Flooded by waves of femininity, engulfed by bright photo-displays of women posing as if their total satisfaction emanated from a particular scent, nostrils tickled by exotic fragrances in the air, the two swamis struggled, floundering in the perfume section of the duty-free store at the Kiev, Ukraine airport.
It was the day before Radhastami. Niranjana Swami and I had just finished the colossal Ukraine jumbo festival—8,000 devotees this year. Now we were traveling to New Vraja Dhama in Hungary for celebrating the appearance of Srimati Radharani. Godbrothers Candramauli Swami and Suresvara Prabhu were part of the trip also.
While clearing passport control, Niranjana Swami had the idea to purchase a gift for Krishna's dearest companion. "Let's go to the duty-free shop and buy some perfume for Her."First I thought to myself, "How devotional. Why didn't I think of that." Then I remembered I knew nothing about perfume. Assuming Niranjana Swami did, I transcended my inhibitions, as we marched into the store.
What a beautiful idea—purchasing a fine scent for Sri Sri Radhe-Syama, the presiding Deities of New Vraja Dhama.
Two minutes into our mission, we looked at each other and decided, "Hare Krishna. Let's get out of here."
As we swiftly escaped into the main terminal area, Niranjana Swami remembered last year how so easily a grihastha couple traveling with him had purchased perfume for the Deity. Purusartha Prabhu's wife ducked into the duty-free shop and five minutes later emerged, pointing confidently to small box in her hand: "This is the good stuff." Well, she made the mission look too possible. The swamis had to admit they were bewildered. We quickly gave up.
"I just wanted to get a gift for Srimati Radharani," Niranjana Maharaja expressed. "Offer Her a song; chant for Her," I suggested.
Later, on the plane bound for Budapest, the idea came up: "Maybe we should have asked one of the sales staff for help in choosing a brand of perfume."
Knowing devotees who worked in duty-free shops, I wasn't too sure about that. They told me that a man's approaching a lady salesperson for advice on perfume is like a woman's consulting a used car dealer for his choice of a good car—both customers are every sales person's dream. Just as women generally know nothing about car mechanicals, similarly men know nothing about the world of female fragrances. In both cases, the sales person either offloads some junk at an exorbitant price or pushes the the most expensive product at double its normal price.
We concluded this episode with a healthy appreciation for those who know the science of acquiring and offering Radha and Krishna the finest scents. On Radhastami day we offered to Srimati Radharani what we could—we made kirtans and lectures, danced and feasted, crying and begging through Srila Prabhupada that She may recommend us to Her Krishna.