Vrindavan, 2017.08.05 (VT): The other day I stopped to drink an orange juice at a fruit shop, and the shopkeeper said to me, “You have lived here quite a while. Do you like Vrindavan?” I said yes, of course, and he asked me why.
I was just starting to answer when he said, “You know why you like Vrindavan? Because this is Shri Krishna’s own home, and it is full of peace. The greatest place in the world is Bharat, and in Bharat the greatest place is Vrindavan. You can live simply and peacefully here.
You know, I have never even been to Delhi. I only go to Mathura sometimes for business, but I have never left Braj in my life.”
His shop, he said, is about sixty years old, and it was started by his father.
“What did your family do before that?” I asked him.
“Well, my parents were from the place that is now called Pakistan. They were visiting Haridwar when the partition happened. They had to leave everything behind and start a new life, so they chose to do that in Vrindavan. I was born here.
“You know, even thirty or forty years ago, this place was full of trees. The way Tatiya Sthan is – that’s how Vrindavan was not so long ago. It was all forest. There were no monkeys in the marketplace. They all lived in the woods by the side of Yamuna Maharani.
“And the cowherds used to take the cows out to pasture… there was so much pastureland then. In the evening when they would come back, there would be thousands of cows coming in from the pasture around sunset. Thakurji (Krishna) used to bring his cows home at sunset, that’s why the Brajwasis did the same.
“Back then Raman Reti, where ISKCON is now, was all wilderness. Nobody used to go there after 4pm for fear of robbers. At that time there was only one car in town. Everyone traveled by tonga (bullock cart). Even if you wanted to go to Mathura, you had to take a tonga.
“Then rich people came and started building guest houses and apartments. They cut down all the trees and bought up all the pasturelands. Where will the monkeys go? What will the cows eat? I feel sad when I think of all this.
“People have started doing nasty things in Vrindavan, but back then people were afraid of offending the Dham. But you know, I love Vrindavan. I don’t want to go anywhere else. There is so much peace here… (he said as horns blared and monkeys banged on the roof overhead)… so much peace here…”
(From a conversation with Radharaman aka. “Raja”, a fruitseller in Loi Bazar, August 31, 2017)