Governor at the Sunday Feast - Part 2

BY: CARU DASA

Aug 5, USA (SUN) — Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., his wife Mary Kaye, and daughter Abby, came shoeless through the main doors of the temple room just as I finished answering some very good questions from the BYU students. He made a nice statement to the assembled Sunday feast crowd about Utah being a place for everybody.

I then explained I had first met the Governor at an interfaith inaugural ceremony last January. I spoke and offered benedictions along with leaders of other faiths. Thereafter, Vai and I were invited to the Governor's mansion to have our photos taken with Gov. Huntsman and his lieutenant Governor, Gary Herbert.

When it was our turn to advance in the line to have our pictures taken, Gary further introduced myself and Vai in glowing terms to the Governor. Gary is a long time friend. He used to be a Utah County Commissioner. He was one of the keynote speakers, along with Senator Orrin Hatch, at our temple opening in 2001.

After hearing about us from Gary, Gov. Huntsman asked how many times I had been to India. I said that I had lost count after 12. The he confided in me. "You know I make my own gulab jamons ( a sweet made with powdered milk and soaked in sugar and rose water), and I always have lime pickle on the table."

Indeed he was the Ambassador to Singapore, so must have had a lot of exposure there to the Indian community. His family, I heard, has factories in India as well. After being elected as Governor, practically the first thing he did was to ask Dinesh Patel to head up his transition team. Sanchaita Dhatta also works on that team.

Incidentally, he is one of the wealthiest men in America. It is said he sacrifices a salary for running the family businesses of $2 million per year in order to be Governor. He also speaks fluent Chinese and plays classical piano.

At this point I was emboldened to give the Governor a flyer with pictures of the temple. He gasped and queried, "This is in Utah!" I said, "In Spanish Fork, no less." Then he repeated to himself several times, "As an aficionado of India, I can't believe I have missed this!"

Fast forwarding to the present, Governor Huntsman approached the altar, made pranams to Sri Sri Radha Krishna, Sita Rama Laksman, Hanuman, and Sri Sri Gour Nitai. I explained the Maha Mantra in detail and pointed out to all that it was printed on a banner in large letters just above the altar. Jai Krishna began leading a beautiful, melodious aarti. The Governor, Mary Kaye and Abby were swaying and clapping in time. One darling little Indian girl maybe three years old walked up with hands devoutly folded and stood right beside Mary Kaye, who could not keep her eyes off the girl.

Towards the end of aarti, congregational members lined up to receive from me the red dot of tika, and lotus helmet benediction, and the caranamrta from Vai. Having seen the others do it, the Governor came up with his wife and daughter, and with a little more coaching about how to receive caranamrta in the depression at the base of the thumb on the right hand, took the holy waters and other blessings. He put some dollar bills in the hundi (donation box). Following the lead of the Governor, the 15 or so BYU students anchored the long line. There were so many to receive the tika and blessings my arm was a little tired by the end.

After the announcements, I took the entourage on a slow circuit of the upper verandah from which there are views of the whole property, lake, waterfall, llamas, peacocks, radio station tower and building, ashram, and trees.

From everything I have heard the Governor is a gourmand, and he took without hesitation from the buffet feast downstairs, asking Vaibhavi many questions about the various preparations. There were gulab jamons as well.

While seated and eating, Mary Kaye asked me to tell the story of how I had become a devotee, and then came to Utah. At the end of this narration, the Governor emphatically declared. "Then you and your wife are PIONEERS!" He was making a connection with the Mormon pioneers who risked everything to settle in Utah 100 years ago.

After what appeared to me a lengthy, leisurely, and enjoyable stay, the entourage rose to take their leave. Mary Kaye said to me. "I have long thought about adopting an orphaned Indian girl (the family had adopted and raised a Chinese girl named Lotus). It has been in the back of my mind. When that little girl came and stood beside us today during the ceremony, I realized the full extent and immediacy of my desire. If you know anybody who can help with this, please let me know."

Best wishes,
Caru das and Vaibhavi


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