10th of February is the Diplomatic Serviceman Day. On this day I publish this text. I started my dipolomatic service in Madras.
This is part of my “memoirs” of India. It was written a long time ago. but it has not been published in the Internet because of one small remark that I did not want to omit. About Svetoslav Roerich, who was a friend of the recently deceased Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin, who was my friend at MGIMO and my “supervisor” in my first visit to the Soviet Embassy in New Delhi. Now, alas, it can be published.
Madras (now renamed Chennai) was not my first point on the Indian soil, where I got off the plane. The first was in Delhi, almost two years earlier. The first time I came to the Indian land in New Delhi was on the 1st October, 1975, in a warm, but not hot and very comfortable morning air, filled with aromas of unknown plants and possibly some Indian food, which was sold at the airport named “Palam” at that time.
I do not remember who met me in the airport because Alik Kadakin (later – Ambassador of Russia in India), was my comrade at MGIMO Istitute and at the Hindi language Chair , where he was the first, and I the second-the third “darling” the with very tough Hindi language Chair.
He became my ” supervisor “, just somewhere in a week. But not in vain I was one of the “darlings” of the Hindi Chair. I spoke Hindi quite fluently for the student of the fifth year in the Institute, attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and everywhere I visited the Indian Government agencies, to give them some papers for my status at the Embassy, and I did it alone, without the help of anyone.
Knowledge of a local language is very useful for a young diplomat in any country in Asia or Africa.
A\When I arrived in Madras – this was already in 1977. Indira Gandhi was still alive and has recently emerged from a brief detention in prison, where she was imprisoned by her political opponents who won the General elections in 1977. Shrimati Indira Gandhi has not yet been killed by two of her personal religious -Sikhs guards in retaliation for the storming of the Sikh religious shrine the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Rajiv Gandhi was still a pilot and a private person. So it was not like the “Airport. named after Indira Gandhi “later , though it was the main gate to India.
In Madras, as it was in 1977 it was much easier … just a domestic airport of the big city … The capital, but of the state of Tamil Nadu. At that time it was quite a provincial airport, compared to the Capital International Airport in Delhi.
But the difference was not only in “provincial look” if compared to New Delhi. It was given to us “in the sensual feelings” as “Grandpa Lenin” once said. The sharp difference was in a completely different climate.
It was not October but the beginning of April, when in Delhi “it was still possible to live.” Even without air conditioning. But in Madras it was already very hot. In Madras, the most memorable, after the plane, was just the first impression. Like you, going off the plane, walk into the steam room of a Russian bath, which has not yet warmed up to the maximum, but as if it was in a bath steam room – hot and humid air, as if somebody ven threw a hot and wet towel over your body. I was still young – 28 years old, but immediately I felt that the climate here is “not very good” …. Then somehow I gradually got used to it… When you’re 30, the body somehow adapts pretty quickly. Although not fully. Eternal heat is unusual and unsuitable for the Russian “ Northern” people.
The Head of the House of Soviet Culture in Madras was very pleased that, at last, ” the addition” had come as I was his deputy during his two-month vacation in summer Russia, which is needed annually for the Russian people, who have worked for years in the Indian hot climates. The chief immediately offered me the choice of any floor in a two-story, two-bedroom on the floor, a cottage with a traditional flat roof.
As I lived in New Delhi for a few months, two years earlier, in the coolest time of the year, your humble servant, without hesitation chose very bright top floor. Error in the choice became clear after a week stay on this floor, where an April merciless tropical sun beat in the window from morning to night and the roof (ceiling) during the day and at night emit an invisible, but very sensitive infrared radiation. As if you lived in a big grill, which is not switched to the maximum to quickly fry you, but only to “warm you up” and quickly “unfreeze you”.
But even on the first floor, where the Head at my request, relocated me with my wife rather quickly, still we did not immediately understand why many Indians are vegetarians and not “meat eaters”.
About a month later, and it was already in May, when in Delhi the heat was about 40 degrees, I was sitting once at a party meeting in the Consulate General (for the sake of “conspiracy”, it was called “Trade union meeting,” The party committee was called as a trade union committee … Funny as Indians never cared of the inner life of Soviet diplomatic missions) and suddenly I felt sudden and violent attack of nausea. Nothing hurts, does not bother, but a strong urge to vomit.
No . Not from “the issues discussed at communist Party meeting agenda.” =) Just for some another reason …. Just I felt that, if did not jump right now out of this Party caucus, the vomit will be right on the Party meeting hall floor. I managed to jump out and vomited on the well trimmed lawn next to the building of the Consulate General. And I felt no pain or anything wrong. It seemed like I was even healthy. Just my food was asking for the exit through vomiting, not the other way ..
Somehow I managed to seat to the end of the Party meeting and in the evening I called the Indian doctor, who was “attached” to the Consulate General. The young doctor immediately asked me: “What did you eat before that?” I replied: “Fresh burgers and fried potatoes.”Just like at home, in Russia” … To which the doctor replied: “Are you crazy? In this heat to eat meat? “He banned to have any meat in the hot season, including chicken and as a” medicine “he prescribed to eat only Indian cool” lassi “for a day. It’s a something between a sour Russian milk, a Georgian yoghurt or “a sour milk” on the Don river – my home province. Even twenty-four hours was not required for the recovery. Once I drank a fair amount of “lassi” I was immediately “cured” ….
Unlike similar products in Russia, the fermented milk products in India are a little diluted with water and “ beiras”put three or four ice cubes there. However, here it should be noted here that as the “lassi” can be ordered only in the Indian tavern and there were always added ice cubes, then I was lucky that the water used to make the ice cubes, had mot many Indian bacteria that breed in the warm Indian climate very quickly, especially in the water. Which is always allegedly boiled.
Those who travel in India, they just have to know as in the old days prayer “Our Father” that drinking unboiled water is very dangerous to your health. Dysentery, amoeba, hepatitis A, and other viruses and bacteria invariably present in unboiled water in India. And if you ask the waiter “Is it a boiled water? “He will not understand you and will tell you that water is ” filterd “- that is” filtered “. Which means that water-borne worms and other creatures are not in the water , but the” filter “is not an obstacle for small bacteria and viruses. If you believe the waiter, than the next three days you will spend in the toilet, if it is available …
There are no guarantees with a bottled water also. It, too, can be “filtered”. Although the “Soda-Voter” (soda water “) I drank there for many years and had no problems. Two explanations – we usually drank soda water mixed with whiskey and it explains something. And, maybe in carbonated water, the whole range of viral stuff just cannot survive ….
As for other beverages that Indian was making those days, once in half a year the Indian press pleased its readers with “funny news and photos/ with headlines reading that “Once again a dead mouse was found in a closed for selling bottle of Indian “Campa-Cola”.With a photo of this “Mouse Cola” …A big picture of a dead mouse floating in the bottle …
The same goes for vegetables, which you personally are not scalded with boiling water, and to all sorts of salads in Indian taverns. Vegetables are washed simply with water even without filter, than what to expect from them? We washed the vegetables with a special “Red Soap” ( stinking of antiseptics ), and then scalded vegetables with boiling water.
The safest fruit in India – is banana. You clean it carefully without touching the inside of banana with your unwashed hands and then eat it safely. But this is a snack somewhere “on the road”. At home one can scald with boiling water the “Indian melon” – Papyaya fruit, than cut it in cubic slices in a big plate, sprinkle it with lemon juice and, if desired, sprinkle it with a little sugar. It is very tasty and very healthy food!
Mango – “Raja of fruits”! There is no slightest comparison with the supposedly mangoes that are sold not ripe in Moscow. But mangoes as grapes – a delicious, typically white and large, must be well washed and than always scalded with boiling water. Thereafter these are safe to eat.
Meat … In India you are not in China and the meat you a dog or a or cat will never be offered to you (In the picture – this is NOT in India =)
But the Indians have very peculiar attitude to the meat. Eating meat of cows – it’s worse than eating human flesh. It is prohibited by law. There are cases where the villages were killing Muslims accused in the alleged slaughter of cows and eating beef. Rarely, but it happens even today. The male buffalo meet is sold, it is inexpensive. But the meat fibers are very large, it is being prepared to be ready to eat for a long time, the buffalo meat has a specific taste and smell and one is quickly bored with eating that meat….
Hindu may eat pork, but as Muslims do not eat it due to religious prohibitions, as I noticed , for Hindus pork meatis also not in “favor” Besides eating fat pork meat in a hot climate – it’s not without risk …
All the religions of India are allowed to eat lamb and chicken . Because of this fact, lamb is the most expensive meat in India. Chickens are much cheaper and these are not “chemical broilers” as in Moscow. If the poor live chicken is sitting in a cage at the meat market and you choose one of them as their food (man is a predatory ape), the seller asks you – “halal” or “jhatka”. If the first mode of killing a bird – the chicken neck is cut not comlitly and you will have to wait until she bleeds in agony before your eyes. But if you are not a Muslim, then you choose the “Russian way” to slaughter poultry – by cutting off the head. This is the “jhatka”. With still trembling in the hands of the seller of chicken, he peels the skin with feathers and gives you still warm corps of a bird without feathers. At home one need only to to take the guts from inside and cut off the paws with claws and chicken is ready for cooking … This is the type our “hen for soup”, but not as old as ours. “Middle-aged” =)
Oh, and finally, for adventurers who wish to travel in the Indian mountains. It is necessary to know that in India, on the plains and in the mountains the meat of mutton (male or female sheep) and goat (female or even male goat with stinking meat in Russia) are very different in taste. On the plains a lamb meat is delicious. However, in mountain areas somehow goat meat is tastier, although for Russians it is strange. But Russians do not live in the mountains .These are non Russian areas.
However, let us return back to Madras …. Water in Madras is from natural reservoirs that are filled during monsoon (with rain water) and by May they were almost dry. As a result, as we said at that time, there is not a tap water that is flowing but the filtered liquid mud from the reservoir. However, even in a filtered tap water flow there were thin, thread-like red worms. And to filter water from the worms, we wrapped the taps with six layers of cotton cloth. After such a home filter the water at home was without worms. But it smelled of the marsh so much, that even the smell of any Indian tea or coffee could not kill that marsh smell. But that was mainly from April to June. Then, in June, the monsoon rains began. These are very strong and the water becomes better. The air becomes less hot, but even more humid. As in a bath. In Delhi, before the start of the monsoon just the heat is really hellish. But the heat in Delhi is very dry before the monsoon rains. If there is air conditioning in your house – you can live at home normally. …
This whole “memoisr” refer to the events 30 years ago. Perhaps much has changed in India today, but I think India is unlikely radically changed. A large country, be it Russia or India has a very large inertia … We Russians know it too well ( or “too bad”) on our own experience…
Although some changes are there in India. For example, in the mountainous state of Sikkim, attached to India during the second half of the 70s, today for urinating in the street there is a fine of 500 rupees (about 500 rubles) and the state is in the first place in India (the second –is Kerala state) for cleanliness and sanitation. At the same I saw in Madras and Delhi were simple open urinalays for men, right next to the sidewalk. The man had to turn to the wall, where there was a water pipe with water ranning down to wash away the urine. Public WC ? I do not remember that I saw it anywhere … The first public toilet in India? allegedly, was opened by a Union Minister in the mid 60-ies of XX century. In Moscow –that happened almost 100 yearlier in the 19th century. But India was at the time a British colony, and it seems that Angrezi colonial authorities really believed that all colonial peoples can defecate and urinate as cats and dogs …. _ “It is good to be a cat, good to be dog, I pee where I want, and where I want I poop” ..( In Russian this is a rhymed satirical verses =) yes/ A man can be like a cat or a dog.
But with a toilet for women – this is a very big problem in India. They cannot urinate and defecate in the open because of the men around. They can do it only indoors, if any. Or, if it is in a village they wait for the night and leave homes in groups, sat down beside their back to the special earth ditch, throwing skirts or saris on their heads.
Here one also must keep in mind that India is a very overpopulated country. There are so many people around that there is not too much place to defecate in the open anywhere…I remember my morning jog on the Ocean beach in Madras … Madras, unlike Delhi, still is an Ocean city and in the morning and at night there is no such horrible heat as in Delhi from May to July and moist but still hot air even in August and September … So I decided to try to run in the mornings outside the city on the shore of the Ocean. I came there by car, stayed in my shorts only and began to ran barefoot along the golden velvet sand near the edge of the Ocean surf. Suddenly, I felt that my bare feet walked into something semi-fluid and slippery. Glancing at my feet, I saw that it was very fresh human shit. Looking around, I was surprised to find that the whole coast was “mined” with such heaps of perfectly fresh human shit. Running on such s “mine field” I did not want any longer… Later I learned that next to this place there was a village of fishermen. They defecated in the morning right on the sand, near to the ocean and then they sailed in their boats to fish. The whole coast was populated with these fishing villages … I had to abandon the idea of jogging along the shore of the Ocean. Yet by the evening everything was washed away by Ocean waves and we sometimes came to the same place in 2-3 cars to swim.
Some Russian tourists categorically assert that “India – it’s dirt and unsanitary conditions, and therefore – our foot will never step on Indian soil !” What can I say to such a statement? Yes. But not everywhere. . “It is just necessary to know the places.” I was not a tourist in Madras, but a foreigner living there and visiting the places that tourists do not usually visit. And I understand that every country has its own problems. The inherent only to this or that country. And they are very different.
In a clean and beautiful at that time New Delhi a Malaria mosquito could bite you and you would be very sick for a long time. But if you are under 80 years of age, it is almost 100% that you will be alive. I was sick with malaria three times. Twice – in 1978 and in 1986 with “fresh Malaria” in Delhi and once in 1988 I had a relapse in Bombay (Mumbai), where there is no malaria. But I have not recovered fully until the end of the second case of malaria .. The liver could not stand anti malarial drugs that kill the so-called “tissue forms of malaria.” Being at the same time very hard for one’s liver. Yet one has to endure the full course of anti- malarial drugs ….
Indian malaria “Vivex” – has a three-day cycle. That is, one day, a very high temperature-up to 40 and above, with the strongest fever (even teeth are chattering), literally burning with temperature. The next day, the temperature drops to 38 and only the strongest weakness remains. But on the third day all repeats and even harder than r days before…
But pricking with “quinine” stops malaria from getting worse .(If anyone remembers the book by Jules Verne’s “The Mysterious Island”, which refers to the life saving quinine) . Today there is modern anti parasitic drugs based on quinine. In the first few days malaria patient is hit by the temperature, but then it falls down. Though for many days ahead a very strong weakness remains and a general state of health is not good up to six months.
From well-known people from the”Vivex”malaria in India only Catholic nun Mother Teresa died, who was over 80 years old and she was not poor. But her old body could not withstand malaria. However, in 80 years, very few people are traveling …
In Africa one can of a young age, rich and live in an expensive hotel for the rich but being bitten on the street by a malaria mosquito of other, African type – ( is called “falciparum” that clogged blood vessels of the brain ) and the lethal end is an often fate of a European. Yes. Vivex malaria is relapse, but only if it is treated not well, not from the start.
keep in mind that if the disease is for the first time, the first day it can be confused with acute respiratory disease – fever, aching body, but no coughing or sneezing. Second malaria runs immediately in more acute form. And relapse – when it happened to me when I was in Mumbai, the temperature jumped by almost 41 degrees within a couple of hours. Well that was a big city and a good hospital there. In a week a resumed my work there. But I came back to normal, after the third case of malaria after more than six months. Although people have different organisms …
In America, there is no malaria, but at the exit of the supermarket you can be stopped be two strong Negro with demand for cash (“Cash!”) For the drugs. You put your hand for this cash into the side pocket where an American has never keeps money in such cases but holds a gun. And the Negros “in self-defense” can shoot you down or stab with a knife. Knowledgeable Americans hold $ 20 in a one banknote in their back pocket. But you do not know that “American tradition « and the Negros do not know that you are Russian. White man means – white American. Quite a different country and a very different problem. But the problems are also there. In any country. Not only in India or in Russia…
In other words, every country has its own dangers. You have to know them. And then they will pass by your side, not touching you. In India, the girl or the young woman is never raped at daytime. Too many people are around. But if she thinks of a romantic walk on a deserted beach at night, then she runs into trouble. As well as at night, even in the capital, and even with a boy friend, even with a strong but ONE guy, as many rapes are gang rapes. it is better not to walk on the thinly populated places and do not ride the city at night by an almost empty night city bus. This is very dangerous. It is just necessary to know.
To be continued