By Gulzar Ibrahimova
Once upon a time, there was a state called2. This was the previous name of Azerbaijan. Atropatena people were very hardworking and their skills and efficiency were famous all over the world. Rulers and kings of many countries considered it an honor to decorate their palaces with tableware and jugs made by skilled craftsmen from Atropatena.
There were many masters in the town, but there were only a few skilful potters
The workroom of virtuosic potter Ahmed was located inside the market. Ahmed paid attention to the boy selling sweets and small articles in the market, who often came to his workroom and watched the craftsman’s hands carefully.
- What is your name, boy?
- Sonny, I see that you enjoy watching the process of making pottery. If you want, come to me and I will teach you pottery, you will not regret.
It was as if Rovshan was waiting for that moment. He put aside the sweets, rolled up his sleeves and set to work. Rovshan learnt within a day what others learnt within a month and it took him a month to learn what others learnt within a year. For he had to maintain his family, his ailing father and mother.
Some time passed and Rovshan became a good craftsman. The earthenware made by him was bought by merchants like hot cakes and the poverty tormenting his family abated. His father got back on his feet and his family lived happily.
Over a hundred pieces of earthenware, with particularly beautiful design and decoration, accumulated in Rovshan’s workroom over the past year. Merchants fought to buy them, but Rovshan did not sell them and there was a good reason for it.
A girl named Goncha lived in Rovshan’s neighborhood. She was beautiful like a rosebud. One day, on his way to work, Rovshan heard Goncha screaming, he jumped over the fence and running up to her house, he saw a poisonous snake ready to attack Goncha. Rovshan killed the snake and saved Goncha. Soon they fell in love with each other and Rovshan sent his mother to ask the beautiful girl in marriage. But Goncha’s father turned out to be wayward and greedy. He said that as his daughter is very beautiful he will give her to the one who will pay a bigger "bashlyk"3and demanded 500 gold coins. Rovshan’s saddened mother returned home. His father started persuading Rovshan:
-That man is insatiable, sonny, I have never seen or heard about someone demanding such a price for his daughter in these parts. Give up your love. Besides, we can never collect so much money.
But Rovshan was inexorable:
- Don’t grieve, my dear father and mother. I love Goncha so much that even if the price were 1,000 gold coins, I would get it by all means.
- But how? Even if you work day and night, you cannot earn so much money - his father protested.
- I know how to earn it. The earthenware I make is highly valued in other countries. Merchants buy it from me and sell it at five times higher price in foreign lands.
From that day, Rovshan worked tirelessly, but did not sell the finished earthenware. At the same time, he gradually prepared for the long journey. After collecting the necessary amount of finished earthenware, Rovshan decided to set off.
Now we will tell you about another neighbor of Rovshan who lived in the house next to Rovshan’s. His name was Vardan. Vardan was Armenian. He was expelled from his native land for scam, came to Rovshan’s native town and settled in the old house next to Rovshan’s. Vardan was a shoemaker, but no one wanted to trade with him as he sold his products at a very high price. Therefore, his products were in poor demand. As soon as he learnt that Rovshan was going on a long journey, he came to him, and bursting into bitter tears and telling about his tough fate and poverty, asked to take him along on the journey.
- Maybe there, in distant lands, I can sell my shoes and pay off my debts, otherwise I will have to end my life.
Another person would not believe Vardan as everyone knew him to be a liar, swindler and a conscienceless person. But the tenderhearted Rovshan believed Vardan’s tears and promised to take him along. Rovshan and Vardan set off the next morning, with Rovshan’s goods loaded on 14 camels and the Armenian’s shoes on two camels.
They walked for a long time and in about a month they reached a big foreign city. As soon as they reached the market, Rovshan’s earthenware, loaded on one camel, was immediately sold at a high price. Vardan, however, sold only one pair of shoes. Anger seized him, and, unable to bear it, he said:
- You know, we have been on the road for a month now, I am very tired, let us rest at the nearest hotel and then come back to trade relaxed.
Although unwilling to do so, Rovshan agreed for his friend's sake.
The friends reached the nearest caravansary and the tired Rovshan fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow.
But Vardan failed to sleep, anger and envy seized him and he could not sleep a wink the entire night.
Waking up early in the morning, Rovshan noticed that Vardan was wakeful for a long time and his face was yellow. He asked with anxiety:
- What is the cause of such color? Are you unwell? Do you need medicines or shall I call a logman4. Don’t be shy, tell me.
- I am probably badly tired. Go and do your trade and I will stay lying down – Vardan replied.
- Do you want me to take your products with me and try to sell them? – Rovshan offered his help.
- Take them and sell if it is not difficult for you. From this day, you are my true friend and brother. – Vardan said and turning aside, grinned on the sly and cunningly.
Rovshan did not know that his "friend's" heart was burning in flames of envy and insidiousness, and therefore he believed his every single word.
Rovshan loaded Vardan’s products equally with his and went to the market and soon the entire city knew that a craftsman named Rovshan appeared in the market and his earthenware is unmatched. That is why Rovshan had sold out all his products before midday. As to Vardan’s products, only three pairs of shoes were sold. Rovshan was saddened by that. He came back to the caravansary and told Vardan:
- Don’t be sad, my friend. I will not leave you alone here. I will stay as long as you will need, for your products to be sold.
Vardan made like he was moved by those words and he cried bitterly.
In reality, he was extremely annoyed that Rovshan sold out all his products and brought a bag of gold coins and therefore, tears choked him. At the same time, he was thinking hard about how to seize Rovshan’s money and was making insidious plans.
It was time to come back home and the friends prepared for the journey. Rovshan bought presents for his mother, father and beloved Goncha. As he was coming out of the market, he saw a caged bird of unparalleled beauty. It was a parrot, it hit against the cage as if asking to be freed. Despite the high price, Rovshan bought the bird and opening the door, set it free with the words: “You are free, fly wherever you want.”
But the parrot flew around, came back and sat on Rovshan’s shoulder.
By that time, Vardan had finished his business and Rovshan planned to look for a guide for the caravan as their former guide, as ill luck would have it, was smothered by someone in the caravansary that night.
But Vardan stopped him, saying:
- We do not need a guide, I pass this way every year and I know the road well.
In reality, it was part of his plan as it was he who killed the guide that night.
Rovshan unconditionally believed Vardan and soon they hit the road. Vardan planned the journey for the night and sent the caravan not towards Rovshan’s native town but in the absolutely different direction – towards an arid desert. No one knew about his evil plans yet.
After 20 days of travel, they ran out of water and Rovshan gave the last drops of water to the parrot.
He asked Vardan time and again, in bewilderment:
- But we went another way, this is an unknown area.
But Vardan calmed him, saying that he leads the caravan by the shortest way. And Rovshan believed him again.
The travelers gradually lost strength, thirst oppressed them. Vardan ordered that the camel carrying Rovshan should be the last one allegedly for Rovshan to watch whether someone strays from the road. After a while, Vardan proposed that Rovshan – who had lost all his strength – dismount from the camel and go on foot, explaining that there might be a water well somewhere nearby and his (Vardan’s) eyesight is poor at night.
Rovshan did so and went on foot. At the same time, he wanted to shout to the cameleers that there was water somewhere nearby.
But Vardan stopped him:
- Do you want them to fight for water, do you imagine what will happen if they hear about water? Let us find the water ourselves, fill our vessels and bring them here.
After thinking about it, Rovshan understood that Vardan was right and he and Vardan went in another direction from the caravan.
Soon they indeed stumbled upon a well. As it was dark, they could not determine how deep the well was. Vardan said:
- The well is not deep, but in order to get water, someone has to go down to the bottom. I will stay here to take jugs of water and you will go down and fill them with water.
As Rovshan stooped down to view the bottom of the well, Vardan pushed him from behind and threw him down to the bottom.
Rovshan fell down on the bottom of the well, the alarmed parrot flew up from his shoulder and spoke out of excitement: “Wateeeer! Wateeeer!” No matter how hard Vardan tried to catch the bird, he failed.
He returned to the caravan, got onto Rovshan’s camel, separated from the others without being noticed, and headed to the town. The camel was loaded with numerous gifts Rovshan had bought. But the most important thing was that there was a big sack with gold coins tied to the camel’s back. It would last Vardan a lifetime, even if he spent it daily without working.
Vardan got home at last after twelve days of travel. When he got off the camel, he saw that the parrot had been sitting silently in the back all that time.
Vardan expressed his sorrow and grief and with tears in his eyes, told Rovshan’s relatives that robbers attacked them on their way back, captured Rovshan and took away the gold.
He noticed that they were in a way doubtful and distrustful of his story and pointing to the parrot, said that it is his (Rovshan’s) favorite bird and it is all that remains from him. Goncha took the parrot in her hands and began stroking it, and the parrot again cried heartrendingly: “Wateeer! Wateeer!” Goncha immediately gave the parrot water and the parrot started singing Rovshan’s favorite song which he used to sing to Goncha. Hearing the song, Goncha believed that it is Rovshan’s bird and pressing it to her breast, said that she will not give it to anyone.
Besides, Goncha recognized Rovshan’s camel, took it away from Vardan, disguised herself as a man, took the parrot with her and went to search for Rovshan.
All the way the parrot sang Rovshan’s songs driving off Goncha’s anxious thoughts, while the camel went back by the same path.
When the camel deviated from the route, the parrot yelled and screamed and the camel came back to the path.
But while they are on the road, we are going to tell you about Rovshan. So, he trusted and believed Vardan and threw himself (?!) into the deep pit.
He did so much good to Vardan that it never occurred to him that Vardan would treat him perfidiously. It was only now that he realized Vardan’s true nature. No matter how much he called Vardan for help, there was no answer. Rovshan sat at the bottom of the well and the thought that he could die there and never see Goncha again drove him mad.
Meanwhile, Goncha walked across the desert day and night, without stopping. But a disaster befell Goncha – two robbers suddenly blocked her way. Seeing a single and defenseless traveler, they put the dagger to her throat and robbed her, taking away all her money and water, as well as the parrot.
Goncha continued her way, thinking that “it is good that the robbers did not understand that I am a woman, otherwise they…” In these sad reflections, she kept walking across the desert for one day and night and towards morning, she suddenly saw the parrot dragging a sack with difficulty. It turned out that the clever bird had waited until the robbers fell asleep, seized the sack with gold and jewels and fled. The happy Goncha continued her way and in two days, she reached the well.
Soon Goncha together with the parrot pulled Rovshan out of the well and fed him to satiety. Filled with strength, the sweethearts set off on their way back and in a couple of days, they got back home. All people gathered at Rovshan’s home in order to go to Vardan, raze his house to the ground and kill him. But Rovshan’s conscience did not allow him to do so and he said: “May Allah punish him.” Then the town’s people gathered and expelled Vardan from the town, and everyone lived happily ever after. Rovshan and Goncha married and achieved their dream.
May Allah help us achieve our dreams as well.