Short Story From Uzbekistan
By Sherzod Artikov
About the author
Sherzod Artikov was born in 1985 in Marghilan city of Uzbekistan. He graduated from Ferghana Polytechnic Institute in 2005. His works are more often published in the republican inside presses. He mainly writes stories and essays. His first book “The Autumn’s Symphony” was published in 2020. He is one of the winners of the national literary contest “My Pearl Region” in the direction of prose. He was published in Russian and Ukraine network magazines such as “Camerton”, “Topos” and “Autograph”. Besides, his stories were published in the literary magazines and websites of Kazakhstan, USA, Serbia, Montenegro, Turkey, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Slovenia, Germany, Greece, China, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Argentine, Spain, Italy, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Romania and India.
The tale of Berlin
In the morning, I went to the metro station in Cottbus. It was drizzling outside. When I arrived at the station, I entered a small café to help myself. Next to the door a poor guy was playing some lovely melodies with his violin that I don’t know. Passersby were leaving some coins in his copper bowl whilst the dog near him was looking around discontentedly and howling like a wolf.
After eating a sandwich I drank a cup of milky coffee. Someone left old series of “Bild” on the table. While looking through it, the metro stopped to the station and I turned my attention to it which runs consistently at arranged time.
In Germany, accuracy is like an illness. If the metro, for example, should run at a quarter past eight a.m., it will run. When I met Mushtariy in this station for the first time, it was pouring with rain. When the metro started to move, I was inside of it. I can remember her running towards the entrance to catch. As I saw her, I tried to keep the door open by standing on the doorway, yet I knew that the metros don’t run without closing their doors. As soon as Mushtariy got on it, she thanked me.
– I’m doing this since I felt sorry for you.
– Anyway, thanks! You prevented my lateness for half an hour to my destination.
For it was raining heavily outside, her untied long hair got wet, her swarthy face was being washed over by raindrops.
– Seems you forgot to take an umbrella.
– I’ve bad memory. Most of the cases I fail to remember to take the important things like this.
Her simple pink suit and black classic-tailored trousers with an ordinary handbag made her appear modest, inner peace and restraint in the depth of her eyes gives a person a tendency to talk to her…
After getting off the station, I went to the bookstore in Heerstrasse. As Mushtariy left the job, another girl who has the look of Latin American employed there. She was comely and swarthy. Noticing my entrance she hastened to me to know whether or not I’m in need of help. I shook my head. Nearly no changes were made to the bookshop. I didn’t stay there much, thinking unfit to buy nothing. I went out taking one of the books of Kafka which wasn’t so expensive in my arms.
All was a bit different when I got in there firstly: I recognized her at once when Mushtariy gave me a warm welcome. She also identified me remembering that metro event with an imperceptible smile on her crimson lips and then advised lots of books.
“I spend every spare time I have from university here,” she said suggesting Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry book.
I didn’t pay much attention to what she was saying at that time as it wasn’t unusual. In Germany, not only foreign students, but also local students work in variety of shops, restaurants, organizations for hourly pay. The reason for catching my attention was totally different. I gazed at her surprisingly, when she told me she is from Uzbekistan.
– Why are you staring at me like this?- she blushed scarlet.
– You are from my grandfather’s homeland.
She looked surprised considering me German. Physically, I bear a striking resemblance as my mom was a German woman. I was a pale-faced boy who can speak German language in origin. I was German spiritually even so my grandfather was Uzbek. Even if he didn’t breathe a word about this to my dad and me at all, I knew it albeit accidentally. I found a diary which he wrote to the death including his childhood, the war years and the rest of his life several years ago. I was schoolboy at that time. Grandfather wrote he loathed Stalin and Bolsheviks for exiling his mother to freezing region called Siberia, assassinating his father, the reason for artificial starvation and unrest throughout the country. Maybe for this reason, he allied the legion of Turkistan witnessing the pathetic consequences of captivity, losing captives their lives day by day in Buchenwald concentration camp like others during the war. Until the end of the war he was with RuziNazar who was a fellow countryman, active in legion so as not to expire for Bolsheviks.
In his diary, he wrote down he was from a kind of city called Marghilan which is beautifully situated in a valley hemmed in by lofty mountains. I was reading about my grandfather’s native land for the first time and had overwhelming desire to get thorough knowledge about it. I craved full details about the land from my grandfather in-depth however tense atmosphere at home didn’t give me a chance to do it.
There was a picture of my grandfather with RuziNazar wearing Nazi army uniform on the wall of our dining room. It doesn’t matter during holidays or around the dinner table, my grandfather didn’t say even a word, remained tight-lipped with impassive face. The set of his state and solemn appearance made me believe he would say nothing. He especially was reticent about his homeland; he couldn’t bear such questions in my opinion.
Before having a meal, he always whispered grace in a language that was unknown to me, prayed facing west on a mat with fringes around the edge 5 times a day, but kept himself away from his motherland and memories related to it all the time. In order to rid of these recollections, he got married to a German woman, brought up my dad as a German, found German fiancé for him. Even he raised and taught me based upon German language, culture, traditions. Speaking another language was prohibited in our home even if there is no need to it. Since we all became German to the bones thanks to my grandfather’s efforts.
Sometimes I worked out for myself: he was extremely irate and opposed the political unrest and condition of his motherland, so he assured himself that he didn’t get the blame for it in a way that he behaved. Despite his wrath, irritation and displeasure, I couldn’t fully appreciate why he named my father Bakhtiyor, and me Isfandiyor similar to his name that reminds his birthplace. It looked as if a quirk of fate. Thanks to this name, we weren’t counted as a German and thought we come there from faraway villages of Turkey.
While talking about this, Mushtariy broke down in tears. Her grandfather didn’t come back from the war. Perhaps he perished from one of the shots by my grandfather or llegios or Nazis.
-It is 80 miles from your grandfather’s birthplace to my motherland- told Mushtariy after calming down.
By talking with her, a burning desire to know about that city was being enhanced in me. Marghilan, Andijan, Fergana… Mushtariy told about every lovely hamlet surrounded by majestic mountain scenery in a sublime village, the traditions, custom, way of life of people there with great enthusiasm.
After finishing my work up in the bank, I made a dash to spend as much time as possible in the bookstore. Naturally, Mushtariy was always there. An invisible hand was following me to the bookshop, I was fascinated by the unknown sweet emotions. If I didn’t come to the shop for a long time, I felt as if there’s oxygen depletion, and only after talking with her I could start to breathe deeply and smoothly.
I thought to give her a bunch of flowers or take her out for a meal in a fancy restaurant once in a while, yet I didn’t adapt to pay much attention to women as I was timid. My courage weakened to use my common sense fully in some cases. Besides, I thought it was a bit earlier to do this as I only ask from Mushtariy about my grandfather’s homeland as I shied away from having conversation on other topics. Day by day, she caused to broaden my horizon and knowledge by describing that distant land where she and my grandfather were born. As a result, a flame of strong desire to get a panoramic view of the valley was burning, I was so fixated on thinking it. Eventually, one day I plucked up the courage to offer Mushtariy to have lunch together. First she didn’t trust me but after a while she said she would consider my request. It seemed strange to me who was familiar with European culture, admittedly. Because here if an unmarried girl is offered for a meal, she would never give an answer like her.
I can recall the day we had lunch together, too. Since it was Sunday, both Mushtariy and I were sitting in a restaurant looking relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief.
-Do you want me to teach you Uzbek language?- asked Mushtariy eating sardines.
I was drinking soda water and it was abrupt word for me.
“How it would be?”
We had opening training that day in the restaurant which wasn’t so big in Tornstrasse, I could assimilate various words and phrases such as “ hi” , “ how are you?”, “ have a nice day!” in Uzbek version with the help of Mushtariy. While pronouncing them, I experienced bizarre emotions. Firstly, I was speaking my grandfather’s language for the first time. Looking from the other side, I started to look at her as an ideal woman. She was absolutely adorable, endlessly over-indulged and sincere.
-Do you know meaning of your name? she asked to halt an uncomfortable silence.
– For example, I knew meanings of Peter, Paul, Sebastian as they were Saints’ names. But I had never thought meaning of my name at all.
– A gift from God… Yours means so.
She was right. My grandfather did give this name for a purpose. My mom is said that she suffered a lot of pain while giving birth. Grandfather brooded much than my dad, prayed God continuously kneeling on the mat which is used to stand in the cabinet of his bedroom to help her.
After that Mushtariy stared at the street through the restaurant window and whispered the meaning of her own name.
“Even if it isn’t interesting for you, I told it”.
I was bonded with her by invisible strings in 6 months I felt it from my bottom of my heart. Hearing her graduation did concern me. I kept telling myself: no reason left for her to stay. I got burned by a high level of anxiety. Surprisingly, returning to the homeland really bothered her and she didn’t look like pleased like me. I can recall it:
“I will teach German language at the school where I studied,” she said desperately when I asked her future plans.
While saying my adieu, she returned:
“I miss Germany for evermore,” trying not to look at my eyes.
Three months have passed since her leaving. Three months! She isn’t in Berlin where full of people like robots beneath a dull sky work accurately like a clock mechanism. Whenever I had time, I’d roamed to the metro station, the bookstore and restaurant in Tornstrasse flooding back my emotions and memories of my time with Mushtariy. I sit there hours pronouncing Uzbek words and phrases one by one that she taught me. Now it hurts thtaughcan talk with no one about my grandfather’s land anymore.
…in the evening I walked from Heerstrasse to Fridrixstrasse (where my home is located) in the rain. My parents were at home, dad was busy with reading newspapers while mom was in the habit of weaving warm socks as soon it would be winter.
After going along the corridor, I glanced at my grandfather’s picture with RuziNazar when I neared the dinner table in the middle of the room. He was wearing military uniform showing his pain rather than nobility. Mom served a bowl of soup.
“Dad, I want to visit my grandfather’s homeland,” I raised my head looking at him.
Dad stopped reading newspaper and folded it in half and stared at me surprisingly. He continued reading as if nothing happened. A brief silence fell.
– How about your work in the bank? He asked after a while.
– I’ll take a holiday- I told whistling in the dark.
-Is it too vital for you to go there? – He wrinkled his forehead.
– Let him go – mom who was sitting in the corner of the room doing her work silently joined for our conversation.
Dad thought for a moment and nodded his head in agreement. Mom entered the grandfather’s room and fetched something to me. It was an old handkerchief patterned with different colorful camels around borders and dome shaped mosque in the center.
-Take it, mom handed it to me – your grandfather always took this handkerchief during his lifetime.
I got up prematurely on my departure day feeling strong emotions – a chance to see that my granddad’s sunny land, which was becoming Mushtariy’s homeland in reality, and had impressed me a lot. Moreover, I utterly bewitched by Mushtariy.
As dad went to work early, I only said goodbye to my mom when taxi came. Mom whimpered giving a tight hug and waved with tearful eyes.
-First, we’ll have a visit in the cemetery in Heerstrasse, I told taxi driver on the highway.
He gave a nod to show his understanding and kept driving. When we reached the cemetery, the sun was glowing. I found my grandfather’s grave and looked at carved picture on marble, firstly.
It sounds like as if he was asking: “Where are you going, Isfandiyor?” When I knelt in front him, the picture got bigger and asked it repeatedly…
-Granddad, I’m going to your homeland, – I said stroking marble, hardly looking at the picture.
No sound came from the grave; the picture of my grandfather gave that question to me again:
-Isfandiyor, where are you going?!…