October 29, 1996
By Indradyumna Swami
I left Azerbaijan this afternoon to return to Russia. At the airport we had to go through five security checks. As we lined up for the first one, a group of about twenty Americans arrived and worked their way to the front of the line, causing much contention among the Azerbaijanis. I didn’t bother saying anything, figuring that the plane wouldn’t take off unless we were all on aboard anyway.
At the second security check one of the Americans spoke to me. “Excuse me, friend,” he said, “are you from the Hare Krsna movement?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“We studied about you in our Bible classes,” he said a bit sarcastically.
I didn’t bother asking whether what he had learned was favorable or unfavorable. I assumed it was unfavorable and just smiled back.
“I’m a born-again Christian,” he said aggressively, “and I believe Jesus is the truth, and the light and that no man goes to the father but through him.”
I knew from twenty-seven years of experience in speaking with people like him that it would be useless to argue. “That’s great,” I said. “Good luck!”
Seeing that he couldn’t draw me into a sparring match, he told me that his church, The Church of the Good Word, was quite successful in Azerbaijan, but he’d never heard of any Hare Krsna’s in the country.
“Oh,” I replied, “we’re quite popular here.”
He again took up his sarcastic mood. “I doubt that,” he said.
I decided not to go on with the conversation and thought of going elsewhere, but I couldn’t move an inch from where I was in the line.
The security officers were trying to speed up the flow of passengers, and so they started checking two people at a time. As fate would have it, my “friend” and I approached the second security check together. When the security officer, a large man with a scowl on his face, saw us, he suddenly smiled.
“Hare Krsna!” he said and took my passport first. From the corner of my eye, I saw my “friend’s” jaw drop open. The security officer cleared me without any difficulty, but grilled my “friend” with several questions.
We soon found ourselves together in line for the third security check. This check involved putting our bags through an x-ray machine. As we put our bags on the belt together, the woman in charge on the other side called out “Hare Krsna!” enthusiastically, and my “friend” turned pale.
This story would have been unbelievable if the same thing happened at the fourth security check, but it didn’t.
But when we were together on the tarmac just about to board the plane, the officer who was frisking people at random smiled the friendliest smile you can imagine when he came to me. “Hare Krsna!” he said. He didn’t bother frisking me but immediately began searching my “friend.”
After the security officer was finished, I turned to my “friend.”
“Still have any doubts that we’re quite popular here?” I said. He turned bright red and stormed up the steps of the plane.