With the two-hour time difference, it was 7:00 p.m. when we landed in Bombay. As we walked across the tarmac from the plane to the terminal building we heard devotees cheering and saw them waving from the roof top. Srila Prabhupada held his hand up to greet them causing them to cheer even louder.
Inside, we were met by Gopala Krishna, Giriraja and our lawyer, Mr. Asnani, who in 1973 was instrumental in settling the purchase of Hare Krishna Land. Gopala Krishna asked Srila Prabhupada and I to sit to one side while they went with our passports to the immigration counter. Harikesa Maharaja stayed to bring the luggage. Within a couple of minutes we were given clearance and allowed to proceed without any problem. A host of jubilant devotees chanted "Jaya Prabhupada! Jaya Prabhupada!" as we entered the car to make the short trip to the temple.
As Kartikeya Mahadevia drove, Gopala Krishna eagerly informed Srila Prabhupada of the progress he was making in book printing. He said the translation work was going quickly with the help of Niranjana dasa, who Prabhupada saw in England. 45,000 copies of the first Hindi Back to Godhead were almost sold out, and he was planning a second print run of 30,000. A new issue is currently in production, also with a first run of 30,000. "People can't believe it," Gopala said. "Even Hitsharan Sharma couldn't believe that we distributed 45,000 Hindi magazines in two months."
"We are distributing millions in English," Prabhupada reminded him.
Gopala said that because he has cultivated a favorable relationship with the Joint Chief Controller of Imports and Exports, he now has government permission to import five lakhs worth of books to fulfill the library orders. He can also import paper, which will increase the quality of the books.
Prabhupada was pleased with the news, but didn't get into a heavy discussion. He told Gopala and Giriraja that Iran had been very pleasant in the nights and mornings and inquired what the temperature was here. They told him it was 90'F and Prabhupada nodded agreeably.
Prabhupada also wanted to know if there was a lift installed in his new quarters, but Gopala had to inform him that his new rooms would not be ready until December or January. Being aware that Srila Prabhupada had difficulty climbing stairs he suggested he might like to move into a ground-floor apartment presently being used as the construction office.
Prabhupada's response was negative. He said the place was too small.
Gopala also had snippets of information from Vrindavana, where he said the traffic was so busy in front of our temple that the government had assigned two police officers to control it. And in Delhi, he said, the daughter-in-law of the Maharani of Jaipur was regularly attending our temple.
Prabhupada asked whether Hyderabad would be ready for the opening next week, and Gopala assured him it would.
Hare Krishna Land Juhu Beach: Palika prabhu was waiting amongst a small crowd of devotees at the entrance to his apartment building. Srila Prabhupada was happy, but surprised, to see her. "Oh, you are here."
She was surprised at his surprise, telling him that she had come to cook for him.
They both looked at me inquisitively: she because she thought Srila Prabhupada had personally called her to India, and he because he had not been informed that she was rejoining the party.
Thinking Prabhupada may not agree to having money spent for his personal needs, I had taken a gamble that he would approve. Now, with some trepidation, I explained my actions in sending for her, motivated by my desire that he get good prasadam everyday. Then I waited for his response.
"Hmm. Anyway, now there will be no difficulty," he said with a gentle smile, filling me with relief.
Prabhupada had great difficulty getting up the steep steps to his flat on the third floor. He is still very weak from his illness in London, but the stay in Iran has cleared up his cough.
Once inside his sitting room Srila Prabhupada accepted guru-puja, allowing the leaders to bathe his feet. They then happily sprinkled the caranamrita on everyone's heads and passed the transcendental nectar around, to be drunk by the eager devotees.
Prabhupada scanned the crowded room, spotting Mr. Asnani, who had made it back from the airport after helping to clear our luggage through customs. Srila Prabhupada thanked him warmly for taking so much trouble and told everyone appreciatively, "He is the cause of this site. Unless he would not help, it was practically lost. I know that. Two, three hours how we finished that sales agreement."
Mr. Asnani reported happily that the customs officers did not open any of our bags.
Prabhupada smiled. He said seriously, "We are always traveling, they should give us some concession. Every time we get checked. Actually, the government should have given us the best facilities because I am distributing India's culture all over the world."
As the devotees cheered he added, "Unfortunately, I am not receiving encouragement from the leaders and the authorities. This is India's glory, history will say. All people are responding all over the world. Money, men, strength everything they are supplying. But we are not getting very good encouragement from India. Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission is that every Indian should become guru and preach the instruction of Krishna. And people are hankering after receiving this instruction. Unfortunately, the so-called swamis, yogis, or even politicians, they are not presenting Bhagavad-gita as it is. Anyway, so long I live I shall go on struggling like this. That's all."
Once again the whole room erupted in appreciation. "Jaya Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!"
Prabhupada noticed Nitai dasa in the crowd and greeted him with a smile and a few words of encouragement.
Settling back on his asana to relax after his journey, he addressed his adoring audience. "Jaya. Take prasadam and chant Hare Krishna, that's all. And we have now nice buildings. Live there peacefully, chant Hare Krishna. Bas. This is my success. If I see that you are living very nicely, chanting very nicely, then all my labor is successful."
A plate of prasadam was offered to him, and after taking a small sweet, he had the rest distributed to the crowd.
His Divine Grace relaxed, picking up a new book lying on his desk. Gopala Krishna explained that Rishabhadeva dasa, the president of our Los Angeles-based Spiritual Sky incense company, had brought it. The publication, 215 pages thick and measuring 7" x 8.5", had a deep blue cover and a full color picture of Srila Prabhupada on the front and back covers. The front one was a full face view of His Divine Grace sitting on the Los Angeles vyasasana, playing the gong. The back photo was a beautiful shot of him sitting on the elaborate silver vyasasana in Modinagar last March. The title of the book read:
The Most Blessed Event
SRI VYASA PUJA
The Appearance Day of Our Beloved Spiritual Master HIS DIVINE GRACE A.C. BHAKTIVEDANTA SWAMI PRABHUPADA Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness AUGUST 19, 1976
Srila Prabhupada leafed through it with interest as the devotees looked on. Then, placing it back on his desk, he tipped his head, signalling the end of his reception. The devotees dispersed and Harikesa Maharaja and I went about unpacking and setting up his desk paraphernalia.
After everyone left Prabhupada took a little prasadam from Palika. Inspecting his plate he asked her about one of the preparations. Palika told him it was a sweet made by one of the girls here.
"Not everyone should make," Prabhupada told her. "She is initiated?"
Palika confirmed that the girl was, but assured him that she would be making all his prasadam herself. She had had no time today because she had only just arrived.
By this time it was 10:00 p.m. I had to leave the sitting room to put something in Prabhupada's bedroom. When I returned a few minutes later, Prabhupada was stretched out on his back across his asana, his head against one bolster and his feet over the other, carefully reading his new Vyasa-puja book. Leafing through it page-by-page, he glanced over at me and gave a little exclamation of humble delight and surprise. "Oh, they have put such intimate offerings."
With a bright smile of satisfaction he continued to look through the entire book, announcing aloud the name of each center as he came to it, and reading to himself some of the individual and temple homages.