On the lawns of the Le Meridien, Kochi, there is an unusual couple: the Indian, Dr Rameshwar Singh and the Russian Nadezda. Both are enjoying their lunch during a break at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas seminar. They have come as representatives of an organisation called Disha, which is propagating India-Russian Friendship. “This is my job and passion now,” says Rameshwar. “That is why I am in Kochi, to develop contacts and meet people.”
Rameshwar shows a pamphlet of Disha in which one of its aims is stated: the promotion of cultural heritage and business relations, and bringing together Russian-Indian families.
The Lucknow-born Dr Rameshwar Singh went to study English at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in 1982. There he became a member of the ‘Friends of the Soviet Union’. Thereafter, Singh went to Moscow and did his post-graduation as well his doctorate in Russian literature from Moscow State University. In 1989, he fell in love and got married to Nadezda, a striking-looking Russian lady.
His wife runs a travel agency and makes a surprising admission. “We have a lot of tourists from Kerala, who come to see Moscow and St Petersburg,” she says. The couple plan to spend two weeks in Kerala, exploring the state, in order to bring tourists from Russia. “I am sure Ayurveda will be a big attraction for Russians,” says Nadezda. Interestingly, she is more fluent in Hindi rather than English, thanks to her marriage.
Standing next to them is their 20-year-old son Amit Singh, who is doing his third year in bio-technology from the unusually named, ‘University of Fine Chemical Technologies’ at Moscow. “I can speak Russian, Hindi and English,” he says. Amit is enjoying the hot weather, because in Moscow the temperature is 23 degrees (Celsius) below zero. “It is absolutely chilly,” he says.
Amit is also feeling nice and warm because he is accompanied by his girlfriend, Maria Gridneva. They met in Class 11 at ‘Chekhov No 170’ school in Moscow. “We fell in love,” Maria says simply. “Amit is smart and funny. He cracks a lot of jokes and makes me laugh all the time.”
The long-limbed Maria also likes Indians. “They are hospitable and kind and smile all the time,” she says. “In Russia people are so busy they have no time for each other.”
But the weather is having an impact on Maria. “Sometimes, it is so hot that I am unable to breathe,” she says.
Maria is doing her third year in linguistics from the People’s Friendship University of Russia. “Once I pass out, I can become an interpreter or a teacher.”
This course is held in the evenings, and so during the day, Maria works in a spare parts shop to earn some money.
The couple plan to go for further studies, and thereafter, they will settle down. In the meantime, Maria is having a good time at the seminar. “There are lots of interesting people here,” she says.