Sundeep Bhutoria

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Moscow State University

On Saturday evening met few people over dinner. Mr Arvind Joshi, who is CEO and Director General of St Mary’s Hospital Centre affiliated to McGill University, his wife and Mr Alan V Pavilanis and his wife Rasa and others. While chatting with Rasa and Alan about the different Universities, the name of Moscow State University for International Affairs came up. It was full of surprises last year when I arrived in Moscow for a seminar at the University.
The first surprise was at the airport while I was picking up my baggage from the belt and my cell phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Sriman namaskar mera nam Anton hai aur main hawai adde ke bahar apka vahan lekar intazar kar raha hun.”  I am sure most Indians, like myself, would be surprised to hear a Russian speaking fluent Hindi. Frankly I do not recollect using words like vahan instead of car and hawai adda instead of airport.
I could not hold back my curiosity and when the voice on the phone asked me Apka Safar kaise raha I just asked him how he came to speak Hindi so well. He said he was a 3rd year student of Hindi at the Moscow State University of International Affairs and that many of his college mates converse in Hindi.
After completing three days of my 7-day visit to Moscow, I realised that this University, one of the most prestigious in the field of diplomatic studies, teaches about 85 languages. The students who take up foreign language are also taught the history, culture, literature, geography and even films of the respective country and region.
I was again very surprised to meet a group of students who were learning Bengali (picture). Not just confined to Tagore, they were very much at ease with Feluda as well. They see Bengali movies, study Bengali literature and even talk in Bengali with each other to perfect their knowledge and accent of the language.
While talking with the officials of the University, who were my hosts, I learnt from them that the University was actually creating future diplomats and the subjects taken up or given to the students weren’t their personal choice and was decided by the management after considering the geographical distribution and various other factors. Their sheer planning amazed me. I think these students would be posted in the countries where their languages skills would carry them at ease. One can imagine the strong wicket the Russian diplomacy would be on.
I was staying at the Professors’ hostel at the University and during my talks with Anton and his class friends at the canteen in the University campus I was impressed by their range of knowledge from Rahul Gandhi to Karunanidhi to samosas and idlis.
There were two students Yulia and Padon to assist me during my stay in Moscow.
Yulia has given me a poem she wrote in Hindi and Padon accompanied me to the markets and the sight seeing places (picture). All the students I met, whether they were learning Bengali or Tamil, had a dream of visiting India and have a personal feel of the region where the languages they are learning are used.
These students felt a little left out since the others who were learning Chinese, Spanish or French had enough opportunity to visit those countries. I felt ashamed on learning that the students learning Indian languages could not visit India as their letters of request for student exchange program to the Indian Institutes and HRD ministry had, let alone a reply, never even been acknowledged. Whenever I am faced with such a situation during my overseas travels, I wonder whether we will ever come out of the Shekchilli dream of Indian becoming a super power one day and actually do some real work on the ground level.
ess bee

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