Tuesday, January 21, 2014

An Open Letter

Dear Anzhela,

You left me with a gift I cannot thank you enough for. Also, you left me with inspiration to write and I am so thankful to you for it. I want to write to you about my Russian experiences. The most significant of them.

My Russian association began with this story book: In the land of sunbeam bunnies. 
This is what the cover looks like. It taught me an important lesson very early in life- do not always believe the written word. It so happened that I made a grammatical error in my homework- and my father corrected me. And I protested- “The sunbeam bunnies say so!” It was then that my father told me- just because it is in print, it doesn't mean it is right- the Russians know Russian, not English- they are capable of making a mistake- and you should be capable of recognizing it. Slowly I learnt that lesson well. Not just grammar, the written word means nothing till you want it to.

Anzhela, I told you about how I was considering a job in St. Petersburg many years ago. This happened many years before I read Dostoevsky. Many years before Crime and Punishment moved me like the strongest reading experience ever possible. Many years before I visualized St. Petersburg like Dostoevsky describes it. And this happened many years before you taught me how to say the gentleman's name- Dostoevsky, properly. And before you told me about St. Petersburg- the way you see it and the way he saw it.

On a sudden trip- me and my boss suddenly decided to go to a city I had always wanted to visit and study TRIZ (теория решения изобретательских задачteoriya resheniya izobretatelskikh zadatch). And there I heard of Altshuller and his incarceration of 25 years in the Gulag. And how he proposed the theory of inventive thinking through that time.

A friend talked about the Trans-Siberian railway- travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok and I thought of how nice that journey would be, perhaps nicer than any destination.

I met you in the port town of Vizag- a city where only the sea and the men of the sea made the news. India's military ties with Russia, especially the Navy's would find their way into my newspapers everyday.

And that evening when I showed you around the Indian Handicrafts bazaar in Delhi- I asked you- “I want a Matryoshka doll when you come from Russia next”: You just smiled. And just before you left- you pressed a Matryoshkya doll into my palm. How did you ever know that I always wanted one, and how did you contain the surprise gift for so long? You left me stuck in that moment, it was magical: Matryoshka Dolls have always fascinated me. A toy that never ends... I also look at Mise en abyme also like this: the idea of never-ending joy, that there is always something to look forward too. 

I look forward to us like that too: there is something around the corner always. Things for us to discover together or about each other. Like how you spell your name as we bought money with money. Like us calling Russia 'Rus'.

I miss you.

Best Wishes,


Richa Kedia said...

Its such an important lesson "Not just grammar, the written word means nothing till you want it to". Hence the even the most beautiful writing can be wasted on most people.

I don't remember my first Russian book but the one that made the deepest impression is unequivocally "Lolita". You must finish off Anna Karenina so that we can discuss at length!!

jasmine jasmine said...

Why didn't you read Dostoevsky? Or did you?
In the light of our current existential drama- you have to read Dostoevsky!
I want to read Notes from the Underground. But I am afraid, truly,of the potential it holds.