CARE OF SRILA PRABHUPADA
(Adopted from Yamuna Devi: A Life of Unalloyed Devotion: Part 1: Preparing an Offering of Love.)
Yamuna: Due to the intense preparations for the pandal and the extremely long hours of service over many days, I was taken down with a severe case of jaundice. It was the only time I was extremely ill during my time in India.
So after the Deities were installed, and just as I came back to the tent side of the pandal, I became unconscious, and for maybe two weeks or more I had a burning fever. So I ultimately attended very little of the pandal itself.
We were staying at Dalmia Bhavan at the time, and it was a very crowded situation—perhaps ten to fifteen of us in one room—and the only place free was the bottom shelf in one of the walk-in closets. We had all of our paraphernalia piled up, and I was in a sleeping bag down on the bottom shelf.
So somehow, Srila Prabhupada noticed I was missing, and I was later told he had inquired many times where I was. One day I became aware of the door being opened, and turned to see Prabhupada’s lotus feet walking into that closet room.
I offered my obeisances as best I could, and by then he is leaning down, all the while chanting the mahamantra. Then he placed his hand on my head and inquired, “Yamuna? How you are doing?” Firstly I said, “I am always thinking of you, Srila Prabhupada.”
Then I gave him my symptoms, and he said, “I think this is jaundice; I think you have got hepatitis-jaundice. Now I will take charge of your recovery. You will never get well in these conditions on the floor.”
Srila Prabhupada had a hospital bed brought in for me and moved me into a room right next to his, with floor-to-ceiling windows, neem trees outside, and a fan. And I remember being propped up in this bed, and he came in every day to check on my progress. He also called in an Ayurvedic doctor and gave me a diet for jaundice.
He said I had to take something called petha, a wax gourd or a white kind of pumpkin that is taken raw. It’s covered in a thick layer of caramelized sugar, so to me it looked like a ghastly thing to eat. Srila Prabhupada said, “This is your medicine, and you have to eat it every day; and you also have to drink sugarcane juice.”
So I remember the first time I took a bite of petha; it tasted like the most bitter, horrible thing because of the jaundice. Srila Prabhupada would personally stand and watch me eat the petha, feeling miserable because of the taste, and he would actually smile and chuckle about that.
So unfortunately, I was not able to engage in my services through the rest of the program, as I was fully bedridden for over two weeks. Yet I was feeling great bliss and happiness by the personal care and unfathomable kindness of Srila Prabhupada.
He was so engaged, so busy, preaching to tens of thousands of people and taking care of our entire Society, yet he personally took charge of my recovery. To this day I become emotional just remembering this. For me it only increased my dedication to see that this small insignificant soul Yamuna was so cared for and nurtured by Srila Prabhupada.
In my later challenges, I drew strength and determination from this episode in my devotional life. Another thing I remember about the illness was the loving care of my Godsisters, among them Visakha devi and Chitralekha devi. I felt so grateful to have had not only the care and loving attention of my Spiritual Master, but also my Godsisters.