Yadubara and I drove up from Alachua to Atlanta together on June 6. It was pretty smooth going and took five hours. Yadu did all the driving. I am a terrible car traveler. As soon as I get in anything with four wheels, I want to sleep:

TD Vol. 1 — March 22nd, 1976, Mayapur
“At 5:30 a.m. Srila Prabhupada descended the stairs amid a loud kirtana and excited shouts from the devotees. He stepped into the back seat of the car, and we sped off for Calcutta, accompanied by an escort of six vans and one of Hamsaduta Swami’s buses. Pusta Krsna Maharaja drove our car, Tamal Krishna Maharaja sat in front, and I sat in the back next to Prabhupada.
It wasn’t too long before I began to nod off to sleep. Despite Prabhupada’s objecting several times, and my own best effort, I just could not keep alert. Prabhupada became so annoyed that he had Pusta Krsna stop the car and made me change places with Tamal Krishna, so that I sat in the front. After that embarrassment I stayed awake for the rest of the journey.”

Unfortunately I still haven’t mastered the art of staying awake while driving long distances. If I have to drive I have to keep myself awake by downing lots of hot drinking chocolate. Fortunately Yadu was upto it and didn’t mind having me snoozing while he navigated the highway.

Before we left Alachua we went to see Sundararupa prabhu, who had just gotten out of hospital after an open-heart surgery to replace a major heart valve. He was happy to see us even though we couldn’t spend more than 15 mins. because we were running late. He already had the same op. about 10 years ago and his replacement valve was failing. This time round they put in a mechanical one which is supposed to last for life (go figure!). He showed us his scar which ran from his throat down to his gut. The doctors literally take a power saw and cut vertically right through the rib cage, pull it apart, pin it back with clamps and then do the replacement.

As you can imagine its pretty traumatic for the body but as Sundararupa told us, its like going to sleep and waking up with a new body. You go in with intense chest pains, breathlessness and thinking you could die at any moment, and you wake up with normal functions, albeit with some operational trauma to get over, but the heart works normally and you feel like you have been given a new body.

Amazing things these bodies. And even more amazing are the occupants.

In Atlanta the temple managment, Vedasara and Balabhadra prabhus were kind enough to put me up in a nice, self-catering hotel room because the accomodations at the temple were taken by Ritatvaja and Bhakti Marg Swamis. The room was great but I thought I would have problems with being four miles from the temple. But as it happened, Krsna provided.

In the evening I was at the temple taking prasadam and two very dear and close friends, Kanti and Jack showed up. Kanti has been close friends with my wife Sitala since she joined in Paris in the early 1970s. She later returned to her home in Key West, met Jack while working at the Post Office and he has become a full-on devotee also. The two of them have been kind enough over the years to provide some support for my book printing endeavors  and recently they bought the flat next door to ours in Mayapur. We had a chat and it turned out their hotel, which they found on their own on the internet, was just up the road from mine. They offered to transport me in their hire car, which surprisingly was only costing them $16 per day including tax. Kanti did a search on the internet, put in a bid on an auction site for $12.00 and won. So things have worked out very nicely.

On Saturday 7 June they held Rathayatra in a local park.  The crowd was about the same as last year-500 devotees. The rathayatra was good, they go around a large park a few miles from the temple. Not many outsiders though, all devotees, that despite the temple spending about $12,000 on advertising. All well and good though, no loss in trying to spend for the glories of the Lord.

The festival at the temple was good, but Sunday when they had the Panihati chira/dahi festival was quite small. Many devotees left in the mid-afternoon after the pots had been offered and the prasadam distributed.  If you haven’t been to the Panihati festival, its well worth a visit. Its one of the most unique festivals in ISKCON. Scores of clay pots of various mixes of sweet and salty dahi and flat rice enhanced with a wide variety of tropical fruits are offered to the Deities. Then the pots are auctioned off to the devotees, who then go around with great delight distributing the transcendental fare to anyone and everyone. I have been several times and its always a great event.

 While in Atlanta I also met with another dear friend, Hridayananda Maharaja, for a hour to talk about the Mayapur planetarium. Maharaja had been invited to attend a meeting of a new committee we have formed to decide the content of the exhibits we are planning for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP). He wasn’t able to attend due to his delicate health but we did share some valuable insights on the range of exhibits we want in Mayapur.

Strangely enough, despite the temple paying for my accomodations, they couldn’t organize a proper time for me to deliver my seminars. I did participate in a group session in the temple room with other senior devotees, but that was it. I felt guilty that I contributed so little. When I travel I do expect that the temples I visit will at least cover my travel costs, but in exchange I like to speak at least 2-3 hrs. per day. I want the devotees to be satisfied that they ’got their monies’s worth’ and I didn’t feel they did in Atlanta.

At any rate, I sold 16 books, so it wasn’t that great but between Alachua and Atlanta that was about 55 books so I was happy with that. Plus a few generous souls made some contributions towards the next volume (#6).

Monday morning it was back to Alachua, this time with Lilananda prabhu providing the transport.

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