The Hare Krishna monk from Hemel Hempstead
A robed figure enters the Gazette offices '“ not a usual occurrence for the Hemel news team.
But Bhakti Vikasa Swami is not the usual ex-Hemel resident.
Born Hugh Turvey, he is now a 59-year-old Hare Krishna monk, who travels the world, spreads his faith, and lives a life of prayer and devotion.
He told the Gazette: “I wanted to do the something good with this life. I wanted to do the best thing I can.
“So I thought the best thing was to find out God. But where to go? What to do?”
Hugh, as he then was, describes his childhood as having been “nothing special”. He was born in Amersham, moved to Slough as a youngster, and then to Hemel at age 10. He played football in the park, delivered the Evening Post-Echo newspaper for pocket money, and would enjoy walking in the country in Boxmoor.
But he says: “Although there was no reason not to be happy, I wasn’t happy. I would think about the future, I saw everyone and their life seemed to be pretty humdrum.
“It wasn’t like I wanted to go off hang gliding or anything like that or something like that. But I thought ‘What am I doing here?’.”
Hugh describes his A Level results as “just about good enough” to go to university but as this held no interest for him he got a number of brief jobs before going searching for spiritual enlightenment.
This led him first to a monastery in Ireland before he found a book called ‘Krishna’, a topic he had heard about from a friend some years earlier but only know piqued his interest.
He says: “It was a sunny spring day and I cycled to the temple in Watford.
“But I was just wearing a shirt and about a mile before I got there it started to snow and I got a puncture.
“I was in this small village so I was stuck there at the temple overnight.
“They gave me a sleeping bag, but they all got up at 4am and the next thing I knew I had to have a cold shower.
“We went to the temple and everyone was singing and dancing. It really struck me – they were really happy, they really had something going on, to do this every day they must really love it.”
Hugh returned home and told his father that he was joining the group, and his father who still lives locally gave his blessing.
Four decades later and Hugh Turvey is Bhakti Vikasa Swami, a guru of over 2,500 disciples worldwide. He has preached across Asia, Europe and the USA, and has written more than 15 books on Krishna bhakti which have been printed 2 million copies.