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Prabhupada’s cars in India


Gargamuni Dasa: Prabhupada didn't like the Mercedes. He said, "Send it back." Then he asked me. There were only two cars made in those days. One in eastern India, the factory was owned by the Birlas called Hindustan Motor Company or something. They made an old British car that was a model from the 1940s. If you have an Ambassador now and ship it to England, you'll get thousands and thousands of dollars, it's a collector's item now. If you ship it to into England, they want them, they'll pay anything because it's a collector's item, it's an antique. Now they don't make them anymore, so there's only a few left I guess. So Prabhupada, he wanted three cars for each of his temples. For Bombay, so he had his own vehicle, for Vrindavana, and for Mayapur and Calcutta. And he gave me the money for his three cars. 

At that time, I think it was Rs. 28,000/- for an Ambassador. First I went to the dealer. There was one dealer in Calcutta and I said I need three cars. He called the factory. Then he wrote on a piece of paper the number like 7,500 or something. I said, "Oh it only cost seven thousand five hundred?" He said, "No, you have to wait, you're in line for seven thousand five hundred people." I go, "What! You mean I can't just buy a car that's ready?" He said, "No, no, no. We are ordered by the government to make a certain amount of cars every year, so we can't make any more than that. The government says you make this amount of cars. So you have to wait for seven thousand people in front of you." I said, "No, no, no. How long will it take?" He said, "Well, it could take five years." I said, "No, my Guru Maharaja wants now." He said, "I can't help you."

Well, meantime, I made G. P. Birla a member, and he also donated Rs. 25,000/- to Mayapur. So I went to G. P. Birla, I said, "Sir, guru ji, your guru," because he's a life member. He's your guru. Prabhupada said our members are just as good as disciples because they're financing us. I said, "You have to get. I want three cars. I got the cash." He said, "Okay." And I put the cash on the table. I said, "Here it is." And he gave me the three cars. Actually, I ordered four, one for Calcutta, but the condition the cars were in, they weren't drivable. They were bouncy, and the windows were moving. The doors wouldn't close right. I mean everything was mismade. It wasn't, it didn't fit right. Even some of the tires were loose, they didn't make them tight.

I had my mechanic Janapavana, a great devotee, I mean he saved our lives so many times through his mechanics. He took those Prabhupada's cars and took them apart and totally rebuilt them, putting in special suspension. He put in special foam in the car, he took out the seats, everything. And he put foam all around to make it sound-proof, so Prabhupada wouldn't hear noises from the outside. Then to keep the heat out, because there wasn't air-conditioning in those days, you couldn't buy black glass to reflect the light, India didn't make it. But you could get it on the black market from Poland. There was a Polish black market for many goods made in Poland. Because India was a socialist country so they did trade with all the socialist countries. We found a black glass in the market in Calcutta. And we put black glass in instead of the clear glass, which was shaking, it didn't even fit right. We put on all chrome doorknobs and all new everything. And new upholstery, we put in brand-new nice upholstery with a high-back for Prabhupada's head because in the Ambassador your head will go like this [forward and backward motion]. This way he had a cushion. It was high in the back seat, even in the front seat I made them high. We put chrome all around. We painted them wine-colored because in India you can only get three colors, white, black and like a tan color, like a skin color, a little dark skin color. That's all. We didn't like that. We made it wine-colored, burgundy, it's called.

Then I made these big tilakas made of copper and chrome because chrome sticks to copper and it doesn't come off. And copper was cheap in those days. So I used copper and put chrome on it. Then I made lotus flowers on all the four doors and the trunk of the car. Everything was chrome. I changed everything on the car. Chrome was expensive and we paid for this from our preaching. We wanted Prabhupada to have the best car in India. We didn't want him to have just an ordinary car that everybody else has. We wanted him to have a car that nobody had. I always thought of the best things for Prabhupada. And if I could do them, I would do them.

Like in LA, I got the best temple for Prabhupada in Los Angeles, I found the property. I tried always to do the best for Prabhupada. Even in Bombay, when I came from Pakistan, I wanted to thank Prabhupada for allowing me to risk my life for his service. So I bought him a tulasi and gold nugget. You'll see the gold nuggets on the chain with tulasi beads which came down to here (near upper stomach). I bought for him as a gift and he always wore it. He never gave that one away. Somebody took it when he disappeared, but I don't know who. I can make a general request, somehow it should come back to Vrindavana where Prabhupada's samadhi is and where his museum is. Somehow it has to be preserved because it was worn by Srila Prabhupada, and shouldn't be kept or traded by others. It should be here in the place where his samadhi is. Somehow or other if you can do that, I'd be very happy and I think Prabhupada would be happy that it would return to where Prabhupada is present right now.

So we rebuilt all the Prabhupada cars to make it perfectly comfortable. Prabhupada really liked these cars. He didn't bounce. Plus not only I had the black glass but I also put two fans on him, so the fans would blow on his body so he wouldn't get hot because there's no air conditioning. Then I put curtains also. Curtains. Because people would be trying to see who's in there and it would disturb Prabhupada. Then in the front of the car, I put flags, chrome-plated flag poles, and I made a flag out of silk with ‘ISKCON' on it, when the car would go, the flag would wave with ISKCON. The driver was in a white suit with an ISKCON emblem on his chest that said ‘ISKCON' and he would drive Prabhupada. He was a good driver. He was my personal driver in Calcutta wherever I went. He kept a car. He always washed the car every morning. He was very good. Of course, he liked that car because nobody had a car like that. So he felt puffed up too because he was driving a car that nobody else had.

I had a temple car made the same way. So everything was good.

When it rains you can't roll down the windows because the rain will come in. But in India, they have these rain stoppers. I made those out of chrome. So even in the rain, Prabhupada could open the window and get air and the rain wouldn't come because it would stop the rain. And they were made of chrome. Everything was chrome. And for night time, I put lights under the car. So at night, it would look like a moving spaceship. It didn't look like a car, it looks like something from space. And nobody had lights on underneath a car, so this is like a first. So I made the first cars for Srila Prabhupada in India. Nobody made anything like that.

I did many firsts in my service to Prabhupada and I was happy to be able to do that and be the person to do it. I always thank Prabhupada and Krishna that he was able to engage me in such services.


Reference: SPF Interviews