Thursday, June 09, 2005

The future of the south

Last night Nigora asked Shavkat if I could move my belongings to Bishkek in the neighbor’s Kamaz. She was clearly sad at the thought of my leaving.

“You are better off in Bishkek,” Shavkat said.


“Because Osh is almost Uzbekistan and the situation there could explode at any point. We have several people in the neighborhood who died in Andijan and they are probably planning something in revenge for that. I tell Nigora that you need to come to and from work via the main road, not the street that takes you past the home of the mother of the man who was killed. But she doesn’t take it seriously and keeps forgetting to tell you. It would be better for us and better for you to be in Bishkek. We worry about you.”

He said that at the mourning ceremony today, he’d have “his ears to the ground,” to try to hear what people gathered there were saying, to hear if there were any plans underway.

The talk freaked me out, not so much because I’m afraid of the daily risk of extremists, but because I had nightmares after Faruh told me one evening about a neighborhood of extremists not far from here. I was hoping I wouldn’t get nightmares from Shavkat’s talk.

This evening I walked home during what seemed like a prelude to storm. The dark blue-grey sky behind Souleymane mountain illuminated the harsh rocks. A cool wind blew around me, as if I had a portable fan. The sky seemed to call out to pedestrians, announcing its intention to throw a wet carpet over everyone.

When I got home I asked Shavkat how the visit went.

“It was very quiet,” he said. “No one said anything. There people there who didn’t like this guy who died, but they went out of respect for his mother. And then there were the people, like the guy across the street, who refused to go because they were afraid that agents would be there collecting information and this would all go to Karimov (the Uzbek president).”

Shavkat told me that he received a lepushka, a round loaf of bread, from the family. “These are only given to old people or to relatives,” he said, “to people they respect. Out of all the men in the neighborhood, they only gave one to me and to an old man who lives nearby.” He is distantly related to the family, through his cousin who married a girl from the family.

Nigora was among the women who visited after lunch. But she didn’t have time to visit with the mother, saying that she was constantly busy serving guests. “His mother is a very healthy person,” Nigora said, referring to the man who died. “She’s very tall and she is quite fat. But it’s clear she’s lost some weight due to grief. People say that her second son is in prison connected to the Andijan events.”

She said that at the end, the mother encouraged guests to take all the food with them, that she held the ceremony in her son’s honor and didn’t want to have any leftovers.

Women started to fill their plastic sacks, but Nigora wasn’t comfortable taking much. “I don’t like taking things,” she said. Nevertheless, she took a lepushka and a few pieces of candy that were near her, passing them out to us at the dinner table. So I ate a piece of candy provided by the mother of an extremist killed in Andijan.

After dinner, the family had it’s version of an argument, with everyone trying to convince Shavkat to allow Habib and Lutfulo to work during the summer. Lutfulo, 19, remained silent during the conversation, but Habib, just about to finish high school, argued hard. He never spoke without respect for his father, but criticized his drinking, his smoking, his protectiveness, his resistance to risk and his refusal to allow them the freedom to work.

Shavkat claims that his sons don’t have the strength to work, that if they open a businesses, they’ll lose interest after two to three months and they’ll lose everything.

“How do you know we don’t have the interest or the strength?” Habib asked. “We’ve never had the chance to work. A father is supposed to support his children, to encourage them to try new things. But our father is a pessimist and a critic. He always tells us that we can’t do this and we can’t do that. He told me I study poorly, but I already got my first acceptance letter from college. When I showed it to him he said that the college must need money and that’s why they are inviting me to attend.”

“What’s important isn’t money,” Shavkat said, “But the ability to push oneself to the physical maximum.”

“That’s his idea,” Nigora said. “And he thinks everyone else should think the same. “

Addressing Shavkat, she said, “You don’t always have to go the max. If a glass of beer is full, you don’t have to drink it all.”

Shavkat said that they can’t walk the three kilometers to school, but instead ask for a ride.

Nigora and Habib joked about how the real problem is that Shavkat wants to feel needed.

“Faruh will call Shavkat at work and tell him he’s running late for school, could he come home and drive him. And Shavkat comes during his lunch break and drives Lutfulo to school.”

Shavkat agreed, laughing. “I then just pick up something to eat quickly on the way.

“My dad is scared that if he lets me work, I’ll get my own car, then my own house, and I won’t need him anymore,” Habib said.

Nigora tried to reassure him that Faruh still has five years of school left, so Shavkat can still give rides for five more years. He threatens that when all his sons are married, he will go live in a hut in the mountains, but no one takes him seriously.

No comments: