Road trip

Kamalaksa Das - April 3, 2006 9:23 pm

Dear devotees,


it has been a weekend filled much action over here in the near East. (At least from a Californian perspective we are...)


Our small press travelled to Sweden to participate in the annual Small Press Expo in Stockholm, presenting the unsuspecting and mostly agnostic Swedes with some propaganda from the camps of Sri Chaitanya.


In practice this meant that we boarded the ferry on Thursday and returned this Monday morning. Now for those who haven't had first-hand experience of travelling between Finland and Sweden by ferry, some enlightenment may be in order.


The huge ships sailing between the countries are dedicated to all acts deemed irreligious in the scriptures, and in secular language just plain terrible. I think that alcohol consumption on a one-way trip well exceeds the amount of yearly rain in some smaller African countries.


To escape this misery Krishangi forced me to buy her the newest Harry Potter DVD at the ship's shop. A relief for her, but just another flavor of suffering for me. (On the way home I got my revenge: I found a copy of the 80's classic Fletch with Chevy Chase, so I guess we're even.)


Well, enough of the trip, one cannot complain too much, as we safely arrived in Stockholm on Friday morning. After checking in both at our hotel as well as the expo we even had some time to stroll around the city. (Mostly used book stores, if you really wanted to know.)


But next morning it was the start of our valiant effort. It was hard work. If hard work constitutes of sitting behind a table smiling at strangers, and speaking nice words. In order to make them close the deal. (No, we really might smile even when we're not selling something, honestly!)


All in all the expo was a succes on our part. We sold some 40 comics, and received very good feedback from many different quarters. Some even went as far as to say we had the nicest table of them all. But that might just have been the polite Swedes talking. We really didn't make too much of an effort decorating the table, just presented the stuff we sold. But it seemed it was enough. Especially when the stuff we sold was as nice as it was.


We even had many returning customers from last year, which shows that they truly liked what they had bought. One man even wrote a short review on Krishangi's earlier book "Your name is Krishangi" for a open-minded Christian magazine. It was very favorable, and he returned this time to pick up all of Krishangi's books he hadn't bought last year.


Even one of Sweden's most popular comic artists popped in to buy a copy, coersed by his publisher who had bought one the day before.


We are enclosing a bunch of pictures of our customers for you to enjoy. It's quite a diverse crowd, but they all seem happy with their newly found literature. And who wouldn't?


What was nice to notice was the fact that no one made any fuzz about the spiritual side of the contents, which easily is the case. People up here are quite sensitive about anyone being outspoken in the matters of religion or spirituality. But it seems when spirituality presented in a natural and non-convertant way it catches the attention of people, and even captivate them. (But don't hold your breath for them to shave their heads and buy mrdangas. I think we have to wait until next year for that.)


Often we feel awkward presenting us in public as devotees, either afraid of people's negative reactions or that we can't present the tradition attractively enough. We feel that we don't have enough realization to genuinely touch people, so our presentation might just make the tradition seem like one of those weird and exotic Indian things people do for fun. Still we feel that this is something we want to, and must, share with others.


We feel, that for better of for worse, that taking an active role in presenting the tradition is something that helps our own spiritual life as well. When you speak to others, either through writing or speach or whatever other medium you master, you are forced to think more deeply youself about the things you are saying. Do they make sense? How can we present the essence of the teachings in a manner suitable for the audience at hand without diluting the message?


And yes, many times it's a question of trial and error. You hit some, you might miss a whole lot more. (We should know, we've made our fair share of mistakes during our days working with the press.) But as with swimming, it's hard to learn when standing on the shore. Yes, you might swallow a few gallons of sea water, but eventually you will learn to float. (Or drown, but we do not want to be pessimistic here, now do we?)


And when someone says that they do not have the qualities to present our tradition I usually disagree. It is not a matter of technical excellence. As proof I can offer Krishangi's first drawings. Technically they were terrible. But they carried so much feeling that I always encouraged her to go on. You might get some fame (as she did) or you might not. But that's really beside the point.


As all good things come to an end we too had to return to our normal life, secretly planning for next year's expo, and our new products for that one. But more on that later.


And for those who haven't to date read or even worse bought Krishangi's excellent comic books I suggest you order them now before they are out of print. Then it will be too late to cry!


For now, good night for us, good morning for you.


Krishangi + Kamalaksa