To primarily instil spiritual wisdom in those facing the consequences of COVID, five monks from ISKCON Gurugram cycled to Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, carrying 100 spiritual books - from the Bhagavad Gita to a few written by ISKCON founder Acharya Srila Prabhupad - and no money.
Led by Padasevan Bhakta Das, 30, the team comprising Kamal Madav Das, 40; Pankaj Syam Das, 25; Parmatama Hari, 25; and Anup, 22 started from Gurugram at 1 pm on December 2 and returned on December 4 at 3 pm. Pankaj, who filmed the trip and the video is up on ISKCON Gurugram's YouTube page, speaks about the 48-hour journey. Edited Excerpts:
Why did you decide to take this trip?
I had heard a story from my mentor about the Radha Damodar bus party in the US, many years ago, where they had distributed millions of books to people. That inspired me. I feel if you can serve Krishna through adventure, it is even more fascinating.
Do monks often make such trips?
The Sankirtan teams go on book distribution trips but not on cycles. Temples organise proper buses to take them. Also, in our case, we didn’t take any money.
What difficulties did you face?
None of us had ridden a bicycle for 10 years, so riding for 50 km at a stretch was much more physically tiring than we expected. We had books weighing 50 kg, in addition to our backpacks. We rode for about six hours on the first day. A few times in between we felt we will not be able to go forward and will have to lay down on the ground. We also realised that highways are not for bicycle riders.
People just don't pay heed to the cyclists and drive recklessly. On the second day, a group of guards at a mall forced us to leave, thinking we were hawkers. A few people even ridiculed us by saying all saints are cheaters and that we should leave saffron clothes and get married. We tried to reason with them, but in vain, so we left.
Where and how did you manage to get food and where did you sleep?
On the first day, we met a person named Mr Singhal, who arranged for us two small rooms in a guest house and gave us fruits for dinner and poha for breakfast. The remaining two meals we had at a local Jagganath Temple in Bhiwadi.
The temple pujaris were happy to help us and even let us stay for the night. For the third day’s breakfast, while we were requesting people in the villages en route Gurugram for leftovers, a kind person offered us fresh food at his home. On the way, we were feeling drained out and wanted to have the juice to maintain energy levels. All of a sudden a young guy came there, touched the feet of one of the group members and offered us juice.
Did you manage to sell the books?
We never sell books. We seek donations to at least cover the printing cost. Some people pay us more than printing. We took contact details of people who wanted the books. It turned out to be about 400 books. So, the next day, a vehicle took the books to them. We managed to collect `Rs that will go to BBT for printing more copies.
What was the good and bad part of the trip?
There was no bad part. The best part was meeting a daily wage earner, who sells nursery rhyme books and toy watches, probably earning Rs 300-400 a day. He took a few books and even invited us to his home in Alwar. There still are kind-hearted people in the world, and lack of resources is not a hindrance in offering service to someone.