Think global act local… Being very grateful that Srimate Rādhārāṇī has blessed us with being able to live in the Holy Dham we decided that we need to be more integrated with the local community or ‘colony’ as it is termed in Vṛndāvan.
It all began with a feisty young red bull calf we affectionately called Little Red or Chote Lal. He would come in the mornings and we would feed him kitchen scraps which he hungrily devoured. Being a street bull he was not used to human contact so he was ever ready to charge with his head down if anyone came near. However my son Kesava soon befriended him and he became part of the family so to speak. Soon another bull calf and an older white cow would come along as well and we fed them on the road in front of our apartment complex gates.
In case you are not aware there are two types of cows that wander the streets of Vṛndāvan or anywhere in India for that matter. There is the domestic cow whose owners cannot afford to keep them in their yards due to lack of space and lack of money to feed them, so they allow them out during the day to forage for food in the streets. Then there are the bulls and some cows that are simply let loose to the streets and are homeless.
So very soon there were upwards of ten cows coming on a regular basis to our gate to be fed. Of course our home kitchen could not support such numbers… Outside of our Apartment Block on both sides of the road were vacant ‘yet to be built on’ blocks of land which were really dumping grounds for building rubble and rubbish tips. On the left were some tiny plots which were apparently owned by a Nepalese family who never come to the Dham. So we cleared one plot and built a double bay feeding trough out of brick. This proved an immediate success and took the cows off the roadway in front of our gate.
As it was quickly becoming summer, which meant soaring Temps over 50 Degrees Celsius, and knowing that there was no clean drinking water for the cows in the area we decided to put a water tank to give them a constant supply of clean, cool drinking water. One cow seemingly can drink 15 liters in one session!
Not all of the cows that visit here are street cows. Many of them are milking cows from owners who turn them out into the street during the day to forage for themselves as they don’t have the money to feed them. So by our feeding them green fodder they can produce milk that the owners in turn sell to make some money in a very tight economic situation that is India today.
While the street cow feeding was going on we noticed that there were many young children in the colony who had nothing much to do as there are no virtually no sporting type playgrounds in the Mathura Vṛndāvan area and certainly none in our small colony.
The local children would sometimes play cricket in a carpark up the road with pieces of wood as bats so we decided that we would buy them cricket bats to replace the pieces of wood they used and we also had some iron wickets made up to replace the piles of bricks they used as wickets.
This got us thinking that the vacant block on our right was almost big enough to make a playground. After some inquiries we contacted the owner who was happy to let us turn it into a playground until they decided to build on it which may be a year or so off…
After a very difficult task and a lot of consultation with many of the children we managed to turn a pile of rubble and refuse into a semi decent playground with removable posts for Volleyball / Badminton and erected two Basketball hoops, one for the little kids and one for the big kids. Sometimes there are upward of thirty children playing various sports down there and the odd adult or two. We named the park ‘Prabhupāda Vani Park’.
After forming some relationships with the children who helped clear the block and who also gave their ideas to what could be done there, we decided to ask them if they wanted to learn art. They were very eager to learn art and we now have a class of eight doing art twice a week.
After some time of art classes they were eager to do more and so we suggested forming a Drama Group to do Krsna Lila Dramas, Odissi Dance Performances and bhajans which they jumped at the idea and so on Sundays we have a Drama Class. Now we are planning an Art Exhibition & Bhajan, Odissi Dance Performance for the children and parents of the colony and a larger more elaborate Festival after the Summer School Holidays.
We are very grateful for the opportunity to serve both the cows and local children of the Dham and it is so nice to hear them calling the park ‘Prabhupāda Vani Park!
All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda!
This was our second Art Class we held for the local Brijbasi children.
Siva is a battle scarred old veteran of the street who has decided to make Prabhupada Vani his home. So he has to defend it of course…
We have been feeding street cows outside our apartment block since we moved in and now it is becoming a bigger affair so…
Langurs Come For Lunch
Even though this family of Langurs has hung around our apartment complex this was their first time they came for lunch!
Prabhupada Vani Park