After three nights in Balakovo, Amarendranath Prabhu (tour coordinator), Ashutosha Krishna Prabhu (tour translator) and I get up early and get ready for the drive to the next city on our tour: Tolyatti.
Our previous driver, Igor, who lives in Balakovo, will remain here. We have a new driver, Eduard, who drives us northeast to Tolyatti, a manufacturing center with a population of 700,000, about five hundred kilometers further along the Volga River. Tolyatti is one hour ahead of Moscow Time.
In the evening I give a lecture at the Dvorets Kultury (Palace of Culture). As I walk through the foyer on my way to the auditorium, I notice about a dozen eight-year-old schoolgirls staring fascinatingly (but politely) at this strange apparition (replete with loose flowing robes and danda!) bearing down on them.
I decide to give them a thrill:
"Hi, girls!" I say, smiling down at them.
One of the girls finds her voice only after I have swished by (it takes a while for discretion to turn to bravado!) and squeaks, "Hi!"
The spell is broken — all the girls go into a paroxysm of excited squeals and giggles! :-)
Kids are the same the world over. Now let's see if I can charm their parents...