June 23, 1995
By Indradyumna Swami
Today we drove for three hours from Chelyabinsk to Ekaterinburg for a Ratha-yatra, the journey taking us through the thick pine forests of central Russia. As we approached Ekaterinburg, I noticed many poor people picking the natural berries and fruits in the forest. This is one time of the year where the people have some opulence, Mother Nature providing sweet treats from her trees and bushes. It was a hot day, and I noticed that the people were resourceful: they were wearing hats fashioned from the leaves of the forest.
As we approached the outskirts of Ekaterinburg, we came to a police roadblock. Cars were backed up as the police searched each and every vehicle. We were worried that we wouldn’t make the parade, scheduled for 2:00 p.m., so we quickly drove alongside the traffic up to the front of the roadblock. Suddenly two police officers approached our cars with AK-47s aimed directly at us, their fingers on the triggers. Apparently we had made the wrong move at the wrong time. “Now we’ll be here for hours,” I thought.
My disciple Brhat Mrdanga dasa jumped out and began talking to the officers. Suddenly, their attitude changed, and they waved us on without any search of the car. I was amazed. I asked Brhat Mrdanga what he had said.
“I told them that saintly people were in the car with a holy father from the West,” he said. As we drove off I noticed two army tanks taking position at the roadblock.
The Ratha-yatra was wonderful, with more than three hundred devotees participating. I got a chance to meet all the gurukula children from the Ekaterinburg gurukula, and I spoke at length with the 12- to 14-year-olds. Before returning to Chelyabinsk, I accepted several as aspiring disciples.