The first Rathayatra festival held in New York City was in the summer of 1976. Srila Prabhupada was there. I was asked to be Srila Prabhupada's driver that day. I had previously driven a taxi cab in Manhattan so I probably knew the City as well or better than any of my godbrothers or sisters. A dark blue Lincoln Continental was leased for the occasion. The festival began around noon and proceeded along 5th Avenue. Approximately thirty minutes after the parade started I pulled the Lincoln around to the front of the temple at West 55th Street to pick Srila Prabhupada up and drive him to the parade. Fifth Avenue goes one way toward downtown and Sixth Avenue goes one way heading uptown. My strategy was to go down Seventh Avenue slowly and run parallel to the parade. I was supposed to get Srila Prabhupada as close to Subhadra's cart as possible upon which he was going to sit for the remainder of the parade. As we drove from cross street to cross street (with few exceptions the streets in New York run even numbered east and odd west) I looked down to see where we were in relation to the carts. When I spotted Subhadra's cart I headed down toward Fifth Avenue, dropped His Divine Grace off in front of the cart which was brought to a halt, and when the carts began moving again I fell in behind Subhadra's with the Lincoln. During the drive from the temple to the Rathayatra procession Srila Prabhupada was asking what the plans were for the day. He was informed that the parade was going to end at Washington Square Park where a festival would be held for the remainder of the day and where thousands of people would be gathered to listen to Srila Prabhupada speak. Prabhupada sat silently for a few minutes and then began reminiscing how when he first arrived in New York he would go to the park (Tompkins Square) and hold kirtan but very often the police would come and break it up and force him to move. And now... just see... by Krishna's grace the park was reserved for Lord Chaitanya's Sankirtan movement and so many people were going to be there to hear him speak about Krishna consciousness. To say the least Srila Prabhupada was very very pleased.

One other quick memory that comes to mind -- when Srila Prabhupada visited our ISKCON Press in Boston the early part of 1970 we gave him a tour of all our facilities. When he saw the big used Chief 29 offset printing press he told us how his guru maharaja, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur, called the press the big mrdanga. He then said that our printing press was the heart of our ISKCON Movement. I was moved to say, "Srila Prabhupada, YOU are the heart of ISKCON." Prabhupada smiled and said, "THIS IS my heart!"

Swarup Das
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Memories (#29)
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