HILLARY Clinton's session with the women of a rural...

GALLIMAUFRY

April 08, 1995

HILLARY Clinton's session with the women of a rural village in Bangladesh earlier this week called to mind a conversation with a visiting Nepalese journalist several years ago.

During her South Asia trip, Mrs. Clinton asked the Bangladeshi women about their lives, after which they asked whether they could, in turn, question the First Lady about hers.

"Certainly," she said. Upon which, a woman stood and asked, "Do you have cows in your home?"

Mrs. Clinton was a bit startled, but replied with all due seriousness, "No, we do not have cattle in our home."

The question highlighted the vast differences in the lives of women in Asia and in this country. A story told by the Nepalese journalist, a well-educated woman from Katmandu, proves that those differences cross all class lines.

Traveling with a small group of fellow Asian journalists, she and her colleagues had visited farming families in the Midwest and spent the night in an American home. The Nepalese woman laughed as she recalled her introduction to American appliances.

"Do you have dishwashers in Nepal," her hostess had asked.

"Why, of course," she replied.

"You mean, like this?" said the American, pointing to her General Electric dishwasher.

"Oh, no!" said the journalist, amused at the confusion. "Ours come to work in the morning and go home at night."

* * *

THIS MAY BE the time to visit Russia.

In St. Petersburg, a huge collection of French Impressionist art that has been hidden away for 50 years has gone on view in Hermitage.

In Moscow, the Tretyakov art gallery has just reopened after a 10-year renovation. Like many other things in Russia, the Tretyakov renovation was a comedy of errors that took far longer than anyone had anticipated.

Plans for the renovation were announced 85 years ago, but repairs were first delayed by World War I, then by the Bolshevik revolution and then by another world war.

Finally, Soviet authorities decided that the way to handle the whole matter was to build a new exhibit hall on the Moscow river.

In due course that white exhibit hall was opened.

But curators and conservators quickly realized that the inherent dampness of the Moscow River venue would damage the Tretyakov's treasures, which range from irreplaceable icons to the mastery of Mikhail Vrubel, a turn-of-the-century Russian artist of considerable following. That sent officials back to square one, plan for the original Tretyakov's renovation.

Some 3,000 major works are now on view, following the museum's reopening on Wednesday. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, it will be well worth the visit.

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