By Yusif Kerimov
One of the bright memories of my childhood is related to a song I heard in Gulistan (Kesme Shikeste1)...
My elder brother was a truck driver. Apart from his main work, he sometimes made money on the side, earned his crust. In autumn and winter, he brought firewood from mountainous villages and sold it and in spring and summer, he supported those who went up to yaylags2 and those who came back from there.
He took me with him to one of such trips to yaylag. I particularly enjoyed such trips – I helped my brother and took pleasure in the beautiful places of my native nature. This time we were taking a camp to Gulistan. Those places were officially called Shahumyan rural region at that time, and the people called it simply Bashkend.
After getting unloaded, our vehicle broke down on the way back, to be more exact, the springs of the right rear wheel broke down, so we had to stay in the mountains for two days.
We had good luck – our forced stop was near a village, our vehicle was right at the gate of an Armenian house.
My brother was to remove the broken-down springs and take them to the regional center to reassemble them; he could not take me with him. But he did not want to leave me alone at the car, either. Therefore, he entered the courtyard of the Armenian house to talk to the hosts and arrange a paid shelter for me. He came out soon and told me loudly, "Don't leave the courtyard until I am back. Keep an eye on the vehicle so that nothing is stolen. I will be back soon."
The men were not at home, all had gone to the hayfield, and young boys and girls had gone to help them, so only a middle-aged woman and a suckling were at home. The woman was quite gloomy and harsh and fluently spoke our language. She got up early in the morning, and was busy about the house: she handled the livestock, fed the chickens, cleaned up the courtyard; then she went into the house and came out with the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and put the baby into the cradle, hung on a pear tree.
She spoke to the baby like to a grownup, and in our language, Azerbaijani:
"How long will you be sleeping? Wake up, if you are a sleepyhead like this, they will plunder and pilfer your home and your homeland."
Although the talk was in our language, I understood no word of it, but I remembered my mother telling us that Armenian women, bending over the cradle, say gentle words, lullabies, as well as curses in Azerbaijani. This is because that sounds more expressive and vivid in our language. Nevertheless, what the woman was saying was not a lullaby
I became worried, my brother was not coming back. I was staring at the gate and the vehicle, expecting my brother to come back. Suddenly I heard a familiar melody and got startled.
Someone was singing Kesme Shikeste. That melody was popular in our country and I recognized it from the very first notes. I involuntarily went to where the melody was coming from and saw the Armenian woman singing a lullaby to her baby based on that mugham. The lullaby lyrics were in our language.
Layla dedim, yatasan,
Daviddən güc alasan...
Türkün yurdun çapasan...
I am singing to you for you to sleep well,
For you to take strength from David,
Armed to the teeth,
Destroy the Turkish home
What I heard made me shudder, and I think I was even scared. But I consoled myself by thinking, "What relation do we have to the Turks, since we are Azerbaijanis?" The word "Turk" must not even cross our mind – this was hammered into our head in those times.
Turning towards the pear tree, I met the wrathful eyes of the Armenian woman. Giving me a piercing glance from under the brows, she said in Armenian4:
- İnç dığa, turkes...5, " which is translated as "you are also a Turk, boy."
I was scared seriously this time. For some reason, I remembered the eyes of the old she-wolf6 that tore a little calf in the wheat field nearby our home.
I ran away quickly, went beyond the gate, threw myself into the vehicle cab and locked the doors.
It is good that my brother came back soon on that day…