Doing Wants

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

Once, at Old New Vrindabana, just after the morning program, I came across Puskar who was known to me as a fabulous artist. He was sitting in the lotus position on the back of a flat bed trailer down at Bahulabhana. He was chanting quietly and his eyes were closed. He rocked gently back and forth in the early rose light.

I looked up at him as I passed. He reminded me of a huge flower, sitting there in his saffron regalia. Hearing his low pitched “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” I reached for my own bead bag.

We nodded to each other as I passed below. We’d already made mutual obeisances at the morning program. I smiled to myself, for seeing Puskar’s mouth, it was probably me, or the light, but it appeared as if his tongue was repeatedly cupping and forming the letter “U.”

Puskar was known for his quick tongue. “Don’t be so obsequious,” he’d advised me sharply in the room adjoining the temple one morning.

“Obsequious?” I’d vibrated. “What’s obsequious?”

“You, a writer?” Puskar had responded. “You’re no a writer. How can you call yourself a writer?” He waved a free hand in dismissal.

“A writer must know what ‘obsequious ‘means?”

“Of course.” Puskar was undaunted. He arranged the folds of his dhoti and brushed at an invisible speck of dust.

“I want you to tell me what obsequious means,” I stated.

“Not now,” Puskar gave me a raised brow. He held his bag at me and shook it a little. “Hare Krsna …”

I agreed. “Hare Krsna.”

…Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.

Now, years later, passing below Puskar perched up on the trailer, in the morning light, I thought I saw all those “U’s” floating around in his sharp dark features.

“I’ll be leaving soon,” Puskar said.

I stopped at that. “Where do you think you are going?” I asked. I shaded my eyes with my right hand, conscious a little of making a salute.

“Florida.” Puskar’s response was terse.

I’d thought he was talking about Moundsville or Wheeling on a Town Run. That Puskar would emigrate to Florida mortified me. As usual, Puskar was fast with the words. “Don’t be so upset,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll get on fine without me.”

I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t like it. Puskar was to me, an important part of life there at Old New Vrindabana. For years we’d all been watching him sketch during the morning program, working with those pads with the orange colored covers. If you caught a furtive glimpse over his sheltering shoulder, for an instant you’d see very high quality work.

I was used to hearing his quick tones, somewhere in a crowd, making that piercing observation no doubt. In my opinion, the vision coupled with the vehicle for delivery, be that medium ink, paint, stone or even wheel is an inadvertent hallmark of the artist.

Now Puskar had suddenly declared to me that he was leaving. I thought I might be able to help him change his mind.

“I would miss you,” I said. “No one wants you to go.” I thought a moment. “But just why are you saying you are thinking about leaving?”

Puskar’s delivery was staccato. “You won’t miss me,” he said. “I’m not just saying I’m thinking about going,” (u, u, u) “I’m practically gone already.

“No you’re not,” I said weakly.

Puskar fixed me with one of his gazes. I had to laugh. He seemed to be saying, “Watch me.” I liked him so much. “I want you to do something for me,” he said.

“Do something?”

Puskar nodded. “Those sketch books I‘ve built up over the years?”

I nodded. We all knew of them.

“I want to leave them with you if that’s OK and then later, if I send for them I want you to send them to me.”

This was a breathtaking honor. Suddenly, I could see that Puskar was indeed in the very act and process of leaving New Vrindabana. There on the flatbed trailer on the trail where the lower and upper Bahulabhana drives came together, near Maru Deva’s shop and indeed Puskar’s own white church art studio, there he was saying good bye on that morning.

“Puskar, Prabhu, why?” I asked. Puskar was to me a particularly integral and stalwart component of life in Old New Vrindabana, in every real sense. “Why?”

“I can’t say,” Puskar responded.

Puskar? Not saying? This was not sounding right to me. What about the quick little bat tongue of the ubiquitous iguana or whatever is I’d supposed artist’s have in common.

“Why?” I asked again. Not, “Why are you leaving?” But more now, “Why are you saying you can’t tell me your reason?”

“Because it would upset your devotional creeper,” Puskar said.

“What?” I hadn’t been aware of any such a creeper about me. “What?”

“I don’t want to upset you,” Puskar said quietly. “I found out something and I can’t tell you.”

This from the artist? From one whose essential business is communicating? “You won’t upset me,” I declared.

“This would.” Puskar was firm. Puskar did leave almost immediately. I held his sketch books until he sent for them years later on after that. At first I had a difficult time finding them. I supposed I did not want to let them go.

We find it easy to do what we think we want to do.

‘Til Death Do Us Part

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