In the early ’80s, in Bangalore, I was required to make at least two Life Members a month. I was a bad Life Membership maker, and one month I had only ten days left. I was looking in the telephone directory for Bengali names, and I found a Ganguly. I phoned and said, “I’m from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I want to come and see you today.” Mr. Ganguly sounded positive. He said, “Oh, you are from the Hare Krishna movement? Please see me at eleven o’clock.”
I took the membership form, a small set of books, a poster, and some other items and went to see him. To my surprise, I found that his was a huge place, almost equal to the aeronautical engineering place in Bangalore. I lost hope—there was no way this man was going to become a member. I went to one secretary, then another, then another, and when my appointment time came, I was still with secretaries. Ganguly was the top man. I thought, “Since I came all this way, I should see him.” Finally they brought me into a big air-conditioned cabin where a meeting was going on. Ganguly told everybody, “I have to talk to the Hare Krishna now, so you all go,” and he closed the meeting.
I went in, spread the books on his table, and put the poster up. I knew I wouldn’t have much time, so I was brief. I said, “I’m sure you know about this movement. We have a branch here, and we have applied for land. You are a Bengali, and you should be proud of this, because our guru maharaja is also a Bengali and he has spread the Hare Krishna movement all around the world. I’m sure you appreciate this service, so would you become a Life Member?” Then I was silent.
He got his checkbook and said, “What is the amount?” I said, “Two thousand two hundred and twenty-two.” He said, “I’ll give you a donation, and you can also make me a Life Member.” He wrote a check for ten thousand and gave it to me.
I was moved. I said, “Thank you very much. This is a nice gesture.” He said, “I wasn’t convinced by your preaching.” I said, “I didn’t think I convinced you, either.” He said, “I want to tell you something. My father grew up in Calcutta and was a classmate of your founder-acharya. Every day, Abhay came to our house on his bike, carrying his little lunch tiffin, and he and my father played chess. The stake for the chess game was lunch—whoever lost the game had to feed the other. Almost every day Abhay won.”
Later, this man’s father received a Ph.D. in Sanskrit and became a professor in the local university. He would tell people, “The Maharaja who founded the Hare Krishna movement was my classmate, and he came to my house every day when we were growing up.” He said that Abhay had told him, “You should help me later on, when I do something.” He would ask, “What is that something?” but Abhay would not explain what he meant.
Years later, the senior Ganguly learned that the same Abhay had become Bhaktivedanta Swami, gone to New York, and so forth, that there was a local Calcutta center on Albert Road, and that the swami was coming to visit. By this time, the junior Ganguly, with whom I was speaking, was in high school, and three days in a row he came to see Prabhupada in the Calcutta ISKCON temple. Since he looked like his father, Prabhupada recognized him. The junior Ganguly said, “I am the son of so-and so.” Prabhupada said, “Where is he? He didn’t come? Tell him I want to see him.”
Later the son told the father, “Maharaja wants to see you.” His father said, “How can I go and see him? He is the guru of the world, and I am a grihamedhi.” His son said, “But he wants to see you, and tomorrow he is going to ask me, ‘Why didn’t you bring your father?’ ” Feeling shy and small, the father said, “Tell him that I am sick.”
The next day, Prabhupada asked the junior Ganguly, “Your father didn’t come?” “He is feeling sick.” “Oh, he’s sick. Okay, I will come and see him.” When the junior told his father that Prabhupada was going to come, his father said, “How will he come to our house?”
The next morning, instead of taking his usual route, Prabhupada, followed by some disciples, walked down one alley after another, arrived at the Ganguly house, and rang the bell. The son came to the door and saw Prabhupada, his disciples, and a huge crowd of onlookers in front of his house. Prabhupada and a couple of devotees went in, and Prabhupada went straight to the bedroom where the senior Ganguly was lying down, not sick, but tired and broken. Prabhupada sat next to him, poked him like a friend does, and said in Bengali, “Hey, you didn’t come to see me!”
The senior Ganguly was shocked to see the Hare Krishna devotees in his house. He asked his wife, “Please bring something for them.” Prabhupada said, “My disciples need to learn Sanskrit. I told you, you should help me. Come and teach them Sanskrit. You can travel around the world with me and teach them. Why don’t you do that? You come; I will take you.” Ganguly said, “Oh, Swamiji, I am very old, and I don’t have any spiritual energy.” “No, you have the spark. The same quality that’s in me is also in you. You should join this movement. It is very important. Bharata bhumite manusya-janma yara. You should perfect your life. Better late than never.”
Prabhupada took a rasagulla and drank water. He told his disciples, “I used to come in the morning, and from here we took that road to go to school. He was a very intelligent student. He used to score higher than me.”
Around three o’clock that afternoon, when junior Ganguly came back from school, his father asked for some water. Then the senior Ganguly leaned back and said, “Bhaktivedanta Swami will take me,” closed his eyes, and passed away.
Junior Ganguly said, “In the morning, when Prabhupada said to my father, ‘You come; I will take you,’ I thought he was saying, ‘You come to ISKCON, and I will take you to America,’ or something. We understood what Prabhupada actually meant after my father passed on.” Junior Ganguly said to me, “When you called, I asked you to come, because I wanted to share this with you. In fact, we are already Life Members.”
After that, even though he was a busy man, Mr. Ganguly would regularly come to our Sunday programs.