Sri-Sri Radha Shyamasundar on Janamastmi Day
“O Queen of Vrndavana, O Radharani, Your complexion is like molten gold, Your doe-like eyes are captivatingly restless, a million full and brilliant moons wane before Your lustrous countenance, and a blue sari, having stolen the hue of a fresh rain-laden cloud, has enwrapped Your exquisite form. O Radha, You are the crest-jewel of all the dallying damsels of Vrndavana, fragrant and pristine like a budding jasmine flower. Your sublime form is adorned with priceless jewelry, and you are the best of all the charming and intelligent gopis. You are decorated with all wonderful excellences and surrounded by eight dedicated and beloved cowherd girls known as the asta-sakhis.
“The ambrosia of Your beautiful lips, red as the bimba fruit, is life-giving syrup to Krsna. O Radha, I am rolling on the banks of the Yamuna, my poor heart filled with anticipation, praying to You with all humility. I am guilty of being an offender, a rascal, a useless wretch–yet I beg You to kindly engage me in even the smallest service to Your lotus feet. O most merciful Lady, it will not become You to ignore this most distressed soul, for Your heart is always overflowing with compassion and love.”
-Srila Rupa Goswami Sri Prarthana-Paddhati
I don’t know what I was thinking. We went to Vrindavan during Janamastmi but didn’t book a hotel room. Its not that I didn’t try, I sent emails to book a room in the guesthouse or at least have someone suggest a hotel for us to try contacting but I never got a response. I thought that maybe I had lucked out like I did in Kolkata. I had emailed them, they didn’t email back but had a room booked for us anyway. No such luck. I remembered that a common belief among devotees is that if you get the mercy of Radharani, the Queen of Vrindavan, then you will have the privilege of staying in Vrindavan for more than three days. We weren’t even there one day, barely an hour and it seemed hopeless.
After some time my family, composed of my husband, father-in-law, Mom, Dad and my younger sister, lugged our bags to a hotel that said that they could only take us for one night as someone had the two rooms for the next day. Not even one day. Radharani wouldn’t let us stay for one day. My husband, sister an I walked around Vrindavan for an hour going from hotel to hotel asking if they could possibly give us two rooms for a week, or even one room for a couple days but we got turned down everywhere we went. People from all over India booked months in advance and it was painful seeing them just walk right past us, ask about their room and then disappear into the hotel. I felt bad for my sister. It was her third day in India and she was wandering around the dirty streets of Vrindavan in the heat and no sign of relief.
My younger sister is very pretty and what some might consider high maintenance, unlike me- a walking mess- she makes sure to be well-dressed and made-up before leaving the house. In our family she was always the one that stayed out of trouble, and I remember her always being very thoughtful of others. After all, she could have stayed with my parents instead of wander through the streets with us. Eventually she went back to the hotel and my husband and I search for an hour more. I considered taking my family to Agra and putting them up in a hotel there and I would stay in Vrindavan, even if I had to sleep in the streets. Even if I would have to sleep in the mucky gutters that line the roadside, I wouldn’t skip out on this adventure. We stopped at the Krishna-Balaram temple,
“Prema-Rupa, I need you to stay here while I continue looking.”
“No! I want to stay with you, why are you leaving me here?”
“Im going with my friend to keep looking and I need you to stay here and pray to Radharani.”
I sighed, “Are you sure?”
“Positive, I’ll be right back.”
I sat amongst a group of devotees in front of Sri-Sri Radha-Syamasundars altar, lively kirtan was being sung while we waited for the altar doors to open. I prayed to Radharani while chanting on my japa beads. Certainly She must know Im here, She wouldn’t neglet me, would She? Since my husband gave me Sri-Sri Radha Madanmohan in 2004, She has always been the one I turn to, the one I felt understood me best, the one I could depend on. I came all the way here just for Her. The altar doors open, the chanting exploded and people pushed their way to the front with their offerings of money, garlands and vegetables, eager to receive a little mercy. I slowly made my way to the front, my eyes focused on Her, oblivious to my surrounding. “Give me a sign,” I prayed, “a flower to fall, anything at all. I want to know you are listening.” I pleaded to Her my case. How I loved Her and wanted to serve Her. I told Her that having a hotel is not important to me, for Her, I could sleep in the streets but its my family’s first time here.
I told Her that I was willing to give up fancy saris for simple cotton ones if we could stay. That’s a big deal, I love sari’s. Im attached to every single one of them, even the rattiest dirtiest sari I hang on to until its completely shredded to pieces.
I begged and pleaded and bargained with no reply, “even if the pujari gave me a maha-flower, I’ll take that to mean something.” I held my hand out with the other devotees while the pujari handed out the flowers and tossed them into the crowd. My hand turned up empty. Slowly, people started to meander away. I pleaded with Visakha-Sakhi to convince Radharani to give me a little mercy, just a little. Radharani would listen to Visakha, right? They’re BFF’s She’s got to listen.
Then I got angry, “Okay Radharani, that’s how You want to be? Fine. I give you my attention, my love. I always make sure You get everything first. You get the fanciest dressing, my husband fusses at me about how long You take to get dressed and I always take up for You. I spent hundreds of dollars on You year after year, trying to give You the nicest, the best and I come to Your home and this is my treatment? Maybe I wont come back, is that what you want? Fine, be like that.”
Brokenhearted. I continued to silently pray, fingering my beads, still hoping for that sign. It had been four hours from when my husband left until he came back. He shook his head solemnly and we walked back to our hotel room without saying a word. We knew what this meant for us.
We got back to the hotel, my family was in their room, and my father-in-law was asleep on his bed. “This devotee is very well-known here in Vrindavan, he thought that if he came with me he could pull a few strings and get us a room, we walked by foot everywhere for four hours but everyone turned us down.” We lay in bed, my head on my husbands shoulder. I imagined my good-hearted husband walking around in the hot hot sun, “I know you prayed very hard for us, but maybe this is Krishna’s desire. My friend said that if he hears anything he will call me. But he doubts he’ll hear anything” We stared at the phone expectantly, the only sound was the whirring of the fan above us. We waited and waited but no one ever called. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough, maybe I wasn’t sincere enough. Maybe God doesn’t care about what we want, about our desires, even if it is to serve Him. “Here is what I think we should do,” I whispered, “I think you should take our family to Agra and find a hotel for them there. They can stay there for the rest of the week….and I’ll stay here.”
“And what will you do here?”
“I just have to stay. Even if I have nowhere to stay, I just need to be here. I am determined to be here.” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. The thought of my family and I not getting the mercy of Radharani was unbearable. I prayed one more time, I begged Her to not neglect me. I wanted the mercy so badly. Hot tears poured down my face as my husband tried to console me.
And then the phone rang.