An interview with Mr. C. J. Dave (Caturmasya Dasa), Project Director for the Glory of India Cultural Center.
Mr. C. J. Dave, metallurgical engineer, now sixty-five years old, worked thirty-five years for M. N. Dastur and Company Ltd., one of the world's largest consulting firms in the steel industry. He started as a junior engineer, and before he retired, three years ago, he was a member of the board of directors and in charge of the company's Bombay office, with 350 engineers working under him. "I was enjoying the confidence of my chairman, Dr. Dastur," he says. "And I was very happy there. Materially I had all the facility at my disposal. But all in all, I was a karmi [a hard-working materialist]."
Though in 1980 he had given a donation to ISKCON and in that way become formally a member, in fact, he says, he hardly knew anything about ISKCON or Krsna consciousness.
Here he tells how he came to be an ISKCON devotee and took up a leading role in building the Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center.
ABOUT 1988 I WENT abroad with my wife and daughter. And being a vegetarian, born in a brahmana family, I was staying in ISKCON temples in America in San Francisco and L.A. and Washington and places like that. At that time I came into some association with ISKCON. But then I came back to Bombay and became very busy again in my work.
In the morning when I used to travel in my car, from Bhandra to Bombay, the drive would take one hour, and I would read the newspaper, because that's the only time I used to get.
So by the merest chance, one day I was traveling in my car and reading a newspaper, and I saw that one ISKCON devotee by the name Rasaraja Prabhu was going to conduct introductory Bhagavad-gita classes at Opera House, near Indian Merchants Chambers, near my office. And it was convenient for me at 5:30 to go and attend the class.
I went basically as an inquisitive person. Rasaraja was a young man, an engineer by profession, with a Master's degree from BITS Pilani, and then working for Ford Motor Company in America I saw his resume and I was impressed. So I thought, "This young man is going to speak about Bhagavad-gita. Let me go and hear."
Before that I had read a number of Bhagavad-gita books by Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Radhakrishnan, Swami Chinmayanand, Swami Sivanand but I didn't have any direction. I used to find pleasure in reading, but beyond that whether I should do anything or not do anything or whether the book had any practical application I didn't know anything much about it.
Then when I attended the classes by Rasaraja Prabhu, I was impressed: "There is something in Bhagavad-gita. I have now understood something."
When the course was over, after six weeks, I went abroad for my business again, but when I came back I became very seriously ill I had to undergo three operations.
By Krsna's mercy, when I was sick in the hospital bed I used to read Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita. I read it a number of times. Then other books. Then I bought Prabhupada's cassettes also.
Then I realized that there was something I had been missing all along. I was on the wrong track. I realized that. So when I recovered I started going regularly to the ISKCON temple on Sunday. I told everybody, "On Sunday I'll have no social calls, no social meetings. I must go to the temple and take prasada there."
"What Will You Do The Whole Day?"
So that is how I made a beginning. I attended some Bhagavad-gita classes conducted by Gopala Krsna Maharaja downtown. Then Sridhara Swami gave some classes on Isopanisad. Then Rasaraja conducted classes on Vedanta-sutra and the Vedas. So I went on attending more and more and more and more, and I got more interested. And I decided that I should at least use my time in the car, while going to the office and returning home, to read Bhagavad-gita.
Then whenever I used to meet the temple maharajas and other devotees they used to say, "Are you doing chanting?" I did not understand the importance of chanting. I thought, "Reading is more important, to understand the knowledge." But then they were insisting, "No, no, you should also do some chanting." So I started chanting. In my car, while going I would chant, and while coming I would read.
Then one day on my own I decided, "Now I should retire from my business," and I tendered my resignation to my chairman.
My chairman said, "Why do you want to resign? What will you do the whole day?"
I said, "I want to now engage myself in devotional service."
He said, "What will you do the whole day? You can do it two hours, three hours … You'll get tired."
I said, "No, it should be all right for me."
Then he said, "All right, we'll make some arrangement. You go in the morning to the temple, attend classes, and instead of coming to the office at nine o'clock you can come at eleven o'clock." They gave me that facility.
Meanwhile I decided that I should visit Mayapur with my wife and family. There I used to attend mangala-arati, and then Gopala Krsna Maharaja saw me one day and said, "You are from Bombay?"
I said, "Yes, Maharaja, I'm from Bombay."
"What do you do?"
I said, "I'm doing this." I told him what I was doing.
"Then you come and see me when you are in Bombay."
So I went and met him. Then I said, "Maharaja, I have retired, and I want to have some seva [some service to do]."
He said, "Why don't you come to Delhi and see the site? You could be useful as an engineer."
So that's how I got involved.
I finally left my job, and I have no regret about that. Many people friends and all said, "You are a fool. You are making a mistake. You have got all the comfort. You have got all the facility. You have got a car, and everything is at your disposal. The chairman likes you very much. Why do you want to leave?"
I said, "No, I have this idea. I must do it." I was firm in that.
So this is how I came into this Krsna consciousness movement, and I am very happy to be here, extremely happy.
I was initiated by Gopala Krsna Maharaja in May 1991. And now I realize I should have become Krsna conscious much earlier. I regret the time lost. Now whatever time is available, I must use it fully for Krsna consciousness. That is why I am here.
Getting Involved In The Project
Before my retirement, for one year in 1990 and '91 I was coming twice every month to Delhi, on behalf of the company. The company was paying my expenses, and while in Delhi I was attending to ISKCON, getting things done, following the contractor, and like that.
When I came to the site the first time, not being an architect I was feeling, "How will I be able to manage things?" Though I had worked in steel plants and handled bigger projects, this was altogether different.
And when I came here, Gopala Krsna Maharaja was not very happy, because there was no progress on the work. I would come after a month, and every time I would see that nothing was moving. We had an architect not Mr. Jauhri but another man but he wasn't able to get the work done. So I saw that we had to have a very experienced architect.
In my consulting firm, Dastur and Company, we had a panel of architects from all over India. So I asked the director in my head office, in Calcutta, "Who are some architects I can depend on in Delhi?" He gave me the name of Khanvinde and two or three other people.
So I called Khanvinde from Bombay, and I said, "I want to come to Delhi and meet you. I have heard about you from Mr. Kulkarni, and I want your assistance."
He said, "Yes, Kulkarni has told me. But why do you want to come here? I am coming to Bombay, and we can meet." So I arranged for him to have dinner with me at my house.
At my house we began chatting, and he said, "Mr. Kulkarni has told about you, that you are a director and you are very much liked by Dastur and Company. Why are you resigning?"
So I told him the whole story. "I've had enough of this, and what will I gain if I continue to work? I may earn a couple of lakhs rupees more, but that is not going to help me. And I realize that I have to give up all these things."
So I narrated the whole thing. And then I told him, with folded hands, "I need your guidance and help. I am in the dark. I know how to go about and manage things, but I want your association on this project."
He said, "Well, it's not correct ethically for me to get involved, because you already have an architect."
So I said, "Ok, I have got an architect, but you can be a personal guide to me. You at least should guide me how to go about it."
So he started getting involved. He was a very nice man, very humble and nice. And by Krsna's mercy we were on the right track. Khanvinde brought Damle and other people together, and everything fell into place.
But money was a big problem. Normally an architect charges a fee of four to five percent for a contract of this type. For a ten-crore project, that meant forty or fifty lakhs of rupees. So I said, "There must be some way we can save the money for the temple." So we talked with Khanvinde, and he said, "I will devote my time. You hire one or two junior architects and take a small place, and on my way to the office and coming back from the office I will guide the men and get the thing done."
And because his name was there, other architects also wanted to work with him and not charge anything. So everything, by Krsna's mercy and Maharaja's mercy, worked out all right.
"Krsna Does Everything"
When the architectural matters were going nicely, I was looking for someone who could work on the site, because I am not a construction man. I know construction broadly, but details I don't know.
So I was again praying to the Lord, "OK, how do I manage things at the site?" And this is how I located Rana. He was coming to the temple weekly, and I came to know he was a civil engineer and a disciple of Lokanath Maharaja. And Lokanath Maharaja said, "Why don't you involve him in your project? He has construction experience."
One by one, everything fell in line. This was my experience. So I feel that when you are sincere at it, Krsna makes all the arrangements. I don't have to do it. I only try to see that we work sincerely, and the work will be done by Krsna. He does everything. I am convinced.