An invitation to an Indian festival
leads to the meeting of a lifetime.
leads to the meeting of a lifetime.
It was the summer of 1973 in London, England. A friend invited me to accompany him to an Indian festival, a procession that was going from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square. I was living only a few miles away, so I decided to go and check it out.
I had no idea what to expect. My only experience of Indian culture had been in restaurants, art museums, books, and the Beatles. I loved Indian music, especially the way the Beatles combined it with modern pop sounds. It was because of the music that my friend had invited me.
I was supposed to meet him at Marble Arch, near Hyde Park Corner, the famous "Speaker's Corner,'' as it has come to be known because of many orators taking advantage of their right to free speech. He never showed, though. As I waited, I stood nearby watching as the huge carts were being readied for the procession. Many devotees were decorating them with flowers. There were thousands of flowers-beautiful bright colors. I watched a few feet from the front wheels of the first cart as the devotees raised the center-piece high into the sky. It formed the shape of an ancient Indian temple in bright red.
PULLED INTO THE ACTION
As I was standing there, a big, black limousine arrived and out stepped an eld erly Indian gentlemen dressed in orange robes. He wore a garland of flowers, as did his associates who exited the limo after him. He stood right next to me. Then, without wasting a ny time, he bent down and picked up from the ground the thick, heavy rope attached to the cart. He then looked at me, reached o ut, and grabbed my shirt round about the heart. He pulled me over and told me to get a hold of the rope like him and pull and not let go until J had reached the destination. Many others had also picked up the rope, and we were now all pulling together. Slowly, statefully, the cart began to move, out of Hyde Park and Marble Arch down along busy Oxford Street, one of the most intense shopping areas of London.
I was behind the Indian gentleman as we walked and pulled. I had no idea who he was. I thought he was a wealthy businessman because of the limo. I asked him what this was all about. I don't remember the exact words he used, but I remember that he tried to explain the Jagannatha festival to me. At the time I was very skeptical about religion in general and was full of questions. I asked why he and the others were chanting. He explained. We were passing by a large overhead sign on the side of a building advertising Wrigley's chewing gum. I said that if we were to chant "Wrigley's Chewing Gum" over and over it would induce us to want that product. He patiently answered that chewing gum was material, illusory, and so it's pointless to worship it. He explained that they were singing the names of God, who is real, and that these are transcendental, spiritual sounds.
At this point he was whisked away by his associates, and he departed from my company. I thought about what he'd said as I continued to pull the cart. We pulled it down to Tottenham Court Road, turned right, and went down to Trafalgar Square. It was quite a long walk even without pulling a large cart. As we went, more and more people joined the parade. Many stood on the sidewalks, watching.
THE SPEAKER OF THE DAY
The streets had been blocked off from traffic. I began to see what a big deal this was. We pulled the cart to its destination at Trafalgar Square. The pulling party dispersed into the crowd that was completely filling the huge square and the streets around it. I stuck around to see what was going to happen on the platform in the middle of the square. I was completely amazed, to say the least, when I saw that the rich Indian gentleman I had been talking with earlier was the speaker of the day. Seated on a dais, he talked about Krsna. I asked someone nearby who he was, and I was told his name but I couldn't remember it: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I do remember that I was told he was the spiritual leader of all the devotees there and many more throughout the world. Wow! I was blown away by the fact that he'd taken the time to talk to me and in struct me so patiently even though he was number one here.
It wasn't until much later after I'd more fully realized who Srila Prabhupada is that I understood what a great blessing had been bestowed on me. He personally pulled me out of the ocean of nescience into the life- boat of Krsna consiousness. Thank you, Srila Prabhupada, my friend and well -wisher.
My encounter with Prabhupada is a great example of how Krsna loves to be merciful. He is so kind. I was in darkness, asleep but ready to wake up, and I did and continue to do so. I never met Srila Praphupada again , but I'll never forget that walk I took with him that day in London.
Originally from Scotland , Ramakar now lives with his family in Yoncalla, Oregon. He is a musician and songwriter. His CDs are available at zebraovergroundrecords.com.