15 July 2007. At 7:15 p.m. my cell phone rang.
“Can you arrange for a driver please? Urgent! I am waiting at the gate.” It was Radhanath Swami calling.
“Yes. Sure.” I sprang to my feet and rushed down, searching for a driver.
None available! In desperation I rang up a neighbor and asked if he could drive for Radhanath Swami. He agreed.
Five minutes later the car keys turned on the ignition. I stood nearby to bid a good bye, still clueless about where Radhanath Swami was heading. Suddenly, Radhanath Swami peeked out of the window. “Do you know Nikunjabihari’s place?” I nodded yes. “Why don’t you join us then? Just to make sure we get there right.” Hurriedly, I hopped into the vehicle, and we zoomed into the Mumbai traffic.
Now it was clear: Radhanath Swami was going to Nikunjabihari’s, one of his followers who lived uptown. But why this unplanned trip, in such a haste? Asking him I felt was inappropriate, and he too never revealed all along the ride. Though our discussion meandered through varied topics, curiosity lingered at the back of my mind.
An hour through the thicks and thins of a typical Mumbai ride, and we were at ‘Kalpataru Estate.’ A neatly dressed watchman let our vehicle in after noting our names. Inside, an eerie silence isolated the residential complex from the rest of the city. We parked our car and went up to the third floor, to the Nikunjabihari’s. As I reached for the door bell, Radhanath Swami said, “Perhaps it’s better that we go to the community hall directly.” But for what? No time for explanations! Quickening his pace, he moved ahead, and we followed behind.
Once inside the community hall, we confronted hundreds of pleasantly-surprised faces. A buzz of excitement arose, and it only fell when Radhanath Swami was seated. The proceedings of the evening then continued. As I sat through the events, one more thing became clear: it was the birthday party of Rohini Nandana, another follower of Radhanath Swami and a close friend of Nikunjabihari. But why did Radhanath Swami have to come here uninformed? That became clear only towards the end, in Radhanath Swami’s concluding address.
Since that morning, half a dozen congregation members—at different times of the day—had told Radhanath Swami that there would be a celebration of Rohininandan’s birthday in the evening. These six culprits had revealed what was meant to be a secret. But why a secret? Monks at Radhagopinath Ashram were concerned for Radhanath Swami’s health, and wanted him to rest early. And they knew that if he came to know of the event, he would definitely attend to make Rohininandana happy. For Radhanath Swami however, now that he was aware of the event, he was in a fix. While he wanted to please Rohininandana, he didn’t want the monks to be anxiety-ridden either. Therefore, as a last resort he had become like fugitive.