If you've known Pundarik well, you'd know him for his love of kirtan and bhajan, his dedication to his japa, and his great enthusiasm for prasadam distribution. In fact, the University of Florida prasadam lunch program he helped start in the 1970s is still benedicting students today! You might not know, though, all the ways he served Prabhupada since his initiation in 1973. Over the years he did traveling sankirtan, book distribution, temple and festival cooking, pujari service, and even gardening and milking. He taught gurukula, did college preaching, and opened a Govinda's. He served Prabhupada and the devotees as temple president in Gainesville and Alachua, Florida, as well as the New Talavana farm in Mississippi. And, married to Sankirtan dasi, he was pita for their three children, Rasa Lila, Saranagati, and Giri Govardhana.
Most unfortunately, though, Pundarik was struck a few years ago with what at first was a mysterious disease. Eventually diagnosed as Lewy Body Dementia, a relative of Parkinson's, the illness has brought an end to his ability to continue those services and, in fact, to care for himself at all. His family and community tried to care for him at the farm, but it got to be to much. He needed around-the-clock medical care, so in the fall of 2011 he had to be placed in a nursing home. This was very sad for everyone, knowing what that means. It has not been possible to visit him daily, as the facility is an hour away from the farm. It is very heartbreaking to see him sitting in his wheelchair, parked in some corner of the "actvity room" with the TV blaring, enveloped in any devotee's nightmare of association. He is Krishna conscious for the most part, but it is very hard for him there. He loves, as always, the sound of the holy names; and, when he can communicate, he clearly expresses his dear wish to spend his last days in his beloved Mayapur.
We wish getting Pundarik to India were as simple and inexpensive as buying a one-way ticket. But the severity of his condition, which requires around-the-clock care and assistance in every way, makes everything more costly. For example, the cramped coach seats on a plane are intolerable and unmanageable; at least business class is necessary. Two family members must travel with him as attendants. Wheelchairs, supplies, and equipment must accompany him. Appropriate facility for rest and bathing during travel will be a must. It's not inexpensive.
His family is pulling together to help make this trip happen, working on arrangements and contributing to the best of their ability. Great friends like Rtadvaja Maharaja are encouraging and coordinating resources. Wonderful devotees in India, led by Vedasara, are arranging facility there. And between the family's ongoing support and his Social Security income, all of Pundarik's fairly costly living and care expenses in India will be covered. Local fundraisers have had good success; many generous souls at New Talavana and the New Orleans temple are contributing. But we're still coming up quite short on the costs of the trip for him, his caretakers, and the wheelchair and medical bed he'll need in India.
The donation goal is our best estimate of the remainder of Laksmi needed for this important mission. Friends and family are determined to make this trip happen for Pundarik, and Krishna's mercy has been evident in all the help so far. Now, though, we must ask, on his behalf, for contributions of whatever you are inspired to do. Please be assured that everything will be used diligently and economically just for this mission. If there is a remainder we would, with your permission, contribute it to the care of other ill devotees in Mayapur.
We thank you, and we pray for all Krishna's blessings on each of you. ~~~ Hari bol! Hare Krishna! Jaya Prabhupada! All glories to the most merciful Lord Chaitanya and His abode at Sri Dhama Mayapura!
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