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Sunday, June 29th, 2003

Durban, South Africa.

The Quarry Road Gang

First members of the Math in S.A.

Today I have been invited for lunch at the house of my godsister, Srimati Saraswati Devi Dasi, the second South African to take initiation from Srila Sridhar Maharaj, and a founding member of the "Quarry Road Gang."

Shortly after Jayatirtha Swami was ousted by ISKCON, many of his disciples and followers in Durban were still eager to continue with their spiritual life but were looking for an alternative to ISKCON's uncompromising stance towards their guru. About ten nama-sanghas — small neighborhood groups of people who met once a week for an hour-long program of kirtan, Krishna katha, and prasadam — defected from ISKCON, and asked me to take over the program, and preach to them about Srila Sridhar Maharaj.

I did not feel qualified at all, but they had some confidence in me because I had some connection with Srila Sridhar Maharaj's followers and disciples (Sripad Yudhamanyu Prabhu, Jivana Devi Dasi, Mukunda Mala Vilas Prabhu).

I first met the Quarry Road Gang — Ford, Jingles, Boysen, Sanjay, Toots, Gomathi, Geetha, Sharon, Junitha, and later, Shyma and Sydney — in 1982, when a member of one of these nama-sanghas, Chintamani Devi Dasi, asked me to perform some kirtan at the funeral of a relative of hers in Quarry Road.

The Quarry Road nama-sangha is special, because none of the members had ever belonged to ISKCON, so they did not have any preconceptions of Krishna consciousness. The were amongst the very first members of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math in South Africa, and three of the original and two subsequent members went on to take initiation — more than all the other nama-sanghas combined.

Almost all of the gang is at Saraswati's house for the reunion. We are all a little nervous and hesitant. So much has changed since we last saw each other some nineteen years ago: most of the gang have married and have children of their own.

By the time lunch is over, however, we are all our old selves again, laughing, joking, and teasing each other like it was 1984, and by the evening even their spouses have loosened up, and no longer viewing me as a threat to their relationships, we chat like old friends. Only Siddeshwar Prabhu (Sydney) is missing from the reunion.

My time is up all too soon. I thank Shyamali Devi Dasi (Shyma) and Saraswati Devi Dasi (Sharon, aka Nini) for arranging the reunion, and Saraswati's mother, Govindanandini Devi Dasi (Gomathi, aka Tom), and Shymasundar Prabhu (Sanjay) for coming.

The old fire is still there in all of them. They are all sincere souls, but over the years, without sadhu-sangha (association) they have become disconnected from seva (service) and that flame has become dormant. All it needs is a spark...

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