This happened in 2008, during our pilgrimage to Vrindavan. Around 3000 devotees from around the world were participating, and my service was handling the sound system. During these pilgrimages, we carry special mikes and mike stands for Radhanath Swami; the mike stands are flexible, lightweight, and easy to handle.
We were in Mana-mandir in Barsana. I fixed the mike stand on the floor, extended its handle towards Radhanath Swami, and connected the mike for him to speak.
The lecture went on nicely, and it was time for the kirtana. When Radhanath Swami started to sing and began pumping the harmonium, I noticed how the harmonium’s bellows were hitting the vertical bar of the mike stand. Because the kirtana was slow, the mike stand didn’t move much and it didn’t disturb Radhanath Swami. But when the kirtana picked up momentum and Radhanath Swami began pumping the harmonium vigorously, the bellows were hitting the stand strongly and Radhanath Swami seemed to express his discomfort.
I tried moving the mike stand a little backwards, but as a result the mike also moved away from Radhanath Swami, and so his amplified voice reduced in volume. I was thus in a dilemma: if I kept the stand close to the harmonium, the bellows would hit the stand; and if I moved it backward, the volume of the sound would drop.
I began to consider keeping the mike stand over the table. But I noticed that the table on which Radhanatha Swami was sitting was barely enough for him; there was hardly any space to fix the stand. I had no other option. I had to act quickly because the time available to move the stand from its current position was when the devotees responded in chorus, before Radhanath Swami sang the next mantra. I immediately loosened the handle, rotated the bars, picked up the stand, carefully inserted the base between their two legs, positioned the mike in front of Radhanath Swami’s mouth, and . . . oh Krishna . . . I couldn’t tighten it fully… Radhanath Swami began the next mantra! So I held the mike in one hand and the stand in the other and waited for the next opportunity, so I could set everything properly in its place. While I was busy fixing everything, Radhanath Swami had waved his hand, indicating that the mike stand should be kept in its original place. But I had failed to notice his gestures! Devotees began yelling at me from behind, “Keep it down! Keep it down! He doesn’t want it there!” I was bewildered. I decided to bring it down again. To make things worse, Radhanath Swami sang the next maha-mantra at twice the speed—two words in one beat. Thus my available time to reposition the mike stand reduced by half. Obviously I was late, and Radhanath Swami had to sing a few mantras without the mike until I was ready. And as before, as soon as I kept the mike stand on the floor, the harmonium bellows began hitting the vertical bar.
Radhanath Swami seemed to be getting furious, as he was unable to focus on the chanting. Finally, after a few minutes, he ended the kirtana. While chanting the prema-dhvani prayers, he angrily pushed the harmonium away, and I had to struggle hard to hold it along with the other equipments. He then walked out of the hall.
I understood that Radhanath Swami was unhappy because service to devotees was getting affected. Kirtana done with great absorption inspires everyone and resolves all differences among devotees. Because of my inefficiency, so many devotees were missing the real essence. I learned that I could not be careless while rendering such an important service. I had to make sure everything was right, foresee the possible problems, and be ready to act in emergency.
Radhanath Swami, at the same time, isn’t so particular when it comes to someone rendering him some personal service; he feels unworthy of receiving any service from anyone. Hence, he feels gratitude for any insignificant service rendered to him. One time when he was giving a class at a different spot, his handkerchief fell from the table. Since I was sitting close by, I immediately leaned forward, picked it up, and kept it back on the table. Radhanath Swami looked at me, smiled, and expressed deep gratitude.