A choice made three years ago to fill out a form made me change base from familiar and comfortable New Delhi to a country which had spun its web of enchantment around me more than two score years ago. Neighbours shook their heads and remarked that normal middle aged women did not do such strange things, colleagues wondered what strings were needed to get the prized posting, friends loved the fact that they had a base to visit a foreign country and children with mixed emotions felt proud that their mother was on a foreign posting yet rued that she would be so far away. And the husband? He smiled smugly and said that he too would soon be packing up to join me!
Three years have passed and much has happened in the duration. Governments have toppled and wars are raging in parts of the world where equilibrium of sorts was maintained for long; tsunamis, scandals, shootouts and so much more has rocked the world but life continues.
As the time to return comes closer each day, it painfully points out that there is less time to savour of the grandeur and the joy of being in Russia. What had started as a love affair ignited by bright books brought out by the Soviet Land Russia Publication of childhood, fuelled by pictures of ballerinas pirouetting in The Bolshoy Theartre and fanned by movies like Mera Naam Joker; had drawn me inexorably to Moscow.
The love was kept strong by the intrusion of columnist Phoebe Taplin of ‘The Moscow News’, who opened out a Russia which could be visited even when one was without a car. It was strengthened by the soft voice of Tanya who shared the well kept secrets of not only the renowned monuments but also the back streets of St Petersburg. Every Muscovite who smiled and wished me Zdrastvich and helped me with my attempts at broken Russian added to its splendour. Visits to Europe were lacklustre as no city had anything that compared to the majesty of the Kremlin, the breath taking beauty of St Basil’s Cathedral, the grandeur of the Moscow State University, and the fairy tale charm of Tzaritsina Estate and so many others which in fact are mere embellishments to heart and soul of Moscow.
Natasha, who entered my life and drawing room to stand upright and sing Jana Gana Mana with great pride made me understand what it was that drew me to Russia. The pigeon man in Kolomna who filled my hands with feed and urged me to lure the pigeons to me, the babushka who spoke to trees to warm them with her love in winter and the Hindi speaking stranger who approached me unasked to help me in Auchan, all these are people whose warmth speaks volumes about the Russian people. Stoic on the outside, unsmiling at first glance and yet genuine to the core.
This is my ode to you, Russia, with all my love.