By Vaisnavananda das (ACBSP)
For those of you who knew Ramakeli prabhu, there are many wonderful things to be said by everyone about this jubilant and very friendly devotee. Although he was a rather large man and would initially appear intimidating, he was a “gentle giant”. I remember the first time that I met him back in the early days in Chicago, he was on a cooking marathon (he spent the entire night in the kitchen!) for the Rathayatra festival. When I walked in the kitchen to do some service, I encountered this tall clean shaven devotee who immediately gave me a huge smile and asked where as I was from. His warm personality and personable nature made me feel completely welcomed.
Many years passed and I came back to Chicago on business for Fine Art, Ltd. a devotee founded company engaged in the sale of oil paintings. Again I met Ramakeli prabhu who remembered me and with that same exuberant smile of his, made me feel at home. Ramakeli showed interest in our business since he was also engaged in the sale of custom paintings, African Art and paraphernalia. He opened an Art studio in the south side of Chicago and I had the fortune of helping him in this endeavor. He set up various Art exhibits and fund raisers, all non-profit to benefit an orphanage that he solely supported in Africa. I particularly recall one show that he was setting up at Oprah’s building on Lakeshore Dr. in the city of Chicago, where Michael Jordan the renowned basketball star had been invited. Ramakeli was a highly charismatic man, and treated everyone warmly enabling him to enter circles of high caliber and influential people.
Ramakeli exemplified the model grhastha, rising early with his family and holding a daily morning program, complete with Mangol arotike, Bhagavatam class and up to the highlights of mother Gaura’s sumptous breakfast prasadam. When I visited Chicago on business, I would stay at hotels until Ramakeli prabhu literally dragged me to his home and said, “You should no longer stay with these karmis, come, stay with me and my family”. I visited Chicago for many consecutive years and I was very fortunate to stay at his home and receive his association and that of his devoted wife, Mother Gaura dasi and all of her many joyful children.
As said, there are many wonderful things to say about Ramakeli prabhu, he was a superlative cook, a loving father and husband, an accomplished book distributor, and his devout commitment to Krsna consciousness and Srila Prabhupada. I loved that he always talked about Srila Prabhupada and placed great emphasis on the paramount importance to raise a Krsna conscious family. He often stated that one desiring to enter the grhastha ashram should seek a spouse who is pure and chaste and considered himself blessed that his spouse fulfilled that criteria.
He shared many anecdotes with me regarding his experience in Krsna consciosness, but most importantly that of meeting Srila Prabhupada! He told me that when he first joined the temple, he loved everything but that he still had some hidden doubt. He thought of leaving, but wondered why the devotees were so convinced and dedicated. Srila Prabhupada was scheduled to soon visit Chicago, so he decided to wait until he came. When Srila Prabhupada arrived in Chicago and he first saw him, he began crying like a baby; and at that moment he made the decision to stay in Krsna consciousness for life.
I regreat being unable to personally attend his memorial, but I will always remember and miss my dear loving god brother Ramakeli prabhu. He is now gone to be with Bhaktivinode Thakur and Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Ramakeli das prabhu!
Vaisnavananda das (ACBSP)