Sunday, June 19, 2005

Shavkat's accident

Last night I came home and was greeted by strange looks from the three boys in the family.

“She didn’t notice,” Habib said.

“Notice what?” I asked, and went back toward the gate I’d come through. I had ridden by bicycle back home from aerobics and had dared to wear shorts on the street for the first time. I’ve never seen a woman in Osh in shorts. During the ride home, my mind was focusing on analyzing whether I was being stared at more than usual and whether I was making a cultural faux pas, or if my foreigner status or “sportsmenka (athelete)” attire made up for it.

At the gate, I saw that the hood of Shavkat’s little red Niva, nicknamed Butterfly by one of his coworkers, was covered with dust. The car seemed tiny and dirty. I then saw scratches and bends in front, part of the roof caved in.

“What happened?” I asked.

“It got in an accident,” they told me.

The night before, Shavkat had gone to a national park, Kara-Shoro, for his work. He’d taken two of his children, Lutfulo and Faruh with him. Last night Lutfulo and Faruh returned home with one of Shavkat’s coworkers, saying that the rain and the lightening made it too dangerous for them to stay.

“Were you in the car?” I asked the kids.


“But you saw the accident?”

“Yes, dad told us to get out of the car and we were standing on the side of the road when it happened,” Lutfulo said.

“And you didn’t tell us last night?” I asked.

“They didn’t want us to worry,” Nigora said.

“Mother would have fainted,” Habib said. But I wonder if she did know something. At one point last evening, she looked like she was wiping tears from her eyes. She told me that Shavkat would be back by lunchtime, but I didn’t understand why the time of his return was so important.

They explained that Shavkat was trying to climb up a mountain, but the car didn’t have the power. It then started rolling backwards, then rolled over once or twice off the side of the mountain.

“That must have been scary to see,” I said.

“Not really,” little Faruh said.

“How could it not have been,” Habib asked.

“Because after it happened, dad came out of the car and said, “Extreme!””

Everyone laughed. Shavkat frequently declares his love of the extreme, from living in rough conditions to traveling poor roads, and taking adventurers on crazy odysseys. That one word reassured his sons that everything was OK.

He had been charged with bringing something to the park. So after the accident he took the equipment from the car and begin walking the several miles that still remained. On the way, some coworkers in car passed by and came to help.

Shavkat claimed that he wasn’t frightened, but he was so spooked at seeing other people’s reactions that he went back to the smoking he’d given up two weeks before. “I had a pact with a friend that we’d give up smoking together on June 1st. But when he saw what happened, he handed me a cigarette and said we should smoke for just two days. Because that was a lot of stress. Then he handed me some cognac and told me I should drink too.”

“Good friend,” I said, and Nigora laughed.

Shavkat had told me that his car needed repair and wasn’t able to go to the mountains. He said he told the same thing to his employer. But they said their car was also broken and they needed him to go urgently. So he agreed. Luckily, they have agreed to pay for the repairs to his car. He plans to fix it, then trade it in for a new car. In the future, he’ll probably use only the company cars for work.

The battered car now sits in the driveway. Shavkat somehow drove it all the way home. Nigora said it approached the house rattling and shaking. It stands as a medal to his adventure and his survival.

This morning I was awoken by a male voice, one of Shavkat’s brothers, exclaiming in Russian, “No way! You are lucky you are alive!”

In all of his years as a driver, this is Shavkat’s first serious accident. He says the good outcome is a result of his meditation and balance in life.

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