I didn’t sleep at all on the return flight to Melbourne; another trip with a plane full of tired Aussies returning home after holidays. I wasn’t too worried that I hadn’t slept because I didn’t have anything planned for Saturday. As soon as we got home we did some shopping and had our usual Melbourne breakfast; muesli and protein smoothie. I was very happy to crash on the bedroom floor for a few hours. My bed was full of suitcase items to be packed away. Little did I know what was in store for the day.
I awoke three hours later feeling only a little rested and looking forward to taking it easy for the rest of the day. Three hours of konked out sleep doesn’t recharge my batteries in a day. Just as I got up Acintya Rūpa arrived home and immediately hurried me for lunch with the Katha’s. I groggily went through the paces of a shower, got dressed and said gāyatrī. As we got in the car I did note it was a bit odd that she was driving but being half asleep I wasn’t going to protest.
I still hadn’t woken up when I wondered out loud why we hadn’t turned into Victoria Avenue which is the route to what I thought was our destination. Acintya Rūpa said she missed the turn. I wondered if we were safe enough to be driving. I’ve contributed to minor accidents after overnight return flights to Melbourne with no sleep. I was seriously thinking abut going back to bed.
Her response was, “I’ll do a u-turn.” at Graham on Pickle. As we were about to pass the Gasworks Theatre, I noticed Śrī Kṛṣṇa and Nirmala Kṛṣṇa walking down the street. At that stage I should have known something was up. I didn’t realise what might be going on till I was greeted by Kṛṣṇa Kathā at the door of the car.
As it turned out I was met by the Melbourne devotees for my 60th birthday and a celebration of 25 years of service as Temple President. I was overwhelmed and happy to see everyone; satisfied and heart warmed. I wasn’t expecting such an elaborate arrangement. We were supposed to be going to Jāya Śacī’s for a quiet, simple party today.
I am happy and blessed to be part of such a transcendental, supportive group of devotees as are in Melbourne. We were looked after very nicely in Bali and that is the nature of devotees everywhere; but there is something special about Melbourne. There is no place like home.
This is my Prabhu-datta deśa. Prabhupāda brought me here and gave me a chance to do some service. By the mercy of my gurus it has turned out all right. Acintya Rūpa and I have spent our entire devotional lives in Melbourne. When we took over the service of managing the temple our goal was to at least keep up the standards we had been taught; cleanliness, punctuality and opulent deity worship, prolific prasādam distribution for everyone, “Let every hungry man of Melbourne come and eat.”, and preaching in a sensible and thoughtful way that makes friends with everyone.
I owe my devotional life to a number of devotees; Sikkhi-piccha-dhara, my *vartma-pradarśaka-guru*, Kūrma Dāsa, my big uncle and friend, carer and protector for so many years, Balarāma Dāsa, my ISKCON Management guru from whom I learnt the basics of political and managerial survival in ISKCON and to always do everything for the pleasure of Rādhā-vallabha, Jāyapatāka Svāmī, my friend and supporter, who encouraged and assisted our efforts to build a big Hare Kṛṣṇa family in Melbourne, Bhūrijana Dāsa, my shelter, friend and advisor who encouraged us to increase systematic education in Melbourne, Devāmṛta Svāmī, GBC, friend and well-wisher who tirelessly works to increase our family and Rāmaī Svāmī our other GBC, friend and mate, who oversees our operations, supports and encourages our efforts to please Śrīla Prabhupāda and the devotees. Last but not least is Śrīla Prabhupāda, our Founder Ācārya and preeminent śikṣā guru, the source of inspiration and strength for all members of ISKCON.