The amazing transformation from Bollywood to Bhakti

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The Plot twist: From Maya to Krsna

As dramatic as it may sound, but it is the biggest truth of my life. I still fail to understand why someone as fallen and sinful as I am, would be asked to write a piece on my journey. But I am grateful to have been given this chance to share my experience, though as weird and outrageous it will be. Hence, giving you all a prior disclaimer on what’s coming ahead.

Before I begin, I would also like to clarify that I am no expert in supporting my writing with the Pramaan or texts from our scriptures as I am only a year old in Krishna consciousness. Up until a year ago (i.e.till the age of 36, i’m 38 years old now), i didn’t even know anything about where my own Consciousness lied, let alone knowing about Krishna Consciousness.

So here I start….let’s talk about Maya.

I, Kanchan Sukhdevsingh Thakur, a hardcore Karmi girl (not anymore) from Mumbai, born Kshatriya (Rajput), brought up in a business family conditioned with a mindset that only Money, Power, Position, Name, Fame etc are the foundation of a successful life. My father, my brother, my uncles and everyone in my family lived up to this principle and automatically it imbibed in us kids too. Envy, Greed and Competition were the three main tools for us to push to achieve our goals in life, be it academics or career. That’s how I grew up and as they say, Like Attracts Like.. I attracted the same kind of associations as friends too.

Doing Puja, going to the temple, listening to katha, worshiping deities at home were way too far from our reach and considered “backward” and “remedy for laziness” in my surroundings. People who engaged in Bhajan were considered “Jobless”. Somewhere I also had that mentality, so believing in God or even trying to know about him was never a topic of interest for me. Instead, consumption of alcohol, meat eating, gambling (especially on Diwali Nights), going to nightclubs, partying every weekend and coming home completely intoxicated were considered modern and a criteria for one to be accepted in the society I came from. So was the demand of my career too.

I am a Journalist turned Fashion Designer and have worked in the industry for over 14 years. (till 2019). I completed my education from the United Kingdom with a degree in Media Studies, Media Production and Journalism with all three being a part of my major curriculum. After returning to India I worked in an industry which is also known as maya Nagri or the Hub of sense gratification, Bollywood. Being an active employee in the industry first as an Assistant Director for a couple of major TV shows of a channel called Star Plus, I took up writing articles and interviews and finally took up a job as a Bollywood reporter. Without boosting or getting too much into details about my work, I would skip to the point where I would like to highlight that I had the “so-called privilege” to interview all the major Bollywood celebrities. Now, with that kind of career growth and success, came a very bizarre lifestyle. Consumption of alcohol every other day, parties, staying out late night, meat eating every single day became a routine. Though my mother never appreciated this as she comes from a family where people were very spiritual and she always read Ramayana and listened to Krishna katha. She is, what I would call a follower of Krishna Consciousness without knowing that she is a Krishna Conscious person. She followed all the principles right from her childhood as her parents were firm followers of Sri Ram and every evening they would sit down and read Ramayana. Krishna Consciousness was somewhere deeply rooted in her but she still somewhere isn’t aware of it. Which is why she never was in favor of women doing all this and becoming so independent. She firmly believed that if women are given so much freedom, that’s their doom. But me being the rebellious one, always gave a deaf ear to her thinking whatever she speaks is useless and so ancient and in this new age, all this doesn’t work.

But one thing that she forcefully or even strictly made me follow was the festival of Janmashtami. From a very young age, like since I was 10 year old, she taught me to dress up gopal, do flower decorations at the altar (which included several other demigods), prepare bhoga and decorate his swing. So I would like to say that except for Janmashtami, I never stepped inside my home temple or even looked at the deities.

That’s how life went on.The mindset of being an independent woman was very strongly fixed in my brain. I thought I was a free bird and had a free will to live life the way I wanted to on my own terms, not knowing that someone up there (The Supreme) was watching my every bad and shameful move and arranging for a major setback to occur in my life for me to get back on track and understand the true meaning of this human form of life. Until then, 36 years of my life was all about sense gratification and enjoyment. In short, Hardcore Maya.

To Krsna….One Night, 5 minutes

After giving a brief summary of what I was like in the past, I would now like to reveal what really happened to someone so fallen like me that brought about a 360 degrees turn in my life. It was unexpected and very shocking… IT ALL HAPPENED IN ONE SINGLE NIGHT AND IN 5 MINUTES excuse my using capslock here but this IS the highlight of the twist that took place.

It was December 2019, I was going through a very very rough phase in my life at that time. It was so bad that I had turned rebellious against everything in life and was on the road to destruction. I knew that because I was financially independent, there was no stopping me. The situation that occurred in my life was a major setback where I had hit Rock Bottom. But instead of learning from it, I used it to boost my ego and moreover satisfy it all the more. My usage of intoxicants increased and I started using alcohol as a medium to pacify my stress. It gave me peace. But little did I know that it was destroying me inside. So as usual, on a weekend, I decided to go out to a friend’s house to party. I knew with the kind of mental disturbance I was in, I would go off limits that night and no one would stop me. I just wanted to forget the bad and drown myself in intoxication and everything that comes with it to forget the pain I was going through.

As I was on the way in a taxi, from my place to my friend’s house, I asked the driver to stop at a place where I could pick up some alcohol and some snacks. To my fortune, the place where the taxi driver stopped had both the alcohol shop and general store adjacent to each other. Now had it been me, i would first be attracted towards the alcohol, but strangely i went to the general store first. That was strange and I did it out of no awareness. While i was picking up snacks, i could also see a couple of more customers in the shop but obviously i wasn’t paying attention to them as i was too desperate to go pick everything necessary for my enjoyment and go to my friend’s house.

While I was in that ecstasy, I heard a voice speak to me that said, “Do you read books?” . I didn’t know that voice was talking to me so I ignored it. Again the voice uttered in my ear.. “Do you read books?” I was literally annoyed with that disturbing voice but then I had to look to see who it was. I looked on the side, and there stood an old man with a shirt and a pair of pants with a cloth sling bag along with a very young girl that looked like his daughter. I looked at him and asked ,” are you talking to me uncle”. He said, “ Yes! I am and I am asking again, Do you read books?”

By that time I was really frustrated with the old man as to why he was bugging me and asking me the same question. But out of courtesy, I answered, “ Yes Uncle, I do read.”
Then he walks closer to me, removes a book from his jhola or what do you call it a cloth sling bag, and while handing it over to me, he says “ Looking at you, I feel you really need this book and once you start reading it, your life will change forever.”

In my head, i was thinking to myself that how can a mere book change my life as i very well knew the situation i was in that present time and no one was ready to help me. HOW CAN A BOOK HELP ME?! I was neglecting the book and was trying my best to avoid taking it. But somehow he convinced me and handed me the book. In a curious state of mind, I saw what book it was. Turns out to be Bhagavad Gita As It Is (in Hindi).

Again in an astonished state of mind I laughed in my head and wondered ‘Wow this Gita would change my life?’ Shockingly, I asked that man, “This is Gita! Why would you give this to me”. He repeated his statement again and said, “I feel you really need it and once you start reading, your life will change forever.” In a mood to avoid any further conversation and stop “wasting time” , I took the book and asked if I had to pay him anything for it. He said i don’t need to give him anything, instead just once chant loudly, Radhe Radhe…. As soon as he said Radhe Radhe, I felt a cool breeze touch me and it felt like all the depression that i was going through, was taken away. It felt as if God himself came and took all my pain away.

That experience and that moment felt divine. Suddenly something changed in me and I knew that my life will really change now. I left happily with Gita in my hand but I knew I had to go pick up alcohol. But How could I have Gita in my hand? I skipped the wine shop. That’s how Krishna did his first magic on me, cut the alcohol.

I still went ahead to my friends and came home late at night. I woke my mom up and told her exactly what happened. She took the Gita from me and kept it in our home altar. Next morning, i wake up with a bad hangover but still thinking about what that man said to me. I thought, with so much confidence that man said, that this book will change my life. If he has such unwavering faith in this book, for his faith’s sake, let me try reading it and see what changes occur in my life. I took shower, got ready, and went to my home altar, picked the Gita and started reading it. And I read and read and read and read…..until …..i started reading it every single day. I was attached to reading it. I felt a sense of relaxation, peace and harmony within me. I felt as if all my questions were slowly getting answered.

You know the interesting part, in the first chapter itself, all the bad habits left me. I stopped drinkng, eating meat, eating onion garlic and also going out with my friends. It was already 2020, and the lockdown happened in india. That year gave me time to read and connect with Krishna even more. I read and my connection with Krishna grew even more. I felt like he was looking after me and I was having this real desperate feeling in me to meet him. But how do I meet him and where. Then I inquired about the writer of bhagavad Gita As It Is and it was none other than His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. I read more about him and came across ISKCON Vrindavan. That’s when my desire to visit Vrindavan took place and in 2021, february 20th, i first came to vrindavan. I had prayed to Krishna that now that I belong to him completely , I want to celebrate my birthday with him. That was the first time I ever came to Vrindavan. That was my first time in ISKCON, that was my first step in the spiritual world that Prabhupada so lovingly created for us. That was the moment I realized I belong nowhere but HERE. I belong to Prabhupada, I belong to ISKCON and this is going to be my Home.

I left praying to Radharani to call me back soon and she did. I came back again in July and then I came again during Janmashtami. By that time I was already involved in doing services with Vishakha Mataji in the deities maintenance department, but as a visitor. During Radhashtami, I prayed to Radharani to keep me here forever and never let me go. My prayers were heard and I finally moved to Vrindavan during kartik. It’s been 7 months since i’m here now and i have never felt happier and in peace. I actively participate in various services in the temple, focusing on my sadhana. My aim: to live in Dham forever and serve Krishna and Vaishnavas as much as I can.

From being a person whose evenings were spent gratifying her senses to now listening to Hari Katha in Dham is something i could never imagine happening to me. How did I get so lucky? How come I was chosen in spite of being so sinful and fallen. If this isn’t Krishna’s love and mercy to get his children back home, then what is?

All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your humble servant, Kanchan.