In a flurry of festivity

9 March 2016 Nidhi Balachandran
An Indian woman in Moscow writes back home on how Women’s Day is celebrated in Russia and how it feels different from the way women in India celebrate the day.
The owners of the Gorky Park rink have a special gift for their female guests this International Women’s Day: they can skate for free on Mar. 8. Credit: RIA Novosti
The festivities in Russia carried on over a four day long weekend for Woman’s day, 8th of March. Source: RIA Novosti


It’s me again, caught in a flurry of Russian festivities!

My day began with the usual cup of oolong and the morning news on Russia’s channel one. Among the top stories, alongside politics in Syria and Kiev, was news about International Woman’s Day. The festivities in Russia carried on over a four day long weekend for Woman’s day, 8th of March. What caught my eye (or rather ear) was a phrase in Russian which I am loosely translating: “March 8 is a very important test for men, the importance of which they begin to understand while still in nursery school, where they have to choose gifts for their female co-students on this day.”

The news went on to show that flower markets in Moscow have witnessed traffic jams all this week, perfume shops saw a sharp peak in business, with men thronging to the shops to buy gifts for their women. News featured men buying impressive bouquets to be ready on the morning of the big day, March 8, with flowers.  

The form the International Women’s Day has taken in Russia stumps my Indian sensibilities. In India, I remember, it is a fun day to celebrate emancipation, beauty and the very substance of being a woman. Girls spend the day shopping, going to the movies or cafe with other girlfriends. It’s more of a “we don’t need men to be happy” day. It is a true celebration of womanhood and independence.

It is rather sad to see a different face of this ‘festival’ here in Moscow, where there are flower and jewellery shops that work 24/7. It is a pressure on men for they must congratulate their women apart from mother, sister, friends and colleagues. It is like a second Valentine’s day, only worse, because the onus to make your woman happy rests solely on the man. On the flip side of it, there are single Russian girls I know who worry that they may not receive flowers and gifts on this day, defeating the very purpose of woman’s day. In Russia, the day has completely lost the political and human rights theme assigned to it by the United Nations Organization.

I wonder why this day is so different in Russia and in India. Is it because the women in Russia are already emancipated and the only thing they need is loving? And we Indian women are already blessed with strong marriages and the love of extended families that we could do with some freedom?

Let me know your thoughts on the matter. Meanwhile, I will go make myself some lunch, get that manicure and admire my vases so filled with those gorgeous Women’s Day tulips.

So long,


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