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Chapter 53: Wrong Ambassador in Bombay

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 53
Wrong Ambassador in Bombay

December 1972, ISKCON Bombay

Before Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters were available in Juhu, he stayed at the home of a life member named Kartikeya Mahādevia. The facilities were nice and Śrīla Prabhupāda seemed comfortable. Every morning Śrīla Prabhupāda, Syamasundara Dāsa and I would take Kartikeya's car, an Ambassador, and drive to a waterfront area for walking. The pavement was wide and uncrowded.

One day while walking, we passed a man laying down at the edge of the sidewalk. This was, unfortunately, a common sight on the streets of Bombay. On the way back we passed him for the second time.

"See that man lying there?" Śrīla Prabhupāda asked. "He is dead." Śrīla Prabhupāda continued walking without further comment.

After one morning walk, we returned to the car and Syamasundara could not get the key to work in the ignition. He tried for several minutes.

"Śrīla Prabhupāda, something is wrong," he said. "This is not going to work. I'll go get a cab."

He left Śrīla Prabhupāda and I sitting in the back seat of the car. After a few minutes two well-dressed Indian men opened the car doors and sat down in the front seat. I became frightened. Śrīla Prabhupāda, smiling, appeared very calm while he spoke to them in Hindi. Suddenly, they put their key in the ignition and the car immediately started. They drove away.

I finally realized that we had been sitting in the wrong car. This is not so hard to imagine. Twenty-five years later the Ambassadors still look alike to me. The gentlemen insisted on taking Śrīla Prabhupāda back to his flat. Śrīla Prabhupāda spoke to them during the entire ride.

"We are sorry," Śrīla Prabhupāda told them.

"No problem," they said. "We'll take you back to where you are staying."

They drove us into town. When we arrived Śrīla Prabhupāda said, "You can come up and take prasadam."

"No, we have to go to work," they replied. "We have business meetings. Thank you very much, Swamiji."

"This is the difference between India and America," Śrīla Prabhupāda told me, after getting out of the car. "In America they would have said, 'Hey, what are you doing. Get out of my car.' Possibly beat you. In India, still there is some culture. In India they see a sadhu and they have some respect. But in your country they kick you out. They say, 'Get out of my car.'"

It is interesting to note that even in this situation Śrīla Prabhupāda tried to get them to take prasadam. This is something I saw on countless occasions. Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted to see that everyone he came in contact with received prasadam.

All Glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda!