Tuesday July 8

I flew overnight from WDC and arrived in London around 10.30 AM. I hired a car at the airport and drove straight up to see my mother, still living just outside the small town where I was born, Scunthorpe, about 180 miles north east.  

It took about 5 hrs. because I was so tired from the travel (I can’t sleep on airplanes, the seats are just too uncomfortable) I had to keep stopping and either drink some hot chocolate (it’s the only thing that keeps me awake) or just nap. Good old Mum had a meal waiting for me, I had enough time to do my puja, have dinner and a chat before crashing for the night.

July 9 It looks like I am only going to have a day and half here. I am flying out to Sweden on Friday, so that I can attend their Rathayatra on Saturday.

My Mum (‘me Mam’ in local parlance) is still pretty good for 86. She’s gotten a bit weaker and has a lot of trouble with arthritis in her arms and back and she gets tired easily, but she’s still completely mentally sharp. She has an amazing memory and can rattle off endless streams of trivia (“You remember so and so, he’s the one who bought that car from cousin so and so in 1952 who sold it because it cost him too much to run because it was just after the war and we were all on rations and he decided it was better to get that yellow racing bike that later on he gave to so and so and…..)

She was born in Cairo to a Greek father and Italian mother. Her name is Afrodite Odette Maria Harrison–AOM Harrison for short. I love putting that on my letters to her, although she doesn’t realize what it means. And my Dad’s actual legal name was (he died in 1986) Harry Harrison. So, OM Hari Hari! There’s got to be a connection there somewhere…

I asked Srila Prabhupada once if my Mum died calling out for my Dad “Harry!” would she go back to Godhead? And he said yes.

I emigrated to Australia in 1971. I became a devotee in Sydney and Mum and Dad did the natural parental flip out when they heard about it. But they were 12,000 miles away and there was nothing they could do but lament.

When I came to London in July 1976 with Srila Prabhupada they came down to the Manor. It was my first meeting with them since my transformation and after seeing the devotees and the Manor they were happy and thought I was onto a good thing.

Mum’s a good hearted person, has a strong belief in God and often tells me she is glad I am a devotee. She lives a boring life consisting mainly of watching the TV and when we sometimes talk about her impending death she always tells me, “I don’t want to take another birth. I’ve had enough.” So I always tell her “Well if that’s the case then you have to remember to chant Hare Krishna when the time comes for you to leave, because Krsna is the only one who can free you from that.” She listens, agrees, and it will be interesting to see what happens when her departure time is called. It would be nice if Krsna allows me to be there so I can do the rites of Vaisnava passage.

A few years back I was visiting for the weekend. With nothing much to do in the middle of the afternoon, I flipped on the TV, did the male thing and skipped through a few channels. Imagine my shock when the Mahabharata popped up! It was the final day of the battle of Kuruksetra. Duryodhana was in the bottom of the lake and the Pandavas were on the shore, challenging him to come up and fight.

Mum walked into the room just as the club fight between Bhima and Duryodhana began. “Oh, the Mahabharat!” she says, “I’d forgotten it was on. I’ve been watching that every week.”

I was a bit incredulous. If you were brought up in Scunthorpe you’d know how unlikely that seems. She told me she’d seen almost all the episodes, except the early ones that depicted Krsna’s appearance.

“I have a question,” she said, as she sat down on the settee to watch. “If Krsna is God, why is He driving Arjuna’s chariot?”

“Huh!? Did my Mum just ask me that?” I was more incredulous. But it was a great opening and for the next half hour I explained to her about the different kinds of relationships we can have with God and why Krsna was driving the chariot of His dear devotee.

She listened carefully, and she got it. “Oh, now I understand.” I told her, “Mam, I already gave you the Krsna book years ago. All this is explained in there.”

“Oh, I don’t read much and its too difficult to understand. But when I saw it on the TV it all made sense.”

So there you go, don’t underestimate the power of the TV.

Saw my old friend Jelli Gray in the late evening. We were best friends in my late teens up until the time I left for Australia, and I still keep up the connection. He’s been a vegetarian for the last 35 years and over the last ten years he has become an expert masseur, specializing in deep tissue, sports injuries, aromatherapy and the like. He’s a really busy guy with tremendous energy and enthusiasm for what he does.

He is also a black belt karate holder and teaches karate a couple of times a week to the locals in the village he lives in. He gave me a really good knee massage. Hit all the important points. He really knows what he is doing.

I was surprised to find that he and his wife Mo are separating amicably after 20+ years of marriage and selling their house. They’ve gone as far as they can in their relationship, the kids are all grown up and they are moving in different directions. I told them it’s a natural progression and in the Vedic culture we call it varnaprastha, retirement from family affairs, but of course, for pursuing spiritual life.

Jelli’s always been impressed with my becoming a devotee (he actually stayed a couple of nights in the early 70s in our Amsterdam temple) and he’s always been receptive to the philosophy. He says he wants to come to India once its all settled and that could be late this year or early next year. I promised him I would take him around to some of the holy spots like Vrindavan, Jagannath Puri and of course, Mayapur.

July 10 After a pleasant but all too brief visit I bade my farewells to Mum–

“See you next year.”

“I might not be here next year!”

“You say that every year, and here you still are!”

She gave me a good donation plus some small gifts for Sitala and Rasarani including birthday cards with £20 in each, even though Sitala and my birthdays aren’t till September and November respectively. She doesn’t trust the Indian post because one time she sent a card with £10 in it and after three months I finally got it, but with a neat slit in the side and sans money.

I drove in the afternoon to the Manor, near Watford and stayed overnight in the brahmacari asrama. The devotees were kind enough to give me a room of my own so that I could do my puja early the next morning before setting off for Sweden.

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