Recently I was in Moscow, Russia. The day I went to the Park was Sunday. It was drizzling and cold, though it was summer. I was standing under an umbrella and enjoying the beauty. Suddenly, my eyes fell on a young couple. It was apparent that they had just got married. The girl was in her mid-twenties, slim and blond hair and blue eyes. She was very beautiful. The boy was almost the same age and very handsome. He was in a military uniform. The bride was wearing a white satin dress, decorated with pearls and pretty laces. Two young bridesmaids were standing behind her holding up the hem of the gown, not to get dirtied. One young boy was holding an umbrella over their heads so that they should not get drenched.
The girl was holding a bouquet and the two were standing with their arms linked. It was a beautiful sight. I wondered why they had come to the Park in this rain soon after getting married.
I watched as they walked together to the dais near the Memorial, placed the bouquet, bowed their heads in silence, and slowly walked back.
By now I was curious to know what was going on. There was an old man standing with them. He looked at me, my sari, and asked, ‘Are you Indian?’
I replied, ‘Yes, I am an Indian.’
We began chatting amicably. I decided to use the opportunity to ask some questions.
‘How do you come to know English?’ ‘Oh, I worked abroad.’
‘Please tell me why that young couple visited the War Memorial on their wedding day?’ ‘Oh, that is the custom in Russia. The wedding takes place normally on a Saturday or a Sunday. Irrespective of the season, after signing the Register at the marriage office, married couples must visit the important national monuments nearby. Every boy in this country has to serve in the military for a couple of years at least. Regardless of his position, he must wear his service uniform for the wedding.’
‘Why is that?’ ‘This is a mark of gratitude. Our forefathers have given their lives in various wars Russia has fought. Some of them we won and some we lost, but their sacrifice was always for the country. The newly-married couple needs to remember they are living in a peaceful, independent Russia because of their ancestors’ sacrifices. They must ask for their blessings. Love for the country is more important than wedding celebrations. We elders insist on continuing with this tradition whether it be in Moscow, St.Petersburg or any other part of Russia. On the wedding day they have to visit the nearest War Memorial.’
This set me wondering about what we teach our children. Do we Indians have the courtesy to remember our martyrs on the most important day of our lives? We are busy shopping for saris, buying jewellery and preparing elaborate menus and partying in discos. My eyes filled with tears at the thought and I wished we could learn a lesson from the Russians.
– By Sudha Murty, Infosys Foundation
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