The car cruised along in the darkness of the night, its engine’s hum rising above the silence around. As I carefully steered the wheels around a pothole, a hand tapped me from behind.
“Could I use a restroom?” asked Radhanath Swami from the rear seat, clearing his throat.He was very sick and had been napping for a while. Restroom? It was India, and the only option I could think of, at this hour, was a deserted street corner. With many apologies, I presented to him the predicament. He consoled me with a smile.
I pulled over the vehicle in a familiar neighborhood, where only the stars saw through the cloudless sky. “What is this place?” Radhanath Swami mumbled. “We are in the neighborhood of Radha Swami’s Ashram,” I replied. Surely, he didn’t know Radha Swami, but the air of spirituality that the name carried was sufficient to draw out his respect. He requested that we continue driving till we found another spot. I was wonder-struck: here he was–sick and tired–and to nap again he had to relieve himself as soon as possible; in such an emergency, would the act be considered defiling a holy neighborhood? And after all, in India it wasn’t considered taboo. But for Radhanath Swami’s respectful attitude, emergencies were no excuse.
Fortunately, after a while we found a petrol pump, and its owner gladly allowed Radhanath Swami to use his toilet.
I often held a condescending attitude towards most other spiritual groups, but this incident was a turning point.