Friday, November 24, 2006

Out in the Cold

The cold war has probably left a bitter taste in everyone's mouth (at least it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth when I read about it in history). I was born in the 1980s; to a generation that didn't understand the implications of the Berlin wall being torn down, or of the USSR disintegrating. In the late 1980s and early 1990s all we cared about were school,games and cartoons. India theoretically maintained what was called 'a non-alignment policy', but it was known and understood that there was a mintue tilt in favour of the Russians.

My memories of the final days of the cold war didn't involve Gorbachev, East Germany, the 'black box with the red button' or political rhetoric. I recall eagerly waiting every week for a glossy childrens' magazine called 'Misha'. I would check the 'snail-mail box' almost everyday and jump with glee when I saw the familiar package that came all the way from the USSR. We paid a meagre INR 4.00 as subscription fee. I remember the touch of the smooth, thick,childproof pages of the magazine. I remember the vivid illustrations, the predominantly Russian theme, the pictures of Russian children, gymnasts, ballerinas, circus artists and plenty of stuff on art and craft. Misha magazine apart, I remember going to a Russian bookstore in Calcutta and buying an adorable book called 'Ragitty and the Cloud'. I remember turning to Ukranian folklore when I decided I had enough of Hans Christen Andersen and The Grimm Brothers.

Then one fine day, it stopped, abruptly. I didn't understand a thing when my parents told me that the USSR had disintegrated. I understood when I reached high school and read the almost 'sugar-coated' account of the cold war in history text books. The images of Misha and Ragitti came flooding back. I couldn't help wondering what happened to all those children whose pictures appeared in the magazine. Most of the countries that once formed the USSR are now impoverished, their people are literally left out in the cold. The cold war did leave a bitter taste; in the form of a faded yet vivid and intense memory.

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