Date: 22 September 2007
Time: 5:45 pm
Place: Hotel Sea Cliff
Country: Tanzania, East Africa
I will never forget this day! It’s impact on my heart and soul is un-forgettable.
I had accom-panied my husband on an official visit to Tanzania. That day, my husband returned early at around five pm, and was watching TV when suddenly the lights went out.
“Fire!” I heard someone shouting. I opened the door and saw a boy running around. “There is a fire, madam. Please vacate your room.” I rushed to the room and broke the news. My husband picked up his office bag containing his passport, important papers, and cash and asked me for my passport. “It’s in the cupboard,” I replied. “Forget it, let’s vacate the room immediately.”
I quickly picked up the small laminated photograph of Bal Gopala from the altar I had put up and held it tight to my chest. “This is most precious for me,” I said and rushed to the door. I looked back at the wall where a calendar of Gopala Ji was hanging. I could not take it out.
Meanwhile, I don’t know what happened to my husband, but he left his bag on the floor and came out.
We walked through the dark corridor and saw other guests running down the staircase. We were escorted out from the back of the hotel. When we looked up, to our surprise the top portion of the hotel was totally engulfed by flames with thick black smoke smoldering out of it. Until then we thought that it was a minor short-circuit and we would be back soon. But now the fire was spreading in all directions. The thatched roof top of the hotel, along with the strong wind from sea seemed to add fuel to the fire.
The fire brigade came rushing but could not do much. Before our eyes the whole hotel was burning from all sides. All through, I was only chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra clutching that Bal Gopala photograph tight to my chest. My husband became restless and sort of accused me for leaving our passport in the room. The only thing I replied was “Chant Hare Krishna and Lord Krishna will take care.” We were shifted to another hotel and were asked to come back the next morning. I could not eat anything and chanted throughout the night.
The next day at 8 am, we were standing in front of the hotel gate. Luckily all the guests were out of the hotel rooms when the tragedy took place, therefore there were no casualties. The lady GM was standing near the hotel and allowing people to go inside one by one because of the dilapidated condition of the hotel.
“We were in room number 131,” my husband said to her. The GM looked at us and said, “Mr Dhar, I am sorry, but that portion of hotel is badly damaged. I don’t know whether you can ever enter you room. Anyway, please wait for your turn.”
My husband felt as if everything was gone, but somehow I never had any negative feeling. After some time our name was called out. We were to follow Mr. James, the security officer to our room; though most felt that there was nothing left there to be seen. He led us through the dark and half burnt corridors to our room. I opened the door with the room key. Mr. James was the first one to enter, followed by me and then my husband. To our amazement everything was intact as we had left it. The big glass window was broken and the room was full of small glass pieces, and there was a big crack on the wall.
Mr. James was shocked to see everything intact, “You are very fortunate,” he said. I picked up the calendar from the wall, hugged Gopalaji and with tears in my eyes said, “Lord Krishna has saved us.” Mr. James added, “Actually the two adjacent rooms—both on the left and the right side are charred beyond recognition.” Everyone wondered how the room in between two such damaged rooms remained intact?
We collected our belongings and left. A couple of days later when we returned to pay our dues to the hotel, Mr. James spotted me. He called the GM and all the hotel workers, “Here is the lady whose room remained intact though that whole portion was so badly burnt.” He described how he walked into the adjacent rooms and saw the condition, he thought of us and only question that came to his mind was, “How is it possible?” I told him that it was only due to the presence of Lord Krishna in our room that our room was saved from this disaster.
In hindsight I was very upset that I had given so much trouble to the Lord and that Gopalaji had to bear the brunt of it only due to my foolishness. I felt as if His back had to bear the fire while holding back the cracked wall. I asked Gopalaji why He took so much trouble for a person like me, who is the lowest of the lowest of every one who comes to His temple. I even shudder to call myself a devotee. I wondered if it was because I did a little seva for Gopalaji during the chandana-yatra. In fact that was the first and the last time I did anything for Him. I cried and cried and in my mind pleaded to our Guru Maharaja to allow me the service of putting some chandana paste on the back of Gopalaji while fanning Him with cold wind to give Him some relief.
I pray to the Lord to allow me once, if not more, to do this service for Him.