It was midnight. Srila Prabhupada sat on a pillow behind his low desk, his light the only one on in the building. All the other devotees were in bed. On the desk before him rested the dictating machine and a volume of Srimad-Bhagavatam with Bengali commentary. A small framed picture of his spiritual master, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, sat between two small vases of roses and asters. On the floor beyond the desk was the broad mat covered with white cotton fabric, where a few hours before, devotees and guests had sat.
But now he was alone. Although usually he retired at ten, rising three or four hours later to translate, tonight he had not rested, and his Bhagavatam lay closed, his dictating machine covered.
He had sent two of his disciples, Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana, to purchase land in Mayapur. Six days had passed, however, and still they had neither returned nor sent word. He had told them not to return until they had completed the transaction, but six days was more than enough time. He was anxious, thinking constantly of his two disciples.
A breeze arrived, carrying the fragrance of nim trees through the open window. The night was becoming cool, and Prabhupada wore a light cadar around his shoulders. Absorbed in thought, leaning against the white bolster pillow, he paid little attention to the familiar sights in his room. A clay jug with drinking water sat beside him, and a potted Tulasi plant sat upon a small, wooden pedestal. The electricity, off most of the day and night, was now on, and moths and other insects hovered around the bare bulb overhead. A lizard patrolled the ceiling, occasionally darting forward near the light to capture an insect.
Why were Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana taking so long? It had been more than just a wait of six days; he had been trying to obtain land in Mayapur for years. And this time the prospects had been excellent. He had clearly instructed Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana, and now they should have returned. The delay could mean a complication, or even danger.
The land they were trying for was a nine-bigha plot on Bhaktisiddhanta Road, less than a mile from the birthsite of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. The Sek brothers, Muslim farmers who owned the plot, had been asking a high price. Only recently had a Calcutta lawyer familiar with Navadwipa been able to seriously negotiate a fair price. The Sek brothers had settled for 14,500 rupees, and Prabhupada had authorized withdrawal of the funds from his bank in Krishnanagar. Thus Tamala Krsna and Bali-mardana had left Mayapur, while Prabhupada had remained in Calcutta, carrying on with his affairs but thinking often of the activities of his disciples in Mayapur. Their mission was very important to him, and he kept them in his mind, personally blessing them with his concern.
As Prabhupada sat, rapt in thought, the only sounds were the usual sounds of the night: mice within the walls, a brahmacari snoring on the veranda, and in the distance the night watchman making his rounds, his stick striking the street. There were no cars, and only the occasional wooden ricksha clattered along the potholed street.
Prabhupada wondered if perhaps his boys had been robbed. Before sending them off, he had shown Tamala Krsna how to carry money around his waist in a makeshift cloth money belt. But it had been a great deal of money, and robberies were not uncommon around Navadwipa. Or perhaps there had been some other delay. Sometimes in land negotiations involving large sums of money, the court would require that a clerk record the denomination and serial number of every note exchanged. Or perhaps the train had broken down.
Suddenly Prabhupada heard footsteps on the stairs. Someone opened the outer door and now walked along the veranda just outside. A soft knock.
“Yes, who is it?”
Tamala Krsna entered and prostrated himself before Srila Prabhupada.
“So, what is your news?”
Tamala Krsna looked up triumphantly. “The land is yours!”
Prabhupada leaned back with a sigh. “All right,” he said. “Now you can take rest.”
– Prabhupada Lilamrita (Calcutta, March 1971)