Volga to Ganga: Love without barriers

Dr Rama Rao, his wife Lyuba, elder daughter Galika with her husband Philip and younger daughter Romaji. Source: Dr Rama Rao

Dr Rama Rao, his wife Lyuba, elder daughter Galika with her husband Philip and younger daughter Romaji. Source: Dr Rama Rao

The number of Indo-Russian marriages is quite high, although in most cases it’s Russian women marrying Indian men.

Russian writer and publicist Maria Arbatova who’s married to an Indian put it this way: “In terms of character, there isn’t anyone in the world closer to us than the Indians.” It may be the gentleness of nature and respect of the family values of Indians that many Russian women find appealing while Indians are charmed with Russian women’s combination of inner strength and femininity.

Psychologist Elena Kostyuk agrees that there is ideal cultural and genetic compatibility between Russians and Indians. She says that both Russian women and Indian men cherish their families and prefer to stick to traditional values without being too rigid and averse to change. Elena Kostyuk concludes that “Indian mentality is some kind of golden middle between the cold rationalism of the West and conservatism of the East.”  

These are just a few examples of how strong feelings overcome language and cultural barriers.

Rama Rao and Lyuba

Dr Rama Rao is an alumnus of the People’s Friendship University (PFU).

He met his future wife Lyuba way back in the early 1980s in Moscow when he was still a student during a dance programme at the PFU. “She came with her friends on the invitation of the Cyprus students association for their national function. I invited her to dance with me,” he fondly recollects.

They got married in 1985 and have been happily married for 28 years already. Dr Rama Rao and Lyuba don’t recall facing any cultural barriers throughout their relationship.  The couple didn’t settle down in Russia right away. For 4 years Dr Rama Rao was living in India and his wife came to stay with him for 3-5 months during these years because she was studying at that time. Asked if Lyuba found it easy to get used to Indian food so exotic for Russian palate, he smiles and says that in fact his better half has created her own Indo-Russian fusion food with sprinkling of all kinds of spices. “She has learnt this in India and continues to prepare food in the same style. In fact it is very tasty,” he says.

The Indian climate was a little bit difficult to adjust to for Lyuba, at times the heat was too much to bear but she came to terms with this minor discomfort.

Now Dr Rama Rao and his family live in Moscow. They have two daughters. He makes sure his children don’t forget their Indian heritage and imbibes them with love for Indian culture. Their elder daughter Galika who completed the Moscow State University is married to an ethnic Russian and they have a daughter, so it’s the third generation of Indian origin parents. The younger daughter Romaji graduated from the GITIS, stage artist faculty and her ambition is to become artist and singer. 

Ratnesh and Elena: love affair in letters

Twenty-seven years ago a university of Bhopal in India received a letter from the distant Russia. The author of the exotic note was a Russian girl, a student from Novosibirsk. “I am in love with your country. I have been interested in your history and culture for a long time, and I hope to find a pen-friend to learn more about India,” she wrote. Ratnesh Goel, a student of mathematics, volunteered to write a reply.

That was the beginning of a love affair. 27 years later, the happy couple reminisced about their early days with the Russian newspaper, “Argumenty I fakty”.

Ratnesh and Elena had exchanged their lives in letters for 6 years before they met in person, and their long anticipated meeting turned out one of the most exciting events in their lives.

Raised in a family of an entrepreneur, Ratnesh decided to start a business in Tver and move there together with Lena. In 1992 they got married and settled down in Tver.

After giving birth to her first child, Elena and Ratnesh set off for India to meet his parents. The country that used to be something out of a book or a movie suddenly became real. Lena was accepted into Ratnesh’s family, who began to care deeply for her even though they had hoped their son would marry an Indian girl.

The Goels faced no linguistic problems in their day-to-day interactions as they had quickly mastered each other’s languages. Ratnesh grew fond of Russian food and even the Russian winter. After giving birth to her second child, this time a daughter, not only did Elena turn out a wonderful mother and wife, but a great expert in the Indian culture too. Her talents and passion for everything Indian helped her set up Amrapali, an Indian dance company, which gained fame and popularity far beyond Tver and even the entire region. Russian beauty, however, charmed them with her soft character and so the couple had another wedding ceremony, this time Indian style.

Long journey from Yekaterinburg to Bangalore

Oksana Devi, the creator of Russian India website, has been living almost 7 years in Bangalore.

She was born in Yekaterinburg, where she also met her future husband - a citizen of India – just by chance. He came to study in Russia.

In the first few years, she even had a fear of the streets in India. “This is because when you get out of the house, dozens of eyes immediately start looking at you. Now I'm used to it, but then it was making me very uneasy,” she says in her blog where she gives advice to Russian women marrying Indians and settling in India. “It also took me long to get used to the food,” Oksana says. “In the first few months I lost a few pounds, because I could not eat rice every day. It was real survival then.”

Then there was her husband’s family with their own traditions. Getting up at 4-5 am, was unusual for her. She had certain responsibilities in the house. Of course, everybody was making compromises – both the family, and Oksana. However, it was still very difficult.

Now Oksana and her family live separately from her husband's parents. That was her request. “We have become accustomed to independence over the years of living together in Russia, we came to have our own habits, including eating.”

She also thinks it’s important for their children not to lose touch with their second Motherland.

“My children remember their life in Russia, they ask questions about Russia. They know about Russia, that it's cold and snowing there! The elder one remembers how we went into the woods, picking berries,” she recalls with a smile. 

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