Monday, November 8, 2010

Countdown of Fate

This is a screenshot of the countdown gadget on my Google homepage. I put it there about 120 days ago.

But today I looked at it, really looked at it.

I have often quoted the word “serendipity” in this blog because sometimes the little chances of life stack up like dominoes, and then there’s simply no other word to describe the beauty of adventure. When you unfurl the sails of travel, the winds of serendipity carry you to unknown shores.

This is why I have a countdown on my homepage...


On a soft June evening, I stood outside of the Columbus temple in a sarong and tank top, my skin brown from canoeing all day with 17 other girls. A big yellow schoolbus rumbled slowly down the street, and many hands stuck out the windows and waved furiously. Girls called out, “Bye, Bhakti! Bye!!! Hariboool!!”

I lifted my hand to wave in return, and unexpected tears stung my eyes. “Haribol,” I murmured. I savored the final moments of my summer travels, and how each of the girls on the Yatra had all moved me with their unique love for Krishna.

But my first semester at the University of Florida began in mere days, and I had to leave the Yatra early.

Now, for you to fully understand the serendipity of my story, I need to describe my stack of dominoes.

Several months ago, Festival of India published a tentative schedule which stated that Detroit Rathayatra would occur on June 19th. Kishori Yatra would follow Festival of India, so naturally we would be there that weekend. So I bought my plane ticket from Detroit.

Then, Festival of India changed their schedule.

But my flight could not change.

So Columbus became the closest city to leave the Yatra from. Then I would catch a Greyhound bus to Detroit to then catch my flight back to Florida...! (Dizzy yet?) And that is why I found myself in a sarong on a soft summer evening, watching a big yellow schoolbus disappear around a corner. I turned around to face the quiet, empty temple.

An hour later, I searched for Hari Venu, the kind, older gurukuli who was also in charge of the temple. But I couldn’t find him. I peered into the kitchen, where a lone young woman was busy cooking for the late evening offering.

“Excuse me,” I asked. “Do you know how I can reach Hari Venu?”

She turned around. “What for?”

“He said he would take me to the bus station tomorrow morning,”

“Oh, well I’ll take you,” she said.

I spluttered a moment. “Ah, are you sure?”


“Well, ah, thank you. And what is your name?”

“Gokul Vilasini,” she replied.

“Nice to meet you, my name is Bhakti lata,” I said.

That evening, I sang for Sayana Arati for Sri Radha Natabara, and she offered arati. The next morning we went on a long japa walk down by the river. When we returned, we sat down to have breakfast and ended up talking until noon.

At one point, an elder Prabhupad disciple, Mother Kamagiri, came over to discuss travel arrangements, for she had decided to come on the South India Yatra. Gokul seemed to be in charge of a traveling party that was all leaving together in December.

While Mother Kamagiri and Gokul discussed the Yatra, I sat there in silence. I felt an odd desire blossom inside me.

I wish I could go.

A little later, Gokul drove me to the bus station, and she came in to wait with me. In the midst of our enthusiastic conversation, I said, "You know what, Gokul? We should travel together."

"Yes, let's do it," she said.

"Yes! Let's go to Vrindavan, Mayapur, Chowpatty...."

"What about South India?"

"Oh, definitely South India! South India is lovely. So I'm thinking India 2012, when I graduate. Take a year off before I start teaching, you know? What about you?"

"Isn't that a bit far in the future?"

"Yeah, well, it's tough to travel when you're a student. Believe me, I've thought the possibilities through. I want to go back to India so much."

"Well what about the South India Yatra?"

"This December?"


"Oh," I laughed. "It's the dilemma of the starving student - no money. Besides, I'm going on the Winter Bus Tour. I've already saved up for it."

"But would you go if you could?"

"Well, it's not really my style. I like to spend time in one place, especially in India - really soak it in. But the South India Yatra does sound pretty cool."

"What if I found you a sponsor?"

I stared at Gokul. "Excuse me?"

"What if I found you a sponsor? Would you go?"

I was silent. Then I laughed. "Well...! Maybe!"

"Well, noodle over it," she smiled and pointed to her head. "Think about it. I'll e-mail you in a couple days to confirm about a sponsor."

We hugged goodbye and I got onto my bus, completely derailed. On the bus ride to Detroit, I wondered at how the dominoes of fate had led me to this moment - Kishori Yatra. My school schedule. The change of dates. The bus ride. That conversation with Mother Kamagiri. The ride to the bus station. One slight shift in events and none of this would have happened.

It was an incredible idea, but the possibility that Gokul would find a sponsor for me seemed nil. So I just reveled in the possibility, amazed that someone would even offer such generosity, amazed that the Lord would arrange such a meeting.

Three days later, Gokul e-mailed me. "I found you a sponsor. You decide if you want to come."

All of my indecision melted in that moment. I replied: "Yes!  I'll come."

That was around 120 days ago.

I have 30 days to go.

My gratitude goes out to my dear godsister, Gokul Vilasini, and the anonymous devotee who has offered me such unconditional generosity to experience the holy dham. Amazing how with one drop of grace, the Lord can alter our lives in 24 hours.


In Love With Krishna said...

Krishna seems to have heard you when you said to yourself that you would like to go.
i live in South India, Chennai to be precise.
It's so nice you get to visit.
Just a suggestion: you are visiting in the Tamil month of Margazhi, when the Gopis kept their fast for Krishna.
As you will be visiting temples down South, you might want to acquaint yourself with the Thirupaavai.
It was written by Kothai, and is regarded by Vaishnava scholars to be ''the essence of the Vedas."
But, it is just the musings of a girl, madly in love with Krishna. She writes one song a day, to express her love for Krishna, even as she fasts just as the Gopis did.
But, the best part is, she not just loves Him Herself, but urges her girl friends to do so too.
Actually, she asks the whole world to surrender unto Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.
That she finally did get 'married' to Her Lord is another story.
There is a story that when she was a kid, she used to wear the garlands meant for the Lord, painstakingly made by Her father, one of His great devotees Himself, and see, in the mirror's reflection the beautiful form of Krishna. Anyways, once her father caught her red-handed, and did not offer that mala in the temple. The Lord lost all His lustre in the temple, as He was forlorn. He came in Her father's dreams, and said that He wished to wear only those garlands which bore the fragrance of Kothai! And, her father affectionately called Her Aandal (the one who ruled over the Lord Himself)
These songs are the poetry of highest order. They lead one to His beautiful feet.
As you will be visiting in the Margazhi month, it just seemed to me like a phenomenal coincidence i just had to tell you, sorry about the length of this comment.
If you'd like, i'll link you to some English translations.
Consider this the request of another devotee: do look into the Thirupaavai. Your blogger name is Bhakti Lata, and Thirupaavai is that by itself.

shri ramesh sadasivam said...

You must visit Parthasarathy Temple, (Triplicane, Chennai) & Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. (Sri Rangam, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu)

Nityananda Chandra Das said...

wonderful as usual

To write is to dare the soul. So write.