Stepping Into the Past

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”

Frederick Beuchner.

It was a beautiful day in 2015. Having arrived at the entrance to the house, I fully expected that I would have to take off my boots.  As we did so, taking the lead from our friends, my partner (now husband) and I managed to cram our boots into the small racks that had been set up outside the entrance to the beautiful manor house.  I felt sure that I would not find my boots again, among so many.  I imagined myself having to be the last person to leave the manor, just so that I would be able to reclaim my boots, which would be the only pair left!  We silently stepped inside, eager to see the sacred wonders venerated by so many.

In 1884, the mock-tudor manor was built and, by the 1920’s, it became known as Piggot’s Manor.  There had once been a tudor building on the land and, prior to that, in the thirteenth century the property that was there was known as Picot’s Manor.  My music idols are The Beatles; in my view no other band has had so much influence on music and it was George Harrison, formerly of The Beatles, who bought Piggot’s Manor in 1973. 

George Harrison had been well known for his interest in Indian culture and Indian religious traditions and he was known for his connection to the Hare Krishna movement and his beautiful songs that encouraged peace and love.

George Harrison went on to donate Piggot’s Manor to the Hare Krishna movement; at the time a much publicised search had taken place for somewhere big enough to accommodate Radha Krishna Temple devotees in London.  Their numbers had grown to such an extent that a new Temple was urgently required. Thus Piggot’s Manor became Bhaktivedanta Manor and it was here at this gracious building that I stood, wondering whether I would ever find my boots again!

(c) Deano Parsons. 2021.

We had already taken a walk around some of the grounds in which the manor’s food growing gardens were located.  There were a number of warm houses to cater for plants that required the protection from the elements but largely there was a considerable amount of land used for cultivation of home grown produce.  Everything was immaculate and the sense of tranquility here was so very restful.  What I noticed above all, was the sincere kindness of everyone; visitors and residents alike.

My partner and I were being shown around by my very dear lifelong friend, Ajoy, and his wife Aruna. They, and their wonderful children Rayan and Maya, could not have been kinder or more considerate of our needs on a day which has become one of our most special memories. Let’s not forget little Fonzie, the dog, who was adorable and delighted us all, throughout the day.

Our friends are of the Hindu tradition and I have carried fond memories of time at Ajoy’s childhood home, as I was growing up, when his lovely mum would invite me to stay for the most astonishing, exquisite meals.  Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the huge access to Indian food that we have today, did not exist and was only emerging.  Dinner with my friend, at his home with his sister, brother and his mum and dad were always such an exciting time.  His beautiful mum still cooks such wonderful food, to this day.  In fact, after visiting the manor, we all visited Ajoy’s parents and stayed for a truly delicious meal; just like old times.    My heart was truly warmed by such a magical occasion.

My friend’s sister, Preeti, and her family were there, too; the first time we’d all been together in about 26 years.  There was one painful absence, however. Ajoy’s younger brother had passed away years ago but his absence was deeply felt; my heart ached as I remembered Amen. Amen was always full of fun and he was cheeky and filled with energy. He, too, was kind and thoughtful and it seemed unreal that he was gone. Bless him.

I had been hugely aware of my friend’s culture and tradition, as we grew up together.  I recall small temples within their house and the beautiful pictures, fabrics, flowers, books, fragrances, food and stories that were all so much of my early life.  There has been no greater influence on who I am, and the values that I hold dear to me, than the lifetime of growing up with Ajoy and his family in my life. The visit to Bhaktivedanta Manor was my first opportunity to attend a religious service and to visit a place of prayer and worship associated with their faith. This is not something I had done with them, in childhood, funnily enough. I regret that missed opportunity.

Out of respect for the traditions and the private nature of this experience, I will not describe the most beautiful sight within the manor itself or the service that took place, but I can say that this whole experience was truly moving, meaningful and incredibly special to me and to my partner; for whom all of this was so new.  It is a treasured memory that will live within us, always.

In 2013 The George Harrison Memorial Garden was opened in the grounds of the Manor, in memory of the man and also as a celebration to commemorate forty years of Bhaktivedanta Manor being established.  Here are a few images of the memorial garden, during our visit in 2014:

I believe that we grow when we look outside of what is ‘normal’ to us.  When we share with others, we break down barriers that society creates, we open ourselves to learning, we gain new perspectives and we expand our understanding of humanity.  There is more in this world that unites people, than need divide us and yet we live in times when many are fighting to create divides.  I find that sad.  We need not be threatened by difference and there is room for us all to live our ways of life, respectful of each other.  It really can be that simple.

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