Veracruz, Mexico — Tuesday, November 23rd
♫ Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? ♪
♪ Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? ♫
It's like we're on our very own Cops show. I'm riding down the street in the unmarked white van with Srila Gurudeva's three bodyguards: three burly plainclothes State policemen. We're following closely behind Srila Gurudeva's car (driven by Srutasrava Prabhu).
The driver is aggressive, and does not allow any vehicles to come between the van and Srila Gurudeva's car, and the tough-looking cops in the passenger seats continuously scan traffic ahead and behind us, their eyes inscrutable behind their shades. If they are trying to impress me — hey, I'm impressed!
We arrive at the new temple, and when Srila Gurudeva's car pulls over to the curb, we accelerate and quickly pull up right behind him.
Before the van rolls to a stop, two of the cops burst out the passenger doors and run to position themselves diagonally in the front and back of Srila Gurudeva's car, the driver cuts the engine, sprints across the road to the other sidewalk, and flashes some enigmatic hand signals to the other two.
I also get in on the act. I jump out, run over to Srila Gurudeva's car, open the door, and scowl at the bewildered and intimidated pedestrians: You talkin' to me?
Srila Gurudeva takes my arm, and we enter the temple. After briefly addressing the assembled devotees, we come back out to the car. Srila Gurudeva and his retinue get in, Srutasrava Prabhu starts the engine, the driver of the unmarked police van edges out to block one lane of traffic, one of the other cops waves Srila Gurudeva's car ahead, and the two cops and I sprint back to the moving police van, jump onto the running board, and get in.
Whew! I'm too old for this... and I'm going to have to (puff, puff) lose a few pounds if I want to continue to play this game!
Veracruz, Mexico — Thursday, November 25th
Srila Gurudeva — who complained about abdominal pains last night — became ill this morning and was prevailed upon by all the concerned devotees to go to the local hospital (a few blocks down the road) for a physical examination.
After numerous tests and x-rays, the doctors determined that Srila Gurudeva has an infection in his large intestine, and His Divine Grace was admitted to the hospital overnight, for treatment and observation.
Veracruz, Mexico — Saturday, November 27th
Back in the saddle
Srila Gurudeva was released from the hospital early this morning, after spending two nights in a private ward for treatment and observation of an intestinal problem. His Divine Grace is in good spirits, but is understandably feeling a little weak.
It is amazing just how resilient Srila Gurudeva is. Never in good health at the best of times, he nevertheless exerts his body continuously — to the consternation and chagrin of his intimate followers.
Although Srila Gurudeva's current 21st World Tour was ostensibly just to come to California (with a brief stop in London) to allow His Divine Grace to convalesce for a few months in the fresh country air at the Seva Ashram in Soquel after his recent illnesses in India, anybody who knows Srila Gurudeva at all knew that it would be impossible for His Divine Grace to rest and relax in one place for so long.
And so it was. By the invitation of the devotees, and to reciprocate with their loving devotional service, the tour was extended to include another two cities: Caracas, Venezuela, and Veracruz, Mexico.
Even though he knows that the long hours of traveling, the change of climate, and the unusual and irregular diet must inevitably take their toll, Srila Gurudeva does not care. He is motivated only by his sense of duty, and his service to Srila Guru Maharaj: to spread the glories of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math all over the world.
We may be (justifiably) concerned about Srila Gurudeva's health, but we cannot stop him from doing what he wants to do; and he wants to serve! As he said the other day at the new temple here in Veracruz: "We have no right to eat if we do not do service; we should eat only to get energy to do our service."
At the same meeting Srila Gurudeva, who has always been charmed by this expression of Sripad Bhakti Saranga Goswami Maharaj, startled the congregation by emphatically declaring:
"I want to die in harness!"
Indeed, the pure Vaishnava does not wish to die peacefully in his bed. Like a battle-scarred veteran he wants to "die in the saddle," to breathe his last while dutifully executing the order of his Gurudeva to carry the shining torchlight of knowledge into battle against the miserable hordes huddled fearfully in the darkness of ignorance and misconception:
Ours not to reason why;
Ours but to do and die.
O to ride fearlessly into the Valley of Death like the gallant horsemen in Charge of the Light Brigade! O for such a glorious death — to dutifully perform our service until our last breath — to "die in harness!"
Veracruz, Mexico — Tuesday, November 30th
Last day in Mexico
Today is the last day of our stay here in the wonderful city of Veracruz, the not-so-touristy beach resort on the east coast of Mexico. It is also the last day of Srila Gurudeva's extended 21st World Tour; tomorrow we return to California, exactly three weeks after embarking on the first half of the extended tour, to Caracas, Venezuela.
This extended tour has undoubtedly taxed Srila Gurudeva's health, but even though Srila Gurudeva knew that his health would suffer, he has wanted to go on this tour for some time because he strongly felt the need to reciprocate with the exceptional service of the devotees in Caracas and Veracruz.
Earlier this morning, Srila Gurudeva presided over the official opening of the new temple, the newest branch of the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math — and by the will of the pure Vaishnava, the future residence of Sri Sri Guru Gauranga Gandharva Nandanandana.
We were all a little worried when Srila Gurudeva became ill five days ago and was admitted to the local hospital here in Veracruz for two days for treatment and observation, but his Divine Grace is recovering nicely, and for the last two days has gone down to the nearby harbor and beach to sit on a bench in the warm afternoon sun and take in the bracing breeze that blows in off the Gulf of Mexico.
This afternoon Srila Gurudeva rests after the busy morning welcoming the mayor of Veracruz, unveiling the plaque, cutting the ribbon, and giving a speech at the new temple; we have a long twelve-hour journey ahead of us tomorrow.
Layout by iMonk — November 30th, 2004.