Riddha das Remembers Srila Prabhupada

Prabhupada Memories

Interview 01

Riddha: I wanted to speak to Prabhupada privately because I was concerned that not all of his disciples were following the regulative principles properly. My thought was, “How can we get confidence in our elder senior god-brothers if they are not following, chanting or whatever?” When I entered his room, Prabhupada was silent and I felt very ashamed to even approach him with such a question. He looked at me and his glance went right through me. It penetrated me like a train going through a tunnel as if he could see my entire history. I put my foot in it, but I also felt the ramifications of that question. Obviously, it was an awkward question, but he did answer, eventually. He said, “So you are following?” I said, “Yes, Srila Prabhupada.” Then he said, “You follow Krishna, then you have no problems.” I felt really bad and regretted asking that question.

We had arranged for a yellow Mercedes car to be waiting outside for Prabhupada upon his arrival in Johannesburg. As Prabhupada came down the hallway at the airport, flower petals were being thrown at him. He looked regal just like an emperor. At this time in South Africa, racism was widespread, but when Srila Prabhupada exited the airport to get into the Mercedes, there was one white police officer standing outside who opened the car door for Prabhupada and saluted him. To say the least, I was really taken aback when I saw that. I thought, “This guy got blessed by doing some personal service and offering respect to Krishna’s pure devotee.” He was obviously an Afrikaner from the regime, but he knew that something special was happening.

Srila Prabhupada was always trying to engage us even though we made mistakes. I can remember once I made a mistake when I was trying to escort Srila Prabhupada to the bathroom in Johannesburg at the Witwatersrand University. He had given a fiery lecture on the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. We were petrified because he was roaring like a lion. He was saying things that could have gotten him and us in jail that night. [laughs] He was so uncompromising. He was fierce. Nobody could stop Srila Prabhupada because he knew how to be revolutionary according to time, place and circumstance, whereas we were fanatical. Prabhupada absolutely knew how to engage a revolution in consciousness. After the lecture Prabhupada needed to use the bathroom, which was not far from the stage. Like a fool, I wanted to take him off the stage through the audience, the long way around the foyer, so he could see the book distribution exhibit that I set up. People were buying his books like anything and when he saw that he said, “Oh, we are selling so many books.” He was impressed and finally we got to the bathroom the long way around, and then he said, “Oh, the bathroom.” All the time when he was on the stage he was telling me, “The bathroom is there in the wings just off the stage.” However, my false ego overcame me, and I acted like a fool trying to treat him like a servant and force him to see my book display before taking him to the bathroom. [laughs] But he didn’t chastise me. He was humble enough to follow me and come the long way around and see the books that I wanted him to see. But I put pressure on him. He wanted to go to the bathroom. I felt like a right idiot. [laughs]

To view the entire unedited video go to Memories 63 - Atitaguna dasi, Krsnarupa dasi, Mishra Bhagavan, Niranjan, Pancharatn

The full Prabhupada Memories Series can be viewed here and also at www.prabhupadamemories.com

Following Srila Prabhupada

Interview DVD 10

Riddha: This venue is one of the most prime locations on Srila Prabhupada’s 19-day tour of South Africa, 7th of October, 1975, in the evening. It was a grand colonial building called the Durban City Hall. It seated at least 2,000 people including the balcony, and it was full to the maximum. It was 90 percent Indians.

I was in charge of selling books, and the books were flying out. We must have sold at least two or three thousand dollars worth of books. That was the most amazing thing about traveling with Srila Prabhupada. For the next 19 days, wherever Srila Prabhupada went his books would automatically fly out.

The next sequence we have here is Srila Prabhupada arriving in Jan Smuts Airport, Johannesburg, at midday on the 14th of October. Outside we had a rented yellow Mercedes car, and a South African policeman opened the door and saluted Srila Prabhupada. Johannesburg was much more relaxed. And then once Srila Prabhupada arrived at the Yeoville temple in Johannesburg, there was a full house of devotees and a few trusted Life Members. Obviously, we couldn’t invite hundreds and hundreds of people because it was a small place. Apartheid was still in full force. Mr. Parekh, he secured the visa for Srila Prabhupada, which took many years.