Transcript of video interview with Hansadutta, Part 1 (00:11.36 – 01:41.37)
PURUJIT: All right. So you can actually tell us something about your childhood. How you grew up, where you grew up, about your family. Anything you like.
HANSADUTTA: I was born in Germany, 1941, almost to the day that Hitler started his campaign against Russia, which I think was June 6th, something like that. I can’t remember. But I was born May 27th, and I had an older brother – he was four years older than me – and a sister four years younger. My father was… My father’s family were hotel and restaurant people.
So he had a big establishment in Berlin – entertainment and food. But as the war progressed, there was no flour, butter, sugar, so it collapsed and the business closed down. And in 1945, when the Russians flooded Berlin, my mother, my sister and myself had to just walk out. I was telling Gadadhara, “Okay, you gotta go now. With your wife. Take whatever you want, but you gotta go. Whatever you can carry in your hand.” My older brother died because there was no food. He got typhoid. Hörst – his name was Hörst. My father was also drawn or recruited, although he was too old. He was already 45 years old. But in the end they took everyone – young people, old people. He was captured by the Americans and put in an American prison camp, but because he spoke English on account of his having gone with friends in the 1920s to America to carouse around like young men do, he could speak English very well without accent, and he was a very good cook and pastry chef and was very old-school trained, so they treated him very nicely.
Anyway, when the war was over, those friends that had stayed in America – he came back in the ’20s and some stayed – they contacted him and they sponsored him to come to America in 1947. And then we went in 1950. So from 1945 to 1950 we were refugees for a while, and we wound up in a small village in a place called Massenbachhausen. Very simple living, high thinking. No shoes and all that kind of thing. But it was actually delightful. I can remember when American occupation troops came with their tanks and trucks. They set up a camp outside the village. We were maybe five years old, children, and we heard there were black people in this American army. We had never heard that there is such a thing – Oh, there are black people! – so when they came and we actually saw them, we thought … we were speculating like small children – “How they became black?” “Maybe they had too much coffee? Or ate too much chocolate?” Innocent kind of thing. Anyway, in 1950 we crossed the Atlantic on a Polish ship, Batory and landed in New York right in midtown Manhattan or downtown where the piers are.
And these friends of my father took us to a place to have something to eat. They had a television, which we had only heard about, that there was a box and people talking. In Germany we imagined what it is, how is that. So this place had a television, and it was behind me, and I was craning my neck to see the television with absolute fascination and of course fell off the chair.
So there I grew up. The first year we spent in Manhattan, uptown – that’s called German Town, where the Germans went – 86th Street up to 96th Street. That’s where the mayor’s mansion is. It’s called Carl Schulz Park. So I got into the habit of just wandering around New York City, and after one year I could speak English perfectly. And our family moved to Queens – Astoria.
But I was very averse to going to school. There was something about it. I had a real phobia. I didn’t want to go to school, and I didn’t go. I figured out that on the first day if you don’t sign in, you can… no one knows that you’re supposed to be there. I would play hooky the whole year, and then eventually, of course, I got caught. So to make a long story short, one year my father, who worked seasonally as a pastry chef in very exclusive country clubs, golf clubs – during the summer in Westchester, upstate New York and in the winter he went to Palm Beach where the Kennedys and the Nixons and all these… Trump – I don’t think Trump was born yet. Yeah, maybe. He’s five years younger than me. Trump. So he [my father] decided to take us to Florida for that season. So we drove to Florida, but because I was so city oriented and conditioned to city life – I would carouse around and wander around the city and do mischief – I found it really unbearable. And the kids were into football and baseball, all that kind of thing, and I couldn’t relate to that. So one day there was an incident where the teacher made some remark because I wasn’t paying attention, and I became… I just decided that I’m never gonna go back to school to that, because they decided to take me home to punish me. I told my mom when I came in, “I’m never gonna go back to school ever, not one more day. I don’t care what you do. You can cut me into little pieces. I’m not going back.” Anyway, my father… he also tried to convince me, and they finally saw that I was determined. They said, “Okay, but you have to do something.” So I liked… I was artistically inclined, so I thought, “I’m gonna be an artist.” My father said, “No, No. You have to have some work.” So I saw a sign: “Join the Navy, see the world.” I thought, Yeah, okay. I can do that. Lemme see. I told my father, and he said, “Okay.”
And in those days when you were seventeen you could sign up. I don’t know if they still do that. And the agreement is you do until you’re 21, then they let you out. So at the end of winter in 1959 I joined and spent until 1962 – until the Cuban Missile Crisis started – and I was a ship’s cook. That’s where I learned how to manage a kitchen and cook, and it was very… it was a great thing for a young guy. You get disciplined, you learn how to work in cooperation and harmony with others. You learn the chain of command, order and hierarchy. After you finish boot camp, they send you to what they call a duty station. I was put on a ship, LSD. LSD meant Landing Ship Dock. They carry… LSDs open in the front. You see them in the movies. The tanks come out, the trucks come out. LSDs don’t come on the beach. They stay maybe a mile or two offshore, and the back opens, the ship bow is down, and these landing crafts come out. Anyway, you have to decide which department you want to serve in – radio man, yeoman, engineer, whatever. So I checked everything out, and I thought, But everybody likes to eat, even officers. So I decided, Okay, that’s what I’m going to do. So that’s what I did. So no one bothered the cook ever. It was like “Hands off the cook.” Even the officers. They’d come for Christmas, Thanksgiving, “Hey, cookie. Can you get the old lady a turkey?” “Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”
After that, in 1962 I was discharged – Cuban Missile Crisis. Then I decided to go to art school – which I did for a while. But I saw that this was a waste of time. So I was living on the Lower East Side – that was the place to be in the ’60s. It was a period where the upcoming generation… I don’t know what they call them…
PURUJIT: Baby Boomers?
HANSADUTTA: The war babies. The ones that were born after the war. I fell between. I was in between these two generations – you know, people that were born in ’45, ’46, ’47 – like that. So it was a very exciting time for young people. They saw it as… they were not going to do what their parents did. They saw that was futile. And they had some idea about free love. The whole generation and perspective began. And Prabhupada came during that time. He came, and I was living in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is across the river from Manhattan – an artist nook, the most forward or progressive-living network. It was the cheapest place to live at that time. New York had become expensive. And it was during ’66, ’65-66 – I came [to join Prabhupada] in the March of ’67.
And how I came was… I had a friend, Bob Lefkowitz. His initiated name was Rabindra-svarupa. He used to live with me for a short time. He was a little eccentric. And then he disappeared. The next time I saw him, he came to my place and said I should come and meet the Swami. And he said, “The Swami loves everyone. He sings beautifully. And he’ll give you some cymbals.” I thought Swami means like in the movies – [wearing] a turban and he has a crystal ball. I said, “Come on, Bob. Get real.” And Prabhupada was still at Mishra’s ashram at that time. He hadn’t come to New York City yet. So this friend would come on occasion, and he gave me a little book, Easy Journey to Other Planets, which Prabhupada brought a caseful of. A little [book]… kinda green and yellow paper. I kinda tossed it in my car and forgot about it. I didn’t read it.
So within the space of a few months my life really began to unravel, and I had a friend who convinced me to take LSD, and that just completely put me into a void. I lost all interest in everything. I was almost like catatonic, just sitting in a corner. Couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t talk to anyone. Then I got it into my head, I gotta read that little book, which was in a car that I had abandoned on Second Avenue and St Mark’s Place, which is six blocks from the temple.
So anyway, I went to New York. My car was still there. The windows were broken, and it was trashed out. I rummaged through it and found that little book, Easy Journey to Other Planets. And previous to this incident, or during that year, I was interested in the Hollow Earth Theory, that there’s a hollow… there’s an opening, there’s a hole. So the title of the book, Easy Journey to Other Planets, really grew on me. I thought maybe this would explain how to go to this place, this hollow Earth. So I’m reading the book, sitting behind the wheel and very deliberately – I’m gonna read every single page, every word. And I’m reading and reading, and at one point Prabhupada said how the yogis can transfer themselves to any planet they like. Maybe they’ll like to go to the Moon, and so forth. But then he concludes:
“But all these planets are temporary, and even if you go there, you have to come back, or they’ll be annihilated at the end. But if you come to the planet of Krishna, that’s permanent, and you’ll never come back.”
That just floored me completely. Completely grabbed me. I finished reading the book, and I thought, Okay, I’m gonna go to that temple. I walked there, and I said, “Whatever I have to have, whatever it is, just tell me, give it to me.” I actually didn’t know what to say, and they’re looking at me like I must be some kind of a nut, typical of the Lower East Side. They said, “Well, do you have any money?” I said, “Yeah, yeah. Just give me whatever it is.” So they gave me some Back to Godhead copies – in those days I don’t think it was the entire Back to Godhead because no one had money, so it was only half of an 8-1/2 x 11 page, stapled – and some fliers, which… I had gotten a flier maybe a month earlier to this incident on the Lower East Side. I was walking with my wife at the time, Himavati or Helena Melaskevic, from Ukraine. And we heard this ching ching ching, ching ching ching and the drone of a harmonium. I was like, “What is that sound?” And we kept following it until we came and saw a circle of people mostly sitting. But in the middle of the circle was my friend Bob Lefkowitz. He was clean-shaved, he had a clean white shirt on, and he was swaying (with arms up-raised) to this music in the middle of the circle.
When I saw that, I thought, Wow, that is far out. To do that you’ve got to be really somewhere else. This is incredible. And someone gave me a flyer: “Stay high forever. No more coming down” with philosophy, music. It listed a number of things: spiritual philosophy, spiritual music, and – the last item – spiritual food. I thought, How can food be spiritual? This line. So I kept that flyer. I went back to my place, and I kept thinking, How can food be spiritual? And because I was rather a proud person, I didn’t come forward and ask, like, “Hey…?” I was trying to figure it out, but I couldn’t figure it out.
After reading the book, I go to the temple, I talk to them a little bit, and I asked one of them, “Do you guys do yoga?” He said, “Nah, we don’t have time for that.” I thought, Wait a minute. How is that possible? I thought this was a spiritual place. I’m getting ready to go out the door, and all of a sudden, to one guy at the door I said, “How does that go? That Krishna Krishna, Rama Rama thing that you guys do? How does that go?” We repeated together about a dozen times. He said, “Yes, that’s it. You’ve got it now.” And I go out the door and at the top of my lungs, as if there was a fire somewhere, I’m chanting, “HARE KRISHNA, HARE KRISHNA.” And I do this walking all the way back to my abandoned car, six blocks. And as I’m walking, I notice that people are just… like writing me off, like This guy’s a goner. You’ve seen people who are talking to themselves or shouting out loud. You know that the guy’s a goner. There’s no sense in trying to… you just try to avoid or have anything to do with him. So I understood that people were seeing me like that. I thought, I’m liberated. I’m actually free. As long as I do this, people will just… I’m in another place, and they’re there. That was very clear to me right off.
Then I get to the car and I think, Well, what about Helena? She’s at home alone. I thought, Well, I’ll go back and get her some beads too. In those days they put the beads in a plastic bag, loose with the string. You get some string and a bag of 108 beads and a head bead. I still have mine. Red ones. They had red ones, green ones, blue ones. Red ones, green ones, and blue ones. They were much redder when I got them. I mean, they were like cherries. They were really…. I thought, Wow. So I go and I get another set of beads. Hers were, if I remember, blue… or green. Anyway, I don’t remember. So I thought, Well, I’ll get us some beads, and she can read this, and if she likes that, well that’s good, and if not, then I’ll just come back to the temple. So of course, when I came back and I explained, she read a little bit of the pamphlet and the flyer, and she said, “Yeah, I think it’s wonderful.” I said, “Okay, let’s….” So we string up the beads by attaching to the windows. In those days you had upper window, lower window, and a kind of fitting to lock it. And you’d tie the string and then one bead at a time.
Because I was an artist at the time, we had this habit. Every night we’d go to Walter’s Bar, sit and drink beer and talk art and whatnot. In those days, a glass of beer was ten cents. And the third one you’d get free. And pretzels. And it was like… beautiful mahogany, a mirror, and you know, old style like in the western movie. And Walter happened to speak German. It’s still there. So this [much] I got: no meat, fish, eggs, no illicit sex, no gambling, and no intoxication. So that means you have to stop the cigarettes. I didn’t have any problem with the beer and the other things, but the cigarettes… I was absolutely addicted to cigarettes – roll-your-own cigarettes, ten cents a pack. Even in those days, in the Navy cigarettes were ten cents a pack for sailors. Ten cents. Now it’s like five dollars, seven dollars. Anyway. So I thought, How am I gonna stop smoking? It’s very difficult. And they told me, “Whenever you get the urge, just start chanting.” Which I tried, but I thought, Okay… Then I thought, I’m gonna stop smoking, but I have to have something in the interim. So the guy downstairs was growing pot in his room, so I asked – his name was Luke Faust, a friend of Bob Dylan. They used to sing over in the Village. He played the banjo. I said, “I gotta have some pot.” I couldn’t stand pot; it made me sick. But it was smoke. I figured, two or three times a day, short term. So after four days I was done. No more smoking.
And every day I would go to the temple from Hoboken. They would always tell me, “No, you can stay at home. Just follow the principles and….” I said, “No, I wanna join, whatever you call it.” They were insistent that “No, you can stay at home and follow the principles and it’s not necessary to come.” What I didn’t know was that because I had a wife there was no way that I could join, because that temple wasn’t even as wide as this room and it was all boys. But they didn’t know how to tell me that “We can’t have women here; we’re all brahmacharis.” I figured it out later.
But at any rate, the second time I came, I took Himavati, or Helena. We sat upstairs in Prabhupada’s room, and they gave me what they called prasadam. It was cut-up apples and bananas. And that was the spiritual food. And I was thinking, Well, how is this spiritual? That day, as I’m leaving, getting ready to go back to my place… there was a little kitchen in Prabhupada’s place, hardly as wide as the sofa. It had a stove. As I’m passing that, I see Achyutananda or who was later to become Achyutananda or maybe he was already. His karmi name originally was Charles Barns. He was a flute player for Richie Havens. So he’s standing at the stove, kind of trying to clean it. I stopped and I said, “You gotta take the top off.” Because I was a Navy cook. I said, “You have to take the top off to clean this stove. You can’t clean it that way.” And he looked at me and said, “Well, if you know how to do this, why don’t you do it?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” So we wound up spending maybe two hours cleaning that kitchen from top to bottom, because it looked like it had never been cleaned. That was my first service.
And after that four or five days went by, and on the fifth day, they finally see they’re not gonna get rid of this guy. And so they go in a huddle… Brahmananda, I think, was there; Gargamuni hadn’t arrived yet as far as I remember. They go in a huddle, and then they… one of them approached me and said, “Look, we have a guy, Keith” – they called him Keith; that was Kirtanananda. They were still calling him Keith. “He just went to Montreal to open a center. Would you be [interested]? If you’re willing to go to Montreal, that will work for you.” I said, “Yeah, sure. I was a Navy guy. I’ve been all over the world. I can go anywhere. It doesn’t matter where I go.” They said, “Okay.” Then they made sure to tell me, “But you have to get your own transportation.” I said, “Okay.”
So I had a friend – Floyd Fellman was his name – he was a huge guy. Must have weighed 300 pounds. But he was a lawyer. He was one of these hippie do-good lawyers. He was on Avenue C and Second Avenue. So I walked into his office, because he had a car. I said, “Floyd, I’ve gotta have your car.” He said, “What? Are you crazy? I need my car. I need it for work.” I said, “No, this is different. This is for Krishna.” He said, “I don’t care who it’s for. I’m not gonna give you my car.” Anyway, after one hour of talking with him, I got his car. Somehow or other, this simple principle of using everything for Krishna was very clear to me. So that day, after we’d left Floyd’s place… His car was stuck in the snow up in Connecticut, but he said if we could get it, okay, so he gave the keys.
So we go back, and there was a lady, a girl – her name was Geza Gursky – and she was being funded. Her family had money, so she had all the amenities – tape recorder, record player and all the goodies that nobody could afford. I started talking to her about Krishna, and she got all enlivened. I said, “And we have to use all the stuff for Krishna.” I got a big blanket, and we’re putting the tape recorders and everything in the blanket to wrap it up and take it with us.
The other incident was… I had another friend who lived in that building with Prabhupada – in the front part, not in the back; He lived in the front – Artchie Dukeshire. This car was stuck at his place. So Artchie had a Volkswagen bus, and I asked him, “Artchie I want to pick up that car.” And on the way I’m preaching to Artchie Dukeshire. He was a real jet setter. He was selling marijuana to the Beatles and the Rollingstones. That was his thing. He was really into the jet set. A very energetic and charismatic guy. So we’re going and I’m preaching to him about Krishna. He said, “Yeah, yeah, I know it’s the ultimate thing, but I still have a few things to do.” I said, “Artchie, that’s what maya is: to think you have other things to do. You gotta forget about it and do this.” What he wanted to do was he wanted to open a bar down in Florida where all these exotic people would come. And I’m trying to convince him, and he agrees, “Yes, it’s the ultimate thing and I’m gonna do it, but I have to just do this one thing.” I said, “Artchie, that’s what maya is.” So we get to his place, the car is covered in snow, totally. I said, “Artchie, I’m gonna show you that Krishna is so incredibly unbelievable, that I’m gonna take off all my clothes and lie down in the snow and not be cold.” Which I did. But he still wasn’t convinced. Then I took two or three hits of LSD to show him that “Nothing is gonna happen to me, because the only thing that happens to you when you take LSD is you see what’s in your head to begin with. But I don’t have anything in my head. I’ve got Krishna in my head.” And I did take that LSD and nothing happened. The next day, we were getting ready to go, and I said, “Now, Artchie, you know that this car got stuck and wouldn’t start the last time I was here. But because Krishna wants me to have this car, I’m gonna shovel the snow off and I’m gonna get in, and it’s gonna start right up.” And it did. Of course, now when I think back, I would never do anything like that. But it did. And so Artchie wound up not becoming a devotee. He actually did go to Florida and then he drowned, so I don’t know what to say about that. But at any rate, that car we used to go to Montreal.
In the last instance, they had a girl there [at the temple in New York]. It was Jadurani. She had like a Polish name. And she was –
HANSADUTTA: Judy, yeah. I can’t remember the last name. You remember? Anyway, it was Jadurani. They saw an opportunity to basically shunt her off onto me because she was a girl, and these guys were all brahmacharis, and it was kinda awkward for them how to deal with her, but I didn’t know that. They said, “We have this person. Can you take her with you?” I said, “Yeah, sure.” So we’re on the way, and at one point I said, “I’m really hungry. We gotta get something to eat.” She said, “No, we can’t go to a restaurant, but I have some chapatis.” And she had a whole stack of chapatis. So we ate these chapatis all the way up. We come to the border, and she doesn’t have her passport. I said, “How can you not have a passport? What’s wrong with you?” I was actually one of the oldest [amongst the devotees]. Kirtanananda was older. Rupanuga was older. Myself and Satsvarupa. Everyone else was like 18, 20. And I’d done four years in the service, so I couldn’t understand how someone could not have a passport.
But anyway, I think in those days they were very lenient, and we get to Avenue Du Park, 3720 or something… I can’t remember the exact address. But it was hard to find, because it was just where you go through an underpass. It was getting cold and getting dark, and finally we find it. And as we come in, Kirtanananda was the first person I see. And he’s got a stubbly [face]. He hadn’t shaved. Had a few teeth missing in the front. And he said, “Oh, you’re just in time for Kreeshna prasadam.” He had this peculiar way of saying “Kreeshna”. I said, “Oh, wow. What is that?” He said, “Hot banana milk.” And my mind flashed back to Germany: when I got sick, my mother would make me drink hot milk with kümmel [caraway seeds]. They look like cumin seeds.
PURUJIT: Fennel seeds? The green ones?
HANSADUTTA: No. Anyway. Hot milk always gets that skin on it, right? Which to me was… For some reason about it I just couldn’t stomach. I said, “No, no, no. I can’t drink that. I don’t like milk.” He said, “It’s Kreeshna prasadam.” So he made me drink the milk, and I almost… maybe this is offensive, but I almost threw up. It was just a childhood thing, something I had found unbearable to swallow. But anyway, I did.
The other thing was in the first days there he says he’s gonna teach Himavati to cook – Helena. I said, “No, you gotta teach me to cook.” Because I had seen somebody make chapatis in New York, and I was absolutely fascinated – “How did you do that?” He said, “Well, it’s Krishna’s arrangement.” I said, “No, what’s in the dough?” He said, “It’s just water and flour.” I said, “No, there’s gotta be something in the dough.” He said, “No, it’s just water and flour. Really.” I said, “Why does it puff up? How do you do it?” He said, “It just does. It’s Krishna’s arrangement.” So I wanted to learn how to cook. When Kirtanananda said, “No, I’m gonna teach Helena,” I said, “If you don’t teach me [how] to cook, I’m leaving.” Of course, I wouldn’t have left, but that kinda put him in a spot, so he said, “Okay.” So I learned to cook from Kirtanananda – you know, basic things.
The other thing was in those first months we never had enough money, because no one was doing sankirtan. That hadn’t happened yet. So Kirtanananda decided that we have to go get a job – me and Pradyumna. Pradyumna came there shortly after I came. And the first job we had was putting leaflets on people’s doors. There are areas in Montreal where you have to climb stairs. There are stairs on every doorstep. Oh man, that was brutal – the first day, two days. All your muscles cramped, and the pay was next to nothing. But one funny thing… It was really funny. We were both shaved up – Pradyumna and myself – and Pradyumna was kinda tall. Maybe tall like you. And to do this job you go to a place where people who are vagrants get a… maybe work for a day or two – a shape-up job. So we come in there, and there’s this one guy who sees Pradyumna and me with shaved head and a sika, and he gets up to Pradyumna face to face, and he wants to go around him and really get a good look at that sika, and Pradyumna keeps turning. Finally the guy sees it and says, “That’s a mighty fine haircut you got there, boy.” That was our first job. Shortly after that he got us a job in a bakery. And Pradyumna flipped out at one point because he learned that greasing the pans was done with lard, pig’s fat. He flipped out.
During that time, I kept asking Kirtanananda, “Why don’t we just go out and chant? We’ll get money.” He said, “No, no. That’s not how it works.” I said, “But if Krishna is everything, why doesn’t it work that way? Come on.” And I was accustomed to begging because when I would play hooky, I would ask some of my school friends, “Come on, let’s go. We’ll go to New York,” they’d say, “No, no. We gotta go to school. No, we don’t have any money,” and I said, “I’ll get the money. Come on, let’s go.” So we’d stand at the subway and just ask people, “Oh, I lost my lunch money” or “I don’t have enough money to get on the subway – I lost it” and within a short time we’d have a few dollars. In those days, a few dollars was a lot of money. And we’d go carousing on the subway, go to Coney Island. So it was something that I knew how to do. And he kept saying, “No, that’s not how it works.” And I kept saying, “Why doesn’t it work that way? How come?”
Shortly after I came to Montreal, which was at the end of March, 1967… March, April, May, Prabhupada got a heart attack at the end of May and the beginning of June. And he [Kirtanananda] was called to attend and take care, be a secretary and servant of Prabhupada, who we still called “the Swami”. And so I was basically running the temple. Although Janardan was officially the president, he was a student in school at McGill. I don’t know if you ever met him. You probably never met him. But he was from Latvia. I think from Latvia. One of those countries. And he was very bright. He could memorise a Sanskrit verse after a few times, and he had some very intimate talks with Prabhupada – philosophical talks. Janardan was officially [president of the temple]. And Janardan met Prabhupada at Mishra’s ashram. Have you ever heard the story how he met Prabhupada?
HANSADUTTA: Prabhupada was staying at Mishra’s ashram, and Janardan noticed there was this old man sitting off to the side, and he was mumbling something. Of course, he was chanting japa. So Janardan had a room there, and one day Prabhupada shows up at his door, and he says, “So you’re interested in Bhagavad-gita?” And Janardan says, “Yes.” He was kinda startled. And Prabhupada says, “Do you know the purpose of Bhagavad-gita?” And Janardan didn’t know how to answer. So Prabhupada said, “Turn to such-and-such verse, 18th Chapter, verse sixty-six. Sarva-dharmam parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja: Surrender unto Me, forget all this dharma.” And Janardana said that “As soon as I read that, all of a sudden I realized I had never understood what Bhagavad-gita is, what is the purpose, what is the aim.” So that’s how Janardan became a devotee, and when he went back to Montreal, he rented this bowling alley.
So end of March, April, we were engaged by Kirtanananda to rip up the lanes, the gutters where the ball rolls, to make one smooth floor. That was our function. And I was learning to cook. We’d go to the wholesale market and buy all the seconds, which are cheaper and bring back for cooking. So I was under the impression in the beginning that Krishna consciousness was going to the wholesale market, buy bhoga, come back, make prasadam, offer, eat, then take a nap, and whatever’s left, you take. That was Krishna consciousness. In this way… Anyway, Kirtanananda left, and I was thinking all the time – not all the time – but shortly after I arrived there, I kept thinking, I gotta have my own center and do things the way I think. But I knew from my Navy days that I was the low man on the totem pole, so whatever the leading person says, you do it and no argument. So that was my attitude.
Of course, me and Pradyumna became good friends, and he was immediately interested in Sanskrit. Sometimes he went to the university. One day he came back with a little book. He said, “Hansadutta, look at this book. I know we’re not supposed to read other things, but this is just like what the Swami tells us. It’s exactly the same thing.” And it was that little book Lord Chaitanya and His Precepts by Bhaktivinoda, who had sent it in the year 18-something-or-other. I said, “Why not take it to the Swami and ask him? You can ask him.” And of course Prabhupada was elated.
And then later, during that time I was in Montreal, Jayapataka came there, Achyutananda came there. It was the jumping-off place for draft dodgers. And Achyutananda took us to the Indian store, and one of the items we became absolutely addicted to were poppers (papadam). The other thing that happened in that period was – because I was married and Himavati needed some space – I came to know Peter Levine, Ishan. He later became Ishan, and his wife Bibhavati. They weren’t initiated yet. They were running a kind of house where a lot of young people – musicians – stayed. He was coming to the temple very irregularly, but he gave me a room in that house, which I didn’t have to pay for, and it was very convenient. They had a room where they had a piano, and people could sit around read. And off to the side they had a kitchen. And as soon as I saw that, I said, “Everyday, if I sit here and play a drum and sing and also cook something, maybe I can make some devotees.” Which is what I did. So from that place Bharadvaja became a devotee, Chandanacharya, Sripade… many, many boys became devotees. And I told Ishan, “We should make a program where we advertise your rooms and we try to make devotees, but if it doesn’t work within a month, then we evict them.” We just used it as a place where we could recruit people. That’s kinda what that was.
PURUJIT: The temple was going on simultaneously?
HANSADUTTA: Yeah. It was just around the corner, not far away. Henry Street, I think. And Prabhupada… when he came there, we got him an apartment, but not in that house – in some other place. But it was nearby the temple, and it was very effective. And Bharadvaja became the leading artist. We went to Boston at one point, and I could see that he was a very talented artist, and I wanted to introduce him to Prabhupada. So I took him to Prabhupada and said, “This boy, he’s really a great, talented artist.” And Prabhupada said, “Oh yes?” He immediately gave him a picture of Lord Chaitanya and said, “Do this, and bring it back to me.” So after Bharadvaja was finished – it took him a day, I think – when Prabhupada saw it, his eyes lit up like silver dollars. So anyway, he went on to become very instrumental in illustrating Prabhupada’s books.
I don’t know what… You can ask me something you want to know.
PURUJIT: Yeah. You were mentioning that you wanted to start the chanting, but Kirtanananda said this was not how, the way it was done. So that’s one question.
And another question is When did you meet Prabhupada for the first time?
HANSADUTTA: I met him in Montreal for the first time. Actually, after I read that little book, Easy Journey to Other Planets, I didn’t even know that there was a person, an actual person who was available. I just thought it was… whatever was said was so revolutionary, so illuminating, so volcanic for me. My mind became completely inundated, so I didn’t think of the Swami. In fact, at the time he was in San Francisco. He had gone there shortly before I joined. In fact, that same person – Bob Lefkowitz (Rabindra-svarupa) – I met him the night he was getting ready to drive to San Francisco to be with the Swami. I met him in a restaurant on Sixth Street. It was like a macrobiotic restaurant. And he asked me to lend him some money or give him some money. I said, “What for?” He said, “I’m going to San Francisco and somebody stole one of our tires, so I need some money.” I said, “Well, you know, I don’t really have any money, but I know how you can get some money.” And by this time we were out on the street, walking at night. He said, “How?” I said, “You could sell some pot.” He said, “Oh no, we can’t do that. That’s against our principles.” But he was smoking a cigarette. I said, “But you’re smoking a cigarette.” He said, “Oh!” and threw it down. “You’re my guru, you saved me.” He threw it down and stamped it out.
And I also had a feeling at that point that I just wanted to walk away from everything and have a new life. I said, “Bob, why don’t you take me with you?” He thought about it, and he said, “No, I can’t do it.” My heart sank to my stomach. He said, “The guy I’m going with wouldn’t like it.” That turned out to be Rayrama. That was one encounter that I had before I actually had this complete epiphany or awakening, whatever you want to call it.
So what was the other question? Oh! How did we get out onto the street? Yes, when I saw that Bharadvaja was really a capable artist, I engaged him to make the cover for a reprint that was actually done on stencil – a mimeograph stencil work. One of the things that was really keeping me fixed was that I was so impressed and transformed by reading this book, I thought everybody should have it. I thought we have to somehow find a way that everyone should read this book. I was so naive at the time. I thought… I actually believed that within one month everybody in New York City was going to become Krishna conscious, because this is so absolutely revolutionary. And I thought maybe it would take a year for the rest of the world. But I really believed this. And so there was a point when I wanted to have more copies, but I didn’t know how to get them. I didn’t know because I was so averse to books in school and couldn’t even really read and write properly. So the thing hit me that we could mimeograph it and we needed a cover, so Bharadvaja made the cover. And I bought a mimeograph machine and paper. I can’t remember how much I spent, but we printed I think five thousand copies, and I sold half those copies to Rupanuga and got all my money back. And then we’d go out on the street and sell them. I thought, “Wow, this is a perpetual gold mine.” You print the book – it costs next to nothing – you distribute it, and people read it and become devotees, then they distribute it and you get money and more books. So it was a real cent percent conviction that this is the thing to do. And it had nothing to do with being a book distributor or anything like that. It just seemed like this is a perpetual format for attracting new people and distributing and getting money. It was just unbelievable. So that’s kinda how that happened. And that stayed with me ever since.
PURUJIT: When was this?
HANSADUTTA: It was in Montreal.
HANSADUTTA: I came in 1967, yeah. I don’t know the exact date… When Prabhupada came back. He left in June, I think, and went to India to recuperate. We thought he was never going to come back. But he did. And Kirtanananda went with him, and Achyutananda also went to India or was already there at that time when Prabhupada went. So Prabhupada visited Montreal sometime in 1968 and stayed on Henry Street. By that time, that building where –
PURUJIT: Was it Henry Street or Prince Arthur?
HANSADUTTA: Ah, I don’t know.
PURUJIT: Because Henry Street is in New York.
HANSADUTTA: Okay, then Prince Arthur. I’m sorry, I’m getting mixed up. One thing that happened when Prabhupada came for the first time was I decided to line the stairway and the whole temple with little birthday candles. Each devotee had so many candles to light and a certain space between each candle to make it look really nice. I thought that this was a nice thing to do, and so I tried to coordinate it so that as soon as I saw that Prabhupada was coming, everyone would light a certain number of candles and they’d all be lit by the time he got there. But Prabhupada wasn’t showing up. I thought, What to do? Maybe I should go to Prince Arthur’s. So I go to Prince Arthur’s, but Prabhuapda is not there either. So I run back, and by this time, Prabhupada had come, and he’s sitting on the vyasasana, and I come in the door. That was a big place, that bowling alley. And he says, “Who has done this?” And I think, Oh, I did the wrong thing. Somebody said, “Hansadutta.” And he said, “Very nice.” Something like “Very nice, Krishna has given the intelligence” and I thought, Oh, okay. That was a very nice thing.
One day Prabhupada tried to teach me how to sing the prayers of Queen Kunti in his room at Prince Arthur’s Street. But I was a dolt, so I couldn’t. But Janardan was quite capable as a student. He very quickly could learn everything.
During that time, I think there was Janmastami, some high Vaishnava holiday, and Prabhupada in those first years liked to cook in the kitchen and make some special preparations for that particular event. So I remember being in the same kitchen with Prabhupada – a little kitchen – and I realised that Prabhupada was actually very small – I mean short. Like my father was very short. And I couldn’t help but ask him… and I saw how adept he was at doing everything… and graceful, so I couldn’t resist and I asked him, “Swamiji, how do you know how to do all these things?” He said, “Yes, you see, I was a very inquisitive child, so my auntie and my mother would cook and I would say, ‘What is this? What is that?'” Anyway, on this event, the format was when everything was offered, the plate would be put for Prabhupada on the vyasasana. And when he was finished, he would get off the vyasasana, and I would walk him across that long bowling alley space to the door. About halfway between the vyasasana and the door, Prabhupada stops and tells me, “Your sweet balls are very good.” And then I got a little, you know, heady. He said, “But mine were better.” So all these sweet things took place.
Another incident happened after a lecture. A question-and -answer period came, and one man raised his hand and said, “Swamiji, would you sign my book?” (Those Bhagavatams from India.) “Oh yes.” So the man comes up and he signs them. Then another person raised their hand. “Would you sign my book, too?” “Yes.” So he signed the book. Then a third person. So when the fourth person…, I said, “Now I will have to charge.”
PURUJIT: How was it to be with Prabhuapda at that time? Did devotees know that Prabhupada was from the spiritual world?
HANSADUTTA: No, we didn’t know anything. We just loved Prabhupada. He was just irresistible. I mean, of course there was some philosophy, but Prabhupada was so accessible and so practical in his response on every level that the kind of… Of course, that also exists, that when some great person is there, people have some awe and reverence. That was also there for Prabhupada. But Prabhupada was always in a working mood. At least, I remember at some point after Prabhupada came back from India I kept thinking, Do I really understand what this Krishna consciousness is? It seems so simple. Maybe I don’t got it right. And I had this prayer that I wished I could spend a week with Prabhupada in immediate proximity just to make sure I got it right. I mean, it may sound silly, but that’s really how it was. It seemed just so simple that I thought, How could it be so simple? And yet it was a wonderful thing. And then there was no reason why Prabhupada would come or should come to Montreal, because he was busy in New York and San Francisco. But then one day it was announced that the Swami is coming because he had some official business with the embassy, his visa, and things like that. And of course I got to stay with Prabhupada in a small room that they got him – which was basically just a bed and a couch, and there was a little alcove where there was a stove and a sink. And I was so nervous. The first time I was so nervous. I slept under that sink.
PURUJIT: Was this the first time you saw Prabhupada?
HANSADUTTA: No, I saw…
PURUJIT: Because you said the first time you saw him was in Montreal.
HANSADUTTA: No, I saw him when he got ready to leave New York for India. I saw him at that time. That’s a story by itself. And I saw him when he came back, because we all came to receive him.
PURUJIT: In New York?
HANSADUTTA: Yeah. But there was no exchange or anything. It’s just that I was part of that crowd of devotees – which was very ecstatic and that’s also a story. But anyways, when he came to Montreal, that may be the first time that I… When we picked him up at the airport in Janardan’s car, which was kind of a jalopy, I’m in the back seat, and I’m thinking, I’m going to hear the Swami say something very profound and spiritual. So Prabhupada said, “What kind of car is this?” And I can’t remember the reply, and I don’t even know what kind of car it was. So Prabhupada starts to tell this story about a man who could recognise any car just by hearing the sound – “Oh, that’s a Ford” or “That’s a Buick.”
So his friend said, “We want to test you to see if you really can.” So they blindfolded him.
And I’m listening to the story and wondering, How is this spiritual?
They blindfolded the man, and one car after the other passed by. And he said, “That’s a Buick” and so forth and so on. Then finally they decide to tie all these tin cans to a donkey’s tail, whip him, and have him pass by as if it were a car. So the man says, “Oh, that’s a Ford.”
And Prabhupada just begins to belly laugh. And of course, because I was expecting something else, I couldn’t… I didn’t see how that was funny or why Prabhupada was telling this story. My point is that Prabhupada was not stereotyped. He didn’t feel obliged to say something profound and mysterious or particularly, stereotypically spiritual. That was my first real close encounter.
So anyway, I’m sleeping under the sink and this little stove, but I’m so nervous that I can’t sleep, and at some point – maybe one in the morning or two in the morning – I hear some sound, and Prabhupada starts chanting, but he doesn’t turn on the light. So I’m wondering, What should I do? So I thought I should make like I’m sleeping, don’t make a sound. Next day, the same thing happens. I can’t sleep. I’m nervous. So this time when Prabhupada at two in the morning or whenever it was starts to chant, I thought, I’d better make some sound that I’m awake. So when I do, the light goes on and Prabhupada says, “Oh, You’re awake?” By this time… Prabhupada is sitting on the couch like this, and I’m sitting looking up, and I say, “Oh, Swamiji, I’m so nervous. I didn’t sleep last night, and I couldn’t sleep tonight.” Then Prabhupada leans down and he says, “Good. Actually, I don’t like to sleep. I think sleeping is a waste of time, and I don’t like my disciples to sleep.” And he says, “Actually, our aim is to make sleeping nil, eating nil, defending nil.” He says, “We don’t say that, but that is our aim.” So that was my first exchange.
PURUJIT: When you say you were nervous, why were you nervous?
HANSADUTTA: Why was I nervous? Because I had no immediate service to Prabhupada in the sense that he’d tell me, “Look, I want you to do this or do that.” Maybe that’s why. But I found very quickly… like when Kirtanananda was still there, he would do something or something would happen, he would write a letter to the Swami, and the Swami would write back. And because I felt like, Hey, we should go out, Kirtanananda. Come on. We should go out on the street. Why are we going to work? This is not good. So I felt like… In the military you always know who is the end all and be all, and oftentimes you find yourself caught with someone who you’d rather not have tell you what to do, because he doesn’t really seem to know what to do or he has it in for you – whatever. So I thought immediately I have to do something. This was after Kirtanananda had left and while he was still there, I thought, I have to do something so I can write a letter to the Swami. And then he’ll write back, and then I’ll do something else and then I can write again. So that’s kinda… What was it that I did? I think I collected a certain amount of money or something. It was something to write about. And so from that point on, I was always directly, if not physically, by letter connected with the Swami, Prabhupada.
I don’t know when devotees started calling the Swami “Prabhupada”. But my wife Himavati at the time didn’t like that word, and she said, “I’m just going to call him ‘The Swami’ like I always have. But because everyone was getting on her case, she then said, “Swamiji, everyone says I have to call you ‘Prabhupada’. But I want to call you ‘Swamiji.’ Is that okay?” He said, “Yes” and he laughed. That’s how she was. She was very casual in her relationship. I was a lot more like a soldier and his superior – “Yes Sir, No Sir, Whatever you say, Sir.” Even if Prabhupada asked me something, I would always before answering say “Prabhupada, do you really want me to tell you what I think?” He said, “Yes,” and then I felt free. But I was not in the habit of just bantering back and forth with Prabhupada. Tamal was. Some devotees were. Himavati was so…
HANSADUTTA: Spontaneous and not artificial. It was just spontaneous. But maybe it was because she was a posthumous child, and so Prabhupada was sort of like her father. I remember when Prabhupada left Montreal, Himavati just followed him right behind. Other devotees… at some point they stopped. They knew, Oh, this is immigration. You can’t go past this point. But she just kept going. When Prabhupada realised that she was right behind him, he turned around and patted her and stroked her on the head. And that was just….
One time in London, I came into Prabhupada’s room. He had a big room – I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the London temple. It was a huge room, [with] beautiful cut-glass, leaded glass windows behind him that looked out to the lawn. He had a table there and a futon. For some reason I have to see Prabhupada so I come and it’s a big room. It’s almost as big as that bowling alley. Maybe not quite, but big. And covered with white sheets and bolsters all around. I come in and Himavati is sitting behind the table with Prabhupada, on that futon. And she has his hand in her hand. And she’s reading his palm. And Prabhupada says, “What about this line? What does this tell?” “Oh, Prabhupada, your head line is so long, you’re very intelligent.” That was how….
And when he came somewhere where we were, she would cook. One instance, Srutakirti was the servant, so he says to Himavati, “Don’t cook very much because Prabhupada hasn’t been eating. He’s not well.” But Himavati just cooks a whole thing. And she was a very good cook. She was better than me. She comes in and she puts everything on Prabhupada’s desk and goes. And after a certain time she comes back. And Prabhupada has eaten just about everything. And she says, “But Prabhupada, everybody said that you’re sick and not eating and I shouldn’t cook.” He said, “No! They just don’t know how to cook.”
And she was engaged in making clothing for Prabhupada’s little deities that he carried wherever he went. When he came to Montreal… I’d made some Jagannatha deities about this large, maybe this high [Hansadutta uses his hands to indicate that the deities measured about five or six inches in height], and she made clothes – little turbans and everything. And they sat these deities next to where Prabhupada was sitting at the time. So at some point Prabhupada looks over, and he picks up one of the deities, and he starts to examine the stitching, really looking at it. And he said, “Who has done this?” Someone says, “Himavati.” And he says, “Oh. You can become self-realised just by sewing.” Then she says, “But Swamiji, I need a new sewing machine, but Hansadutta won’t buy me one.” “Oh?” he says. “How is that?” She says, “Well, he says it’s too expensive because I want the best sewing machine.” In those days, Pfaff (at least by her) was considered to be the best, and it probably was. She said, “I want that machine. I don’t want another machine. I want the best.” Prabhupada said, “Yes, she should have the best because the stitching is first class.” So he turns to me and says, “You buy her a sewing machine.” So I had to spend three hundred dollars for a new sewing machine.
At another point, we had come to New York from Montreal, and she had made Prabhupada a western-cut cowboy shirt with snaps [on the sleeve cuffs]. This one [Hansadutta points to his own shirt] only has one snap, but they [Prabhupada’s sleeve cuffs] had three snaps and snaps like this [on the front placket], [made out of] silk – and saffron [color], of course. So we had come to Prabhupada’s little room upstairs in the apartment, and she surprised him… [held it up and said], “Swamiji, I made you this shirt. This is a cowboy shirt.” He said, “Oh” and immediately took off his…
HANSADUTTA: Kurta, yeah, his shirt and put it on. He was fascinated with the snaps. He was like a little boy. He was snapping and admiring it. Himavati was looking at him, and she says, “Oh, Swamiji, you look like a cowboy”, thinking of an American cowboy, and he says, “But I am a cowboy.” I don’t know what that means. I’m not inferring that I have some special insight, but Prabhupada reciprocated. And with Himavati, it was just flowing and natural.
And during that time we had come to New York so Himavati could give birth to her baby – it turned out to be stillborn. So the next day when she came out of the hospital, Prabhupada announced that he’s going to install the Jagannatha deities in that New York temple. They were big. They were like this tall maybe [indicates the height of about four feet], and he turned to Himavati and he said, “Can you make clothes for this installation?” And she said, “But Swamiji, I just came out of the hospital. I just had a stillborn birth.” He said, “Oh? Is it very difficult?” She said, “No, it’s okay. I’ll do it.” And I don’t know about other devotees [sic], but in those days Jagannatha was just as He was. There were no clothes, nothing. He was just standing on the altar. And the routine was you’d cook the prasadam, bring out the pots, bow down, and say “nama om vishnu-padaya…” [pranams] three times, like that, and “namas te sarasvate devam…” and “sri-krishna-chaitanya…”, then you’d dish out and eat. That was it. It was very simple.
PURUJIT: You would wait until Jagannatha eats?
HANSADUTTA: No. Eat immediately. So we had an apartment on Sixth Avenue, which was a few blocks from Second Avenue, and one avenue over. So those deities were brought to our apartment on the fourth or fifth floor, and in the evening I went to sleep. She stayed up all night and when I got up the next morning They had turbans, they had the whole thing. I was like, How did she know? because Prabhupada didn’t tell how to do it. How did she know? Anyway, there it was. So They were installed there.
What was the other thing? Oh yeah. And I went on to make little deities, about this big [indicates the height of about one inch] and some that were this big [indicates about 3 inches high], and the devotees would wear them around the neck. You might have seen pictures. I made a set for Prabhupada of the three deities: Jagannatha, Subhadra, Balarama, and he was wearing them. And I still have Them. But at one point, when we began, Himavati said to him, “Swamiji, is there some special prayer for Lord Jagannatha?” And he said, “Yes, jagannatha swami, nayana patha gami bhava tu me.” She said, “Oh, could you write it in Sanskrit and English, so I can put it, inscribe it on the back of these deities?” So that’s how that came out.
PURUJIT: What was your interaction with Himavati? Because you said in the beginning that in New York they didn’t like the householders because of the brahmachari-oriented…. And then you went to Montreal. How was the situation?
HANSADUTTA: At first we lived in the temple. We just had some curtains partitioning so that Jadurani and female devotees… But at some point we got that room because of Ishan, and we also had another place – maybe it was just before that – which was one room and it had a big glass picture window, but it was on the second floor, so she made curtains. And I had a very unusual dream there. Himavati made like a double sleeping bag so we could, you know…. She was a very good seamstress. So one night I have this dream that Prabhupada knocks on the door and I said, “Okay, come in” and he says, “I’m very tired, I want to take rest.” “Oh, okay.” So Himavati gets up, and he said, “No, you sleep there and Hansadutta sleeps there and I’ll sleep in the middle.” “Oh no! We can’t do that!” Just a dream, of course. He said, “No, no. You lie down and I will sleep in the middle.” So we do this in the dream, where we have like a nap. Then Prabhupada wakes up and he said, “I’d like to go for a ride.” I still had that car. So I said, “Okay.” So in the dream we get in the car and I’m driving along and I [think to myself that I] have to be careful to drive not so fast. Prabhuapda said, “Drive a little faster.” “Okay.” I drive a little faster. He keeps saying, “Faster, still faster. More faster.” And at some point we’re really racing down the road, and Prabhupada is laughing. So that was the dream. What can I say?
PURUJIT: Maybe you can say a little bit about Himavati. How did you meet Himavati in the beginning?
HANSADUTTA: Oh, well I met her before I became a devotee and I was living in Hoboken alone. And I never wanted to get married. In fact, my mother used to ask me, “Don’t you want to get married and have a nice family?” I said, “No, I don’t want.” Anyway, I wound up in Hoboken going through the artist thing, in this building. In fact, it was right across the street from where they made a famous movie, On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando. And there was a scene there – chicken coop scene. I was still there. You can see it, just maybe twenty feet away. Anyway, a friend of mine, Paul Rizzuto – he was Italian, a very good painter… actually, very good. He painted a Rembrandt style painting. He invited me for lunch at his apartment in New York on the Lower East Side. And he was married. His wife’s name was Susan. So when I was there, I was seeing how she was doing everything, everything clean, kept everything orderly and I thought that’s pretty good, maybe I should have a wife. So I got it in my head that it’s a good thing. I’m all alone and when I have to eat something, it’s kind of… so I thought, Yeah, I’m gonna get a wife. So I didn’t know anyone. But artists always go to parties and carouse in New York, so I had spent a couple of hours talking to this girl, and that was Himavati. So I asked my friend, “Do you remember I was talking to that girl? Do you have a phone number for her? Do you know her or where she is?” He said, “Yeah, here’s her number.” So I called her up, and I said, “I’m so-and-so, do you remember?” “Yes, yes, yes, I remember.” “Well, why don’t we meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?” “So okay.” So we meet and then we do what artists do – look at paintings and then I take her to Hoboken, which is across the river, and we go to a restaurant to eat – some Italian restaurant. And I’m sitting across from her, and I said, “Me and you, we’re gonna get married.” She said, “Why? What, are you crazy? You don’t know me.” I said, “No, I know. I know that we’re going to be married. There’s no doubt about it.” And then I took her home. And it wasn’t long thereafter that we married. She lived in the Bronx, so it was a great ordeal to take her home. You know, you’re supposed to take her home. So I kept telling her, “Why don’t we just get married? This is very troublesome.” She was a scholarship student, art student at Pratt Institute. She said, “Oh no, I can’t do that. My mother would….” Her mother hardly spoke English. She escaped from the Ukraine. And she had a sister, Stephanie. Anyway, they didn’t like me at all. And I never actually… I only met them once or twice. I made a point of avoiding [them]. So at one point I told her, I said, “Look, this is really too much to do, to go up to the Bronx and come back.” I said, “If you don’t marry me, I’ll just never see you again, that’s all.” So we got married.
And then it didn’t take long before we joined Prabhupada. I can’t remember the dates right now, but it didn’t take long. Anyway, that’s how I came.
PURUJIT: How was the householder situation as opposed to the brahmacharis at that time?
HANSADUTTA: Well, I understood right away that although I was married our business is to serve Prabhupada, to work for Prabhupada, to do what had to be done for Prabhupada, and there should be… Because in those days, only householders who had some capacity to manage and control their situation could live in the temple. So I almost never lived together in the same room with Himavati. She always had a place, a room, and I had a place. Our marriage… Prabhupada was in the middle. Maybe that’s the meaning of that dream. I never thought of that. Yeah, our engagement was… our relationship was Prabhupada-centered. It was just… we were Prabhupada-centered.
I asked her years later… A few years ago she called me up after I hadn’t heard from her for twenty years. She called me up and she had a car and she needed money. And I thought, Well, I owe her that much. Okay. So I went to LA to pick up this car, and I asked her, “Why did you marry me and go with the whole Krishna thing?” She said, “Well, it was so exciting. It was such a great adventure, and you were so competent that I just couldn’t resist.” So it was like that. But she’s a Krishna— Prabhupada devotee. She doesn’t go to the temple; she doesn’t want to be bothered with all that stuff.
And she could speak in public. When we first went to India, I remember one function in Calcutta was huge. Twenty thousand, thirty thousand people. It was huge. So we were there and all the sannyasis were sitting with their dandas. And when it came time to speak, Prabhupada had her [get up to speak]. She was the main speaker. And all the sannyasis are like, What’s going on? So she could articulate. She was not a singer. Yamuna and her were like the first ladies of ISKCON. And you had people like Malati, Kausalya… they were also. But I think Yamuna and Himavati were the leading ladies, so to speak. Yamuna could sing very well. Beautiful singer. Himavati didn’t sing. I mean, she sang along, but she never tried to take a leading….
PURUJIT: From the letters, Prabhupada pretty much praises Himavati’s deity worship.
HANSADUTTA: Yeah. She was adept at sewing, and she took care of the deities. I can’t say that I was much of a deity worshipper or even a temple [devotee]. You know, if I could get a dozen guys, round up a dozen… [End of Part 1] Go to Part 2