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Episode 13: Totally Out of Control – The Chaos Demon Strikes!

“The pullers of the carts were known as gaudas, and they pulled with great pleasure. However, the cart sometimes went very fast and sometimes very slow.28 Sometimes the cart would stand still and not move, even though it was pulled very vigorously. The chariot therefore moved by the will of the Lord, not by the strength of any ordinary person.29” - Sri Caitanya Caritamrita, Madhya Lila Chapter 13 “The Ecstatic Dancing of the Lord At Ratha-yatra,  Text28-29

As the cacophony got louder I realized everyone was simply waiting for me to give the word to start. I also knew I was at the point of no return. There was no turning back. Jayapataka was rallying the crowds and the energy was high-voltage-electrified. My mind was reeling and it was time to go but I could only see disaster about to happen. There were people everywhere but nobody I could go to approach to assuage my concerns. Krishna what a mess! 

Despite all my mental objections and gut feeling that this was not going to work out well I knew we had to go... so I had to force myself to proceed and reluctantly gave the motion with my hands to let out the ropes. I held on to the steering bars with all the other men who refused to turn the controls over to me exclusively. The cart leaped forward with a thrust that nearly toppled the pujaris and we were rolling, faster and then faster and then even faster yet. 

I wanted to get the cart more in the center of the road but there were so many self-appointed vernal Bengal men who were also holding onto the steering bars my efforts were futile. Oh Great I thought! We not only don't have breaks, but even the steering of the cart was now dependent on these enthusiastic young men who had absolutely no idea what they were dealing with. It's actually quite amazing how many thoughts can race through a person’s brain in such a small instant in time. I had been in India long enough to know that it was probably unlikely that any of these sons of Bengal had any experience even driving a very small Ambassador car, what to speak of a parade float that was 16 ft. wide, 24 ft. long and nearly 50 ft. tall carrying a payload of up to three tons! 

Even if by some strange odds some of these un-requested assistants could afford a car, or were employed as a hired driver, my mind then raced to a conversation I had with a devotee about how people got their drivers license in Calcutta. I never confirmed if it was true but at that time I was told that in Bengal candidates seeking drivers license report with their car to the person administering the driving test.  They are then told to follow that first vehicle as it moves through the city traffic etc. Those who succeed in following the lead around the city without getting lost, crashing, breaking down or hitting someone pass the test. Oh boy! Knowing that further undermined any confidence I may have had that things would be OK. I kept wrestling with the question: “Just who would be driving Lord Jagannatha’s cart?”  I didn't have an answer to that but I did know that I certainly wasn't!

All my efforts to direct the cart by leaning into the steering bars were unresponsive. Yep. My heart was pacing faster than ever as the cart continued to pick up speed. I wanted to run and hide, get far away and shut my eyes, because out of the thousands of people who were all cheering us on, I knew something NOBODY else knew.  The raw terrifying truth was that based on everything that had occurred up to that critical moment Lord Jagannatha's cart was now completely out of control. It was just surging forward like a break away trailer on the freeway.  Disaster was eminent!

The cart was heading in the wrong direction and going forward way too fast. My heart was crying out.. No! No! This is all terribly wrong! Jagannatha what should I do!  Hare Krishna!

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