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Lunch at Gopa and Kishori’s House

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November 21st, 2008

“You know, people don’t usually check in at three-fifty in the morning…” the clerk at the hotel sat behind the desk looking at Gaura incredulously as I shifted my weight side to side on my feet in the middle of the hotel lobby. The overweight clerk looked exasperated as he attempted to look up the overdue reservation in the computer system searching by “last name…vani.” After the program at Princeton we indulged ourselves in a vegetarian run to the nearest Shop Rite and enjoyed a light dinner of fruit, roasted veggies and good conversation with some of the new friends that we met at the program. The cost was that now we sat in the middle of the hotel lobby, tired, still slightly sweaty and some of us a little drugged.

“Shhhh” Ananta sat on the couch on the opposite side of the room with a giggling Janaki who was still recovering from having taken Benedryl for allergies that flared up earlier in the night. Her laughter was infectious and we soon found ourselves all smiling and chuckling a little.

Gaura Vani leads kirtan at Gopa and Kishori’s house Ray Ippolito and his amazing guitar

“Were y’all drinking over there or somethin’?” The clerk had a slight drawl that I couldn’t place but his question only made Janaki laugh a little harder which in turn caused all of our self restraint to crack just a little bit more. Gaura sighed and fought to contain his laughter and he returned to the task of getting our rooms back to us so that we could all go and have some much needed sleep. I took a quick look at the time on my phone and it was past four. We had been having such a good time having good conversation that we hadn’t realized just how late it got. I ran a hand over my face wondering what was going to happen when we attempted to get going tomorrow. Luckily we were going for a brunch/kirtan program at a house that was in New Jersey, but still…waking up felt like an impossible feat at the moment.

Deities at Gopa and Kishori’s house Krishna Balaram and Jagannath Deities

Once the laughter died down and the rooms had been re-established we all went to our perspective rooms with Janaki, myself and our wonderful Kamaniya in one room. Before I knew it I was faster asleep than I had been in a long time. The silence of the room was the best feeling velvet that had I had ever touched and the large bed that I shared with Janaki was big enough for me to be able to sleep sideways and still have extra room on either side. Not quite being five feet that might not have been saying a lot but I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Kishori and her triplets The feast brewing in the kitchen

“Room service!” I struggled to open one eye to see poor Kamaniya out of bed and pushing a room service attendant out of the open door that was also letting the bright morning sunlight into the room. I winced at the light and took a look at her as she muttered something angrily and closed the door again. I heard her small sigh of frustration and looked across to see that Janaki was still fast asleep. This hotel was definitely something new. First the clerk that night before and now room service attendants who didn’t bother to see if the occupants of the room even wanted room service. I closed my eyes tight and prayed to fall back asleep quickly. I was working on short time and I had no idea how long it would be before I really did have to get up and go on with the rest of the busy schedule.

I was awakened a little later by another knock on the door followed by yet another attendant opening the door and beginning to shout “Room service!” before I saw Kamaniya’s shadow looming menacingly over the small lady that had come to clean the room. Kamaniya had to be at least a foot taller than the lady at the door and she backed away which I thought was an extremely smart move considering her position and the snarling, normally mildly tempered woman staring her down from the door.

“NO” I heard her forceful tone come out and she began to close the door on the second attendant of the morning but not before saying “And could you relay it to the rest of the staff that we don’t wish to be disturbed?” the attendant looked a little shocked and left the room murmuring apologies. As soon as the door was closed Kamaniya and I looked at each other and shook our heads in disbelief. I closed my eyes again but it wasn’t long before the phone was ringing with our wake up call. I tried to hold back my disappointment as I rolled over and tried to wake myself up and get ready for the next day. Life on the road was leaving a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth….but I was sure that once I brushed my teeth it would definitely put things more into perspective.

An hour later as the entire group met up in the parking lot, I still had a little bit of a scowl on my face, and the rest of the group didn’t look much different. Everyone, tired for the same, and also different reasons, there was an aroma of sluggishness that blended with the crisp autumn air in New Jersey that Sunday morning. I looked over to see Gaura surveying everyone as they began to split up to get into different cars. He stopped in small cluster of people saying a little something before moving onto the next. As he left, each group a look of warmth that hadn’t been there when he arrived. He reached our group last and when he got to Ananta, Janaki and myself he leaned down low and said, “Were y’all drinking last night or somethin’?” His normally deep voice changed to mimic that of the clerk’s strange drawl from the night before. We burst out laughing and I rolled my shoulders unconsciously shrugging off the bad mood I had been in. I realized then the importance of our group name. Although we were As Kindred Spirits, it was truly Gaura who had the potency to draw everyone together in a way that made, what would seem to be, clashing styles fit like a wonderful masterpiece. I was proud to call us Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits no matter how much Gaura’s humble spirit would protest the title.

Forty minutes later we arrived at the house of Gopa and Kisori: the New Jersey devotees with the triplets, as they are most commonly known. They invited us to their home for a wonderful ekadasi lunch and bhajans. We were greeted with warm smiles and enthusiastic energy from most of our friends in the New Jersey area and it felt wonderful to be among all of them who had come together just to celebrate….Sunday. As Gaura led a bhajan that dipped and dived into other bhajans, among them, a wonderful version of Parama Karuna I smiled and closed my eyes letting my tired feeling take over as I floated through the bhajan enjoying the sound of everyone singing together and hearing the different instruments blend. I opened my eyes and everyone looked a lot like I did, happy to be among the holy name and happy to be experiencing the kirtan.

Ananta eats! Kamaniya enjoying her vegan feast.

After the bhajan we decided that it was time for lunch. They served a two toned half vegan/ekadasi lunch so that everyone would be able to participate in eating together. I savored the lunch and thought that life on the mini tour was most definitely getting sweeter. After lunch we decided that we would end with Damodarastaka before we ran to the temple to attend the Sunday program in New York. I had the honor of singing the Damodarastaka before we changed to a Hare Krishna tune with everyone’s voices singing loudly together. It was truly the meaning of congregational chanting. I looked at the smiling deities and knew that they were listening to us, listening to the prayers in the hearts of every person that sang and granting everyone the greatest joy to be had through devotion and the ability to lose oneself while singing the names of the lord.

Acyuta Gopi leads Damodarastakam

I was sad that the bhajan had to end, but we needed to rush to get back to the Brooklyn temple for the Sunday feast. After a chance to talk with everyone there and thank our hosts it was time to jump back into the cars and head off to another adventure, another kirtan.

Happy Kirtan
Acyuta Gopi

Gaura Vani – Hare Krishna


Acyuta Gopi – Damodarastakam


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