By Galina Valiullina
I was 15 when grand aunt Evgenia Khovanskaya died in 1975, leaving her home to my mother and me since she had no children of her own. Her younger sister was my maternal grandmother. Shortly after, I went to the house we had recently inherited, to sort things out and that was when I discovered letters and photographs of my granduncle, Ivan Dmitriev,
historian and archaeologist and a close friend of Nicholas Roerich, the famous Russian painter. I also discovered India, something that was to change my life forever, in ways I could never imagine.
I noticed a young photographer who was assigned to take photographs of us and our different activities. He looked somewhat strange, a bit like a hippie with his long hair, hoops in his ears, beads around his neck and hands covered with bracelets. What flustered me somewhat was that I often found him staring at me. One day, while I was bathing in the sea, a large breaker crashed over me, toppling me over. Trying balance, I felt a pair of arms lifting me out of water and taking me ashore. It was the photographer. The moment was unreal; he had put his life in danger to save me. My heart skipped a beat and my feelings changed; he did not seem strange any more. We started talking. He told me his name was Sudarsan Gouda.
Sudarsan had to soon leave Gopalpur on work and as we were due to return to Moscow; he said he wouldn’t be there to say goodbye. He presented me with a beautiful coral necklace instead.
On the day of our departure, as we boarded a bus to go to the airport, a young boy came running to tell me that someone was calling me. As I alighted the bus, I found Sudarsan standing. He had left his work so that he could meet me once before I left. I had made several sketches of my impressions of India, but they were all lost on the way from Gopalpur to New Delhi from where we took our flight home.
I reached the city of Cuttack by train and Sudarsan was at the station to receive me with his friends. The rest was like a dream come true. His family and friends were very warm and kind to me. We became engaged and decided to marry soon. I wanted an Indian wedding but Sudarsan had some constraints. I spent two and a half months in Gopalpur living with his two families-natal and adopted. We came to Delhi with just enough money for a one-way ticket to Moscow for Sudarsan. We still needed to get a visa for him. The kind official at the Russian Embassy heard our story and he too offered a free visa with a warning to Sudarsan that he would find it difficult in Moscow if he didn’t know Russian.
We were married on the 30th of October, 1992 and have never looked back. I believe it was our fates to meet and make a life together with ove and mutual respect and support.
With Sudarsan’s complete dedication to our marriage I have been able to indulge in my own creative dreams. I loved to design beautiful clothes. In 2006, I graduated from the School of Fashion Textile Design and now I am both a painter and a textile designer. I also design costumes for the theater, especially Tartar
I am also a member of Creative Artists Union of Russia and International Art Fund. I paint, I stitch, I knit, and I dance to express the deep happiness and fulfillment of my life that I owe to our love and togetherness.
The Russian Dream
From the moment I saw Galia in the midst of a small group of Russians in Hotel Oberoi in Gopalpur, I knew she was special. She held me totally rivetted. I kept coming back to the hotel looking for this young beautiful girl who had blown my senses away. I found every opportunity to speak to her. I was thrilled when she reciprocated, and we began talking and getting to know one another. I had no problems communicating with her, despite her hearing impairment. I simply had to look at her and talk. She would read my lips.
My parents were not opposed to our marriage even though they were worried about us being from two completely different cultures. My problem was that we couldn’t marry in Gopalpur because my two older brothers and my sister were still unwed. It is customary in our part of the world that siblings marry in the order of their respective ages.
In Moscow, she brought me to a place that to my rural Indian eyes, looked like a hotel. ‘I don’t want to stay in a hotel,’ I said. ‘This is my apartment,’ Galia replied. At the front entrance, she made me take the first step into the beautifully decorated apartment in the heart of the city. We continue to live in the same place.