In the early evening Prabhupada went to the Mullik's house on Harrison Road, now Jatindra Mohan Avenue, in the area where he lived as a child. He was greeted enthusiastically by KashinathMullik, along with other Mullick family members and friends.
Prabhupada was very, very happy to see SriSriRadha-Govinda, the original Deities Who had provided his spiritual inspiration as a small child. Although the area has changed considerably from his childhood days, and the little courtyard and shrine are quite run down, the Deities are obviously still well-looked after and offered daily puja.
The Mulliks and the other friends were delighted to see him, although SrilaPrabhupada told us that most of his contemporary friends were now dead. Only one or two of those present were actually people he had played with in his childhood. He told us the Deities have been worshiped by the Mulliks for over two hundred years. At one time They owned the whole area. Even now the government building across the street is the property of Radha-Govinda.
In a short speech Prabhupada recalled his childhood history. His family had lived just down the street behind a building called GovindaBhavan, and as a three- or four-year-old he would come every day to see the Deities. "And that is the inspiration of my devotional life. Then I asked my father that 'Give me Radha-Govinda Deity; I shall worship.' So my father was also Vaishnava. He gave me small Radha-Govinda Deity. I was worshiping in my house. Whatever I was eating, I was offering, and I was following the ceremonies of this Radha-Govinda with my small Deity. That Deity is still existing. I have given to my sister.
"So then I introduced Ratha-yatra. My Ratha-yatra was being performed very gloriously. My father used to spend money. In those days ten rupees, twenty rupees was sufficient. I hired one kirtana party and all small friends, and there was another De family here, so we performed this Ratha-yatra ceremony. According to our children's imagination, it was very gorgeous.
"GopishvaraMullik was my father's friend. So he was criticizing my father that 'You are performing Ratha-yatra ceremony and you are not inviting us.' So my father said, 'That is children's play. What shall I invite you? You are very big man.' 'Oh, so you are avoiding! In the name of children you are avoiding us.'
"On the whole, this Ratha-yatra festival was very gorgeously performed. Then imitating me, the others, my brother, he also introduced Ratha-yatra. And all of them introduced Ratha-yatra, and the destination was this Thakurbari, from there.
"So practically what I am doing now, the same thing, Radha-Krishna worship and introduction of Ratha-yatra. I am not doing anything else. You know very well. We are now performing Ratha-yatra ceremony practically in all big cities of the world, in San Francisco, in Philadelphia, London, Melbourne, Paris... So the same thing, the same Radha-Krishna worship and same Ratha-yatra, in a bigger scale. But the same thing was begun as play from this quarter, this Thakurbari.
"So this Thakurbari, Radha-Govindaji, is my life. That is the beginning of my spiritual life. And after so many years, still Radha-Govindaji has dragged me. It is His kindness.
"Prabhupada humbly suggested that his good fortune was due to his previous activities. He quoted Bhagavad-gita 6.41, which states that the unsuccessful yogi takes birth in the family of the pious and prosperous. The De family, he said, was practically the same as the wealthy Mulliks, and his own father was a pure Vaishnava. With these opportunities provided by birth, he said, he was simply developing them on a wider scale by Krishna's arrangement.
Looking lovingly at SriSriRadha-Govinda he ended his little speech. "So about this movement it may be said this Radha-Govinda Deity is the inspiration. You are all fortunate that you have come here. So let us offer our obeisances." Prabhupada humbly bowed down, touching his head to the floor. And then, amid much affection from his old friends, he climbed back in the car to return to his own recently established Radha-GovindaMandir.
Driving back in the car we crept through the heavy evening traffic, with cars constantly honking and overcrowded, dilapidated buses blasting black sooty emissions into the atmosphere. Seeing the congested streets teeming with tens of thousands of people made me reflect upon how different it must have been in the first decade of the century when SrilaPrabhupada and his young friends roamed these precincts.
At that time the transport would have been by horse and buggy or horse-drawn trams, and the population was much smaller. It must have been a vastly different Calcutta from the present. Prabhupada pointed out to Abhiram, PushtaKrishna and myself some the places of his childhood activities. He showed us his old school, attended before going to Scottish Churches college, and the field where as a boy he used to play soccer.
We came into what was formerly the old Muslim sector, and Prabhupada told us that in 1911 there was a massive riot there, in which he was almost killed. It was an exciting evening, made especially sweet by the opportunity to listen as SrilaPrabhupada mercifully shared his reminiscences of his younger days.