We recently celebrated 50 years of my Alma Mata, Patrice Lumumba Friendship University, Moscow, a unique university where people from 150 odd countries study. I was asked to speak, when I started to gather my thoughts, they took the form of a poem:

The Land of Dreams


Some where in the labyrinth of my mind

Tucked far away, is a fairyland of kind, is

A dreamland of sorts; a dream that was my reality

A reality, I lived ten years long, now so far

Yet, every year, every moment, every day

Is etched fine like filigree or mosaic, in

the insula and gyri of my brain…


The boulevard strewn with autumn leaves

 Of all hews, red, orange, yellow and green

Crunch under my feet, as I rush to a rendezvous

With my beloved of youth, fresh and green,

My heart races fast, and the blast of cold wind

Sends shivers down my spine, more from passionate heat,

 Of love, than from the icy chill of Siberian sleet…


My mind takes a turn, and the pristine snow, soft

like a quilt under my feet, reminds of a sensation sweet

The snow covered thatched roofs of pod-Moscoviyay

like a Christmas card flash before my minds eye

And somewhere beyond that, I think of you with a sigh…

When the snow out side would smile benevolently

As I would melt in the warmth of your arms…


Spring came and made me aware, of every green bud

that would sprout on the blackened cold boughs,

Something I took for granted in my own land

Did not realise the green grass and its worth…

And every bird that chirruped sounded so sweet to me

Announcing and heralding in the Spring, when

It would wake up and start nursing its hatchlings


Snow would melt, create slush on the ground,

Small rivulets that would run all around

Everything would come suddenly to life, and

Our youthful hearts would sing: spring, spring

“Vecna , Vecna! Para lubvee’’… Ecenin we loved

And Isadora Dunken made us sigh

 at her plight and her short lived life…


Then the years of maturity, when we started

to question, God’s existence and His creativity…

When science took precedence over all

as we poured over our books till wee hours…

the music of Swan Lake floated in, and Giselle

Spartacus, and Nutcracker reigned…

MXAT, Na Tagankay and Bolshoi rocked…

We, ourselves in Russki culture forgot…


And what struck us most was the honesty,

The self-search, the questioning of meaning of life,

The universal brother-hood and sacrifice

Alas all things of past now, in our own lives…

That every body had food to eat, house to live in

 A job and opportunity to work,

Seemed all things from a dream world

But, we have seen it with our own eyes

And know it is true, though it did not survive…


And the nights when we burnt the midnight-oil

Staying up, trying hard to study, the grind

We studied hard and played hard by day

Not a theatre in town went without our visit

Not a restaurant, was left where we did not drink

The sparkling champagne was the order of the day

Occasional Bloody Mary, the Pivo, the wines

We tasted all- that was divine…


Self-realisation was another big boon

Of studying in a far off land, away from

The watchful eyes of protective parents

Neighbours, relatives, of our families and clans

That made us self-reliant, confidant and bold,

The power of knowledge still stands its own

We are all today professionals to core…


We were taught to question: Why and How?

Get to bottom of every concept, not learn by rote,

If we did not understand anything

We could stand up and ask question without fear,

If with something we did not agree,

We could argue with our teachers freely.

This invoked in us the spirit of inquiry,

Taught us not to follow anyone blindly

Have a scientific approach to life

To think and to act logically …


We work hard and honestly, understand

Human predicament conscientiously…

We have a feeling for the poor in our hearts,

This we learnt in our University’s ramparts…

We share our knowledge extensively

Are generous to fault, a good quality…

This, and many more qualities, we imbibed

In the country, of our learning, in our Alma Mater- life…


That we studied with student from 100 odd countries,

A unique opportunity offered by our university,

(Which I am told is one of its kinds in this world)

Made us sensitive to each others’ needs

With so many dialects, and different speech,

The language of heart, we learnt to speak

the language of universal brotherhood indeed…


That all men are equal, we learnt here

in the corridors of UDN of Moscow,

That there no cast, no religion, no creed,

That every one is human we all agreed

That every one has a right to education, to eat

That every one has a right to work, to feed

His family, his dependents, his community


We all fell in love in this land

Found our spouses, our soul mates in this land

A husband Panamanian, with an Indian wife

An Indian husband found an Argentinean wife

An Indian girl found a husband in an Angolan boy

Another Indian girl married a Russian boy

A Chinese and an Arab become spouses here

They are all my friends and will bear me out….


That Moscow changed our lives completely

There no denying the fact and its validity

It affected every one in some way or the other

It made us more humane, more tolerant, more discreet…


Moscow has made me what I am today:

A doctor, a poet, an artist, a mother

 A complete human being…

That is at least, what I would like to think…

Though Ghalib has said, it is not easy

to be a human being, and not merely be a man,

it seems, is hardest feat to achieve

But, I try even now, every day, to be as human as I can be…




Author: Zoya Zaidi

Aligarh (UP), India

Copyright ©: Zoya Zaidi



Modified on 11.02.2010


Poetry by Zoya Zaidi
Read 792 times
Written on 2010-02-18 at 06:23

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Stan Cooper The PoetBay support member heart!
Zoya...What a marvelous poem...what a marvelous time in your
life...as usual, you deserve an A+

xxx Stan

The picture is magical and that certainly seems to have been your experience of time spent at a unique university. It tells of so much more than university and study, a snapshot of a happy time in your life. I'm sure your audience enjoyed your speech, I certainly enjoyed the poetic form.

Vince Blake
Though this poem reflects on life experiences far beyond those to which I could feasibly understand after my relatively sequestered 21 years of existence, I hope I am not precluded from saying that you related them all beautifully and captured a great wisdom in this poem.