H.H Sridhara Swami
Posted April 6, 2004
I remember first meeting Sridhara Swami in the mid seventies in Mumbai India. We were working together under Gargamuni, on a life membership program, enrolling life members. In those days we were a bit tough, had to be due to the circumstances of living on a building site (the Temple), having very little money or resources, but faithfully going out everyday to visit Mumbai businessmen and persuade them to give us some rupees to become members of the then fledgling Iskcon. When I first started working with S. Swami, he was quite used to the hot climate and the culture, whereas I wasn't, so sometimes after a long morning program we would head out in our car....when we had an appointment I sometimes would be overcome by sleepiness and would feel a sudden bump or nip on the back, it was Sridhar waking me up. He would have a big smile and pretend nothing had happened. Sometimes we got into good cop, bad cop routines, where one of us would be the nice preacher saint and the other the tough salesman ready to close the deal. We made quite few life members and then parted company for a while.
The next close contact I had with Maharaj, was in 1977, when we came overland to India. He had bought a bright orange Mercedes car for Srila Prabhupad in Germany, I was with Hamasaduta's men on a bus heading for India...we teamed up as a convoy. Sometimes Maharaja wanted some company so I would sit in the car and take turns driving. We would sing, chant and chat about our experiences and Srila Prabupada. I had been in America collecting for Vrindavan Temple, so had a sizable amount of cash on me, which I hadn't informed him or anyone else about, but was adamant this was for Vrindavan and no one or nothing else would touch it. Anyway it turned out that Sridhara's car seriously broke down in Istanbul, so he came to the bus looking for money to get it fixed. One of the other guys had found out about my cash, so put maharaja on to me....wow he was persuasive, but I held my own for stubbornness and refused to give him Vrindavan's money....in the end I agreed to loan him a $1000 to get him out of trouble....I never ever remember what happened as an outcome as we all went our separate ways to get back to India as we new Srila Prabhupada wasn't in good health. From time to time I met Sridhara Swami in India, but we never ever mentioned this incident again.
The last period I spent with Maharaja was in 1999 in Mumbai, where we would often sit in his room or the restaurant and talk about different subjects. We often talked about his health and how it was affecting him...generally he was fairly offhand about it and usually laughed it off, saying that his past had finally caught up with him. I was little horrified at that and would ask him to at least make an effort to do something about it, which in all fairness he did make attempts to contact healers, follow specialised diets and ended up being attended by staff of the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mumbai. So many people loved and respected him, that he was never alone. I would own like to offer my last prayers and respects for this humble person, a dedicated no strings servant of Srila Prabhupada. I'd also like to thank all those devotees and carers that looked after him these last few years.