By Suta Goswami Das
Prabhupada Bhagavata Swagatham Book Marathon distribution 2019 with Radheshyam prabhu
Traveling with Radheshyam Prabhu and distributing books is nothing short of an adventure. As per the English dictionary, the definition of an adventure is “an exciting or daring experience”. An experience is exciting when you don’t know what is awaiting you the next moment. With Radheshyam Prabhu, every day is an exciting experience, especially during Book Marathon. One day traveling in crowded trains, then traveling further to remote villages in the vehicle with bumpy roads. Some days lying down on a desolate station in the middle of the night, waiting for a regularly delayed train. Sometimes distributing books in trains trying to escape the eyes of local police. Or even sometimes getting into debates with unreasonable wranglers trying to mar ISKCON’s reputation in public.
Every year as soon as Marathon begins, prabhuji keeps everything aside, prioritizing Book distribution over everything else. Meetings, problem-solving, Brahmachari training, youth preaching related activities or even his health, everything goes to background. During this period, prabhuji’s general daily schedule is something as follows. We would leave for Pune station immediately after the morning SB class at around 9 am. And then we would look for a train from Pune to Lonavala to distribute books. Prabhuji would normally carry small books due to backache and I would carry the big books. Then after getting down in Lonavla, we would take a train back to Pune again to distribute books. Then in the second half of the day, Prabhuji would travel home to home for Bhagavatam installation. On average, by the time we return to the temple its 10 pm or later.
Undoubtedly amongst different types of book distribution, Prabhuji has a special affinity to reach out Srimad Bhagavatam home to home. Once when I had asked Prabhuji on his inspiration behind Bhagavatam distribution, he replied “Prabhupad has spent so much of his time and energy giving us these golden purports. I desire to reach out this spotless Purana to every corner of India and start local Bhagavatam study circles, wherein devotees in the neighborhood locality come together and then read n discuss Bhagavatam together. I am ready to burn my body for this cause”.
Like every year this year also we had put up posters for Prabhuji’s “Bhagavatam Swagatam” programs in different centers across Pune and Hyderabad. And sent email posters to different parts of India. Apart from being president in Pune, this time he has added responsibility being co-president in Hyderabad, which demands him to spend at least 7 days in a month there, as many things are taking new shape there. Regardless of these, in this Marathon, prabhuji set a target of 400 SB and CC sets as an offering to Prabhupad.
This year our Book distribution began on 21 Nov, which coincidentally was also prji’s 51st birthday. Our first-day experience of Bhagavatam installation was v encouraging with more than 20 Srimad Bhagavatam sets among the Bhosari congregation. Even though they had initially ordered for 11 sets, but after seeing the grand program of Radheshyam Pr performing aarti, lecture on glories of Srimad Bhagavatam, and a personal handwritten message from Prji, many families got inspired to take a set for their home as well. Seeing this response, we decided to adopt this strategy this time. We started carrying many more sets to program than the actual requested number. And in most of the programs, we were pleasantly surprised how many people even newcomers get inspired to take SB sets after hearing the importance of reading Bhagavatam.
It is difficult to describe each and every experience elaborately but would like to share some prominent and most inspiring personal experiences. Amidst Bhagavatam distribution in Pune, Prji would take out time go to different cities across India. His first outstation visit was to Burla Voice to Orisa where he distributed 17 Bhagavatam sets in a day by traveling back and forth in flight. Prji had taken a target of distributing a minimum of 10 sets in a day. Then the next historic distribution was done by Prabhuji in Hyderabad on Gita Jayanti day where he distributed 108 SB sets in a single evening program. This was a grand program organized in ABIDS temple, where 108 families assembled in a single hall and all the SB sets were decorated in front of the altar and a mega aarti was performed and then Prji distributed the sets to each family who came ahead and took their set from Prabhuji’s hands. This entire program in Hyderabad was organized by HG Lilanand Prabhu and most of the families who took sets on this day were connected to Lilanand Pr in his programs. Apart from this program in Hyderabad, all the coordination for distributing books in Hyderabad was done primarily by Murali Gopinath Prabhu. Murali Gopinath Prabhu was blessed with a baby girl during this Marathon time. But he was so busy with coordination service that he was hardly able to spend some time with his newly arrived daughter.
After Hyderabad, Prji went to Parbani, where he distributed 40 Bhagavatam sets. Parbani is a vibrant center running under vibrant spiritual leadership of Deenanath Prabhu, who is a doctor by profession but he is running preaching in different places around Parbani and inspiring thousands of devotees. Prabhuji also covered hingoli, Nanded where he could distribute around 50 SB sets. After the release of Marathi CC, Latur devotees under Sadhanand Pr took around 40+ CC sets from the hands of Radheshyam Prabhu. One of the most challenging part was to travel in cars to all different places in Maharashtra where the roads are under constriction and Prabhuji had to face severe stomach pain and health disorders because of constant jerking of vehicles in bad roads. But in spite of his bad health, I never saw his spirit diminishing a bit.
One of the most memorable experiences was in Manora and Jabalpur. Manora is a small town near Akola which is the home town of our Premharinaam Prabhu, one Senior Brahmacari from Pune temple, currently TP of ISKCON Kanpur. All family and extended family members connected to Premharinaam Pr took around 17 Marathi SB sets from Radheshyam Prabhu’s hands. This Manora installation program was a grand program arranged by Premharinaam Pr’s brother attended by over 500 people in Manora. After Manora Prabhuji went to Jabalpur which is home town of our Adishyam Prabhu. Prji distributed around 15 SB sets in the temple program in Jabalpur. Prabhuji visited Adishyam Pr’s house where he gave Ganga water to his grandfather who was bedridden for 2 years. In two days we got news that his Grandfather left his body.
During his visit to different centers across India, apart from distributing books he would inspire communities to give up differences and work together, inspiring individuals to take to regular reading of Bhagavatam. Also, Prabhuji would inspire people to start house programs. He would feel great pleasure, when a devotee started a new program of finished reading Bhagavatam inspired by his last visit to his place.
My special gratitude to Karuna nimai Pr, Mahabharat Pr, Shudh citta Pr, Premharinaam Pr, Sadhananand Pr, Deenanath Pr, Vrajprasad Pr, Vittal chandra Pr, Adishyam Pr, Bamkim rai Pr and many others for helping us do this SB installation coordination at various places. And but not least, all this would not have been possible without our jivadaya team especially Ramsundar Pr, Deenanath Narayan Pr, Amey Madhusudan Pr, and Sarvalaxan Pr.
Thus with all these efforts, Prji could achieve a score of 650 sets in this marathon as an offering to Srila Prabhupad setting an example for the whole Pune community to follow. And all throughout this Marathon, I was fortunate to get the service of connecting with hundreds of people who ordered SB sets and do the co-ordination of daily schedules of Prabhuji’s home visits and witness all these incidents v closely and aspire to grab some drops of the oceanic missionary spirit which Prji has to serve Prabhupada. Although it was a strenuous effort for both of us, our bones and joints paining after so many days of SP book distribution travelling day in and day out, we felt great pleasure at the end of it all, because we are sure SP and Guru Parampara and all Vaishnavas will be pleased by this success in reaching out SP’s favorite spiritual literature to so many needy souls!