Phew. I would have been very happy to enjoy the down day everyone else at the temple was relishing, but instead I grabbed a car and driver and left the sticks of Jatipura to have a full day in the big city of Vrindavan. First stop was down to Sadhu Maharaj’s Munger Mandir, where he had asked me to come down and sing bhajan with him and some of the sweet European devotees at his ashram.
He’s been such a love to me over recent years, encouraging my kirtan and extending repeated invitations to join him for satsangs and chanting in India, Europe and the USA; it was lovely to sing again in the room where just last year I was still sculpting the evolving chants which became the core of the Shyam Lila album.
I was sad to hear that his daughter Niti was in the hospital down the road recuperating from some ongoing breathing issues—India’s air is notoriously unkind to the weak of lung—so I dropped in on her briefly for a visit. I often think of hospitals in the West as a tough place to try and get well—but India takes it the next level. With the monkeys at Munger Mandir having just absconded with one of my flip-flops during our satsang, I was wandering through this dark and septic institution half barefoot—not quite what the doctor ordered. It was good to see Niti ji but man, I hope she gets well and out of there pronto!
From there we stayed in the ‘hood and dropped by the Neem Karoli Baba ashram down the way for a quick meditation in his old takhet room, then further down the road to pay respects at the long-time ashram home of Choti Maharaj (Little Maharaji), who left his body several months ago at a very ripe old age. My friend Kabir das, one of Neem Karoli Baba’s original Western devotees back in the early 1970s, said Little Maharaji was ancient when he first met him more than 40 years ago, and guessed his age to be approximately 140-180 years old! He was a very special saint, and his energy is deeply missed; another sign of the relatively undeveloped Vrindavan of old rapidly disappearing into the fog of modernity. His place looked the same from the outside, but I hollered and could not find his longtime attendant nor anyone else around, so I simply paid my respects and carried on.
Went harmonium shopping at the place where last year I found a perfectly decent little travel harmonium; wasn’t digging the sound of any of their small models this year, but they had a new little unit that had surprisingly good sound and reasonable sustain for a tiny little box, so I snapped up two of those to use here and then bring home with me—people are always looking for small, playable harmoniums, so I’m sure I’ll find a home for the other one with little trouble.
Finally, back to the main bazaar for a couple of hours to finish up some domestic errand/shopping business, score a diamond and gold nose ring for a friend on special request, find some uber-cheesy replacement chappals (flip-flops), scoop up some kitchen goodies for the temple house here, and get it all done in time to make it back by dark.
Packed a lot into a day, then very much enjoyed reuniting with the sweet satsang back here at Shyam’s place: Vallabhdas, Vraja Gopi, Premdas and Sandy, Ishwari, Anja, Jenna, Mohan—the Shyamdas satsang really is a gift that keeps on giving.
Just before midnight as the group of us were readying to walk the 5 minutes back to our guest house, the thunder and lightning roiled and we got soaked walking through streets flowing with liquified cow dung (and probably worse, but let’s look the other way, shall we?)—a fun shared adventure!
I am a very fortunate man.