Diary of a Traveling Monk
Volume 11, Chapter 17
June 30, 2011
Your New Mayor is Wonderful
By Indradyumna Swami
In the spring, Nandini dasi built up a full itinerary for our summer festival tour along the Baltic Sea coast in Poland. All the town officials were cooperative, even vying to have the festival at peak times during the tourist season. In many cases Nandini simply e-mailed or telephoned the town administrations. But for some of the larger places, she had to visit the offices.
One morning, however, she awoke and realized she'd missed her appointment with the mayor of a large town.
"I've never done such a thing before," she told me over the phone.
"What will you do?" I asked.
"I've been calling the mayor's office all day, but no one's picking up the phone," she said. "I may have to drive up north and see what I can do."
Early the next morning she began driving the six hundred kilometers from southern Poland to the Baltic, arriving late at night. The next morning she was at the town hall when it opened. She ran up the stairs to the mayor's office and went in.
"I had an appointment with the mayor three days ago," she told the receptionist, panting for breath. "I completely forgot about it. I'm so sorry. Can I see him now?"
"There are a lot of people with appointments," said the receptionist. "You can wait and see if he becomes available."
"OK," said Nandini, "I'll wait."
The receptionist began looking through Nandini's file. "I see it's about getting permission for the Festival of India," she said. "I wouldn't get your hopes too high. This is a new mayor, and I can tell you he's not friendly."
"What happened to the other mayor?" said Nandini.
"We had elections this year," said the receptionist, "and the previous mayor lost, although he had served for twenty-six years."
"He was a good friend of our festival," said Nandini.
"Well, this one's a friend of nobody," said the receptionist. "I can't believe he won the election. He doesn't even say hello when he walks into the office in the morning. And he gives only five minutes of his time to each visitor when he's supposed to give ten. He just asks what they want and provides a quick reply, which is usually a no, hardly ever any discussion. Good luck, lady."
There was a long line of people at the mayor's door. After an hour Nandini became impatient, as she had also made arrangements to go to two other towns on this trip. So while smiling and explaining her situation, she made her way to the front of the line. Most people were sympathetic.
Soon the current visitor emerged from the mayor's office with a scowl on his face. "He hardly listened to me," he mumbled.
Nandini hurriedly went into the mayor's office.
"Yes?" said the mayor, without looking up.
"Mr. Mayor," said Nandini, "we desperately need your help. We had planned to do our Festival of India in your town in July, but we've heard nothing back from your administration."
"We're not interested," said the mayor, while signing his name to a document.
Nandini just stood there, not knowing what to say.
"Just what would our city stand to gain from your festival?" said the mayor, still not looking up.
"Our festival is a cultural event," said Nandini. "People will get to learn about India, in particular its ancient spiritual tradition."
The mayor finally looked up. "And how much money do you hope to make?" he said.
"That is not our objective," said Nandini. "Of course, we sell food and other things, but our main purpose is to enlighten people about the higher values of life."
The mayor looked at her for a few moments, then put his pen down. "Sit down," he said. "Tell me more about your event."
"Well," said Nandini, "there's an exhibit with photos and in-depth details of Vedic marriage, the four social classes, astrology, cow protection, the process of creation, the spiritual world, and much more.
"There are tents with ancient Sanskrit texts translated into Polish. There are yoga demonstrations, explanations of reincarnation and karma, face-painting, and a restaurant with vegetarian food. And we have a five-hour stage show, including singing God's name in Sanskrit with musical instruments. Also..."
"That's enough," interrupted the mayor. "Now tell me something about your philosophy."
For more than an hour Nandini talked about Krsna consciousness and answered the mayor's many questions. Suddenly he looked at his watch.
"Oh my!" he said. "It's almost lunch time. We'll have to continue our discussion another day."
"Mr. Mayor," said Nandini, "before you go, may I ask if we have permission for our festival?"
The mayor smiled gently and nodded. "Yes," he said, "of course you do."
"Thank you," said Nandini.
She paused for a moment then continued, "But there is a problem," she said.
"What's that?" said the mayor.
"Our event is quite large, Mr. Mayor," she said, "and there's only one place in town big enough. It's a prestigious piece of land just off the boardwalk near the beach. But the land is in five titles and not one of the owners is eager to let us use it for our three-day event."
The mayor's face became serious. "Don't you worry about them," he said. "Consider it done. You have that place for your festival."
"Uh... Mr. Mayor," said Nandini, "I know I'm asking a lot, but well, would you consider becoming a patron member of our tour?"
"Yes, of course," said the mayor. "And what's more, the town hall will promote it."
"Well, uh, there's one last thing, said Nandini. "I'd like to..."
"You don't have to ask," said the mayor. "I will definitely open the event. Here's my card, and if there's anything more you can call me any time. "
Nandini stood up to leave. "Mr. Mayor," she said, "you have been very kind to us."
"Yes," said the mayor, "because everyone else comes here to take something from us. But you people have come to give, and to give something very valuable."
As Nandini left the room the people who were still waiting looked at her. As she walked by the desk, the receptionist leaned over. "Why were you in there so long?" she whispered. "Was he scolding you?"
"No," said Nandini. "Your new mayor is wonderful. He's now an official patron of our festival tour."
Everyone jumped as the receptionist's phone fell from her hand with a crash onto the table.
Nandini smiled. "See you at the festival," she said.
Srila Prabhupada writes:
"Our only hope is to chant Hare Krishna and rectify the whole situation. I think this is possible. It has been proved in Calcutta that the Naxalites were very much against us holding our Hare Krishna festival, but still later on they became sympathetic and did not cause any harm for us. If we follow the same principles everywhere... [governments] all over the world will come forward sympathetically for advancing this movement."
[letter to Madhudvisa dasa, September 15, 1971]