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Chapter 85: Joking with His Younger Sister, Pisimā

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 85
Joking with His Younger Sister, Pisimā

July 1973, ISKCON Calcutta

I first meet Bhavatarini, Śrīla Prabhupāda's sister, during this visit to the Calcutta temple. From then on, she was always known as "Pishima" which, I think, means "sister." She was an incredible sight. She was a few inches shorter and quite a bit heavier than Śrīla Prabhupāda, but her face was undeniably like a female Śrīla Prabhupāda . Whenever she came to the temple, she brought sweets and gave them to her older brother, Śrīla Prabhupāda. She then distributed them to all of the devotees in the temple. She loved to associate with Śrīla Prabhupāda and spent as much time as she could in his presence.

It was impossible for me to understand their conversations, since I didn't understand Bengali, but sometimes His Divine Grace described some details. It was obvious she had great love for her brother, not just on a material platform, but was able to comprehend his topmost spiritual position as well. She cooked for him often. This was a source of great anxiety for his disciples because she always used mustard oil in her cooking, which Śrīla Prabhupāda said, " . . . was difficult to digest." Once, when she was approached about this method she responded, "He can digest nails, if he wants."

One day, as I massaged Śrīla Prabhupāda before lunch, he said to me, "Do you know any person who is fat, without eating?"

"No, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said. "I don't know anyone. Are you referring to your sister?"

He laughed loudly.

"Yes!" he said. "She tells me she is eating just a little bit, but she keeps on gaining weight. You don't know anyone who keeps on gaining weight without eating, do you?"

"No, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I said chuckling. "I don't think it is possible to gain weight without eating."

Now both of us were laughing.

"Yes!" he said. "I don't think so either. I think your conclusion is correct. She has to be eating very much. She tells me she is not eating, but I know she is eating. She complains to me about her health, that she doesn't feel well. I told her, 'You are so fat. How can you be healthy?' She said, 'I don't know how. I am hardly eating at all. I don't know how I am so fat?'"

I continued massaging Śrīla Prabhupāda understanding how comfortable he was in his hometown surrounded by his family. I was so grateful to be able to associate with Śrīla Prabhupāda during such intimate moments. I could see his concern for his sister's health as he sometimes said that disease came from anxiety, uncleanliness and overeating.

That evening Śrīla Prabhupāda was giving darsana to his disciples. Pishima was also present in the room. She didn't mind that she could not understand the conversation. She enjoyed being with him as much as possible because she unconditionally loved her brother. How elevated and fortunate she was to have a natural love and affection for Śrīla Prabhupāda!

"Look at her sitting there," Śrīla Prabhupāda said smiling. "Look at her . . . how fat she is."

Everyone began laughing, including Śrīla Prabhupāda and Pishima. He continued poking fun at her in a rascal-like, boyish way.

"She is so fat," he said. "Look at her, how fat she is. She says that she doesn't eat, but still she gets fat."

The room was filled with laughter. Pishima enjoyed seeing everyone laugh and didn't realize that her older brother was making fun of her. Śrīla Prabhupāda enjoyed his joke and relished his disciples being a part of it. It was a rare and wonderful moment for everyone.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, seeing you in that happy, carefree lila was pure nectar. I pray that in a distant lifetime I can bring a smile to your face as you laugh at me in my foolish predicaments. Presently, in my fallen condition, the only emotion you can feel for me is compassionate concern or annoyance due to my bumbling inability to properly or attentively follow your instructions.