A friendly visit to Russia



ONE OF the highlights of their visit was a trip to Yasnaya Polyana, the birthplace of the noted Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. It was a symbol of Indo-Russian friendship, for Mahatma Gandhi and Tolstoy had written quite often to each other. "As the name suggests, Yasnaya Polyana means `peaceful field'. The estate is spread over hundreds of acres of rolling Russian countryside graced by dense forests of birch, oak, maple and evergreen ferns,'' says S. Boobalakrishnan, an NCC cadet from 2 TN Air Squadron (Flying) NCC, Government Arts College, Coimbatore.

"A walk through the woods was a unique experience, when Nature was resplendent with fiery yellows, golden browns and verdant greens,'' he adds. Boobalakrishnan and nine others had been on a 10-day Indo-Russian Youth Exchange Programme (YEP), led by Col. V. Narayanan.

Others in the team were Amil Malik (Gujarat), Manpreet Singh (Punjab), Mayank Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Nidhi Krishnan (Karnataka), Nino Baby (Kerala), Haripriya Sanjani (Andhra Pradesh), Aishwarya Rajmani (Delhi), Namita Yadav (Maharashtra) and Sridevi Vedasnata (Orissa). This visit came on the last day of the Russian tour, after a sapling planting programme in the morning, during which the cadets had planted a number of birch saplings. In the evening, there was a farewell to the Indian delegation, followed by a disco at which everyone enjoyed themselves.

Another high point of the visit was a trip to the Indian Embassy, where they met the Indian Ambassador, K. Raghunath. They were pleased to note that the embassy was housed in one of the heritage buildings in Russia, and were happy to hear that Raghunath himself had been an NCC cadet from 1953 to 1957.

However, what impressed them as cadets was the way in which Russian organisations were run in a smart and professional manner, especially the Corps or Rescuers, which trains young people in rescue operations, and the Institute of Artillery. On the Corps of Rescuers, Boobalakrishnan says, "this institute is equipped with all the latest training aids, which include huge cutters, gas masks, scuba diving equipment, nuclear radiation detectors, and para trooping equipment. Students are also trained in small arms, explosives and rescuing in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare environment."

Other trips took the cadets to the Arms Museum displaying weapons down the years, and a Samovar Museum exhibiting tea and coffee pots. At `Spitz Naz', a special forces unit, they had a look at the latest military hardware.

They witnessed a Russian circus performance with its colours, lights, dances and acrobatics, and also attended a Russian ballet show featuring Victor Hugo's `Esmeralda'.

By A. A.M.R.

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