I traveled for four hours to reach the village in Krishnanagar. Several women were seated on bamboo mats and laughing among themselves. A woman wiped sweat from her forehead and said, “It is so hot. I will melt soon.” Even the scorching sun failed to take away the smiles from their faces. When I requested them to enlighten me about their livelihoods, they did not once let me feel like a stranger, intruding into their lives. Instead, their eyes glowed as they recited their realities.
Within five minutes of the conversation, I realized that the ISKCON Temple allowed these women to rise above their arduous circumstances. 30-year-old Munmun Thakur said, “During Holi and Rash Mela, a lot of tourists come to Mayapur to visit the temple. My husband earned more at that time of the year. He manages to earn Rs 500 on a daily basis. On the other hand, Jharna Biswas, informed “Our utensils are quite popular at fairs. During the Rash Mela in Mayapur, we manage to save almost Rs 12,000.”
Kajali Das greeted me by saying, “ Hare Krishna.” She wore a Tilak made of sandalwood paste. “I am a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Every evening I sweep the doorstep of Iskcon temple.” Kajali had to shut down her business earlier, due to lack of capital. At that moment she decided to seek a loan. She said, “During Holi, I earn Rs 8000-8500, otherwise, I earn Rs 7,000 on a monthly basis.” She enlightened me that almost 6000-7000 foreign devotees arrive at Mayapur during ‘Dol Purnima’ (Holi) every year. At that time, multi-colored flowers are used to decorate the temple. The temple is gracefully illuminated with bright lights at night. Her business flourished during that time, and as a result, she was able to start her business again. Prova Biswas was delighted that her son earned well last month. She said, “ My son buys the fruits from this godown in Nabadwip at a very cheap rate. Thereafter, he sells these fruits in Mayapur. Last month during Holi, he earned Rs 8,000 to 10,000.”
As I sat there listening to these women clad in sarees, I decided that I have to visit this temple. A woman offered me some water and brought me out of my reverie. “It’s really hot no? You can sit near the table fan.” And at that moment I realized, that acts of kindness can change this world. I folded my hands and thanked them for their time. Now I have to check out the temple that changed their ‘world’. As I hopped on the boat to cross the river, I witnessed another sunset.