November 3 2008

While I was in Mumbai two weeks ago I visited the Bhaktivedanta Hospital at Mira Road, for a full checkup.


 I haven’t had one for a couple of years, and with a number of Godbrothers and sisters facing various health crisises this year, it seemed prudent to have a look and see what was going on in the innards of this animated carcass.

The BH is more like a temple than a hospital, it is so clean and well ordered. You walk in the door and there is a murti of Srila Prabhupada right in the middle of the ground floor.


Devotees tour the floors with a portable altar of Lord Jagannatha so that the patients can offer flowers and prayers to the Lord. Devotional music and lectures are piped into every room in the building and all the food served is prasadam. These are popular features despite the fact that about 60% of the patients are Muslim or Christian. The hospital has a great reputation and is now having to expand its facilities to cope with the demand.

portable altar

They also run a free meal for schools program, serving over 40,000 plates of prasadam a day to Mumbai’s school kids.

Along with first class medical care the devotees also maintain an all-important Spiritual Care dept. so any devotees going in get very well cared for in all respects.

As for me, all in all things are not so bad, a little hypoglycemia, a little extra bad cholesterol, and a bit of osteoarthritis setting in.

Could be worse, and the doc’s advice was that it can all be controlled by diet and exercise.  So this a confirmation of my own diagnosis that I am now going to have to do the two things I have avoided most of my life.

Srila Prabhupada didn’t like enforced diets either, but more about that in a moment.

 The BH has a good ayur-vedic doctor in residence, Nirmal Candra prabhu, and I was fortunate he was on duty when I visited. After hearing my symptoms he analysed me as a pitta constitution. Pitta is particularly centered in the pancreas and an excess of it is what is causing my hypoglycemia (too much production of insulin, which causes the blood sugar level to drop too far down resulting in fainting among other things). Pitta of course is fire. That’s me, too much fire in the body.

 [TD5] November 3, 1976 – Vrndavana

As Prabhupada was walking back into the house from the garden after his noon massage today, he suddenly reached out and took hold of my hand. He shook his head and said with a sympathetic smile, “Too hot!” and then went in to bathe. This is the second time he has done this. It’s obvious that he doesn’t feel that it’s a good thing, but I am not sure what he means by it–I don’t know if he means it affects him adversely or me adversely–and there seems little I can do about my bodily constitution. I am unfortunately largely in the mode of passion, and I guess that my body being overheated must be a symptom of that. But since Prabhupada hasn’t given me any advice how to rectify this or even that I should, or indicated that it is too much of an inconvenience (for either of us), I guess I have to live with it as best I can.

So the days of blissful youthful ignorance are at an end. I can do something about my constitution and I intend to.

Dr. Nirmal Candra gave me a few herbs, and also a diet. This is the crunch–one of the items I have to avoid is potato!! Arghh! The king of vegies, I don’t know how I will live without it. Fried, boiled, baked, mashed, you name it, potato has been one of my life-long love affairs.

 potato eyes

I had actually been told many years ago in 1986 by Damodara Prasada Sastri, the Kaviraja from Calcutta who had treated Srila Prabhupada in his final two weeks, that I should not take potatoes, but it was an impossible-to-follow advice.

This is the first time since then that I have been advised in the same way. I didn’t follow Shastri’s advice because he simply told me, but didn’t explain why. But Nirmal Candra explained with a diagram how the stomach is the center for kapha, the pancreas is the center for pitta, and the colon is the center for vata. An imbalance in these three centers means disease of various kinds in the other organs of the body.

So that’s it. Tonight I said farewell to two of my favorite preparations.  One of our householders stands opposite the Samadi with a glass box perched on a rickshaw. It is filled with golf ball sized crispy brown puris, called pushkas.


 I first came across them while traveling with Srila Prabhupada:

September 1st, 1976 – New Delhi
Today is Radhastami. Srila Prabhupada observed the half-day fast along with the rest of us.
* * *
During the walk we noticed some men gathered around a roadside food stall eating bhel puris. Srila Prabhupada explained that the small, golf ball-sized snacks are filled with dal and are especially offered to Radha-Vallabha.

Pushkas are great. The vendor smashes a hole in one side, puts in a small amount of spiced mashed potato, dips it in tamarind water, and drops it into a simple cone made from a single leaf.




You simply throw the whole thing in your mouth in one hit (not the leaf cup). As you gulp it down in one go, he drops another one into your leaf cup. In this way, at high speed you can eat 20-30-40 or 50 in a short few minutes session. Very addictive. I usually have 15 at a cost of Rs. 10. Tonight was the last night. No more pushkas because they are deep fried, and filled with potato.

The other dish I am giving up is aloo chaat. 

aloo chaat

Another favorite snack, it is made up of chopped up boiled potoato, diced cucumber and tomato,  mixed with bhujiya and topped with sweet tamarind chutney. Ten rupees for a small plate is a morning or evening snack. Tonight was also the last night for that too.

I am serious. Really. I am. For sure, 100%. You say aloo, I say goodbye. Well, Ok, the doctor did give me the concession that on Ekadasi (Ekadasi means potato) I can eat it. But that’s it otherwise.

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