Chapter 66: Elevator; Head Shaving; Bath Bucket; Datong
Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 66
Elevator; Head Shaving; Bath Bucket; Datong
For six weeks Śrīla Prabhupāda stayed at the flat of Kartikeya Mahādevia. From the ground floor there was a very small two-man elevator that was used to get to Śrīla Prabhupāda's rooms.
One morning Śrīla Prabhupāda, Tamal Kṛṣṇa Goswami and I went toward the elevator on the way to the morning walk. As Śrīla Prabhupāda's servant, I expected to get into the elevator with him, but Tamal Kṛṣṇa Goswami went in first so there was no room for me. As the doors closed, I quickly turned and ran down two flights of stairs. I arrived at the elevator doors just in time to open them for Śrīla Prabhupāda and help him out of the elevator. As we walked away, Tamal Kṛṣṇa Mahārāja looked at me and laughed.
"Śrīla Prabhupāda," he said. "Śrutakīrti is really expert."
"Yes," Śrīla Prabhupāda replied. "'Kirti' means expert."
He continued toward the car without commenting further on the subject.
Being Śrīla Prabhupāda's servant was filled with adventure and suspense. Whatever was going on seemed to be filled with a certain electricity. Every month I had the opportunity to shave Śrīla Prabhupāda's head with the electric clippers. Śrīla Prabhupāda was not a passive recipient during this process. He moved around and that made me more frightened. He very kindly helped me to be "Prabhupāda Conscious." "Turn the shaver off in between each stroke so it doesn't get hot," he instructed.
This wasn't very difficult, but the tricky part was shaving around his ears.
"Be careful of my ears," he said whenever I got close to them.
I was very careful. By Kṛṣṇa's grace there was never a mishap during this service. It also gave me the opportunity to put many devotees into ecstasy by distributing Śrīla Prabhupāda's hair.
The most simple arrangements were often the biggest cause of anxiety, especially in India. In 1973, while in Māyāpur, I put an immersion heater in a brass bucket filled with water to warm it for Śrīla Prabhupāda's bath. Naturally it didn't always work. The heaters burned out or the electricity went off. Śrīla Prabhupāda would be ready for his bath with no warm water.
"Why don't I have any hot water for bath?" he shouted.
When he stayed on the second floor at the Rādhā-Dāmodara temple in Vrindaban he said, "You can place a bucket of water outside on the roof and the sun will heat it sufficiently for taking bath."
That usually worked, except when the monkeys decided they wanted to drink from it and proceeded to knock over the bucket.
There were countless mornings when Śrīla Prabhupāda passed by me on the way to his bathroom.
"Datong is there?" he said.
When he said that I knew it meant I had forgotten to put his twig in the bathroom so he could brush his teeth. When I was with him, Śrīla Prabhupāda used a twig to brush his teeth, not a toothbrush. The best was from the neem tree. This was easy to get in India. You could go to a store and buy them by the bunch.
In New York City, however, it wasn't easy to get any kind of twig. Somehow, I always managed to get something. The important feature to look for was a wood that became bristly when chewed on the end.
As his personal servant I was supposed to assure that wherever Śrīla Prabhupāda traveled he would have the facility to follow his schedule. It was amazing. He did so much traveling, but maintained his regulation as if the term "jet lag" was only imaginary. I was mediocre, at best, in performing my duties. Thank you, Śrīla Prabhupāda, for tolerating me as I fumbled through my service.