So we went to the Middle East. It took some courage. We preached to the Muslims. We were busy going around to all the Hindus collecting donations. Then the donations started to get smaller and smaller, and we thought that because these Muslims are stinking rich; we really have to try harder.
We were wearing dhotis and we did not have tilaka. We went into this one man’s bakery shop, very long shop. There were all these chairs against the wall. There must have been about twenty chairs leading up to his desk, placed all along the wall, and there were all these people sitting on the chairs waiting to see this man. So we just walked right up to the man’s desk and sat down, and he was surprised. He was an Arab. He looked like Lawrence of Arabia with the national dress. So he said,
“What can I do for you?”
He was a big businessman. Every five minutes, someone would be bringing something into the room, some diamond, some jewel, some gold, or some money. Behind the desk, there was this huge vault. Every time someone would come, he would open up the vault, and put it in, and close it again. He had this eyeglass, specially made for looking at jewels. So finally, the man said,
“So what can I do for you?”
Everyone was looking at us like, “Hey, you guys.”
I explained that we had a philanthropic society and “we were doing this philanthropic work; that in India we have one center named Mayapur Mandir, which is near Mayapur, and thousands of Bangladesh refugees, due to a war, are pouring into our center there, and we are feeding them. We showed him all the photographs of the devotees feeding the Bengalis, who are actually Muslims. So we feel that we should come to you and approach you to help us, because they are all Muslim refugees from Bangladesh. We are feeding them. We are an organization that is feeding Muslim refugees. So he was looking at the photos, and he said,
“Are you Hindus?”
“Then why are you wearing this dress?”
“Oh well, this is the thing to wear in India. It is cool. It is very hot there. Just like you are wearing your dress because it is suited to the climate, so when in Rome do as the Romans do. So we were simply wearing this dhoti because it is suited. It is cool. It is nice.”
He looked at us and he exclaimed,
“No, I do not believe you. You are Hindus.”
“We were not Hindus.”
“Yes, you are, you are wearing this dress.”
“Why are you so concerned about the dress? Look at all these gentlemen sitting in these chairs. They are all wearing European dress. They are Muslims, they are Arabs, but they are looking like Europeans. So I can say to you, look at all these Europeans.”
Then he appreciated that. He said,
“I think the best thing to do is you come to my house tonight for dinner.”
“Well, we do not eat meat. We are vegetarians.”
“You are Hindus,” he said.
That blew it, the meal blew it. So when I came back to India, I told Prabhupada the story, and he said,
“Oh, he was very intelligent to catch you like that. But you should have gone to his house and accepted the invitation to eat. You could have just eaten fruits and milk”
So Prabhupada said these people are extremely dangerous. They could put anything in the food. We were not so surrendered to do that. Anyway, Prabhupada laughed.
Nevertheless, we collected money and came back. When we came back, a whole sequence of events had taken place in Vrindavana. Prabhupada had made Hamsadutta the G.B.C. and I was the president, Akshayananda was the treasurer. Gopal Krishna had run off to Delhi and then went back to America. So in three weeks Prabhupada made Hamsadutta the G.B.C. and after three weeks they changed again.