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Zdravstvuj!

If you didn’t get that one, there’s one more where that came from.

Priviet!

Well, that’s it. Hello and then again, hello. And with these I have almost exhausted my limited vocabulary of Russian. So pardon me, I am getting back to English.

Oh wait. There’s one other word I know. Dom. But unlike zdravstvuj or priviet, there was no way I could have smoothly fitted dom into this post. Not unless I wanted to tell you of a house, some house, yours, mine, theirs, whosoever’s, because that’s what the word means, a house.

At this point in the post some of you might be asking, ‘Why the Russian greeting/lessons, Shail?’ Good question. And I have the answer ready. It’s because I went on a trip to Russia. To Moscow and St. Petersburg precisely. Yup, that’s why I was missing in action part of the time.

Unfortunately, there was absolutely no time to learn a few words, at least a greeting, before I left. From the quick glance at the first lesson of Russian on the Duolingo app all that stuck in mind was dom. It’s a good word as words go, but of what use was it to me? I could, theoretically of course, stop a Russian on the street and tell them that my dom was in India. But would they be interested at all, and more importantly, after that what? This is what happens when you spend hours studying Spanish with the intention of going to Spain but instead end up going to Russia!

Anyway, things didn’t come to that. As soon as we were done with immigration… And here let me stop and tell you this: Expect your face to be scrutinized minutely, compared thoroughly with the photo of yours in the passport for a good ten minutes or more by unsmiling faces, and just when you start thinking unbeknownst to you, you are an internationally wanted criminal, and are not going to make it, be allowed grudgingly to walk through!

When done with immigration we, all of us as yet strangers to each other, arriving from different regions of India, gathered in the foyer at the arrival gate looking hither and thither for the tour manager of our conducted tour.

She spotted us first.

I bet the clueless what-are-we-supposed-to-do-next gave many of us away easily enough. Prerana, for that is her name, pointed us towards someone holding aloft a flag, bearing the name of our touring company. Anna, the tour guide was the one doing the honors. One word about the flag: It was to play an important role in the days to come. It was the beacon we had to look out for and follow wherever we went. Something like, wherever the flag goes I go.

Once all fifty- one of us were gathered – two were missing held up at immigration and they would reach the hotel late – it was time. We, herded along by the tour manager, followed the Flag-bearer out of the foyer, across the road and on to the pavement, turned right and then left, then straight till the parking lot where our coach was waiting, the wheels of our bags and the luggage trolleys making a racket loud enough to wake up the dead and gone czars. But no one turned a hair. They were used to it. Tourists come and tourists go. Run-of-the-mill. Life goes on.

For us though it was just the opposite. Excitement was building up as the coach moved towards Moscow, a good one and a half hours distance away The traffic jams on the highway! What would we see tomorrow? The next day? And the next? The last day? Oh, but we have to go back before we can see, imbibe, everything! Sigh. But for now let’s sit back and soak in our experiences. Moscow, here we come.

© Shail Mohan 2019