Muralishwar Prabhu and I return to Moscow today, after twelve days in the Ukraine, visiting Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, Kiev, and Odessa. We are to get the one-thirty afternoon train: it is a long, twenty-six hour journey.
We are ready a little too early: the taxi is still five minutes away.
"Sit down," says our host, Yasoda Mayi Devi Dasi, motioning to the kitchen.
"I'm okay," I respond, standing at the ready in the corridor.
She is insistent. Apparently it is a Russian custom: if you are going on a long journey, sit down for a few moments just before you leave, and your trip will be successful. I'm not one to buck customs; I sit down.
Raghava Pandit Prabhu and Gaurachandra Prabhu accompany us to the train station. At about six o' clock in the evening I am so hot that I take off my coat and sweater. The heating system on the train must be working overtime. I get out at the next station, where the train is scheduled for a twenty-minute stop, to get some fresh air.
The station platform reminds me of India: lots of vendors selling all kinds of things to eat. Except that here, the vendors are simple peasants, and the foodstuff is mostly gross: dried, smoked fish, fried fish, some tiny lobsters that I am informed are fresh-water lobsters (I thought all lobsters were marine?), and other "non-veg" preparations.
A young boy, no more than twelve years old, asks me for a donation. "I am a monk; it is not appropriate to beg from a sadhu," I tease. The people are so poor, a dozen apples sell for 80 kopiykas — less than one Ukrainian hryvnia (about 20¢ U$).
At about twenty minutes after midnight, the train pulls into the station at Kiev. We should reach the Ukrainian/Russian border in about three more hours...