The Garbage Trucks Of New York City

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During my first tour of India, with Srila Prabhupada in the fall and winter of 1972, Malati devi cooked for Srila Prabhupada. She was the wife of Syamasundar Prabhu who was the secretary of Srila Prabhupada. Their daughter, Sarasvati, was about three years old at the time. She was a very fortunate little girl. She was the only person I knew who was able to go in and out of Srila Prabhupada’s quarters unannounced.

She seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a tiny Narada Muni, in different temples around the world. At various times of the day she always seemed to end up in Prabhupada’s room. Then, as quickly as she appeared, she disappeared. He enjoyed her company very much and she was never a disturbance. Sometimes she would sit on his lap. Other times, like a grandfather, he affectionately teased her. She always had prasadam in her hands or mouth. If she came in empty handed sometimes Prabhupda would supply her with sweets from a container on his desk.

At times she would come into his room with a small box of biscuits or ‘animal crackers’, which were little cookies in the shapes of various animals. She always seemed to be eating something when she arrived. One day before lunch as I massaged Prabhupada she entered his room. As usual, she was eating. Prabhupada’s body glistened like gold from the mustard oil I had been rubbing on him and from the sunlight that came in through the window.

He began laughing out loud as soon as he saw her. She was happily munching on one of her cookies as she walked into the room. “You are always eating,” he laughed. “You know what you remind me of, Sarasvati?” Her little body was face to face with him as he sat cross legged on the floor. She looked at him with a mouthful of food and shook her head.

“You remind me of the garbage trucks in New York City. Do you know the garbage trucks in New York City?” As she munched away on her biscuit she again nodded that she didn’t know. Prabhupada continued, “In New York City they have these big garbage trucks. They go down the street and the workers put the garbage in.” He stretched one arm over his head and the other towards the floor giving her a demonstration complete with sound effects. “They go down the street and put garbage inside the big mouth of the truck and then the truck goes zzuuuuummmmmmmmmmm and it closes and the truck eats it. Then it goes iiiimmmmmmm and opens back up like this. He imitated the up and down crunching movement of the jaws of the garbage truck extending his arms in an opening and closing motion.
“Your mouth is just like that. You are always putting things in there, just like the garbage trucks in New York.” As all of this was going on I was massaging my spiritual master’s back, laughing along with him and in wonder at how wonderful and how he was comfortable in every situation. 

Sarasvati was visibly amused as he spoke to her. Of course she never stopped crunching away on her biscuits. As quickly as she arrived she disappeared. I continued massaging Srila Prabhupada, once again amazed at how he could always surprise me. I was overwhelmed again experiencing a sense of humor and love for all of us which was boundless.

I wondered what pious activities Sarasvati must have performed to be able to play with His Divine Grace on such an intimate level. I was also again bewildered by his compassion upon me, allowing me to witness this sweet lila. It was certainly due to his causeless mercy. His playful affection began to soften even my own stonelike heart.

Memories of Srila Prabhupada by H.G. Srutakirti Prabhu