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16. Bhakti Bhavan
DURING the time of his Vrindavan pilgrimage the Thakura also traveled to Lucknow, Ayodhya and Kasi. He then returned to the house he was renting in Calcutta and found the rest of his family in good health. He wanted to buy a house in Calcutta and he found one to his liking, but was transferred to Jessore, where he suffered from fevers and problems with his eyesight. "The place was exceedingly abominable. Fever took its residence in Jessore [in accordance with my prayer in Vrindavan]. At the same time I had problems with my eyes. From my childhood I was short-sighted. I saw well from the left eye but everything looked blurred from my right eye. At that time there was a tiny spot in my eyes. My short-sightedness had gone, but my vision was hazy and I had some sort of ache in my eyes." He requested and received medical leave. His family wanted to go to Ranaghat, but the Thakura was determined to establish a place in Calcutta for his preaching work. Various medical treatments brought him no relief and he therefore began to treat himself. He found a suitable place for his preaching at 181 Manikatal Street (presently Ramesh Dutt Street), which he would later dub Bhakti Bhavan-the site of many learned discourses, meetings with eminent personalities and the writing of many articles and books. The worship of a Giridhari-sila, which had been given to him by Jagannatha dasa Babaji Maharaja, was also to be established. The price of the house was 6,000 rupees. The Thakura had some repairs made and performed griha-yajna (a ceremony of sanctification) before entering the house. His family, though initially reluctant and dubious about the house, became convinced by seeing it newly renovated and were at last very happy to move into it.
The Thakura got a post in nearby Barasat with the help of Commissioner Peacock, who was very favorably disposed to him. Because of the problem with his eyes, the Thakura received some allopathic treatment and noted a general improvement, but the doctors were insisting that he daily eat fish-heads to improve his eyesight. Finding the idea very painful, he turned to homeopathic treatment and was cured, thus avoiding the nasty advice of the allopaths.
In 1881 he stayed in Barasat with his sons Radhika and Kamal. He left his wife at home, and she only came when he became ill and needed care. The Thakura was frequently troubled by fevers and various other maladies throughout his life, but his determination to serve Krishna never diminished even slightly. He always accomplished the superhuman work of a spiritual genius, while performing his material duties to the satisfaction of government officers as well. This must serve as one of the great instructions of his life. Shrila Prabhupada once noted the determined activities of Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura in a lecture: "Bhaktivinoda wrote about one hundred books-almost. Just imagine: he was a very responsible officer, a magistrate, and he was a grihastha; he also had many children. Altogether he had ten children, and he had to take care of the children, the office of magistrate and sometimes-he was a very pious and religious man-he was given extra religious work. He was made superintendent of the Temple of Jagannatha, because the government knew that Bhaktivinoda Thakura was a very highly advanced religious person, so whenever there was some religious question, he was consulted. So, in spite of all his responsibilities, as an officer, or as a family man with so many children, he executed his family life very nicely-or else he could not have produced a child such as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. At the same time he served the Supreme Lord in so many ways. That is the beauty. He has written so many books, and in spite of cumbersome duties. That is the beauty of his life ... All this became possible because he was a sincere, faithful servant. To write so many books with so many responsibilities, for an ordinary magistrate, is not possible. But because he was sincere, he got the strength from the Supreme Lord. One does not need to seek strength separately from the Supreme Lord. But if you are sincere, the Supreme will give you sufficient strength."
The Thakura had duties in both Barasat and nearby Naihati, and he experienced much trouble from the many ill-natured townsfolk who, in order to draw attention to themselves, tried to create mischief for him in various ways. He stayed there for two years, but he always felt eager to leave, due to the quarrelsome inhabitants, as well as the constant threat of malaria that was prevalent in the area.