18 December 2007

Waiting for my flight, unable to sleep, typing up notes...

Sometimes I complain about the food here. Or the difficulties of getting things done in Moscow. Or the political situation.

Well, here’s an excerpt from a letter in the archive to put my grumbling in its place:

14 January 1923
Hotel Lux, Moscow

My Dear Mother, [Evelyn Trent Roy]

[After asking for permission to travel to Berlin to receive wired money from his family, a young Indian explains] ...I want to get that money which will be very useful not only for myself but also for the other boys in the University [KUTV], as the conditions in Moscow are very bad for them. One of the boys Saffdar is so ill that he is being sent to Crimea by the University. The other [illegible] is always complaining about his health and about his head and the reason is lack of food. As regards W… [again, illegible] he is still new, but he also feels it. Now what we get in the University is this. Morning tea without sugar, black bread and sausage. Dinner, cabbage soup, black bread and kasha. Supper, the same as breakfast. Living condition is worse than a military barrack. There are at least thirty beds in a room, and they make so much noise that it is even impossible to sleep after three and to study you can think yourself. Now what they learnt is as follows. Lectures in Oratory only three; political economic 12; history of the workers movement 13; current events 3; and study of Marxism 3. This is all they got since September….

…[Though I] am living on bread butter and tea and that meal is also the cheapest of its kind, I do not complain as I know there are thousands of other people who can not even get that…

…Both of you [Evelyn and MN Roy] are the only persons in this world for whom I care and whom I like so much, and for whose good will I am ready to sacrifice my last thing which I have, i.e. my life. I left my religion which was the most dearest thing, I left my parents and friends. And now if you want my life, I will give it also. I wanted to end it before but comrade Gupta told me not to do it. I am so miserable here and the life is so disgusting that I do not know what to do with it…

Ali Shah

p.s. On a related note, Vijay Prashad sketches some figures from the Gadar Party over at Counterpunch, including a few students who came through Moscow. I don’t completely agree with his political characterizations, for reasons that may be clear to the more politically-minded, discerning readers of the blog, but you’ll find some interesting tidbits in his piece nonetheless.