Are we So Sinful?
During book distribution in villages in India, we generally set up a stall by 7:30 am and after engaging the early morning shoppers, we move to the next village. Like this we cover 4-5 villages in a day.
One day we had good book distribution in a village. By 9am we were ready to leave. On the way to the next big village there was a smaller one, which I decide to skip. "Better spend more time in the bigger village," I thought. When we were crossing the small village we reached the road where the village people, under the guidance of their sarpanch (village head), were repairing the road. I was surprised to see the village was prosperous. As our bus reached closer everyone stopped work and began staring at us. Srila Prabhupada's kirtan tune was airing from the bus's public address system; the bus itself was brightly painted and inside was cheerful devotees enthusiastically having kirtan, everything was mesmerizing for simple village folk.
The sarpanch waved at us to stop. "What do you have?"
"We distribute Bhagvad Gita and Srimad Bhagvatam," I replied.
"Where will you set up your stall in our village?" the sarpanch asked.
"No, we are not setting up our stall here," I replied. "We are going to the next village. It is bigger."
"Are we so sinfull that you are not stopping in our village?" the sarpanch said. "Please stop here. I will personally come with you and help every one take the books."
He climbed on our bus, and the workers cleared heaps of mud from the road and made way for our bus. As we passed an eager crowd began to follow us. At the village market we stopped the bus and the sarpanch was the first person to take books. He took Srimad Bhagwatam.
I quoted, "Yad yad acharati shreshthas: Whatever action great men do common men follow."
The sarpanch then requested every one to buy the books. "If you don't have money," he declared, "I will lend you. You can return it tomorrow." He lent around two thousand rupees to the villagers, all of whom he knew personally.
In that village of around 100 people around 60% took books. For me it was a big lesson: never to prejudge a place because of its apparent material features. It was a small village-with a large heart.
Murari Gupta Das