A Russian tourist was found begging on the streets of Chennai for a bizarre reason. Claiming to have had a vision from Lord Shiva, 24-year-old Evgenii Berdnikov said that he was instructed to beg by the divinity. He also said that he would continue to do so.
Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle, police said that the tourist claimed, "I am a devotee of the Lord (Shiva). I wish to travel across the country."
Mambalam police found him loitering on Venkata Narayana road on Friday morning and took him to the police station for questioning. He told the police that travelling was his passion and that he wished to study about the various monuments in India. A senior police officer said, "He claimed that he is in T. Nagar to meet his friend, Ankit, a customs department official. We would be contacting Ankit to verify if the foreigner’s claims are true."
However, other police sources said that the customs officer met him only on Thursday at a Gurudwara in T Nagar. Since the tourist had valid travel documents, he was let go. His visa, however, expires on November 22. Meanwhile, the Russian Consulate in Chennai said that the tourist had not approached them for help. Officials said that he would be given proper assistance if he approached them. Berdnikov, however, refuses to take their help. He was initially seen at the Kancheepuram, but was rescued by the police from there and sent to Chennai.
Berdnikov says people are giving him alms without him asking them for anything. People come up to me and help me financially, but I tell them that I only charge `100 when they want to take selfies with me." He further stated that he started to charge for the selfies when he realised that pictures of him went viral on social media and news. The tourist
said that he would later head to Bengaluru this weekend before heading to the northern parts of the country. Meanwhile, the officials at the Consulate told police officers that they cannot force him to go home. An official further added, "We have to respect his freedom since he has valid documents. A spokesman at the Russian consulate asked us to contact him if Berdnikov should need any assistance to return to his country."
Sushma Swaraj comes to the tourist's help
Another version of media reports suggest that the tourist had resorted to taking alms after his ATM card got locked.
Swaraj was seen Tweeting his photo late Tuesday night and saying:
Evangelin - Your country Russia is our time tested friend. My officials in Chennai will provide you all help. https://t.co/6bPv7MFomI— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) October 10, 2017
In a separate report by The Firstpost, Evangelin arrived in India on September 24 and reached Kancheepuram on Tuesday from Chennai and visited a few temples. He went to an ATM kiosk in the town, but found that his card was locked. Extremely frustrated by the situation, he sat down in front of the Sri Kumarakottam Temple temple and started begging. According to reports, police reached the temple and checked his documents. On verification, they gave some money to him to be able to reach Chennai.