“The world is rushing ahead. The ones who run faster will reach first,” said the third contestant in the first row at the Miss Kerala beauty pageant’s talent round held 13 years ago. The Thrissur native got the runners-up title that year.
Once the crowd melted away, the same girl was asked about the fashion trends in New York. Not just in America, there are fashion malls in Africa as well, she reminded you. Years later, she became a household name in Malayalam cinema, starred in several noteworthy films, and donned many bold characters. Recently she was seen with partner Aashiq Abu in the streets of Moscow. Rima Kallingal tells us about her great Russian sojourn.
Did you visit all the places in Russia?
We were there for 15 days. Along with Moscow, we also travelled through St Petersburg. The lockdown has been really suffocating and we were dying to travel and so planned this trip once restrictions were eased. Russia was the only country that allowed Indians during that time. During the first stage of Covid, Russia had already been vaccinated with Sputnik and therefore was relatively safer. So even when the rest of the world had closed its doors to tourists, Russia had kept it open.
Moscow is a city that comes with all the trappings of a cosmopolitan landscape. Very fast-paced life. St Petersburg is also a cosmopolitan city. They can be described as vibrant cities. Baikal trail is an hour’s drive from St Petersburg. The Baikal freshwater lake is there. The trans-Siberian roadways pass through the side of the lake. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t visit that place. Those who are visiting Russia should never miss this Trans-Siberian trip. We are already planning another trip to the Trans-Siberian which borders China and Russia.
How many countries have you visited so far?
We have travelled to 30 countries. In Latin America, we have only seen Mexico. Though we haven’t yet visited New Zealand and Australia. We have travelled to all the other continents. My favourite country is Italy and we have taken road trips to most of the places there. Those trips were all with my girlfriends. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen the famous Dolomites mountain and Southern Italy. Ever since I read in schoolbooks about Sicily and Naples, I have always wanted to see them. Hopefully planning another trip to Italy to visit Sicily and Naples.
What attracted you most about Russia?
Whichever country I go to, I tend to notice the women there. I think it’s fascinating to just see how each country treats its women. When it comes to Russia, I was glad to discover that they are the face of Russia. I was bowled over by their confidence, self-esteem, and courage. They take great care to uphold the country’s culture and traditions. At the same time, Russian women are very fashion-conscious. Their clothes are charming and unique. And they can pull off any outlandish costume with elan. I think they have an eye for beauty.
As for the food, cheese is an integral part of Russian cuisine. I loved their Georgian dishes. They use a lot of sauces and masalas and it’s extremely delicious. Georgian food is quite appropriately an expression of the culture. Warm, gooey comfort food like khachapuri (cheese-stuffed bread) finds balance with matsoni (yogurt). Herbs like tarragon, flat parsley, dill, and coriander combine with walnuts and garlic for rich fillings and sauces.
Were there trips or travel experiences that weren’t as pleasant?
In Europe, it was a bit uncomfortable to be stared at. The stare was clearly hinted at our skin colour. Racism is very prevalent there. Having said that it's not fair to generalize a country or its people just because a few people had such a racist mentality. Sensible thing is to ignore the stares and move on.
Did you encounter similar issues in Moscow?
In Moscow, I had a verbal fight with an ice cream seller. It was my English that irked him. He thinks those who can’t speak Russian are ignorant people. But the next day, when we got into a taxi, we had a different experience. The driver was a woman, and she was so respectful and kind towards me. And we quickly became friends. Her name was Rita. We even took a picture together.
Did you buy any souvenirs from Russia?
We brought a few postcards from the Fyodor Dostoevsky museum. He is a famous Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. His literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes. His most acclaimed novels include Crime and Punishment, Demons, and The Brothers Karamazov. We are planning to frame it. We also brought a lot of T-Shirts. We were keen on buying Russian dolls (to non-Russians, the matryoshka, or nesting doll, is one of the most quintessential representations of traditional Russian peasant life. It is a small wooden doll, almost perfectly cylindrical, painted to resemble a peasant woman in a traditional sarafan dress holding a rooster) but kept postponing the buy thinking we will find something better. And came back without buying any dolls. It’s ok we are going back again.
Russian Travel info
Russia is stringing together a lot of its ancient cities and forming a golden ring. The Golden Ring is the name given to the chain of ancient towns lying to the north and east of Moscow. It is one of the oldest Russian routes. There are many interesting ancient Russian cities and towns along the way, full of history and unique Russian architecture of the XVII-XVII centuries. Two days are quite enough to get an idea about the entire Golden Ring route, though you won't have much time to relax in Russian nature and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of rural Russia. This is their way of inviting tourists to Russia. They have divided it into Cultural tourism, Museum, Health tourism, Winter tourism, Medical tourism, and religious tourism.
Uniqueness: Russia is the world’s largest country
Other languages spoken: English, Italian, Turkish
Currency: Ruble (1 Russian Ruble equals 1.02 Indian Rupee)
There are 23 heritage buildings in Russia that fall under the UNESCO World Heritage. sites.
Moscow City Tour: Space Museum of Cosmonautics (dedicated to space exploration), Red Sq and St Basils Cathedral (an Orthodox church in Red Square of Moscow and is one of the most popular cultural symbols of Russia), Moscow river cruise, circus show (there are two resident circuses in Moscow, Circus Nikulin on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, and the Bolshoi Circus (bolshoi means big, in Russian) on Vernadsky Avenue, Lenin Mausoleum (resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin), Czar Ben-Czar canon visit, Metro tour, World war museum
Moscow-St Petersburg tour: Russian Vodka tour, Nicolas Palace, Russian folk-art exhibition, Hermitage palace, Peter and Paul Fort, Grand Palace, Catherine Palace
Visa: You can travel through a Russian single-entry Visa. There are several tour packages available.
From Nedumbasherry Airport, you will get several connecting flights to Moscow International Airport. In tour packages, you will get economy tickets.
For a Russian trip (5 days and 4 nights) it will cost you 1 and a half lakh per person. The money will vary according to the flight ticket rates, Hotel room, and season.