To Russia.....With Love
It was an Indian childhood immersed in Russian books ,stories and characters.
Though we lived in plains of Northern India, I dreamt of snow covered lands of Taiga and Tundra. 'Mitushka' was to me as 'Kanha' was to other kids! and all adventures of Aldar kose, Badi Buddhi wala Chota Ivan and the highly intelligent and beautiful Buddhimati Vasilisa compete neck to neck with Tenaliraman , Singhasan Battisi and Vikram and Betal ,while the Baba Yagas and cruel Baaay (landlord in russia) gave Mahishasur a run for money..er..print.
The strange charm of birch, Balut, firs and poplars conquered me hands down while I read them under the shady Neem of our ancestral home.. The castle of The Three Fat Men and life of SU-OK was a dream .
|The Three Fat Men|
There was this pro-Soviet environment in our home. We the Gupta-Mahalwaala family used to receive Soviet books and newsletters at economic prices via International Post. At that time (and maybe still ) the books were published by Raduga or Vostok Prakashan. Raduga's icon was a single stemmed gentle tulip like flower bowing shyly in side an ellipse.
The Raduga books were good in paper quality, had sturdy and neat binding and smooth, creamy pages with black letters shining like jewels guiding me to unknown lands...
Their illustrations mostly had Ink Blues and deep violets playing happily with bright yellows and pure whites.
As I look back, I can vividly see my parents talking about the Soviet customs,dresses,festivals and dances. We used to get calendars with picturesque scenes of rural Russia, women dancing ,wearing colourful skirts with scarves on their heads, flowing braids and lots of merriment. The Soviet Sangh magazines with large pages and beautiful pictures were eagerly awaited.
The Soviet magazine and Osho's newsletters ,both had a similar look but I could easily differentiate simply by their colour ... Osho's were brown and coffee based while Soviet ones were in shades of blue .
The Russian touch went on with our lives till the demise of my father after which the newsletters and books by post ,ceased to come. So,there was a gap of about 10 years ,duly and successfully bridged by other books which Mum's shack and her college library could provide.They were good but let's talk about them in another post :)
Disheartened, I gorged on Christie, Hardy and Munshi Premchand .
Then chance knocked !
The famous Nauchandi of Merrut came up with a solution in the form of a Blessed tent-shop of Soviet Books!!!
|Nauchandi Fair, Meerut|
May God Bless that man who put that tent in the fair. Raised on brown, rain sodden earth ,supported by bamboo sticks with only a black tarpaulin as a cover for books against sudden torrents, it had all the magical and mysterious qualities a soviet book shop must have. From here the Russian journey continued with Maxim Gorky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Boris Polvoi, Ivan Turgnev and many more.....
|books at Nai Sarak, Delhi|
Its been a long time from when I was a child, carefree and happy..... these books are my memories of that sunny time, of that home cooked food by mum, my father's lap , of long walks in wilderness of Daakpathar (Dehradun) with my parents and of conversations of Books.....Soviet Union Books.....of Mitushka and Najanu, of birch trees and of lots of lots of snow....
With Love to Russia.