“i’m kolya!” he exclaimed happily. When Kolya imparted this good news, my friends and I were having breakfast in a small café overlooking the Arabian Sea in Arambol, in the Indian state of Goa. Kolya was holding a surfboard and appeared completely unfazed by the fact that just a moment before we had been strangers. He was ready to share his greatest treasure, the secret of his joy. “I’m leaving tomorrow,” he told us. “But it’s okay, I’m coming back, for good.”
We were happy for Kolya. He reminded us of all the other Kolyas (and Petyas and Sashas and their female counterparts) who had followed the same path: they came to India “to have a look,” and fell in love forever. In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I, too, am one of them. For two years now I’ve been coming to this mystical land, first for three months at a time, then for six.
I used to be surprised by café menus that featured Russian translations, but now I understand that Indians have long since treated Russians like family. We say, in our broken English, “Hello, my friend,” and they answer in their broken Russian, “privyet, kak dela?” We communicate in some instinctive language, which requires absolutely no knowledge of proper English – assuming, of course, that you have no intention of studying or working here.
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