In 1966, the Hindu mystic, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, came to New York City and began the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. More commonly known as "The Hare Krishnas".
Nimai Kesten's parents were two of Prabhupada's very first followers and helped form the first Hare Krishna Temple in the US. They worked closely with the Swami throughout the late 1960's. Giving birth to their first daughter in 1971. Nimai Kesten's parents soon after gave birth to their first son, Nimai, at Brooklyn Heights Hospital in 1974. The family spent the next few years in New York City helping to further the Hare Krishna Movement.
By the end of the 1970's, Nimai's father began to grow disenchanted with the Hare Krishna Movement and wanted to re-join conventional society. Nimai's mother, however, wanted to stay completely devoted to the Krishnas. In 1980 they split up, the Father taking the eldest Daughter with him back to a normal life in New York City, and Nimai being left to his Mother's care, within the confines of the Hare Krishna Community.
Being that self-sufficiency and communal living is a key aspect within the Krishna Movement, Nimai's Mother went up to Boston and abandoned her son to the care of the Hare Krishna's Lake Huntington Gurakula (or school for the Guru). Here, at the age of 6, Nimai lived within this communal-style boarding school, hardly seeing any member of his family for the next five years.
Tragically, it was here, within this school, that Nimai was subjected to, not only complete alienation from the modern outside world, but sexual abuse from the care takers of the school as well. Concerned for his son, and growing suspicious of the school, Nimai's father rescued Nimai from their care, bringing him back to NYC in 1985.
The transition from the communal, enclosed, strict religious living of the Hare Krishna School, out on to the cold, hard streets and Public School system of New York City in the 1980's was a difficult one for Nimai. The cruelty of the 'normal' kids that Nimai suddenly found himself involved with only began to fuel his youthful resentment and anger toward the Hare Krishna School and what they had done to him. Teased for his traditional Hare Krishna bald, shaved head, Nimai began to let his hair grow wild, watch MTV, and eat McDonalds.
By the time Nimai had turned 13, he had transformed into a loud-mouthed, rebellious, New York City graffiti writing skateboarder. Now, with a long mane of dark hair down his back, the small, spunky kid picked up the nick name 'Hairlong' and it soon became his ubiquitous graffiti tag all along lower Manhattan.
Soon enough, skateboarding lead Nimai to his true passion, Surfing, and even though commonplace today, riding the Subway to Rockaway Beach with a Surfboard was a strange sight in the mid 1980's. It was here, waiting for waves, watching the horizon and the Seagulls, that Nimai began to get a grip on his teenage angst and re-examine what life meant to him.
Despite the mistreatment Nimai had endured as a child in the care of the Hare Krishna's, the core beliefs and ideology taught in Krishna Consciousness began to reemerge as a strong force in Nimai's life.
In his early 20's, Nimai began to look at the life he carved out on the streets of New York for himself - skateboarding, graffiti, nightclubs, partying, models, fashion, and general juvenile superficial mayhem. And, suddenly, for the first time, he began to examine this pop culture world through, new, spiritual eyes. But the eyes of a man so horribly wronged by the leaders of a Faith he was born into, that the contradictions, confusion, and questions became all consuming.
Nimai moved to Venice Beach, California in 2002 to focus on his art as a cathartic means to make sense of his conflicting, personal ideas of 'Faith' and the corruption of one's 'Beliefs'.