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I have been putting it off. But the time has now come to talk of Mr. Take it Easy and Mr. Cockroach. Those are not real names of course, but ones I secretly gave two of my fellow travelers. What’s more, I don’t even know their real names. Anyway, if you remember I had been to Moscow and St Petersburg in September last on a conducted tour. I even introduced Mr. Take It Easy in the fourth of the series of posts.

Let me just jog your memory. Mr. Take It Easy was the one who created a fuss about wanting to spend more time at Sparrow Hill. Explanations given that it was imperative we reach Kremlin at the time allotted us, and the traffic being a killer in Moscow, we had to get going without delay, were brushed aside. Then suddenly the man did an about turn and went, ‘Take it easy!’ a few times to the tour manager as if she was the one who had started it all. People are strange, I tell you!

So here is more about the same Mr. Take It Easy. He must have been in his late fifties. A thin man, with a receding hairline, a long face broken by a mustache, and a cynical look etched on it.

Throughout our trip, he would look up places on Google search on his phone and pester the tour manager and guide as to why we weren’t going to those places. Everyone knew why! This was a conducted tour, the itinerary, with time and places mentioned, had been given to us even before we landed in Russia. Luckily for us, the tour manager had squeezed in a few more spots for us to see. There was no free time, and yet, he would kick up a fuss first, and then moments later subside with a few repeated ‘Take it easy!’ thrown in.

So now you know why I chose the moniker for him.

On the last day of our trip, while returning to our hotel after the day’s sightseeing, the guide Anna, was as usual pointing out interesting buildings and giving us their history and/or any story associated with them. The man butted in.”You do the talking…” he said, turning to the tour manager, “Not her. Anna doesn’t know anything!”

We were amazed. What was wrong with him? Why was he being so mean? The tour manager Prerana on her part tried to diffuse the situation with, ‘Look here, I don’t know a fraction of what Anna knows. She is a local. That is why she is our guide.” The man wouldn’t back off and raising his voice, he said, “We don’t understand what she says. Her English is not good…” What the heck! English not good? And this, the last evening of our trip, was when he thought fit to announce it?

Everyone in the coach, at least those of us who heard him, myself included, objected loudly. “Don’t you dare talk about her in that manner!” What a poor picture he was presenting of people of our country! Anna had been very nice to us. A very sincere lady, she was full of extraordinary knowledge about Moscow and its history. Her English was certainly not bad like Mr. Take It Easy insinuated. She simply had an accent. And frankly, WHO among us there, or anywhere, did not have one while speaking English?

Besides, look who was talking! Mr. Take It Easy had an accent particular to his region in India, an accent so thick one needed a knife to chip away at it to get to the nub, and such a man had the audacity to point fingers at another. The irony! If he had had trouble understanding Anna, all he had to do was ask for clarifications rather than be boorish about it.

While boarding the flight out of Moscow, I was right behind him in the queue. Just as we reached the door of the plane, one of the airport security staff waved him to a stop, to avoid overcrowding and to give time to those who had gone ahead to settle down. I listened with amazement our man saying something about letting him go, giving consideration to his age blah blah, to the Russian airport security chap standing there, who looked blankly at him, and then away. Unbelievably so, I then heard Mr. Take It Easy follow it up with, what else but his signature words,”Take it easy! Take it easy!!” I suppressed a giggle. The Russian didn’t pay him the least attention and continued staring straight ahead.

(Will be continued….)

© Shail Mohan 2020