Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The Il 96 form Delhi touché down with barely a whisper in almost zero visibility on the main runway of Shermavtyo airport just as thefirst snow of the season have started covering the seat of Russianpower and authority , in a delicate but harsh winter blanket . Duringthe 6 hrs flight watched with care signs of loose seat and overhead bins, noisy engine, bad air conditioning and food – could find none.The Russian wide bodied jet is quieter than 747 and the food wasample .The seat arrangement of 3x3 made for comfortable long hauljourney was effective. A fellow Indian passenger informed me quietly "Aeroflot flights are rarely cancelled or delayed because of badweather -something to do with its military type design " .
The immigration was quick and efficient and so was the customs and was out of the terminal in about 30 minutes after some money change at thepresent rate of 24.56 to a US Dollar and into the bitter cold winds ofMoscow street .The difference with US was stark -like in Detroit allIndian visitors are treated as potential terrorist or illegalimmigrant –thankfully the Russians do not think so. And of course thesecurity procedure is same for Russians and Non Russians allthroughout –unlike in US where non US particularly Asian citizens are separated out for" special treatment ".
Moscow is a beautiful city even in winter. And very expensive too .Butthe high cost of living has a distinct pattern .Residential rent isastronomical at about 1200 US for a 600 ft apartment in the outskirts and may be as high as 3000 US in up market complexes. Food and Petrolis reasonable .Petrol retailing at 21-23 R per liter and food pricesabout 30% higher than similar items in Indian food malls .Cigarettesare cheaper by 25% and Vodka well you can guess.Co incidentally it was also the time when our PM was visiting theRussian capital and the deal on MTA and Lunar mission was signed .Thenews made headline news on TV and main news papers and I had to explain some jokingly that yours truly did not travel Air India One .
The conference on cryogenics was like any other internationalconference .Some of the interesting papers on superconductivity andair separation was presented in Russian and that made understanding them a trifle difficult.Travelling within Moscow city is expensive rather very expensive ifyou travel by taxi and the charges can be anywhere between 500-2000 Rwhere as a 100R all day ten entry pass allows you to travel unlimited by the superbly designed metro network in form of radials withcircumferential connector or rings.
The Moscova River is scenic even when it is freezing over and gives anunique character to the city along with its massive square building and old churches interspaced with more modern Shanghai type skyscrapers coming up in between .Igor travelled 1000 kms approximately to be with me and he took me allover the metro network to show the real Moscow and also an evening with a new generation Russian family which was very enjoyable .Thevisit to air-space museum was the crown point of the visit .
ThankfullyIgor was with me since all the specification boards were in Russian.The exhibits includes rare photographs of all most all Russian air and space crafts and the photos of the aviation pioneers like who isimmortalized by the series MIG/Sukhoi/Illuysin/Antonov/Kamov .Cut awaysections of aero engines and missiles were very informative too .Ended the tour with a customary visit to Kremlin and Red square .Purchased a load of Russian aviation books particularly those on Tu160 /Mig 29 AND Su 27 –Shall try to share some of the interestingdetails in International military aviation page over the next fewweeks –may be you will find them interesting. All through the visit –there was one common factor I noticed –it isthe special way Russians treat Indians ,despite language barrier anddespite skin color difference .
They do consider as good friends irrespective and this is all across the society spectrum from cab drivers to hotel receptionists to cryogenic scientists to food mallassistants .The warmth was unmistakable . Also I noticed –Russians don't treat Chinese the same was –in fact they are sometimes quite rude with them -even if they are much bigger trading partners.Russians are strong by nature -physically, mentally and emotionallyand it comes out in the way they walk, talk and behave .Sometimes that creates the impression of rudeness but once you get to understand them –you can feel the inner warmth of soul for someone special like us.And one last thing but not the least – Russian women are exceptionallybeautiful but rarely smile ,but when they do –it can surely light up your day .

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