Chapter 81: Two Hours in the Life of a Servant; Massage & Cooking
Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 81
Two Hours in the Life of a Servant; Massage & Cooking
At Any ISKCON Temple
The process for preparing Śrīla Prabhupāda's lunch was usually the same. About a half-hour before I was to massage Śrīla Prabhupāda I made a small chapati dough, chopped various types of vegetables and placed them in the middle tier of Śrīla Prabhupāda's famous three-tiered cooker. I put cauliflower and potatoes or some other vegetable combination in the bottom tier with some water to become a wet vegetable. In the top tier I put a small two-part tiffan. I put split dahl in the bottom with water and rice with water in the top. More vegetables were placed around the tiffan in the top tier of the cooker. I then placed Śrīla Prabhupāda's famous three-tiered cooker on the stove with the heat set at a medium-low flame. Then I left the kitchen to massage Śrīla Prabhupāda.
Usually, his massage lasted one to two hours. The trick in using the cooker during the massage was not to let the water dry out in the bottom. Śrīla Prabhupāda showed me how to use the cooker with dahl on the bottom. A few times the dahl started to burn during the massage. That was a great source of anxiety for me. I never wanted to leave Śrīla Prabhupāda in the middle of his massage, but sometimes we smelled the dahl burning.
"What is that smell?" Śrīla Prabhupāda would ask me.
He knew it was his lunch.
After rendering this service for about eight months and burning a few lunches, I came up with the idea of cooking a wet subji on the bottom and steaming the dahl and rice in the top tier. That eliminated my anxiety because the wet vegetable didn't thicken and burn like dahl.
When completing Śrīla Prabhupāda's massage I always poured a small amount of mustard oil into the palm of his hand to oil the gates of his body. Then he walked to the bathroom to bathe. This gave me about 20 minutes to complete the rest of my service.
First, I neatly laid out his dhoti, kurta and copin (underwear) on his bed. I buttoned the bottom two buttons of his kurta, so Śrīla Prabhupāda would have only two more to close. I then raced to his sitting room and prepared his desk for applying tilak which meant opening his mirror. It was round like that of a powder compact, with a piece of carved ivory on the lid. I always made sure that his small silver lota (about the size of a golf ball) had water in it. A small silver spoon was placed next to the lota. Finally, I placed the ball of tilak at the center of his desk.
After that, I ran to the servant's quarters to finish preparing lunch. I removed the cooker from the stove and put a wok on the fire in order to make a large chaunce. If needed, the lid of the cooker was used for this purpose. Some of the chaunce was poured into the wet vegetable in the bottom tier and a little was put into the dahl in the top tier. Then, I poured the assorted vegetables into the remainder of the chaunce in the wok. If a bitter melon was available, I sautīd it in ghee and turmeric. I prepared another chaunce to cook the remaining vegetables. I placed all of the preparations on Śrīla Prabhupāda's plates along with a katori of plain yogurt and another with milk sweets. With Śrīla Prabhupāda's plate almost ready, it was time to roll and cook a chapati.
Hopefully, all of this was done at about the same time His Divine Grace finished chanting Gayatri mantra. He didn't mind waiting a few minutes, but I got scared if he had to wait longer than that. I put the plates down on his choki, offered my obeisances, and ran back to my room to cook another chapati. After he finished eating chapatis he opened the small tiffan filled with rice. Śrīla Prabhupāda usually ate three to six chapatis with his meal. More often than not, he ate three or four chapatis. He enjoyed the remainder of his meal with steaming hot rice.
It was wonderful to cook for you, Śrīla Prabhupāda. I pray to become an expert cook, like my godsister Yamuna devi, so I can offer you sumptuous foodstuff life after life.