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18 Feb 2013

Foreigners in Belarus: an Indian yoga teacher

Expats in Belarus

 An Indian yoga teacher talking about the Belarusian moonshine, sports and the President  of Belarus

Indian music, the smell of spices and aromas met the correspondent of TUT.BY at a shop of the Ayurveda goods. The new hero of the project "Minsk through the eyes of a foreigner" Bikash Nakhar turned out to be frank, benevolent and smiling, with the internal harmony.

Bikash Nakhar, the teacher of yoga and the seller of the Indian goods, arrived from the Indian city of Calcutta to Minsk 26 years ago.

When I was 13 I left school with good marks in the school leaving certificate. At 18 I was educated as a chemist. After that I entered a second university to study for a psychologist. But I decided to drop out of it. At that time I played chess very well and often took part in different competitions. To compete for a rank of the best player children from all the Soviet Union came there. I communicated with them. So I imparted love for the Russian language in myself and decided to enter a Soviet Union’s university. At first I arrived to Georgia, where I studied for two months at a preparatory department and I realized that this didn’t appeal to me and I had to move to another country. I was the first person among the students of my university who after studying for several months at a preparatory department chose another country and left for it.

 In December of 1986 I found myself in Minsk. The impressions of the city were fantastic. It was about  -30⁰ C outside, there was severe cold. I thought that I would die. I was acclimatizing; I fell ill and was laid up with high temperature.

I thought the country was strict with its laws. But it appeared to be very cozy and nice. I was struck by the benevolence of the Belarusians. They are similar to inhabitants of India in many ways. In spite of the fact that at that time I knew the Russian language poorly, it was very comfortable for me to stay in Belarus.

Moonshine is the Belarusian folk remedy from a headache

I remember one occurrence that happened when I lived in a hostel. Once my neighbor came to me and asked me to help with mathematics cause I am good at mathematics, chemistry, and physics. I said to him:
 - I’m sorry, but I have a splitting headache and I can't help you now.
 - Wait, I’ll help you, I will give you a Belarusian folk remedy that cures everything, - the friend answered.

He brings me a faceted glass and says:
 - Quickly close your nose and drink it at one gulp on one, two, three.
 - But what is it?
 - This is a folk medicine. You will do the yoga then, and now drink.

 I came to my senses only the following day. I woke up in other place, there wasn't neither trousers, a shirt, nor a purse. I didn’t remember anything. It turned out that I was in another room in a hostel.

 My friend came to me and asked:
 - Well, does the head ache any more? Had a good time?

 I was angry with him, and I was aching all over. I have never drunk alcohol before and that was a full glass of moonshine.

 Then I understood that he simply wanted to take care of me and to help. And that was surprising... All my stuff was in place, nothing was lost. He just took me to another room. Local people are very honest, decent and careful. It doesn’t matter how, but they try to take care of you and to do something nice to you.
I am still on friendly terms and communicate with guys I lived with in a hostel and studied at university.

Fellow students taught me cooking the Belarusian dishes, and I taught them how to cook the Indian ones. We had a common kitchen in a hostel. When I prepared food, I never managed to try it. When I came to kitchen I couldn't find my frying pan. It used to disappear constantly. Then I opened the doors and the frying pan was there already empty with a note in it: "Thanks, it was very delicious! Next time when you  cook, give a sign".

I like Belarus very much. Here curious things always happen with me. I can say it is my second motherland. I have a Belarusian wife and two daughters.

 Today I am the citizen of this country. Earlier in order to be admitted to citizenship, it was necessary to stay for 10 years in Belarus. I didn't accept it for a long time because there was no need. But when I started running business in Moscow, I decided that I had to do something with it. In Moscow militia constantly disturbed me and took away all the money. There were some problems at the border. So I realized how it was necessary to be admitted to citizenship. I constantly worked as a translator in the Department of Visas and Registration, in the District Department of Internal Affairs, in Interior Ministry, translated from Indian into Russian and vice-versa. I was an interpreter at litigations. On the whole I speak six languages: Indian, English, Russian, Bengalese, Urdu, Persian. And still I’m asked by the government to help in translating. Not so long ago I helped in translation of a trial in Grodno.

Often the Embassy of India invites me to the Indian holidays, for example, on August 15 – the Independence Day of India.

Yesterday’s Minsk and present-day Minsk are two different cities
 - A great number of things have changed. But now the capital is buttoned-up in architecture. In Grodno there is western style, history and the work of architects is visible.

 Minsk is a very clean city. I have never seen a city as clean as this one. It is very pleasant.

I like the culture of people. I suppose that it is a mix of cultures. The Slavs live in a different way. In spite of the fact that Belarus is mostly inhabited by the Slavs, I daren’t say that the Belarusians are a Slavic nation. I have visited a lot of places in Russia and Ukraine, but everything there is different. Those people are very proud. I can’t say the same thing about the Belarusians - they are kinder and are closer to Indians by nature. A human shouldn't live in pride. If a person lives and thinks this way - so, he doesn't respect himself, the family, the country. At my yoga lessons we speak about it. A human who respects and honours the parents has the inner harmony. At the yoga lessons I teach people how to breathe, to open consciousness, how to respect.

The Belarusians are sympathetic. It’s a marvelous feature. And I believe that in many ways these are genes. They have things to be learned and achieved. You should simply exert yourself.

The favourite place for meditation is Park Chelyuskincev
 If we talk about favourite places, some time ago a milk-bar on Kozlova Street used to be it. I used to abide there when I had time. And the most favorite cinema was situated on Partyzanski prospekt, Indian films were often on there.

 Now I have a heart for Park Chelyuskincev  where I am used to meditate in the summer. Gorky Park is a nice place as well. Previously I liked the Minsk Sea, but now it is polluted.

Some places in Brest region appeal to me. Of all cities I like Grodno, Slonim, Mozyr, Mogilev and Vitebsk most. I always go with the goods to Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk.

Many Indians who visit exhibitions in Belarus like going to clubs. Even without knowledge of the Russian language they feel comfortable there and get somehow. Many Indians and Arabs are coming over here and ask where to go in Minsk. They love entertainments. But such a rest is not my cup of tea. I like places where I can meditate. I have other interests. Besides, such events affect unfavourably on consciousness of a person. Vanity and noise will do no good. Once I went to a disco when I studied at university. A fellow student’s well-connected father organized an evening at her birthday. It was the club in the Planet hotel. And one day I went to the club “Yula” with my daughter, I waited for her after the disco. Many of her friends thought I was her boyfriend.

I used to go to the circus with children. I like going to the ballet. Any dance enriches the unseen of a person. I prefer classical music to pop music. But children like going on such concerts and I never forbid. I do not say "no" to a child. If I can afford it, I will never refuse to children.

In comparison to what was in the country, now things have changed a lot. I think that Belarus changed for the better. Living conditions became better.

 Friends are those who attend my yoga classes
I have a large number of friends in Minsk. But I understand the notion differently from the Belarusians. For me friends are is those who go to my yoga classes. I simply don’t have time to sit in a cafe with friends, to do nothing, play cards.

 Each day is scheduled. In the morning I work at the Komarovsky market, then I work as a translator, besides I get customs clearance for all the goods myself, follow the formal procedure and in the evening I teach yoga courses. I do everything to my heart's content. And yoga for me is not a profession or the way to make money. I am proud that women of 65 years come to my classes. Periodically I’m offered to give lectures, pregnant women ask for advice on keeping healthy according to alternative medicine.
About education

 Education in India and in Belarus is absolutely different. There is a very good education in India. It is the opposite of Belarusian where it is possible to pass or idle something. The Indian education is quoted worldwide. There is a private and free education. But in order to get free education it is necessary to be aces. I studied free everywhere - both in India and in Belarus. The most developed spheres in Indian education are medicine, IT, languages, economics.

I do not eat meat
I am the absolute vegeterian; I do not eat either meat or fish. Therefore the Belarusian potato pancakes appeal to me most. And in general I like Belarusian cuisine. At home my wife and I prepare dishes either from Belarusian, and Indian cuisine.

If I could, I would shake hands with the president
I like sports immensely and still play football. Belarus is ten times less than India, but here sport is developing at rather a high level. Personally I consider that the Belarusian President is good at it. Sport is on a good level. If I had a chance, I would shake hands with him and would say "Thank you for giving such opportunities to the children". Sport is necessary to strengthen the health instead of bringing gold to the country. You succeeded – very well, you didn’t – it’s well, too. It is fortune.

I like such athletes as Maxim Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka. When I have free time I may watch programs about sports or animals on TV.

Nadezhda Naimushina

Translated by Katya Klischuk


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