Three Months in Russia

There was a brief moment right before we quit our jobs when we wondered how wise a decision it was to give it all up. Letting go of familiarity to dive into romanticised unknowns is not easy. As humans, or more specifically, as urban dwellers, we always complain about our circumstances.

#Airport with a view. #Goa #Goi #wife #Silhouette #window

A photo posted by Lovell Dsouza (@lovell) on

We lament about wanting different things. We constantly cry ourselves hoarse about how our lives totally suck, only to do nothing about it. Because, let’s face it. Monotony is comforting. It’s the feeling of being home. It’s knowing that tomorrow is going to be the same as today and being reassured that you don’t have to face the prospect of any scary change. This is exactly what you signed up for.

Cobble-stoned street.

Cobble-stoned street.

A few days ago, as we walked on the cobblestone streets of Moscow on a bright summery evening, I thought of that moment and how brushing aside that tiny doubt about taking this big leap has changed our lives significantly. We are independent professionals now. The Internet is our office. And while we can work from the comforts of our home, we can also work from anywhere in the world.

Moskva River

On the banks of the River Moskva at dusk

Hanging out with a #new #baby. #teddybear #chotabeam #sexyfeet #tantri #Moscow #Russia

A photo posted by Lovell Dsouza (@lovell) on

This decision is why we could on an impulse, turn a visit to Baby P and our family in Moscow into a full-fledged sabbatical from our lives in India. For the next three months, Russia is going to be our home, our office, our stomping grounds and our chance to explore a new land, a new culture and a new perspective.

Alexandria Park

An evening stroll in the Alexandria Park

Alexandria Park

Locals pose with the flowers of Alexandria Park

It’s just been a few days and we are overwhelmed already. Russia in summertime is a phenomenon that has to be seen to be believed. Russia in summertime is a riot of flowers, colours, ice creams as you walk, puffy white clouds against blue blue skies, sudden thunderstorms, awe-inspiring grandeur all around, making merry in the town squares, skateboarding across parks, dancing under the fountains and making the most of happy sunlight even at 10 in the night.

Dancing with the fountains

Summertime fun in the fountains of Park Kultury

Walking under the fountains of Alexandria Park

Walking under the fountains of Alexandria Park

Russia in summertime is a carnival. It’s joy all around. A stark contrast to the images of cold, stoic and dangerous Russia that is fed to us by popular media. We’ve already unlearned so much about this part of the world. And are continuing to do so.

State Historical Museuem of Russia

State Historical Museuem of Russia in the Red Square

GUM mall

GUM mall in the Red Square

Over the next three months, we hope to see autumn in St Petersberg, experience the beauty of walking around alien landscapes, take a dip in the Lake Baikal, enjoy an epic Trans-Siberian rail adventure across remote parts of Siberia, camp in the Gobi desert and come back with our minds as wide as the universe. So much to see in this beautiful, strange world.

Alexandria Park

A fountain at the Alexandria Park

Luzkhov Bridge

Locks at the Luzkhov Bridge

For now, I can only feel extremely thankful for having achieved what we set out do when we took that monumental decision in the first place. We are not ‘lucky’. We made a choice. To live every single day meaningfully instead of constantly dreaming of better, distant tomorrows. We are living the life we want, right when we want it. Not five years from now. Not in the future. We are living it now.

Today, we are happy. And that, for us, is enough.

  • Priya Ramachandran

    @edlyndsouza:disqus I don’t know how I missed this comment. I don’t remember getting any email notifications.

    I completely agree with you and I never said that I have come to believe Russia is a perfect country. It is far from that. All I’m saying is that Russia has turned out to be a revelation. There’s so little we ever hear or know of its people, apart from all the horror stories we hear, especially the political aspecy. So it was nice to actually unlearn everything that is fed to us and see things for ourselves and by learning it from the people who actually live in Russia.

    Of course, I’m not using infrastructural progress as a parameter of the country’s progress.
    What I mean to say things are not AS bad as it’s ALWAYS portrayed in popular media. We’ve lived and interacted with plenty of locals from different economic backgrounds, regions and walks of life and everyone shed a little insight into the actual picture. The bigger picture maybe, the one we never get to see or are never shown. When I gush about Russia, I’m never raving about the infrastructure and other ‘amenities’, which are indeed wonderful. But I’m talking about how surprisingly wonderful the people have been. The people make this nation and the people are critical, open-minded, intelligent, liberal and very passionate about their nation. They see the ugliness and protest it, they are proud of its greatness and they are wary of a lot of things that any freedom-loving and free-thinking citizen of the world should worry about. They know that things are far from perfect but they also know from their own experiences that things aren’t as ominous as it’s made out to be, especially by the Western media. We have seen regular, everyday people share their lives and experiences first-hand and they have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of change to look forward to. There IS freedom of speech here, but in a nation as huge as Russia, their experiences of the nation (much like it’s for Indians) can differ so much from their lesser-privileged or less luckier fellowmen from some other part of Russia. And I understand that.

    They follow their local politics very religiously and are aware of what they are voting for. 90% of them feel the nation has progressed and has stabilised and they have a way better quality of life when compared to the absolute anarchy a few decades ago. Some feel the Soviet times were better. They have had a long, glorious and troubled history and they are all learning to keep up with changing times. They are a very new democracy.

    There is good public education, reliable free healthcare and the basics of people are taken care of, largely. Not perfect at all. But way way way more than can what can ever be said of many many nations. There are multiple ethnicities and religions living in peace. This, we’ve seen and admired. They have Tatars, Mongols and so many minority groups with their own autonomous federations inside of Russia. Most of Russia enjoys peace despite the country stretching across almost half the world. Some feel an iron fist like Putin’s is needed to keep such a massive and diverse country in peace. Some think he is too autocratic. You can’t put all Russians in one basket. There are varying opinions, of course. We’ve just been listening.

    One IS free to criticize government officials and policies here. There is no blatant censorship online, at least to the current knowledge of the locals who say they haven’t experienced anything of the sort, yet. There are many Russian websites and blogs where the govt is explicitly criticised and poked fun of. They are not banned. Yes, they have some propaganda channels (like EVERY nation now) which may broadcast only one-sided stories but the Russians are literally FED UP, if not amused, looking at all the lies they see every single day about their nation from around the world (especially western, media, they insist). They are tired of defending their country against allegations from people who don’t live here that it is terrible that everything is messed up here and that they are completely oppressed. What we are not made aware of is that there are newspapers and channels in Russia which are completely anti-Russian propaganda and anti-govt and they are not ‘banned’. People are free to subscribe to them and they do. I’ve read some myself. And all Western media channels are easily accessible to everyone. Yes, their policies on LGBT issues are very deplorable and a lot of Russians lament that and protest that (and many celebrate it too. Very very large nation, remember?)

    Phew. I’ve been typing a lot. :D I am not suggesting these are allegations you are making neither am I defending Russia. Not at all! There is a lot of nonsense happening here, as it is in the rest of the world. I am merely saying, we had to travel 10,000 kms across a nation to get a more objective picture that none of us were/are getting or will ever get, staying outside of Russia. After living here for three months, I’ve learned it’s a beautiful, fascinating democratic nation that is as flawed and lacking as any large democratic nation in the world. A work-in-progress.

    • Priya Ramachandran

      Pardon all the bad sentences and typos and rambling. Thoughts move faster than my hands. :)