All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Seva of many types: renewing the verandah flooring

Sripad Bhakti Kanan Giri Maharaj takes up the challenge to strengthen and resurface the floor of Srila Govinda Maharaj's verandah in the Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha, Dum Dum Park, Kolkata. His Holiness sent this pictorial dispatch with captions recording progress of the project, successfully completed on 8th April 2004.
Sripad Giri Maharaj

Srila Govinda Maharaj's sitting room before the new flooring was installed. The old carpet had just been covered by new sital pati at the request of Srimati Bhakti Lalita Devi to help keep down the dust. [Sital pati is a mat made by weaving strips of cane.]





Prabhus Bipal Krishna (L) and Gaura Chandra assist the professional installer, Dev Das, in rolling up the old carpet. [The glowing circles of light are reflections of the camera flash on dust particles.]
The old carpet, full of dust and dirt, is rolled up to be taken for a thorough washing and application of a new backing so that it can be used elsewhere in the Math.
The new flooring is a PVC material (locally called vinyl) much like rolled linoleum in appearance. Above (in order of preference from L to R) are the most favored color choices of Srimati Malati Priya our color coordinator for the project. The middle sample turned out to be the only one of the three that was actually available and is the one that was installed.
Removal of the old wood slats revealed why they had the flexibility of a diving board. They were 3/4" slats placed on beams spaced 32" to 40" apart. While sufficient to support the weight of the devotees, properly placed footsteps could cause the doors of the bookshelf to swing open.
Purchasing lumber in Kolkata means a trip to the mill. Whole logs are brought in and cut to size on the spot.
Here's one now, just cut from a tree and brought to the mill by rickshaw.
You'll need a large saw to cut such logs. Here our contractor, Suresh (on the right), stands with the sawyer in front of the saw. The logs are rolled onto a moveable bed which carries them through the band saw blade which cuts them into thick rough sawn slats... this one, being readied for the next cut. Our beams will be cut to 3"x4" here.
Plywood will go on top of the old floor to provide a firm smooth surface for the new "Vinyl" flooring. As you go through this process you'll see a theme developing, it's called doubling. The vinyl sellers recommended a plywood underlayment of 4 mm to 8 mm thickness. We decided on 19 mm (3/4"). [Doubling is the conversion rate used for changing traditional Indian building materials dimensions to Western standards.]
Using a masonry drill and chisle, holes are cut into the concrete walls to accept the new beams.
After all the holes have been cut...
...the new beams arrive freshly sawn from a log at the mill...
...and are brought to Srila Govinda Maharaj's room.
The new floor joists are set in place, doubling the previous number from 5 to 10.
The floor joists are adjusted to a common height using a line level.
Mortar is then applied to set the joists in their permanent position. Afterwards wood blocking was secured between each joist to prevent lateral movement and twisting. This also provided a new solid flat surface to secure the ceiling below around its full perimeter.
The old flooring is now set in place and secured with screws instead of nails.
The new 3/4" plywood floor is carefully fitted and secured on top of the old 3/4" wood slats thus doubling the thickness of the floor to add further stiffness.
Careful monitoring prevented the carpenters (Sanjay & Sanjay) from hammering the screws into the wood, as they are accustomed to do, instead of screwing them in.

The plywood joints are planed where necessary to assure as smooth a transition as possible from one piece to the other. Even small imperfections are are easily transmitted through the 1.3 mm thick vinyl, a fact not easily conveyed to those unfamiliar with such materials.

Quarter-round bead was hand milled (note the wood shavings) from some beautiful hardwood and custom fitted to the perimeter of the new plywood underlayment.

Unaccustomed to meeting such exacting standards, the carpenters rose to the occasion and did an outstanding job in all respects. Appreciating our interest to offer this service for the satisfaction of our Acharya-dev, Srila Govinda Maharaj, the contractor and carpenters were extremely cooperative even when asked to accommodate unusual demands.

The new flooring is unrolled and fixed in place with contact adhesive applied to the entirety of both surfaces.

Dev Das, the vinyl installer, does such a perfect job of joining several pieces together that you can hardly find the seams even when you know where they are.

The new view from Srila Govinda Maharaj's desk. [No more glowing circles of dust.]


This seva was only possible through the cooperation and assistance of persons at all levels. Sripad Tirtha Maharaj offered his enthusiastic support and helped resolve many of the logistic problems such as locating materials and a contractor for the work. Srimati Malati Priya Devi was so determined to have the new floor that she offered to accept full responsibility should Srila Govinda Maharaj feel any dissatisfaction with our efforts. She also selected the color and design of the new flooring from a dizzying array of choices. She and Gaura Chandra Prabhu also spent many hours overseeing the workers when necessary.

Devotees and friends of the New York/New Jersey Math such as Lila Sundari Devi, Gokulananda Prabhu and Srimati Rita Stokes contributed the funds necessary for the work and materials.

Suresh, the contractor who bid on the job expecting it to be finished in 2 days, would not ask for any additional money even after working two, twelve hour days and an additional two days after that. In the end we offered to pay something extra for the additional time and everyone was satisfied.

Finally, Srila Govinda Maharaj himself was extraordinarily gracious in allowing us enough latitude to change the entire look and feel of his floor without so much as questioning what we were doing. In the end, fearing he may come to Kolkata from Navadwipa before the work was finished, we had to suggest that he continue to enjoy the beautiful and nourishing environment there for a few more days. He happily agreed and we were able to finish a job that may have been greatly disturbing for him had he been in Kolkata at the time.

Jaya Om Vishnu Pada Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev Goswami Maharaj, Ki Jaya!

—Swami B.K. Giri

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip: