“Where do we go next?” asked the chauffeur, as he slowed down the vehicle. I gazed out through the window, and an eerie sensation seized me. Nothing looked familiar. Maybe, we were lost! I had recently arrived in Kolkata after being appointed as Vice President of ISKCON there, and knew only few sections of the city.
On this drive, Radhanath Swami and his secretary were my co-passengers. I was escorting Radhanath Swami from the ISKCON Temple, where he stayed during his Kolkata visit, to ISKCON House, Gurusoday Road, where he was scheduled to discourse. Though the distance was only two Kilometers, we drove on a chauffeur-driven car. It was a well-wisher’s, who had persisted that we use it. Radhanath Swami occupied the front seat, while Vikram and I occupied the rear. At the beginning of the ride, I had announced, “Gurusoday Road,” to which the chauffeur nodded. But once we had entered the crawling traffic, I got absorbed in a conversation with Vikram, and thus was oblivious to the new route taken.
Now, this neighborhood we had stumbled into, the chauffeur claimed, was Gurusoday road. But where is ISKCON House? My heart pounded. We were getting late for the discourse. Radhanath Swami turned around, “Better we take a taxi from here. Taxi drivers know all routes.” Straining a confident smile, I called up a person at ISKCON House instead, for directions. My one hand pressed the phone to my ear, my other hand fingered directions, and the car limped ahead. Meanwhile, time raced ahead, the finish point remained invisible. Radhanath Swami turned around, again to meet my strained smile. This time, however, my smile evaporated under his annoyed glower, leaving behind a strain on my face. Saying nothing to me, he stopped the car, stepped out into the pedestrian traffic, and waved for a taxi—all in a jiffy. I too jumped out, and so did Vikram. Finding a taxi, the three of us clambered aboard, and were in ISKCON House in minutes. The discourse began half hour late, at 9:30 A.M.
After the discourse, Radhanath Swami told me in private, “We were disrespectful in making so many people wait.”
“I had assumed that the driver knew the way,” I retorted. He shook his head, indicating the excuse wasn’t good enough. My heart sank. I had displeased someone whom I yearned to please. But yes! I have another chance tomorrow. Radhanath Swami was scheduled to again discourse in the same place the next day.
Back in my room, I pulled my socks up for the next day’s performance. First, I studied every route from ISKCON Temple to ISKCON House, and then, the traffic flow on each. I zeroed in on the best route. What about the driver? Radha Sharan was the best choice. A Kolkata man who commuted the chosen route routinely, Radha Sharan couldn’t miss directions there—perhaps even when blindfolded. But if misfortune personified were to reappear, Radha Sharan was no exception. Therefore, for added safety, I called up a few more acquaintances, and requested them to be in their vehicles at strategic points along the chosen route—next morning at 9:00 A.M.
That night, I dreamt driving though that route a dozen times, rehearsing.
Next morning at 9:00 A.M., as Radhanath Swami got into the front seat of Radha Sharan’s car, he declared, “Listen Acharya Ratna. This time if you lose the way, you won’t see the light of another day.” Then he turned to Radha Sharan who sat behind the wheels, “Understand, Acharya Ratna’s life is in your hands!” The car lunged ahead, to determine my destiny.
Everything worked well, and we reached ISKCON House well before time. Before getting out of the car, Radhanath Swami spelled his verdict to Radha Sharan, “You have saved Acharya Ratna’s life.” His naughty smile charming my heart, he rubbed my head and spoke a blessing, “May you see the light of millions of days…” I thought, “Through the entire drama, I now feel drawn to you, a million times closer.”
After the discourse, as we sat together, Radhanath Swami shared pearls of management wisdom. “Acarya Ratna, in management, never ever assume anything. That is the first principle of management. If you at all want to assume anything, assume that everything is going to go wrong, unless properly planned, organized, supervised and guided.”
– Acharya Ratna Das
(Vice President ISKCON Kolkatta)