Nikita is the other side of any given line in time

Baji J. Ram Rao
18:50 +0530 Tue. 02-Jul-2013

Betreten nur mit Ausweis gestattet !
It means: Entry only with ID permitted!
Sounds more forbidding in communist Germany (GDR)

Takes me back to the winter of 1986.

I was just 29 years old, and had just purchased the second car in my life, a fast powerful 2-litre Ford Taunus coupe with a vinyl roof, and driven through the ice and snow from Rotterdam to spend Christmas with my friends in Oosterbeek (near Arnhem), the Netherlands.

1977 Ford Taunus

It was a wintry snowbound Sunday early morning.
Here I was, sipping rum, watching this video on satellite TV (which we didn’t have in 1986 in Bombay).

It was the music video, “Nikita” (from Ice on Fire) by Elton John.

About the longing of a western tourist (Elton John) for a girl who’s a communist bloc military guard.
He regularly crosses the border post into Communist Europe. One of the guards is Nikita (a light eyed girl -- actress: Anja Major).

The video opens to a long shot of a bitterly cold snow-bound Berlin wall; in the foreground, a snowfield strewn with anti-tank czech-hedgehogs; in the background, Nikita marching her ten-soldier-squad to stamp out the bitter cold.
Sir Elton John is in his own Tudor-red 1985 Bentley Continental convertible.
He has a Nikon FM2 SLR camera (black-version) with MD-12 motor drive and a zoom lens. He shoots color slides of her, to fawn over privately at home.

The lyrics ask, if she ever “counts the stars at night?”
He says, “if there ever comes a time, when guns and gates no longer hold you in, and if you’re free to make a choice just look towards the west and find a friend !”

She daydreams, that he takes her out dancing, and to a football game, a game of chess at home, out bowling.
“Ma’am! We need you on the radio!” One of the younger soldiers hurries up, salutes, and almost grabs the passport from Nikita’s hand before she can slip the letter into her coat pocket. “I’ll take over here, ma’am.”
Nikita goes, and doesn’t look back.

Click on image to play video in

She doesn’t get much sleep that night, borrowing a Russian-English dictionary on the pretense of having to fill out yet more boring forms in triplicate for her western counterpart on the other side of the border. No one ever really cares about forms. The letter is mercifully short, and even with Nikita’s imperfect English, it’s clear what it is: her first ever love letter.

She won’t think about it, can’t think about it, but she takes the stairs to the roof three at a time until she can feel the icy wind on her face as it shakes her to her senses. How had he known? That’s the most worrying thing. Does it show, somehow, shine out even through the dull grey uniform?

But no. It has to be a stab in the dark.
A crazy maniac from the decadent, immoral West, who… who probably writes letters to every good looking Russian female he sees.
It might even be a CIA plan. They’re always trying the strangest things.
It’s a plot to sow discord in the ranks.

Nikita sits down on a raised section of the roof, the snow barely even melting beneath her.
The night sky is clear, stars almost as bright as they had been from her family’s farm.
She counts them while she catches her breath, makes herself calm down. She’s at step no. 45 before the thought occurs to her:

What if it’s real?

They’ve barely exchanged ten words, none of them personal, but stranger things have happened.
Nikita’s own uncle had fervently claimed that he’d fallen in love with his wife just by seeing her across a crowded room.
Nikita might not be the most brilliantly beautiful in East Berlin, but her aunt hadn’t been a great prize either. And…

Suddenly she wants more than anything to get the westerner into a room, to ask him everything, to find out if he had meant the words in the letter.
But what if he had?

If he had… Nikita is still a soldier in the Soviet Army, and this is still East Berlin.
She barely sleeps, going through the usual procedures the next morning with bleary eyes and an even foggier mind until the westerner arrives.
It’s difficult to miss him: red car, black jacket with, inexplicably, golden stars all over it.

“Passport please,” Nikita says briskly. Then, once it’s safely in her hand: “How did you know?”
The radio is still blaring, and there’s a moment when she’s sure that the westerner either hasn’t heard her, or doesn’t understand her meaning.
“You’re the only one who ever says ‘please’,” the westerner says. “And you look absolutely divine in that uniform.”

Nikita keeps her eyes on the passport. It’s difficult. “I dream about you last night,” she says, and those words are the single most unprofessional thing she’s ever done in his life.
She can feel the bite of adrenaline, the sting of fear, but most of all it feels good.”
“I had a dream about us too,” the westerner says. “Nikita…”

And the passport is snatched out of her hand, her superior barking admonishments at her for holding up the line, for fraternizing with the Amerikaner.
Nikita retreats back to the safety of the watchtower just as the westerner protests in an amused tone: “Actually, I’m from Watford.”

There’s plenty for Nikita to do, plenty to worry about: ten men under her command, the icy roads, the bitter cold, the processed meat for lunch, the remaining months she’ll spend here in East Berlin.
There’s no reason at all for her to think of the westerner once his car has passed through the barricade and disappeared up winding streets.

Where does he go? Who is he, in his life beyond the border, on the other side of the line? And what had he really expected from this frozen soldier whose life can be measured out in the steps of the men who patrol the gates?
The snow is falling again, and Nikita pulls her collar up as high as it can go, stuffs her hands in her pockets, fingers rustling against the love letter.

She pulls it out and tears it to shreds, stamping it into the snow, obliterating the words with her heel.
Whatever he answers, she can’t bear thinking about.

Nikita will never know !