The past two months have been intense, non-stop, eye-opening and educational, as I’ve travelled across America in a white van with the ‘Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits’ kirtan band on our ‘Mantralogy’ tour. We move from place to place, usually stopping for no more than a day to perform kirtan a diverse range of settings – from nightclubs in New York, to devotee homes and temples, to an array of different kinds of yoga studios (where kirtan has become very popular, both as a stand-alone event, as well as a live accompaniment to asana classes).
The reception from the people we meet has so far been great. It’s an incredible feeling to see people being touched by the experience of chanting – sometimes for the first time. In New York a lady came up at the end of a rip-roaring evening of kirtan and handed us a letter. We opened it later on in the van, and were moved to read her outpouring of gratitude for the appearance of kirtan in her life. She explained how riding her bike one day after listening to our kirtan, she was suddenly struck by the deep realisation that God is personally present in the names ‘Hare Krishna’ and feels that her life has been transformed since this moment. Other people have expressed similar stories. I definitely feel we can’t claim to be responsible – of course this is purely by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya, but I am praying that somehow, we are acting as instruments for their will.
In the past three weeks we travelled first to England for the Janmashtami festival – my first at home after three years of being in America for the summer on the Krishna Culture Festival bus tour. It was wonderful to come home and share what I’ve been doing with all of my family and friends. I felt such a strong sense of unity as we all joined together to celebrate the festival, and had many hours of joyful, moving kirtan together. When we did kirtan on the main festival stage, I’d look out and see the most incredible variety of people – from close family and friends of all ages, to local villagers, to Gujarati grannies (who we actually got to clap and sing – much to our surprise). Our brief stay culminated in a final stage kirtan, after which we were whisked out to the car park and driven straight to the airport to fly to Mumbai, where we would be performing a kirtan concert for a special launch of Radhanath Swami’s book ‘The Journey Home’.
We arrived in India to masked faces – Mumbai was in the grip of a swine flu scare. Luckily we were unaffected! We had an intense week of rehearsals with local musicians and also did several other types of programs in between, including appearing on Radio Mirchi, with Jeeturaj, India’s no.1 DJ. He has a huge influence on the youth of Mumbai, both in his recommendations in music and film. He was very eccentric, but a lot of fun too, and he was completely amazed to learn that all of the band members had been born of devotee parents. When he learned that all the girls knew how to put on saris and that we could all sing in Sanskrit, he almost fell off his chair! There was a lot of media interest in our project, and we did many interviews and photoshoots with various newspapers.
It was my first time in Mumbai, and first experience of Indian monsoon season. The rain would normally start at about 6.30 every morning – with barely a minute’s drizzle, it would suddenly be coming down in an almighty torrential downpour, hammering down on the temporary tin rooftops that cover the open air courtyards and rising to ankle deep level in the street. Within the grounds of Radha Gopinath temple, an oasis in the heart of the busy city, it was wonderful to watch it wash the leaves of the kadamba and tamal trees, sending the birds high up into the shelter of the canopies. Inspiring and beautiful to meditate upon the analogy of the spiritual master’s mercy being like this downpour of cooling rain as we burn in the forest fire of material life.