Friday, December 15, 2006

Shoe Saga

Inconceivably enough, I was separated from five pairs of shoes in this year alone! One in Calcutta, one in Russia, one in Hungary, one in Ukraine, and finally one in Mayapur in November. Fortunately they were all about $3 shoes, so it wasn't a great loss. I decided to go without shoes as long as possible out of a sense of frustration and defeat. However, day by day it has been getting colder in the mornings here, and I have been afraid of getting sick.

Last night I read in my diksa guru's book, Prabhupada Nectar (Vol. 2, No. 25): “Srila Prabhupada did not like his disciples to perform artificial austerities. When one devotee appeared bare-chested in the cold at a Kumbha-mela, Prabhupada reprimanded him. On another occasion, in America , he teased his disciple Nara-Narayana, who came into the cold temple room wearing only a light T-shirt.

“Nara-Narayana,” said Prabhupada from the vyasasana, “you must be eating chickens.” The other devotees turned and stared.

“Yes,” said Prabhupada, “this is how the Mohammedans keep warm. Are you eating chickens, Nara-Narayana?”

“No, Srila Prabhupada.”

Prabhupada then began telling a story how the Mohammedans keep warm: “The system is that a man tries to eat one hundred chickens by eating a single chicken. A farmer will take a hundred chickens and then feed one of them to the ninety-nine. He then feeds another one to the remaining ninety-eight, and another one to the remaining ninety-seven. Finally, when there are only two chickens left, he feeds one chicken to the other. Then that chicken is fed to the emperor. In that way, it is considered that he is eating one hundred chickens.”

As a result of reading this, I decided to give up my artificial austerity of going barefoot in December. After harinama in Navadvipa, I decided to look for some shoes. The people in Bengal are so short the stores do not carry size 11. Size 10 is the largest. Thus I tried on at least five pairs of shoes before finding something that fit. Because the top part is cloth, at least they won't give me blisters, like the five pairs that were stolen. We will see if my big toe wears a hole in the top of them before too long, or more likely, if someone rips them off. I will keep them indoors at night to be safe. At any rate, they were only 135 rupees ($3) and if they last the winter, I will be grateful.