Exiting the plane at Indira Gandhi International in New Delhi, the first thing I saw on the airport walls was a huge modernistic bas-relief of Viṣṇu lying in the ocean of causality, generating all the “bubbles” of worlds from his pores. I stopped in my tracks and kissed the airport floor!
The weight of the air… and its smell. It seemed like the fragrance and sweat of a lover – not clean or rosey, but better: saturated with identity and intimacy.
In front of the airport, many signs warned us not to accept a ride from anyone who didn’t have an official taxi license on display. Dhanurdhara Swāmī had already briefed me on this, adding, “Make sure the driver agrees on the price before you get in the taxi, and don’t let him change it.”
Vṛndāvana is about two hours from the airport by taxi. I spend all of that time in awe. India was in almost as much disrepair as ISKCON, but I loved it! Everything was so dangerous, real, vivid and alive.
The roads had almost nothing in common with the roads of America. “Sanskrit” letters were everywhere, on every traffic sign and billboard. The vehicles were decorated and painted with devotional slogans like “Jai Maaa,” “Har Har Mahādev” and so on. Trucks and busses shared the narrow roads with cars, motorcycles, scooters and three-wheeled semi-closed motorized rikshaws – all of which held at least twice as many people and goods as they were designed for. All of these motor cars zig-zagged around the non-motorized flocks: rickshaw’s pulling people on three-wheeled cycles, bicycles, walkers, buffalo and bulls pulling carts, herds of sheep, roaming dogs, and occasionally even a plodding, thron-chewing camel or gigantic elephant!
If the big traffic carried twice as much as they should, the smaller vehicles must have carried five to ten times of what any sane person would attempt. I gawked in awe at entire families – husband, wife and two children – traveling on a single motor-scooter! What prevented this from imploding in mass destruction must have been nothing less than a constant succession of miracles, or maybe it was a magic incanted by the ever-blaring horns?
By the will of providence, our taxi was not smashed by a bus or truck, nor stepped on by an elephant, nor run off the road trying to avoid killing a bull. We actually made it alive out of Delhi and its suburbs and gradually entered a much more rural tract, with fields of rice and other grains stretching off either side of the road for acres in either direction, small temples popping up here and there amidst the crops.
We were all chanting intently the entire way, not out of fear of the Delhi traffic, but out of delight and anticipation about entering Vṛndāvana – the place where everyone was Krishna’s devotee, the place where Krishna had displayed his most intimate affairs, the most spiritual place in the universe!
And, suddenly, we were there.
I knew because we had stopped under under an archway with an inscription that read, “Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Marga.” Someone had lowered a gate, like those at railroad crossings, and was probably collecting some tax from the driver.
I immediately got out of the taxi, bowed flat in the dirt at the roadside, and rolled around in the dust until my self-consciousness caught up with me. I was here! I was in Vṛndāvana! And I was covered in her dust!
– Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
A Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
By Vraja Kishor [VrajaKishor.com]