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Sunday, March 16th, 2003

Why Did I Come To India?
What the Math is giving

Prema Narayan Prabhu and I arrive in Bangkok at midday local time and go to the Indian Airlines counter only to find that we are wait-listed for the flight to Kolkata. I remonstrate, but it's no use: the best they can do is put us on stand-by.

I feel desperate; I really have to get to Kolkata tonight because I have to get my Russian visa tomorrow morning and get to Navadwip Dham that afternoon if I am to be in time for the huge Gaura Purnima festival.

I try to be philosophical: this is a test from Krishna... every wave is favorable... At three o'clock, boarding time, we get our boarding passes and run a few hundred meters to the boarding gate...

We arrive at Kolkata at 4:30 p.m. but it's six o'clock before we get our luggage and clear Customs. We pre-pay (Rs105) for a taxi before we leave the airport (so we don't have to haggle outside) but the taxi driver wants an additional Rs50 for our "extra luggage." I start to argue until I realize that Rs155 is about $3.40 American :)

The taxi plunges us into the medley of sights and sounds — and smells! — that is Calcutta (now called Kolkata). If I was a better writer, I might be able to describe what it is like being driven down a street in a taxi, in Kolkata, at night, but it really has to be experienced to be believed!

Buses, cars, motorcycles, scooters, rickshaws, bicycles, animal-drawn carts, cows, dogs, pedestrians! All loom alarmingly out of the darkened streets, often on the wrong side of the road, briefly illuminated in the dim headlights of the taxi before disappearing into the jumble of constantly blaring horns and the ubiquitous stench of open drains and polluted watercourses. (Not for nothing is Calcutta known as the asshole of the world!)

My mom would be horrified; I love it!

We arrive at the Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha temple and the mosquitoes begin attacking us even before we alight from the taxi.

We take our luggage upstairs and come back down for the evening arati before Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Radha Madhan Mohanjiu. I prostrate myself before the Deities and thank them for bringing me back safely.

We wave our arms constantly during the arati to ward off the persistent mosquitoes. After the arati one of the elderly Vaishnavas, Nipendra Krishna Brahmachari, feels the need to apologize in his limited English: "Too much mosquitoes."

Yes, I think, there are so many physical discomforts and difficulties for Westerners living in India. Why do we keep coming here?

What the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is giving can be found nowhere else. That beautiful conception of Krishna consciousness given by Srila Sridhar Maharaj is now so charmingly presented by his dearest disciple and successor, Srila Govinda Maharaj, that we find ourselves inexorably drawn here time and time again.

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