Just Seeing Old Friends
Juhu Beach, India
Just over four decades ago when American Krishna monks first set foot in Mumbai (then Bombay) it struck local people with curiosity and some with fear. The sector of the public that was suspicious considered the Americans members of the CIA. A popular Bollywood movie came out that lumped the Krishna devotees in with hippies. People were singing a song from the film Dum Maro Dum which refers to smoking pot. Devanand was the name of the director of the film and had agreed to meet some of our members to which time he apologized.
Eventually a gorgeous temple at Juhu was built and it became so popular. This is where I'm staying. On an average day thousands of pilgrims come to the temple. Grandiose events such as Krishna's birthday take place. Large scale marriages have this location as their venue. Bollywood stars come for darshan - deity viewing. Now, when you walk the beach, as I have been doing, in the same area, where establishing the temple took help from the public and lawyers after serious police harassment, we see a change in spirit. To and from the beach early morning walkers greet me with a gracious, not even Namaste, but a "Hare Krishna!"
My colleagues (sannyasis and peers) and I were treated at the Bhaktivedanta Mission School, newly located a ten minute drive (my guess a 5 or 6 km walk) from the popular Juhu Temple. Nine hundred students greeted us with mantras. Well behaved and orderly, the students - mostly boys - demonstrated the spirit of enthusiasm just to see us older western guys. When on our tour of this seven-story structure, we had been taken to the roof where you find a basket-ball court. Of course, some of us were shooting balls testing our skills at the hoop - and scoring.
By evening I had dinner with a fairly well-known actress, Madhuri Bhatia, who appeared in feature films and daytime TV. She had come to help us in Toronto when she resided there with our devotional dramas. She brought a friend, also an actress, for a delicious meal at Govinda's. I was accompanied by my assistant, Karuna Sindhu. That made it two monks with two ladies, a little odd, but I see it all as family.
Occasionally one of my peers did walk through the restaurant noticing my company. I just gave them a casual smile letting them know that I'm not doing anything non-conventional. "Just seeing old friends. That's all!"
May the Source be with you!