As I got on to the train for Moscow at St. Petersburg station, my mother sent me an SMS that read as follows:
So you are on the train, must be full of suspicious people. I am so worried!
Mothers do worry. As I looked around, the train did not have a single suspicious person. They were people like me. Most
of them busy with their electronic gadgets. Some already asleep, some getting ready to sleep.
The train crew did not understand what I was saying but was willing to do anything to make me comfortable. I had the
most memorable journey.
Mothers worry. If they did not, they would not be mothers.
It is not only my mother. I have discovered that my fondness for Russia has invoked quite a few questions from my
friends too. Most of them have been unable to comprehend my fascination with Russia.
When I went to Russia the first time, I had expected men and women in dark fur coats who did not smile. I had expected
frowning and screaming people. I had expected immigration people who would not look at me, but would deport me.
I had expected the hotels to be dark and without much food. I had thought a walk in the town was unthinkable. I also
imagined that the shops would not have anything. Taxis were not to be trusted but then no one was to be trusted in
Politics were not to be discussed. American and European channels were banned. Everything would be black or red!
I was proved wrong. You can walk in the middle of the night in Kremlin and no one will say anything. You can discuss
politics in cafes and you are not arrested. You can find any type of shops in Russia. It has every colour building. It
is like a fairy tale and not a ghost story.
Its people just like many other people want to get on with lives, want a future for themselves and their children.
Does it sound familiar? Does it sound like a story of Pakistan or any country in war with perceptions?
I could feel an empathy with the people of Russia. Just like us, Pakistanis, they need a visa for every place in the
world almost. Just like us, they are misunderstood. Just like us they are interrogated at the immigrations around the
world. Just like us, their whole country is considered dangerous. Just like us, they are fighting a battle against
biases and perceptions.
And yet I went to Russia with my perceptions and biases.
So may years of living in a country that has battled perception and biases, I should have challenged perceptions and
biases. Wonder why did I not?