The smell of India came to me when they opened the plane doors and I immediately recognized it as familiar. It’s a bit of a stale odor, with subtle tones of spices. Or as I think of it – a subtle smell of spirituality. Behind that staleness is something attractive, something I like.
But India scares me. Everything was fine until I started walking towards customs, I knew that I was entering a place where I was totally out of my comfort zone. Fortunately, the taxi driver was waiting outside and from there everything was easy. I knew that when I arrived in Vrindavin, everything would be fine. I knew this place.
I arrived during the morning for the first time, and it was lovely to sit in a car and watch the life teeming outside. It’s scary as well, since the Indian traffic can best be described as a living organism that moves according to it’s own rules and not necessarily by any traffic lights (which don’t exist) and whatever markings on the roads is there just for arguments sake.
Whenever the car slowed down in busy streets I got nervous. It’s strange to be the only white face in an ocean of these beautiful golden skinned people. I really loved when the car was out in the countryside with little people around and I could watch the dirt and green fields. I came in December, which is the coldest time there.
Arriving in Vrindavin, meeting my friend which I haven’t seen since 2007 and seeing Yamuna just as I remembered it – lovely. When I entered the gates to Krishna Balarama Mandira in Seva Kunja, I was met by Didi. Krishna priya didi is Gurudevas first disciple. One of the first things she said to me was “You belong here.”
It became quickly clear that she was right about that. The devotees in the temple embraced me immediately and somehow I just effortlessly connected to them. We are family by heart. I have never experienced it with so many people before. Sometimes I meet a person here or there I connect to and manage to keep that connection somehow, but not many at the same time.
I was shown to my room and one of the devotees had put the booklet “One drop of Vraja-rasa” there, it was such a lovely gesture. I quickly blended in and took part of the aratis etc.
On the 18th December it was my birthday. Just waking up in Vrindavin made this the best birthday I ever have had during my 38 years of life. I had forgotten it was my birthday when devotees came and congratulated me. I had purchased some Fudge and brought with me from Norway just for this occasion. In vedic culture it’s custom is to give gifts on your birthday, so this was my attempt. I even managed to give Didi a couple of Fudges when she unaware had her hand out in my direction. It was a “Yes, Score!!” kind of moment 😀
My attempts at giving anything was miniscule if I compare it to the rest of the devotees. I got several books, warm socks and one devotee made a cake in the evening which was just exquisite.
I got one of the garlands from the Thakurjis and then Didi took me to the bookcase and asked me to pick a book I wanted. Didi told me “Stay alive, stay in line, and then the son will inherit the wealth of his Father”. My immediate reaction was relief, because if she said this it meant that I was still in line, I hadn’t deviated. Since I already had all the books from before I asked Didi if I could get the Bhagavad-gita with the commentaries of Bhaktivinode Thakura. Didi blessed the book by putting it to her head.
Me: “I really like the analytical and logical thinking of Bhaktivinode Thakura”.
Didi: “It’s transcendental logic. Don’t just keep it in you bookcase, read it”. Which is very true of my current situation where I seem unable to concentrate on anything.
Me: “I hope I will realize it as well”.
Didi: “Have realizations. When you have realizations you should spread it to many persons, everywhere”.
And this is how I received my seva.