The Voice Behind the Curtain

BY: SWARUP DAS
Her voice was so angelic and the fact that she was singing with such emotion to Jagannatha blew me away. Manmohini and I sat and listened to her sing for a few more minutes when suddenly, from behind the curtain, this beautiful devotee girl who was singing to the Lord appeared. Her name was Hladini devi dasi.

Oct 05, 2010 — CORRALITOS, CALIFORNIA  — Kanka and I were married in June of 1971. The following month I bought a car with some money that my mother told me I had in a savings account. Toward the end of September ’71, I decided to take my car and my new wife down to Miami, Florida. My sister Manmohini and her husband Sridam had recently opened a center there, and Manmohini had just had a baby daughter on Sept. 6th, and named her Nimai dasi. I decided that I wanted to be closer to my sister and little niece and help my brother-in-law Sridam get the new temple organized in Coconut Grove.

On October 12th of ’71 we drove down to Florida. We also took with us a brahmacarini named Vaijayanti as well as Harsharani (wife of Jivananda) and her two young sons, Govinda and Gopala. She and Jivananda were having marital problems and with her husband gone, Harsharani was a single mom with two toddlers living on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn temple and feeling very depressed. Kanka befriended her and we ended up taking her under our wing and bringing her to Miami with us, since that fourth floor of the Brooklyn temple was not the best place for little children.

The day after we arrived in Coconut Grove, Manmohini took me over to the temple. The asrama was a house on Center Street and the temple was two blocks away in a rented hall on Mary Street. On our way to the temple Manmohini explained that they had small Jagannatha Deities on the altar and a wonderful godsister had recently arrived to be the pujari. As we approached the entrance to the temple I heard a voice singing from behind the closed curtain of the altar. She was singing the words to a Jefferson Airplane song:

Today I feel like pleasing you more than before 

Today I know what I want to do but I don’t know what for

To be living for you is all I want to do
To be loving you it’ll all be there when my dreams come true

Today you’ll make me say that I somehow have changed
Today you’ll look into my eyes, I’m just not the same
To be anymore than all I am would be a lie
I’m so full of love I could burst apart and start to cry
…………. 
It’s taken so long to come true
And it’s all for you
all for you….

Her voice was so angelic and the fact that she was singing with such emotion to Jagannatha blew me away. Manmohini and I sat and listened to her sing for a few more minutes when suddenly, from behind the curtain, this beautiful devotee girl who was singing to the Lord appeared. Her name was Hladini devi dasi.

Manmohini introduced us, but I could barely find my voice to say “Haribol.” I was blown away. She sounded so immersed in love and devotion for Lord Jagannatha.

Some years back I read on the Internet that Hladini was murdered in Africa. Murdered and martyred. To me she will always be that voice behind the curtain that melted my heart of stone.

Posted in In the News.