Natarajan, a resident of Choolaimedu, lights up when he hears the word ‘Russia’. After all, this is a country which is close to his heart.
A retired foreign service employee, he played a crucial role to promote Tamil culture among Russians during his career in the 1970s and 80s at the Soviet Cultural Centre here in Chennai and other important cities across Russia.
Speaking to News Today, he says, “I was born to a family of farmers in a village near Chidambaram. With great difficulty, I had to pursue my education. I soon moved to Chennai and studied law.”
During this time, he started preparing for the public service exam, as it was the most “common ambition of all youngsters in those days,” according to Natarajan.
He then recalls an incident that changed his path. “I remember reading an article in a newspaper, about a foreign journalist’s perspective about India. I was asking myself, as to how it will feel to travel and learn about other countries,” says Natarajan.
“I soon got inspired to become a cultural ambassador for our land, hoping to get into foreign service.” But it wasn’t easy to realise his dream.
“After finishing my college, it was difficult to find a job,” he recalls. But with hard work, he eventually found a role at the Soviet Consulate in Chennai. “I worked at the trade and book division.” Here, he brought in several Russian books and got them translated in Tamil. “I also had the opportunity to promote Indian literature to many Russians,” he says.
He then shares an unforgettable encounter during one of his travels to Moscow. “I spoke to a Russian in English, but he responded in Hindi,” says Natarajan. “I was shocked and embarrassed at the same time because he spoke fluently and unfortunately, I hardly knew Hindi.”
On the necessity to build rapport with neighbours, he signs off with, “Foreign service helps build a relationship. We should share our traditions and culture with other countries.”