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The Russians now are visiting the Indian state of Goa as tourists and fun seekers

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Russia and India extended their ties of friendship and trade last week. The link includes Russia’s assistance to India in the peaceful application of nuclear reactors. The two nations have enjoyed people-to-people contact for the last several decades.

India Russia

If the Hindi films of the late Raj Kapoor struck a special chord in the hearts of Russians, the resonance continues. The Russians now are visiting the Indian state of Goa as tourists and fun seekers, bent on enjoying the surf, sand and shopping. Young Indians, on the other hand, are in Moscow for a different challenge.

Indian medical students Reshma Shetty, Edna Pinto and Rehmatullah Khan face an agonizing six-hour wait for their connecting flight to Moscow from Doha, Qatar. The three are set to complete the last stages of their five-year-long academic program. They hail from diverse backgrounds and from different States. Reshma is from the southern city of Bangalore and is destined to be a psychiatrist; Edna, from the western State of Goa, has set her sights on becoming an ear-nose-and-throat specialist; and Rehmatullah is specializing in oncology. His forefathers, originally from Bihar, settled in Delhi.

Indian students in Moscow have been very much in the limelight after the death of one of their number last year and the threat strangers apparently face in contemporary Russia.

For whatever reasons, the trio so far has not faced any problems during their four years in Moscow. Reshma and Edna could easily be taken for Europeans, and Khan speaks Russian with a fluency any native would be proud of.

All agree that the miniscule minority of troublemakers are very much the exception, since Russians are generally friendly and easy going, they say.

The trio, for their part, have mastered Russian and have no trouble striking up a conversation. Reshma is cultural secretary of the Indian Students Organization in Russia, and, along with her colleagues, organizes programs highlighting Indian culture for Russian students.

What surprises her is the fondness the generation of Russians in their 40s and 50s have for the late Indian film actor-director-producer Raj Kapoor, “Old Hindi films by Raj Kapoor that we can’t find in India are freely available here. Dance-and-run Hindi films with Russian subtitles are popular in Russia.”

Meet Paramahansa Singh Raj, who first landed in Russia some 10 years ago. He was one of the first groups of students who risked travel to the erstwhile Soviet Union after the restoration of capitalism.

The first months were difficult for him, having to immerse himself in a four-month crash course in Russian. Then, exposure to a frigid climate for the first time hit him hard. Although he found the sight of snow enthralling, the October through February period was also difficult. This is also the time when schools and colleges have their winter break, closing from Dec. 10 to Feb. 10. Schools in Russia close down for a second break, from July 10 to Aug. 31.

The recent attacks on Indian students have certainly meant anxiety for their parents back home, he says. Raj earlier served as president of the Kursk State Medical University and is also the life president of Vitebsk State Medical University.

Students coming to Russia to study medicine are generally those who have not qualified for a place in a government-run medical college back home. The only other option they have is the numerous private colleges that charge capitation fees and donations. The starting admission fee ranges from INR 500,000 to 600,000 (US$11,331 to $13,598) and later fees can reach INR 2 million (US$45,326).

The Russia-India connection is not just one-way. With the Russian economy opening up, more and more Russians are traveling to India, with Goa as their favorite haunt.

Once in Goa, they’re on the lookout for seafood and crabs, especially lobsters stuffed with small amounts of spices, not forgetting rice and the nans (breads). They also are fond of Goan fruits like mangoes and guavas.

In Goa, many beachside restaurants post their signboards in English and Russian to attract patronage. Once inside, Russians can read from menus written in their language.

Language is a major barrier for Russians, especially those in their late 30s and 40s trying to converse with the locals in Goa, but younger tourists speak fluent English. Their presence comes in handy for their older compatriots when shopping and in other venues.

Being accompanied by a Russian tourist guide isn’t much help if he or she does not know English. Ultimately, they have to resort to sign language to get their message across when they go shopping.

Once in Goa, the Russians, who party hard back home, do the same here and head for the numerous discos to rock and roll and sip Goan cashew feni. “The Russians want to experience more Goan and Indian folk music and folk dances performed by locals,” says Svetlana, a tourist guide based in Goa.

During the day, besides tanning in the sun, they splash in the sea and roar around on water scooters and motorboats.

Russians shop compulsively and pump more dollars, not rubles, into the Indian economy, and stuff their travel bags with Indian jewelry, clothes, ornaments, incense and DVDs, which come relatively cheap compared with back home.

Many Russians now prefer Goa to Turkey or Egypt as their destination, and the best way they can get “into” a trip to India is to buy Indians goods, ranging from food, music, or the latest Bollywood film DVDs, which are unavailable in Moscow.

Another Indian offering, yoga, has swept the entire Western world, and Moscow is no exception. The Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Center there offers free classes in yoga, as well as Hindi and tabla drums.

For Indians, Moscow’s Krishna temple is a meeting place for the Indian community and to pay obeisance to God. But those visiting the Krishna temple are not just Indians. Hold your breadth — many Russians belong to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and flock to the temples regularly.

Notwithstanding the language barrier, Russians and Indians have forged new ties and openings, although xenophobia against darker skinned races has certainly dampened the flow of Indian students traveling to study in Russia.

Article by Armstrong Augusto Vaz

5 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. I love Goa and Goa Cultures.

    1. Best Bingo Sites on July 13th, 2010 at 11:34 am
  2. That\’s an informative post. Gud one

    2. Best Bingo Sites on July 5th, 2010 at 2:34 pm
  3. New comers from India to Moscow must be cheated by Indians who well settled in Moscow. Racists and skinheads never attack new comers daily. But Indians who well settled in Moscow cheat you always.

    3. indi on November 27th, 2009 at 2:50 am
  4. “Good article” – “very useful”

    4. balendra on July 25th, 2009 at 4:30 pm
  5. Informative post. Thanks. All this cultural sharing is well and good but the reality of the situation is that Russian authorities do nothing to weed out the perpetrators of xenophobia in Russia. What is worse is that implementation racist policies begin from the moment you apply for a visa. Take your tourism elsewhere under the given circumstances. Russian authorities will act on these cases only when it starts to hurt economically.

    5. nonota on May 15th, 2008 at 1:16 am

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