INDIAN GIRL IN 1956 BUDAPEST
Giti, an artist, from New Delhi sent me this email in response writes:
It was in the autumn of 3 decades ago that someone from one of the communist parties in India(cpi) saw me playing Table Tennis. Subsequently, I received an invitation to go to Moscow for a youth exchange festival. It was to be my first port of entry to Europe via Tashkent and Samarkand. The flight was marked by a single symbolic offering - a rotten decaying banana.
On landing, the passports were taken away – no visas – no arrival or departure stamps. As if everything could be erased out. Impervious masculine faces, no traces of emotion. Only one anomaly. A small Russian woman, possibly in her fifties, a sensitive face marked by glaring pain. Her long warming gaze searched the 17 year old who too was the exception to the indian ‘youth’ delegation -a political contingent of mainly despicable middle aged men. Many of whom came for the brothel services and vodka that the empire then provided. . . .
The endless routine of parrotlike ranting speeches of freeing the masses - be it from here, be it from there - from the supposed tyranny of counter revolutionaries and suchlike. The stench of protocol was everywhere – a uniform characteristic that marked the almost empty streets and homogenized architecture. Even the mummifyied Lenin emitted this all prevailing stench.
The gloomy cold, grey darkening sun seemed to completely envelop. It was a cat and mouse game to find some back door to escape.
The local Indian students conducted their business – 40 roubles for Indian sunglasses but even the rouble had little to no exchange worth, the middle aged men paid the blonde girls with red American lacy panties and dollars. But the biggest luxury was communication. Impossible to even exchange a meaningful word, a warming smile and an eye that meets the eye. Only fear and carefulness from spying eyes breathing down ones back.
It is a proven axiom that in each homogenized mass there is an exception. It was not that the 17 year old exchanged a single word, not even ones names – only the sheer presence of glancing eyes – their open vulnerability.
In October 56 was perhaps one of those wondrous instances of its spirit – its ecstatic collective outpouring as the monolithic creature came tumbling down to cries of ruszkik haza –szabadsag.
But which vulnerability gets broken into smithereens, ruthlessly ploughed over, which gets pacified into pliable mediocrity, which gets fogged into a tunnel of endless despair and which lives on transforming into vintage wine.
Ends are as symbolical are as beginnings. Only the single touch as the russian woman came to me, clasped my hand and squeezed into my palm a small flacon. It was Hungarian perfume breathing the words of Achmatova – Wild honey smells of freedom.
Ephemeral timelessness of empathy.
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