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Chapter 93: Upma and Prabhupāda's Thoughtful Compassion

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 93
Upma and Prabhupāda's Thoughtful Compassion

August, 1973, ISKCON Kṛṣṇa Balarāma Mandir,
Vrindavan, India

One would think that being in Vrindavan with Śrīla Prabhupāda would have been the most blissful situation, but this seven-week period was very difficult. Śrīla Prabhupāda was extremely ill, so we were in tremendous anxiety. It appeared he may leave us at any moment. He had eaten very little for a prolonged period of time and as a result, he had very little strength.

One morning he called me into his sitting room. He was sitting up in his bed."You can make me some upma like I have shown you," he said in a soft voice.

It seemed like a peculiar request since he hadn't been eating. It was also difficult for me to understand why he wanted me to do it, since Yamuna was present and was more qualified than I to cook for Śrīla Prabhupāda. I went to the kitchen and told her his request and asked if there were any vegetables available. Unfortunately, there were no fresh vegetables in the kitchen, but she did have some dried peas. Since time was of the essence, I made the upma with the dried peas, after I rehydrated them as quickly as possible. We were excited that Śrīla Prabhupāda had asked to eat something cooked since he had been eating only sliced oranges.

I remembered, though, that in the past, he had asked me to prepare his favorite dishes in order to increase his appetite. He personally taught me how to make a preparation and if I was able to recreate it then he would ask me to make it every day for a week. Perhaps, on this day, he was thinking about the upma he had taught me to make. I recalled him teaching me to make a wet cauliflower & potato vegetable with fried curd at Bhaktivedanta Manor. In New Dwaraka, he came into the servant quarters and told me to get a head of cabbage and some potatoes. He instructed me in the art of finely shredding cabbage with a knife and sauteīing it in a wok with cubed potatoes to create a delicious cabbage-potato subji. I felt fortunate that he had asked me to serve him.

When completed, I brought Śrīla Prabhupāda the upma. Placing it on the choki, I placed the small table in front of him on his bed. I offered my obeisances and left the room. Along with a few devotees, I anxiously waited in the kitchen, hoping that Śrīla Prabhupāda would enjoy the offering and eat all of it. After about five minutes, Śrīla Prabhupāda rang the bell. I hurried back into his sitting room and eyed the scarcely eaten upma. I offered my obeisances and as I looked up my glorious spiritual master looked at me in a loving way.

"This upma was first-class," he said. "I couldn't eat very much because I have no appetite, but I want you to know that it was very good. I thought that if you prepared something I liked, I could eat, but it is not possible. I ate a little bit and it tasted very good."

"Thank you, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I replied with great appreciation.

I picked up the plate and the choki and left the room.

Śrīla Prabhupāda, I was always amazed by the kind way you dealt with me. Throughout the world there were thousands of devotees engaged in 24-hour kirtan and praying to the Supreme Lord for you to stay with us. Still, you took the time to see that your lowly servant was not upset because you didn't eat the upma. Even though you were ill you encouraged me. You were always transcendental and thinking of others, no matter how you personally felt. I hope that some time I can care about you a fraction of the amount that you cared for me. I wanted to please you that day, and knowing this, you reciprocated by filling my heart with joy. Please forgive me for being so needy.