After the morning program, everybody started doing their thing.
Vraja formally introduced me to Prabhu. It was funny that Prabhu cannot pronounce my name properly, but after a few tries, he was able to perfect it. Prabhu was delighted that I came all the way from Pampanga just to attend the morning program. He actually invited me to stay for a longer period of time.
“Why not stay here in the temple? You will be working with Vraja. It’s going to be fun. You don’t have to worry about food because everything is provided for. We can cook delicious vegetarian meals. You don’t have to worry about your shelter because you can stay in the ashram. You don’t have to worry about your clothes because you will just be wearing our traditional robes. Call your boss and tell her that you’ll be quitting”
I was just laughing. His offer is really tempting. I want that kind of lifestyle. I want to live in a tight knit, intentional and unconventional community. Even for that moment, I really feel my work-life is starting to fall apart; I feel that I have nothing to lose anyway. That’s why I came in the temple in the first place. To breath some fresh air. To experience something new. I want to give them that YES. I want to live like them and work for God.
“Think about it”, Prabhu added. “If you really can’t, try it for a week.”
“I will…soon”, I said. “I will definitely stay for a longer period of time. For now, I’ll just go downstairs to help the others prepare the food”
“Think about it”, he said again as he smiled at me. “Enjoy the food preparation!”
I went downstairs in the 4th floor where the kitchen is. The devotees are there–Vraja, his brother, and the twin brothers from New Zealand. The preparation was humongous. Tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, string beans, ginger, lime, bananas, etc. There were also groceries bought from Assad, a local Indian store. While cooking, they were playing some Hare Krishna songs.
“Do you sing other songs aside from Hare Krishna songs?”, I asked them.
“No Prabhu. We just sing songs that will honor Krishna. The songs nowadays are just about sex and drugs”, Vraja answered.
The twins from New Zealand are great with their Indian food. Even Vraja and his brother were impressed. I was really, really, amazed.
“Hmmmm. The food really smells good,” I said, trying to compliment them.
“I’m sorry Prabhu, but during the preparation of food, we don’t usually try to please ourselves with the smell and even the taste. In fact, we cannot taste the food while preparing it. That is for Krishna and Krishna alone”, said Vraja.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know”
“It’s ok. Don’t worry. This is your first time”
The food preparation is a bit tedious. We are trying to prepare around 8 vegetable viands in 3 hours. Although pressured trying to beat time, we were still able to chill out, have fun and joke around. It was a great experience for me because I’m not a kitchen person. Well I tried cooking Indian food before but it took me 2 hours to finish a single viand. The devotees were really patient with me as I was their burden that time.
I can’t even slice a broccoli.
Since I am now useless on the “advanced part” of cooking, Ms. Fe, the Filipina devotee who welcomed me earlier in the morning invited me over to her house located also in the same building. She introduced me to her neice, Sarah (I forgot the name but the girl do look like as if she’s a Sarah or probably an Irene, I dont know). Sarah is a non-devotee like me. She was originally from Iligan who just traveled in Manila for her board exams and staying with her aunt.
Sarah and I sat in the sofa next to Ms. Fe.
“What do they call you here Ms. Fe?”, I asked.
“Oh, they call me Mataaji which means mother. All the male devotees address all women as mataaji even for the little girls. They believe that women should be respected that way.” she answered.
Sarah was quiet throughout the conversation. She’s a Catholic and probably confused about what her aunt is telling us. But I kept on asking mataaji more questions.
“How did you find out about the Hare Krishnas, Mataaji?”
To be continued…