Chapter-18: Bishkek: Half a Million Listeners

June 4, 1995

By Indradyumna Swami

We left Baku for Bishkek at 3:00 a.m. on Azerbaijani Airlines. In the CIS, flights operate around the clock. The four-hour flight took us past Afghanistan and India to Kirghistan. The airplane was quite old, and it appeared it had never been cleaned.

It was typical of planes in the CIS. Inside they are more like buses, no drinks or refreshments are served, and no one asks you to buckle your seat belt. I can only imagine how much attention is given to the mechanical parts of the planes. Once Srila Prabhupada said that the external condition reflects the internal state. Then no doubt flying in the CIS is risky. I’m sure there are crashes, but the policy is that they are never reported. Vinode Bihari told me that on his way to join us he boarded an Aeroflot flight in Odessa bound for Moscow. Just as they were taking off, the right engine caught fire. The plane screeched to a stop and all the passengers fled the plane. The fire was extinguished and the engine replaced, and in three hours they were off again—in the same plane.

Upon our arrival in Bishkek we were met by the forty devotees of the yatra. Because the place is so close to China, most of the devotees are of Oriental appearance. The only senior devotees to have ever visited this place are Gopal Krsna Maharaja and Govinda Maharaja, so the devotees were leaping in ecstasy to see us.

We went to the temple for a short darsana. As one particularly blissful old woman came forward to offer me flowers, I noticed a large, blue tattoo on her. It read, “46123.” I asked the temple president why she had such a strange tattoo, and he replied that she was a prisoner in one of Hitler’s death camps in World War II.

“How fortunate she is!” I thought, “She has survived to get the mercy of Lord Caitanya fifty years later.”

After the reception I was whisked away to a radio program downtown.

When I arrived at the radio station, I realized what a big preaching opportunity was at hand. The radio station was one of the biggest and most popular in Bishkek. The disk jockeys loved the devotees, who bring them prasadam every day.

When I walked in they told me I could do whatever I wanted for three hours. The studio was mine. They said more than five hundred thousand people would be listening. So I called the temple and told the devotees to tell Govinda Maharaja and Sri Prahlada to get down to the station in 45 minutes, before we went on the air. They arrived just before the program began.

Suddenly the mike was in my hands and we were on the air. We started a

kirtana, and after a few minutes I spoke through a devotee translator.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I began, “this is Indradyumna Swami, and I’ll be your host for the next three hours for a transcendental journey through the wonderful world of Hare Krsna.”

Govinda Maharaja, Sri Prahlada, and I spoke and answered questions that came in over the hot line. At the end we had a big kirtana and all the disc jockeys and their assistants were dancing around the studio in ecstasy.