When I returned to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on Sunday after spending the last four months in Russia and the Ukraine, I almost thought that I had arrived in California because so many of my friends and well-wishers from San Jose and Soquel were here at the Sree Chaitanya Saraswata Krishnanushilana Sangha temple in Dum Dum Park.
My old friend and mentor Yudhamanyu Prabhu (who has been preaching in China — can you believe it?) and his wife Jivana Devi Dasi are spending a few weeks here with Srila Gurudeva. We first met in the jungles of Africa in 1981, when I joined the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Srutasrava Prabhu (who was also in Russia and the Ukraine in December) and his family are also here. Sanatani Devi Dasi and three of their children — Sarvananda (Shuggie), Nilamani and Devaki Mayi (who were initiated two weeks ago) — have been here in Kolkata since September last year.
Vidura Krishna Prabhu and his mom, Swarnangii Devi Dasi, came here for Srila Gurudeva's vyasa puja last month. Hasyapriya Prabhu, Vidura's father, was here earlier; I missed him by one day when I went to Russia in the middle of October.
Diva Shakti Devi Dasi (who presciently gave me an orange/saffron tee-shirt when I left San Jose in March last year) is still here; she arrived in Kolkata the day before I left for Russia.
With the exception of Vidura Krishna Prabhu and Srutasrava Prabhu and his family, none of the others had seen me since I surprised everybody (especially myself!) by accepting sannyas initiation from Srila Gurudeva a little over ten months ago, in March last year. It takes a while to get used to being called "Maharaj" by such old friends...