath the seating area. I climb aboard and woaaah ! No one on board yet ! Woohoo ! I thank the guru-shishya parampara and take an aisle seat right behind the driver. Ahhh. What a feeling when one is so organized. I sit back and I watch other devotees and guests enter and take their seats. And soon it was full. Let’s go ! My friend, Brahma kund prabhu gets into the bus to take a tally.
Brahma Kunda : Manoj prabhu…
Me : Hari Bol prabhu…how are you?
Brahma Kunda : Good prabhu…prabhu…you need not come in the bus..you can come with other devotees in the van or maybe a car
My whole world collapsed. Such short lived happiness. The burst of the balloon.
Me : Ummm…errrr…It’s ok prabhu…I can…
Brahma Kunda : Come prabhu…let’s go…
As I alighted, I saw a guest wander in, smile at the empty front row seat and planted himself for a cozy ride ahead. Soon, the door closed and the bus began to move. And I stood at the docks watching it disappear. That’s when I realized, “My backpack!!! Its in the bus ! Doh !”
Myself and about 6 other devotees were to take a minibus to the farm. That doesn’t sound so bad. I can still get the best seat in the house. But that meant a wait of nearly an hour. Finally, the rent-a-van arrived at the scene driven by a devotee. We all quickly got in and drove away to the farm. No sooner had I got in, I fell asleep. Again. Yes, I am still in the mode of ignorance. When I woke up, the sun was hitting my face, there was greenery all around, a nice kirtan was emanating from the stereo and all the devotees were sleeping too with no snoring. What a perfect setting. Just then a devotee woke up.
Jignesh prabhu : Prabhu…where are we?
Driver : We have passed the Geelong city and we are on this highway…I can’t see that left turn that I remember seeing last…
Jignesh prabhu : You won’t see it because you are lost !
Driver : What ?
Jignesh prabhu : You should not go past Geelong city…this turn you are mentioning is close to that city you passed !
Everyone wakes up. The driver brings the van to a halt. There’s plenty of loud talk and everyone pitches in with their version of the road that one must take to get to the farm.
Driver : Can everyone keep quiet for one minute?! And let Jignesh prabhu be the only one who speaks…Prabhu, you have driven there, haven’t you?
Jignesh (nervously) : Yes prabhu…its been a while…but I think I know how we can get there…we have to get back to the city you passed…where are we now? How long ago was Geelong?
Driver : 45 minutes
All the hearts sank to the seat bottom. 45 minutes ! And from there we have to drive to the farm ! We are going to miss the class ! And my backpack? What will become of it? We have never been separated before…
A sharp U-turn is made, we speed along the highway, the kirtan stops playing, we miss an exit and finally we find the road we want. Trees and valleys start looking familiar and soon, we see the familiar “Hare Krishna” signage on the farm property. We are there ! We drive up the steep gravel road and upto the cottage where the lecture would be held. We all say, “Driver ki Jaya” and jump out of the van to make it to the late morning lecture. If we miss the lecture, then the next item on the agenda would be lunch prasadam. Hmm..not so bad. It’s always a win-win situation for devotees. I remove my shoes and enter the room.
As we enter, we see Krishna Gaja prabhu carrying out his kirtan. It was beautiful. And in front of him, I see an empty chair. Woohoo ! We made it ! We didn’t miss the lecture. In happiness, I decided to take a photo of the situation. I did that when shortly afterwards someone tapped on the shoulder from behind. It was a devotee signaling me to move aside, because right beside him was His Holiness Devamrita Swami, walking into the room.
Coming up soon…”Part 2 : Getting Ready for the lecture”