Ana Yurt 1: Chapter 1 c

“Enough!” cried Hashim Pochi[1], a small man with big eyes, “you said he was tall and moustachioed? That’s definitely Amat Oghri[2]!”

“No, this is definitely Sapar Oghri!”

“Gheni Oghri, definitely. You say he’s tall, who else other than Gheni? There’s no one taller than him in this area.”

“No, Gheni won’t go near the houses of the poor.”

“It is common knowledge that Ulugh-akhun is a great man[3]. He may have less land but he has a lot of stock. He’s rich!”

“Hey stupid. Gheni Oghri is [heqidiway]. He is a man that only bothers rich people like Murap Hajim[4] and Sidir Shingyo who have herds and herds of sheep, horses, and cows, stores of wheat and grains, and gold and silver packed into their trunks. The only ones who would touch Ulugh-akhun’s dowry-stuff are dirty lowlife thieves like Amat or Sapar, not boys like Gheni!”

“This is definitely the work of the serfs!”

“No, it’s the Russians, there are plenty of thieves from Chilek nowadays”

“We need a watchman. Let’s set up a patrol, people. For thirty days it’ll only be one day of duty each; don’t be afraid, I will keep watch on your wives hahaha”

By the time the most respected person in the village – the imam-muezzin and acting judge – a poor, eloquent, meat-loving, short, portly man called Mira – had finished his dawn prayers and come to Ulugh-akhun’s house, the eastern sky had reddened and the sun had begun to rise.

“We should file a suit to the Mingbeg[5] and stamp it with all the villagers’ thumb prints,” Mira Qorsaq[6] said, as he swung his arm down in a chopping motion. “This is certainly the work of the serfs. There are hoof prints going right through Hajim’s autumnal harvest. Sawdanbay is a talented Kazakh tracker. He can tell the difference between a male and female fox just by looking at its prints. He tracked the hoof prints all the way to the fields and found their base to be Murap Hajim’s fields. Let’s lodge a suit!”

“Let’s do what Judge Mira suggests,” the village Imam said, his eyes closed, twirling his long white beard with his fingers, “Let’s write to our father Shing Duban, let’s write to our lord master and father Shing Duban…”

“Who will write it? Who will we write it to?” asked the richest man in the village, with an arrogant brush of his short black beard, “Imam, you write it. Mira Qazi[7] will narrate!”

“Agreed, write it then, Imam!”

“I can read, but I cannot write,” sighed the Imam. “I don’t even have paper or pen.”

“Then what do you have? What can you do Imam-akhun[8]? We plant you four hu[9] of waqf[10] land, we harvest and gather your crops. We even take it to the threshing grounds and turn it to grain for you. Even then you can barely take it home without slugging it through the snow. Without the help of your wife, even that isn’t possible!”

The richest man in the village – the owner of 100 hu of land, four large orchards, a herd of sheep, eighteen cows, and six horses, the beautifully pressed alfafa growth on his roof drying out, the backs and corners of his animal enclosures filled to the roof with dung – the owner of this lavish residence was a man named Mukhtar Bay[11] who had fallen into the habit of admonishing the Imam in this way. The reason was this: when the imam had first arrived in the village from Yengisar, he had been a servant to Mukhtar Bay’s father Osman Hajim for four years, planting his melons, looking after his livestock, transporting his water, chopping his firewood, and constantly being berated and abused. Hajim had died not even knowing his name, simply calling him “Qashqarliq”[12]. Although Mukhtar had not inherited his father’s tongue, he still viewed the imam as a field worker. Nowadays Mukhtar Bay [sundi], after his father passed away, his younger brothers split the house and divided the inheritance, so his land and wealth became less than half of what it had been, and now he could only hire one labourer and one herdsman. The imam on the other hand was spared from servitude and had come to own a fairly large residence, two horses, six cows, fifteen sheep, and even owned an oil press. His land was ploughed by the people, his wheat crushed for him, as well as winnowed, measured, piled and buried in the ditches for him. So, although the imam was a weakly man, he had somehow come to be considered a middle-range Bay. This concerned Mukhtar Bay, and he would have driven out this Qashqarliq from the village if one of his Taranchiliri[13] knew a few short surahs other than Alhamdu[14] or Qulhuwallahu ahad[15]. Instead, Mukhtar Bay would poke at him every now and then.

“Tell me, who will write it, and who will we send this complaint to?”

“Nur should write it!” the Imam said after contemplating for a while as he stroked his white beard. “That boy can write it.”

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Show-off (this is his nickname, or leqem, usually a defining characteristic of a person. Leqem are very commonly used than surnames in Uyghur culture)
[2] Thief, robber
[3] Ulughakhun is “ulughwar” which means exalted/high; a play on the meaning of his name
[4] Someone who has been to Hajj
[5] A type of official
[6] Stomach
[7] Judge
[8] -akhunum is one term used to indicate endearment or affection but is being used sarcastically here
[9] 5-10 decalitres worth of dry volume
[10] Waqf in Arabic, Wexpe in Uyghur, an endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause.
[11] Rich person
[12] Person from Kashgar. Usually used in a demeaning way.
[13] Not sure if he’s referencing peasants or locals
[14] Surat Al-Fatiha
[15] Surat Al-Ikhlas

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