In the early morning hours on Tuesday, March 10th in Mayapur, Jananivas prabhu and myself (Vraja Vilas), to the nectarine sound of Krishna Kirtan, departed for the U.S. in a grand procession carrying with us the divine Padukas of Lord Nityananda and Sitari of Lord Nrsinghadeva.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the U.S. in 2015 (also officially pronounced the Year of the TOVP by GBC Chairman Praghosa prabhu), we are scheduled to travel for 108 days to over 35 temples and devotee sangas throughout the U.S. and Canada. This will also be Jananivas prabhu’s first step outside of India in over 45 years, and at the advanced age of 72.
However, our first stop was not Kolkata or the airport, but Shantipur, the residence of Adwaita Acharya, also the first stop of Srila Prabhupada before leaving for the U.S. in 1965. It was here that he prayed and meditated on Adwaita Acharya, Who called Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu to descend, to empower him to fulfill the mission of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and the previous acharyas.
The rest of our journey was met by several obstacles, testing our sincerity and determination to carry on with this historic visit.
Arriving at the Kolkata airport our tickets would not print out. Finally, we managed to get the tickets, but only to Delhi, not continuing to the U.S. In Delhi I had to call our travel agent and finally got the tickets for our connecting flight to the U.S. Then we had to wait. The flight was at 1:35. We waited for the announcement to board the flight and at 12:45 Radha Jivana luckily called and said they don’t make announcements and told us to immediately go to the flight gate. We still had to check in our baggage and go through the Security Check with our Visas. Here we were informed that Jananivas could not fly to America because, as a British citizen, he required an ESTA form which we had previously been told was not necessary.
The time was now already about 1:00, the flight was at 1:35. We were told we would never be able to get the form on time and all our luggage was removed from the plane. It seemed hopeless. Finally, at 1:10 I went online to fill out the ESTA form. It was almost 100 questions and as quickly as I could I filled it out while the airport officials continually insisted that I would not make it on time. By Krishna’s mercy I completed the form and then had to pay a $14 fee. My credit card was rejected. Luckily, Radha Jivan had given me his U.S. TOVP credit card and the charge went through. Even the airport personal were overjoyed and happy that I had managed to do all this in 20 minutes. We finally got on board and took off for the U.S.
Then came the U.S. Customs adventure. We had anticipated problems bringing the shoes and helmet into the country, but that was not a problem at all. The problem was when Jananivas prabhu and I were separated and he did not know how to answer the barrage of questions from the U.S. Customs Officials. Somehow or other Krishna helped again and because he had a British Passport he got his Passport stamped and made his first steps onto U.S. soil.
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