World Cup diary: A Russian in love with India, Bollywood

Albert shares a special bond with India

World Cup diary: A Russian cop in love with India, Bollywood Albert (left); past covers of 'India' magazine

At the Kazan railway station, after the checking process, I was stopped by one of the security officers. “Are you from India?” he asked. I nodded and tried to take my passport from the bag, but the officer gestured that it was not necessary. He opened Google Translate on his mobile phone and started talking to me.

Albert hailed from Altai Krai, a border region in southwest Siberia and the birthplace of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who invented the iconic AK-47 automatic rifle. That should be a conversation starter, I thought.

I had more than four hours to kill before the train to Samara arrived, and Albert proved to be a pleasant companion. Albert revealed that he shared a special bond with India. His father had worked with the India magazine which was published in Moscow when the diplomatic relation between India and the Soviet Union was at its peak. The magazine was similar to The Illustrated Weekly of India, offering authoritative insight and opinion on Indian politics, current affairs and movies.

Albert showed me some of the magazine covers―featuring the likes of Lakshmi Devi and Indira Gandhi―stored on his mobile phone. India ceased publication long back, but the country still holds a special place in his father's heart. He passed his love for India on to Albert as well.

There was a time when theatres across Russia used to screen Indian movies regularly, but the numbers have come down in recent times, laments Albert, who is a fan of Indian cinema. However, he never misses a chance to watch Hindi films on television.

I told him about Rajinikanth's latest movie Kaala that was released in a theatre in Moscow, but he seemed disinterested. Times have changed, but for the Russians, only two Indian actors matter―Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty. Whenever Albert thinks of Indian cinema, Kapoor's Awaara and Chakraborty's Disco Dancer come to mind.

“So who are your favourite actresses?” I asked him. All those who were paired opposite Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty, pat came the reply.

Albert talked about world affairs and Russia in particular. He heaped praise on President Vladimir Putin, crediting him with making Russia a super power. His least favourite president? Mikhail Gorbachev.

The train I was waiting for was about to arrive when I realised that my water bottle was empty. Albert went to his room and brought a bottle of water. I offered him money, but he refused to take it. Then after a pause, he asked if I had any Indian rupees. “I want to gift it to my father!” he said.