Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Appreciation for a Vaishnava

Last night I slipped out of the Bus Tour party at Shanti's to visit Radhe Shyam. As I parked and walked to the temple in the steaming night, the stars shimmering above, I felt so at home, so at peace. I offered my obeisance to Srila Prabhupad, then began to put mats away, the mic away, and adjust the lights, ever the custodian.

Just as the conch shell blew, Bali walked in. Slightly surprised to see him, we smiled and hugged. I settled down with the harmonium, and as Bali sat next to me with a mridanga, he said softly, "I can only play softly; my shoulder hurts,"

"Still?" I asked, a flutter of worry crossing my chest. I remembered it had been paining him at LA Rathayatra.


The curtains opened, and I offered my obeisance to my beautiful Radhe Shyam and Gaura Nitai. I began to sing. Bali played softly. As I picked up the pace of the bhajan, there was a point where Bali had to stop playing drum to massage his shoulder. But he jumped back in again, although very softly.

I usually don't hear Bali sing in the response during kirtan, but last night, he sang.

After the arati, I approached him, "Thank you, Bali, for playing mridanga. I know that to play is painful for you and you played anyway even though you didn't have to." I asked him about his shoulder, "Is it from playing mridanga?"

"Oh, I know it's from playing mridanga," he said despondently.

"You know, I can empathize because I twisted a bone in my foot and to dance now is painful at times. I just think, 'Oh Krishna, why? To dance is to live!'"

"I don't even want to think about it," he responded, turning away. "I don't know what I'll do. This is the end of my devotional life, I swear,"

We bid goodnight, and he walked away chanting japa.

Bali's indomitable spirit has inspired me in so many ways, and to see him dejected has affected me. In the past, I actually wondered sometimes what Bali would do if he could not play mridanga any more, for it has been a part of his identity his entire life. I even asked Bali himself what he would do. And yet he had replied, "I would be devastated, but life goes on." He had paused. "I would find another way to serve the Vaishnavas,"

I pray that his shoulder heals and that this will all just be a memory. I remember in LA when I had lead the kirtan during the Santa Monica harinam, and he had been right by my side, the heartbeat of the kirtan, serving the Vaishnavas.

Thank you, Balaram Chandra, for inspiring me.

1 comment:

Mahesh said...

You are dedicated young devotees.
Pls, remember that devotional life is a marathon not a sprint. Sometimes you have to take it easy, see a massage therapist , a healer or a chiropractor or just take a break from playing mrdangam or dancing and at the same time do the proper exercises and therapist to get better. Once i couldn't play my flute for 1 yr. But then it all came back by magic. Lord Krishna is in control. You will be allright. Bali's shoulder will heal
sometimes muscles need to adjust. Your foot will also heal, just put your mind to it and energy to the injured limb. Listen to it, if you need to take rest then do it, a massage and proper oils and ointments may also help.

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