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Ruskaiya Bluda (Russian Dish)

Reviewed by Aynun Nahar Esha

Published : Saturday, 30 March, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1064

Ruskaiya Bluda (Russian Dish)

Ruskaiya Bluda (Russian Dish)

“Ruskaiya Bluda (Russian Dish)", published in 2021, is a delightful Bangla book that takes readers on a rollicking ride through author Sherza Tapons experiences during the turbulent dissolution of the Soviet Union. Far from the grim picture painted by Western propaganda, Russia emerges as a vibrant country of culture and quirks, offering more than just vodka shots.

Back in 1991, Tapon, a student in his youthful days, found himself amidst the ruins of what was once the mighty USSR. He rather witnessed the contrasting reactions of the youth, embracing change with excitement, while the older generation mourned the loss of a socialist utopia.

Despite its culinary title, "Russian Dish" is anything but a cookbook. Instead, it serves up a blend of anecdotes covering everything from abacuses to gypsies, from compelling drinks to Soviet-era radio jokes. Tapons tales whisk readers from pondering potatoes to puffing Marlboro cigarettes in the back of Soviet airplanes alongside bemused air hostesses. Its a compact read, easily consumed in one sitting-preferably with a cup of tea (or vodka, anyone?)
Originally born from the depths of the Bangla blogosphere, posted in, these musings found their way into print, preserving Tapons adventures for a wider audience. The book kicks off with "Nijavenni Sovietski, Unforgettable Soviet," recounting Tapons frosty arrival in Russia, greeted by bone-chilling winters that make airport terminals feel like Arctic outposts. Yet, despite the initial chill, Tapon quickly discovers the warmth of Russian hospitality. He regales readers with tales of generosity, where even a stranger wouldn think twice about sharing a cigarette and might even light it for you with a smile. As Tapon aptly puts it, "Imagine a stunning Russian beauty asking you for a cigarette-sheer perfection!"
But as the narrative unfolds, we also glimpse the less glamorous side of post-Soviet Russia-a chaotic landscape where the cracks of dissolution run deep.

Once he rode in a taxi, and the driver gestured towards Buraan, the once-mighty Soviet space shuttle now resting in Gorki Park. Its colossal presence spoke volumes of the Soviet Unions former pride in the space race during the Cold War era. Yet, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that pride now lay dormant. What was once a symbol of technological prowess had become a mere tourist attraction, left to decay due to lack of maintenance and insufficient funding.

It was a tender reminder of how swiftly the tides of history can turn.And then there was Antonov, the giant airplane, another testament to Soviet engineering prowess. Yet, it too shared the same fate, now relegated to a junkyard, a shadow of its former glory.

The imagery recalls Rabindranath Tagores evocative description of Soviet society in his "Russias Letter," penned back in 1930. Tagore likened it to a man with a gold button adorning his torn attire-a poignant metaphor for the stark contrast between the outward symbols of grandeur and the underlying realities of decay and neglect. However, life is not all sunshine and butterflies. Let us conclude the review with a popular Soviet joke which was even shared by former president Ronald Reagan before a crowd. And it goes like this: An American explains to a Russian that the United States is a truly free country because he can stand in front of the White House and shout "To hell with Ronald Reagan!" The Russian says that this is nonsense because he can easily stand in Red Square and shout "To hell with Ronald Reagan." Hail mother Russia!

The reviewer is a student of economics, University of Dhaka

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