‘Face to face’ with Lenin

by P.C. Sharma

THE world knows Lenin as the greatest revolutionary. He heralded the Bolshevik revolution in Russia when a salvo was fired from the ship Avrova, now harboured in St. Petersburg. My visit to Moscow provided me an exciting prospect of seeing Lenin ‘face to face’ in his Mausoleum.

The imposing walls of Kremlin, the river Moscova frozen in patches, grand Red Square, Bolshoi Theatre a little distance away, Russian soldiers, wrapped in long winter coats — this is the ambience that surrounds the mausoleum. Wide roads of Moscow with stately buildings on either side all add to the unique position that this city enjoys as one of the best capitals in the world.

For me it was a heroic effort to wait in the queue for the ticket. I got the real feel of Moscow winter and snow. The snow did not bother so much as the wind which pushed the chill to the bones. For a person not used to such a weather, both thinking and movement get immobilised. The mausoleum outside the Kremlin wall facing the Red Square is a featureless piece of architecture, totally “unadorned”, holding in its deep, dark, underground womb “one of the chosen company of world’s immortals”.

Head without any cover, a cautious, noiseless walk down the dark layers of steps took me to the glass casket kept on a raised rectangular platform, high enough to afford the visitors a full view of Lenin’s body. The body is covered almost up to the chest in a thick satin cloth, leaving only his face, his hands and head visible. Is it because these were the parts of his persona that played the prime role in heralding the Bolshevik revolution and carrying it forward?

A remarkably unlined face with shining Russian complexion made radiant by the light focused on it fixes your gaze on the visage of this “beloved comrade”. The face is exactly one has seen in Lenin’s pictures with a tuft of hair donning his chin, the silky growth that fringes his upper lip, his big eyes, known for being “penetrating and detecting the moods of the masses” were closed under sharp, well-formed eye-brows. His huge head, its broad front — a sculptor’s delight — holds you in awe of this great revolutionary.

All the visible features engage you instantaneously: a sharp nose suggesting Lenin’s extraordinary intellect, hands so delicate and manicured suggest a man of sensitivity and refinement. His right hand looked as though half-clenched holding his thumb slightly inside under his fingers, conveying his inflexible determination to lead and liberate workers from the shackles of a miserable life and rid them of exploitation and poverty they had been suffering under the Tsars.

The collars of his shirt appear well tailored. A spotted tie, the cuff ends and his jacket sleeves give the impression that he dressed well. What is missing — or not visible — is his inevitable waistcoat. In fact, what you get to see most is his huge bald head. Perhaps only such a head could hold the mighty turbulence and turmoil it went through before and during the revolution. The hair around his baldness is silky, scanty and brownish.

Seeing only this bit of Lenin/there is no end to guessing what kind of a man he was. His friend Gorky describes him as a humane person. He was fond of playing chess, loved music and always laughed loudly. Here in a beautiful glass casket, a rare serenity resting on his face, it appeared to me that he was in deep thought or meditation over “what has happened to my revolution, what has happened to communism”!

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