August 19 2008

Travel, travel, travel! Four and half hours from Skopje to Sophia. I had to smile going over the Macedonia border into Bulgaria. Surya prabhu dropped me off at the check point and Varada Hari prabhu was there to walk with me through the immigration posts. No problems on the Macedonia side but on the Bulgarian side we had to stop at customs. The officer, a tall imposing young man, asked me where I was going. “Sophia tonight and India tomorrow,” I replied.“Ah! India. That’s a long way. It will take you a long time,” he said sympathetically.

Then he asked me about my three bags. “So, these are your bags. And you have nothing to declare. And they are all your personal possessions.” He didn’t really ask, but stated it, and without waiting for a reply he smiled, “OK, no problem, you can go through.” It would be nice if all Customs were the same.

Actually, in EU countries now there are no customs or immigration. Driving over the border from Germany to Poland was the same as driving from one city to another within a single country. As Srila Prabhupada said many times, nationalism and immigration visas etc. are simply politics that’s all.

With no program in the evening, I had a chance to relax


 do a little reading and hit the sack early.

August 20 2008

I was up at 1.30 AM, thanks to a bunch of barking stray dogs outside the building.

 strayed in the wrong place

It reminded me of when I was giving Srila Prabhupada his evening massage on the roof of his Vrndavana rooms. Some dogs were fighting in the back alley:

September 26, 1976 – Vrndavana

As I massaged Prabhupada under his mosquito net on the roof tonight, he complained about the dogs barking and yowling in the alleyways. They were disturbing his sleep. He shook his head and told me that a birth as a dog is a most unfortunate situation. Because they are weak from hunger, they fight and yowl. But if you feed them, they become strong, and then they fight even more, making even more disturbance. He said there is no use in feeding them or in taking compassion on them. They are a condemned species, especially meant for starving and having a hard life. He said there is nothing lower than a dog, yet even dogs have one good quality — faithfulness. And he told me a story about a man, a dog and a baby: The man had to leave his house for a few minutes, so he placed his baby on a bed and left his dog in the room to guard it. When he returned a short while later, the room was empty. He was horrified to find a trail of blood leading out into the garden. Following it, he suddenly came upon the dog running out from the bushes, its mouth covered in blood. The man was shocked. He thought that the dog must have attacked the baby, dragged it into the bushes and killed it. He angrily rushed inside, got a gun, and returned to face the dog. As he pointed the gun at the dog, the animal sat obediently before his master, making no attempt to run away. Bang! He killed the dog.

But at the loud report of the gun, the cry of a baby rent the air. Confused, the man ran inside and found his child lying under the bed, unharmed. Now perplexed, the man retraced the trail of blood into the garden. Behind the bushes he found the body of a dead fox covered in blood. It was clear what had happened: The fox had threatened the baby, so the dog put the baby under the bed to protect it. It fought and killed the intruder and dragged it out into the garden. The man lamented his hasty action. The dog was so faithful that, although he knew he had fulfilled his duty in a valiant way, still he did not protest when his master shot him.

The conclusion, Srila Prabhupada told me, is that the disciple should serve the spiritual master in the same way. If the disciple cannot remain faithful to his spiritual master, he is less than a dog.”

May I always remain Srila Prabhupada’s faithful dog.

So took an early morning shower, did my puja to Srila Prabhupada and at 4.30 AM we were off to the airport. Another hassle-free flight and a one hour snooze and I arrived in Frankfurt for my connections.

Yes, plural. Connecting flight to Kolkata, and connection with my family. Sitala and Rasarani turned up a half hour before boarding. They had a far more arduous trip to get there than me. They left Poland at the end of the festival tour, went by bus and train to Berlin, stayed overnight in a hotel and flew in to Frankfurt for our flight back to Kolkata together.

They were both tired but elated from two months of full on preaching activity. Sitala is a real trooper. She was so sick after Woodstock that she had to spend three days in bed. But still she managed to get up and running again and do the questions and answers booth for the last few days.

The flight back was over 8 hours, but with few passengers Sitala was able to grab a 3 seater row to herself and me and Rasarani had our two seater rows to ourselves.

Arrival in Kolkata was a jog back to India’s version of reality. We had made a previous arrangement for a car from Mayapur to come and pick us up at the airport. We were to stay overnight and leave Mayapur the next day. Predictably when we made our exit–no car. It turned out there was yet another ‘all Bengal bandh’ with the Communist party this time shutting down the entire state.

Our driver, Naru, had tried to get through, but was stopped at Ranaghata, just an hour out of Mayapur and had to spend the night there. We ended up paying Rps. 800.00 -three times the regular fare- to an airport taxi to get us to our place at 31 Lake Ave. Kolkata south. We were grateful that at least the air conditioner worked because the humidity hit us quite hard. Its about 90% right now and it really saps your energy. We didn’t run the air cond. so much for the heat reduction as for the reduction in humidity. A good air cond. will bring the level down to about 55%.

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