Chapter 37: Chips

Śrīla Prabhupāda Uvāca 37

October 7, 1972, ISKCON San Francisco

I had been Śrīla Prabhupāda's personal servant for one month. I was beginning to feel comfortable and knowledgeable in my duties. Little did I know that this qualified me for a major setback.

One evening Śrīla Prabhupāda asked me to prepare puris, potato chips and hot milk. We were not staying at the temple, but at the cottage of a young couple who were friends of the devotees. Before Śrīla Prabhupāda's arrival, the devotees had spent hours cleaning the cottage.

The kitchen facility was poor. Fortunately, there was ghee on the stove, so a meal could be prepared. Śrīla Prabhupāda had asked for "potato chips." I was anxious to prepare them, but had no experience. Making the puris was easy enough, but took time to prepare. It was getting late and I didn't want Śrīla Prabhupāda to have to wait any longer. I peeled some potatoes, sliced them as thin as possible with a potato peeler, and fried them in very hot ghee. They came out resembling potato chips, but not exactly like any chips I had ever seen.

I felt very fortunate to serve the living representative of Kṛṣṇa. Śrīla Prabhupāda was my living deity and he mercifully reciprocated with me. I rushed to His Divine Grace with a dish of potato chips, one hot puri and a cup of hot milk.

"What are these?" Śrīla Prabhupāda firmly inquired pointing to the chips."Potato chips, Śrīla Prabhupāda," I answered, a bit bewildered.

"They are not chips!" he thundered. "This is not what I wanted."

Seeing my pain he said, "Anyway . . . go on. Leave it."

I felt terrible. This was the first time I had failed in my service to my Guru Mahārāja. I felt like dying. The offering had been unacceptable. I went back to the kitchen and cooked the next puri. Returning to Śrīla Prabhupāda's quarters I placed the puri on his plate and offered my obeisances. When I sat up, he looked at me with a big smile.

"These are very good," Śrīla Prabhupāda assured me. "It is all right. They are very nice."

I breathed a sigh of relief and replied, "Oh, good! Thank you, Śrīla Prabhupāda."I was in bliss. I didn't know whether he really liked them or he just said it to make me feel better. Either way it was wonderful. It felt terrific to have someone care about me so much. I brought him another puri and waited for him to finish. Picking up his plates, I was thrilled to see he had eaten all of the so-called "potato chips." Śrīla Prabhupāda mercifully accepted my bumbling efforts.

Months later while in India, I realized that "chips" are the British equivalent to American "french fries." Being inexperienced, I misunderstood. I knew then that Śrīla Prabhupāda had wanted french fries. I again made him chips, but according to his instructions, "thin and cripsy." Note the spelling discrepancy. It is not an error. Śrīla Prabhupāda often used endearing words. I preferred his use of the word "cripsy" for "crispy." It sounded crunchier.