Goa and Greenhouses
Russian Life|November/December 2020
A well-to-do Russian tries to bring his green new ideal to life in a Russian village. Not all goes to plan.
Darya Grebenshchikova

GAGIK GELONYAN WAS AN ONLY CHILD AND HAD everything a respectable family could provide. After graduating with a major in management from the Presidential Academy, he was a runaway success in everything he did, including some things he should have actually run away from. So his doting mamma packed him off to the Institute of Technology in Israel.

All would have been good if he had graduated from that elite school and scored a job as an analyst in a bank somewhere, golden parachute, and all. But no. Instead, Gagik the golden boy set off with a bunch of other equally gilded youngsters for Tibet. Then on to Goa. And after all, that, once he’d found a place in his heart for the teachings of Buddhism, gone vegan, and sprouted a wondrous man bun, he realized that being an analyst was stupid. He had to turn himself around and buck the system.

Time was, someone like that would become a roving mercenary or a pirate. Now they join an ashram or make their home out in the country. Gagik opted for the absolutely exotic step of moving to the Russian countryside. If he’d gone to an Armenian village, that would have been the end of it. After eighteen months in those high mountain pastures, he would have scampered on down to Yerevan, had a shave, bought a Brioni suit, and headed back to Moscow. But a Russian village is something else altogether, because it has diddly squat to offer. No goats, no mountains, no electricity.

Gagik thought of Chekhov, whom he’d never read, and hired on as a village school teacher.

“And what would you be, young fellow?” asked Grandpa Vanya, eyeing the bearded young loiterer outside the school. “A gypsy, I dare say?”

The young women of the village were walking by, hand in hand with children dressed to the nines, it being the First of September, the first day of school, Knowledge Day. There was a lot of side-eye for the bushy-bearded fellow in a peculiar outfit of wide, highwater pants and a colorfully embroidered shirt worn untucked. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he was completely barefoot.

“Lordy, what a bum!” Ninka said to Zinka. “Must have been burned out of house and home.”

“Or he’s a jailbird,” said Zinka to Ninka. “They rob them poor devils blind in the joint. Somebody’s even stolen his boots! If that don’t beat all…”

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