The streets of Russia project its connection with india. its people speak of Bollywood influence, leaders and poets
India is not unknown to most Russians, who still adore Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. And, of course, the Bollywood movies. A 25-year university student Nikita Mikhalkov, on duty as a security steward at the Saint Petersburg stadium, exclaimed that she had watched Slumdog Millionaire, “It’s a fantastic movie. Watching Indian movies is fun as there’s lot of music and dance”.
Mikhalkov’s dream is to hire a cab and visit India’s historical and tourist destinations. “That’s my dream, but don’t know when I will make it,” he says.
Be it on the cultural platform or sports, India and the erstwhile Soviet Union and Russia still enjoy a healthy relation. Aleksandra Lisowska, also a steward, knew India from the novel Shantaram. “The idea about India came from this novel by Gregory David Roberts,” said the 21-year-old student. In fact, the Indo-Soviet friendship has a touch of sensibility and mutual respect like Jai-Veeru types. “I know Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, but am yet to read much on these cities,” adds Lisowska.
Even during the tumultuous days of 1970s when Bangladesh was born out of East Pakistan, common Indians felt secure, as they knew the mighty Soviets would shield them — their size keeping Pakistan at bay.
The cultural bond between these countries was so strong during the Nehru and Indira era that Soviet Union, a magazine printed in different Indian languages, were an instant hit with India’s mothers and aunts. It had small stories by Alexander Pushkin, who died here in 1837, Leo Tolstoy and kitchen recipes that kept mothers and mom-in-laws busy before the era of “saas bhi kabhi bahu thi”.
The Russians are also culturally strong, and that can be gauged from some of the daily commuters, who kill their time by reading novels on the 40-minute metro ride from Devyatkino to Krestovsky Ostrov, nearest station to Saint Petersburg Stadium.
“Tagore is also a strong poet. I think he’s very popular among the readers,” says Lyudmila Pavlichenko. In Moscow, there is Tagore’s statue besides Gandhi’s. The Indian laureate, who visited the Russian capital in 1930, had penned ‘Letters from Russia’, which still has a lot of significance. Russian people love his poems and novel Gitanjali, which were translated.
“Tagore’s visit teaches us is that all nations should learn creativities from each other,” adds Vladimir Vysotsky, a sports enthusiast. The Kiev-born Vysotsky also watches Indian movies. “I loved watching Seeta aur Geeta. But it was due to my grandfather that I became addicted to Indian films as he has watched several old Indian movies of the 1950s,” he added.
When Vysotsky was told that an Indian state West Bengal was one of the longest-surviving Marxist states in the world, he flashed a smile, but was surprised.
“Really, I didn’t know this fact. Probably, I will read on Bengal and Calcutta soon,” he added.