Remembrances about Mr. PL Sethi

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Hari-sauri dasa: Here’s a couple of remembrances about Mr. PL Sethi a very loyal and faithful servant of Srila Prabhupada who, although he never took initiation, always regarded Srila Prabhupada as his guru.

Transcendental Diary Vol 5

October 13 1976

We are staying at the house of Mr. P. L. Sethi, at 103 Sector 23A. Mr. Sethi has been an active member of ISKCON in Bombay since 1971 and rendered great service in the fight to establish our temple at Juhu. A building contractor, it was he whom Srila Prabhupada engaged in building the upper floors on all the existing apartment blocks at Hare Krishna Land. When Prabhupada goes to Bombay, Mr. Sethi and his wife like to supply him with hot jalebis, dosa, rice, and other preparations. Mr. Sethi has kindly allowed Caitya-guru to use his house here in Chandigarh as a temporary ISKCON center until we can acquire some land. The large single-story house is located in the middle of a row on a quiet, wide, tree-lined street in the inner city. On our arrival, Mr. Sethi led Srila Prabhupada straight into the ground-floor living room, which he has cleared of furniture for Prabhupada’s darsanas. The house has adequate facilities for Prabhupada’s stay, and the living room is a good place for Prabhupada to work and relax, with a pleasant vista of the front garden’s three tall, thin mango trees and variety of flowers visible through the front windows.

* * *

October 15 1976

During darsana in the afternoon Srila Prabhupada was praising Mr. Sethi. He is a Punjabi, and they are famous for their ksatriya traditions. While Mr. Sethi humbly listened at his side, Srila Prabhupada told us about his bravery during the days of the partition and Indian independence. In the conFlict between Hindus and Muslims there were many acts of terror and unprovoked attacks. Sethiji had a sword that he carried for defense. One time, he was walking along a road and several Muslims suddenly jumped down from a carriage and came running at him with knives in their hands. Sethi whirled his sword and in one blow lopped off the head of the leader. The hapless fellow’s headless trunk continued to run down the road for several meters before falling into a ditch. The rest of his would-be assailants ran in fear of their lives. We looked on in wonder at the thought of the ghastly scene, and Prabhupada’s eyebrows lifted high and his eyes opened wide in emphasis as he described Sethi’s bravery. “Yes! This is ksatriya,” he told us appreciatively. Prabhupada also told us that the establishment of the Juhu Beach temple had been accomplished only after great struggle and that Mr. Sethi had played a significant role. Although Srila Prabhupada didn’t elaborate, I later heard the story from Mr. Sethi himself: At one point the wife of the former owner of the land, Mrs. Nair, had enlisted the Bombay Municipal Council through one of its members, Pushpakant Mhatre, to issue a demolition order on the temporary temple. A large team of police and a demolition squad invaded Hare Krishna Land, and while the police dragged away the protesting devotees, they began to dismantle the entire structure. But just as the demons were ripping the roof off the Deity room, with Sri Sri Radha-Rasabehari still inside, the demolition was stopped by the intervention of Bal Thackery, the leader of the local Shiv Sena political party, who was friendly to the devotees. Mr. Sethi had come later for darsana and was informed of the demolition attempt by Giriraja prabhu. He was also told that the court had granted permission to rebuild the temple but that it had to be done that day, which was a Sunday, because another High Court hearing was scheduled for the following day to finally decide the issue. Mr. Sethi immediately assured Giriraja that he would reconstruct the temple in one day. Despite everything being shut, Mr. Sethi managed to arrange for all the necessary materials from his own construction site plus a team of laborers, masons, and painters. As he began the work at 9:00 P. M. in pouring rain, Mr. Sethi recalled how Lord Krsna had protected the inhabitants of Vrndavana from the devastating rainfall sent by Indra by lifting Govardhana Hill, so he was unperturbed. He was thinking, “Indra wants to test me. All right, if you want to come down, you can come down more heavily, but I have the blessings of Srila Prabhupada. I have to build a temple and I will.” At 11:00 P. M. he was challenged by the demolishers, who threatened to send a hundred and fifty gundas (hired thugs) to stop the work. Mr. Sethi took out his rifle and with his son Brijmohan, who was armed with a pistol, he defiantly told them, “Let them come. They are one hundred and fifty, but we have two hundred bullets!” And both of them stood waiting, but no one came. Working through the night, they had the temple completed by 4:00 in the morning, in time for mangala arati. Later that day, Justice Nain issued the court’s verdict that “what is built is built, and no one can demolish it.” It was a great victory for which Srila Prabhupada was extremely appreciative, and he praised the bravery and service of Mr. Sethi to his movement. [end]

Your humble servant, Hari-sauri dasa

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