Bonds of Love: Amekhala Devi Dasi (UK)
In Manchester in 1971, Ranchor Das gave Amekhala a Back to Godhead magazine. Impressed by Ranchor, Amekhala began visiting the Manchester temple. Then in 1973, not long after the devotees acquired Bhaktivedanta Manor, she moved into one of the cottages on the Manor property, and in 1974 Srila Prabhupada initiated her by letter.
I had the wonderful service of helping to clean Srila Prabhupada’s rooms at the Manor. As we cleaned the devotees talked about Srila Prabhupada, and then one day they told me he was coming along with hundreds of devotees from throughout England and Europe who wanted to be with him. The day Prabhupada came, I stayed back from the airport to help ready his room and the temple room. When I heard the huge kirtana that meant Prabhupada was near, my heart pounded. I shook with nervousness. Finally the temple door opened and I saw Srila Prabhupada face to face. He offered his pranams to me. As he walked by I threw rose petals on his path. Afterwards my hairs stood on end and tears streamed from my eyes. Externally I was a mess, but inside I felt like I was home. It was amazing.
Then one day a few months later, a group of Vaisnavis ran to my cottage and banged on the door, screaming my name. “My God, what's going on,” I wondered, is somebody dead?” But they yelled, “You have a letter from Srila Prabhupada!” I thought “What? Prabhupada doesn't even know who I am.” I opened the letter and read, ”My dear daughter, thank you for cleaning my room. If you continue in devotional service and follow the regulative principles, you will go back to Godhead in this lifetime.” I was honored to clean Prabhupada’s room and couldn't believe that he had taken the time to thank me for doing that small service.
Later, I was in charge of the kitchen at New Mayapur, in France. When Srila Prabhupada came I was assigned to buy groceries. I couldn’t find chapati flour, but I was painfully shy and didn't want to ask the devotees for help. The French merchants thought I was insane; “What the hell is chapati flour?” they asked me. But I was sure that if I didn’t get chapati flour, Prabhupada would never write to me again. Still, I didn’t tell anyone that I couldn’t find it. Instead, I bought some flour that looked like chapati flour. Later, when I took Prabhupada his lunch plate, he looked at the plate and then at me and said, “So you could not find chapati flour.” That was mystical; how did he know it was me who couldn’t find the flour?
Still later, I was involved with the restaurant in New York City. Rsi Kumara, who’s an absolutely amazing cook, was teaching me cooking. But Rsi Kumara was just becoming confused about his Krishna consciousness – to the point where he was blaspheming and blaming Prabhupada for whatever he was suffering. The devotees told me not to talk to him – not to even look at him – but something in my heart told me that no matter what a devotee does, we have to somehow or other let that person know that he or she is still a friend. I thought, “If nobody talks to him, how will there be a chance of his coming back or feeling welcome in any way?” So I was friendly with Rsi Kumara. When Prabhupada came to visit the New York City temple, he got out of the car, walked to Rsi Kumara and rubbed his head. Prabhupada said, “How are you? Are you going to cook for me?” The big leaders all around said, “Prabhupada he eats meat, he blasphemes you …” Prabhupada said, “That's ok.” So Rsi Kumara cooked for Prabhupada and asked me to help him, which I did. Srila Prabhupada loved his cooking.
This Rsi Kumara incident let me see Prabhupada’s compassion and love for the devotees. Prabhupada saw that Rsi Kumara never completely cut himself off, that there was still an opening. I think it’s important that we all learn to keep the door open, because you never know when the devotee’s heart is going to change again. After all, we are all devotees and at the same time we are all fallen. So the experience with Rsi Kumar and Srila Prabhupada was also amazing.