Russia and India have shown cultural interest in each other since the time of Nicholas Roerich. If we look at our recent past, we will recall ‘Days of Russian/Indian Culture’, ‘Days of Delhi in Moscow’ and ‘Year of Russia/India in India/Russia’- some fine examples of bi-lateral exchange of thoughts and culture. The initiatives, albeit promising in their intent, struggle to increase penetration among the Russian and Indian people. Events like film-screening and lectures stay confined within the embassies/consulates, RCSC and language-schools. To truly reach out to the masses, we’ll need to improvise and adopt novel measures.
Russian, as a language, can be introduced in Indian middle schools as an elective subject. A similar approach can be taken for Hindi (and other Indian languages) in Russia. Exposing young students to the Cyrillic script will ensure better retention and acceptance of the many Slavic tongues.
The silver screen and the television can also play a major role in forging stronger cultural ties between the two countries. India and Russia need to put concerted efforts to make movies, short-films and documentaries from either country readily available in the other (preferably with subtitles and/or translations). New films are frequently sought by today’s multiplex-generation in India, and this initiative will reach a wider audience. Soaps, sitcoms and talk-shows featuring Russia and India can be aired on popular TV-channels and can be used effectively to dispel myths about each other’s culture. A dedicated channel for Russian-language-shows in India (and likewise for Hindi in Russia) is another option the two countries can look at.
With both Russia and India having multifarious cuisines to their credit, there’s plenty to be explored in the culinary sphere. Indo-Russian food festivals can be organized in collaboration with master-chefs (who specialize in the said cuisines) and star-hotels. India is yet to see any Russian restaurant of note, despite the abundance of well-heeled diners whose palates are opening up to (and wholeheartedly embracing) world cuisine. Foodies in India will only be delighted to sample the treasure-trove of foods and drinks that Russia has to offer – from teas, soups and mains to pirozhki, desserts and alcohol. Awareness of Russo beverages in India is mostly limited to vodka, with very few being informed of Medovukha, kvass and other delicious thirst-quenchers. Contrariwise, the plethora of India dishes, desserts and drinks could do with some popularizing amidst Russians.
Sports is another arena where India has much to learn from its counterpart. Collaboration, especially in the fields of tennis, ice-skating, hockey and track-sports, will benefit both the countries. This will also open up avenues for sportsmen and coaches to travel to each other’s cities and exchange knowledge and networks. Russia can also take advantage of the unique climatic conditions in India that allow us to play many sports which may not be possible in the Russian climes. Cricket – a favourite with Indians can gain traction in Russia and help erase the negative connotations that were associated with the game during the Communist Revolution. Similarly, Indian sports-enthusiasts can profit from the exposure to winter sports that Indian weather cannot afford.
India and Russia are both lands of many dances and genres of music. Dance and music conclaves will not only entertain public but also showcase the art forms that each country prides itself for. Circle-dances and partner dances also forge a sense of community and kinship among dancers. Both the countries have a rich heritage of folk and classical music, and have now welcomed and adapted to contemporary pop and rock styles. Dialogue and exchange in this space will prove rewarding for performers, instructors and students alike.
One cannot ignore literature when one talks of cultural exchange between Russia and India. Pushkin and Tagore took their local writing styles to the world, and then followed a slew of writers and poets who satiated their countrymen’s hunger for literary works. Their legacy must continue with Indian and Russian books being translated and made available in both the countries. Yearly literature-festivals that bring together writers, poets, critics, media and readers from Russia and India, will establish strong cultural ties amongst bibliophiles.
Tourism is a magical platform that can unite all the aforementioned domains and foster goodwill and warmth between India and Russia. Experiential sight-seeing which encompasses volunteer-tourism, social-work, student-exchange programs and also medical tourism can enable tourists, patients, students and volunteers to learn, heal, help and contribute at the same time. Travel-blogger conclaves, trade and technology fairs, and the introduction of a special Indo-Russian-cultural train (on the lines of Science Express and Sanskriti Express) can function as effective catalysts in brokering cultural cooperation between Russia and India.
“Our long-standing friendship needs just a little bit of spice
(and maybe some vodka) to take it to newer heights!”