From Russia, with love…

I am starting my Russia series with a phrase not too liked by me – “From Russia, with love” – a phrase repeated often on a Mumbai radio channel by an Indian imitating a Russian accent while speaking in Hindi. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but couldn’t be more apt. You will soon realise why.

My first train ride in Russia – from Moscow to Vladimir. When I told my hotel concierge that I was planning to travel by train to Vladimir, she nearly swooned. I was quite surprised by her over-reaction, until I reached the train station! What an experience to merely buy tickets! Running helter-skelter around the entire station. Fighting with my husband over whether we are at the right station (Kurski station out of the 9 stations in Moscow). Asking for help at kiosks for directions to a ticket counter and receiving none. Finally, at a corner, finding a large hall which seemed to have some counters and queues – signs of a ticket counter. 2 wrong counters and then finally the right one. A kind, middle-aged, smiling, Russian lady at the counter. Couldn’t speak English, but was at least helpful. Using gestures and some frantic pointing at the computer screen, we managed to book our train tickets. To and fro, at that. What a relief! Couldn’t have repeated this ordeal at another station. English is simply unknown to most Russians and the most simple task becomes a challenge in Russia.

After decoding the completely Russian ticket, we find the right coupe only to find a Russian lady sitting there. Well, no surprises there you may say. Who do you expect to see in Russia, but Russians? Well, certainly not a Russian lady in an Indian outfit – a salwar kameez, a bindi and a mangalsutra to top it all! A crazy sight that guaranteed an interesting train story!

As you would imagine, we, super-curious Indians, were soon chatting away with Katya, our train companion. Katya hailed from Kirov, a small town at about 12 hour travel distance from Moscow. The town’s only claim to fame being the manufacture of Matryoshka dolls. Over Facebook, Katya connected with a man from Gangapur, yet another village, about 100 kms from Kolkata in India. They soon fell in love and decided to tie the knot. Katya, who was a school teacher from a humble background and had never ventured outside her town for a long journey, bravely set out for India to get married. From Russia, with love. To my logical mind, the story seems unbelievable. A movie story at best – Govinda’s romance in “Salaam-e-Ishq” 🙂 I wouldn’t travel to Gangapur to meet anyone, forget about marrying some stranger. I don’t even know where Gangapur is.

But reality unerringly trumps fiction and so is the case in this story. Now 6 months into her marriage, Katya seemed to be well-settled in a village, where apart from her husband who speaks some English, she can speak to none. She has adapted well to Indian clothing and Indian food. Her inlaws are super-proud of having a Gori bahu and she is proud that her husband has a secure, government job. She was now on her way to meet her parents in Kirov and to await the receipt of a spouse visa. Cribbed her heart about the visa files having to move from Gangapur to Krishnanagar to Kolkata to Delhi and all the way back – hers was still stuck somewhere in that long process.

Exciting to see that love truly knows no boundaries! Hope the love lasts!

She with her salwar kameez, sindoor and mangalsutra // me in my jeans with no signs of being a suhaagan 🙂 What a study in contrasts and irony! Who is the real desi girl here?


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