Ana Yurt 1: Chapter 1 d

“Who is he, huh? Is he our Ziyak’s[1] son?”

“Yes, that’s the boy, Mukhtar Bay,” the steward of the mosque responded, with sudden enthusiasm. “Ziyak is sending his son to study in the city. He says he wants him to become a scholar like Mesud effendi or Rahimjan. The first educated person from our village has turned out to be that Ziyak’s son, Nuri, Mukhtar Bay.”

“A noble pursuit, an act worthy of merit,” began the imam, “if my now-deceased father hadn’t forced me to study at the Kashgar Khanliq Madrasa, would I have been able to meet such illustrious people as Abduqadir Damollam[2] or Qutluq Shawqi[3]? Since Nuri studies, he was able to see people like Hekimbeg Khojam, Muta-ali Khalpitim[4], Zurdun Mupti[5], and Turd-akhun-bay[6]! I have heard he also memorised both the Chinese and Uyghur of the Sanmin Zhuyi[7]. He has turned out to be a very intelligent boy. A noble pursuit. Our Prophet himself had not been literate, but had valued knowledge a lot. He even said to give knowledge to your dogs!”

“What on earth is this Qashqaliq saying!” said Mukhtar Bay, suddenly upset. “Our Prophet said that?”

“Blasphemy,” the imam responded, stroking his beard, “to doubt is blasphemous…”

“Did you say blasphemy?” Mukhtar Bay flew into a rage, “what would you Qashqaliq know? All the wealthy people of the city, and the Ulama[8], stayed at our residence, eating meat, drinking kumiss and staying for months. We six boys may not have seen a school but we learned from those illustrious people – including Hikimbagh Ghoja – but I have never heard a word about dogs learning to read. So we’re lower than dogs then huh? We must be, since we throw bones and dirty waste water at a vagrant (kelgundi) like you…”

“Sir, I was not referring to you, I just thought…” Imam started nervously. His famous, majestic beard, born and wizened in this village, trembled more than anyone had ever seen before.

“Oi leave it, Mukhtar!” said another farmer, reprehending his childhood friend, “there are no literate people in this village other than Nuri anyway.”

“Say in this area even; none of us knows how to read except Mahmud Chujang!”

“Call Nuri!” said Mukhtar Bay, suddenly no longer angry. “The boy should write. You narrate, Imam, since your mouth likes to run. You have a mouth that can be put in a horse race hoy, Qashqaliq!” That was Mukhtar Bay; he liked to turn any dispute into a joke and any funeral into a party.

“I have thought of what to say,” said Mira Qazi[9] slowly, “I will tell the boy what to write.”

“Who do we write to?”

Everyone became silent.

“We write to our father Shing Duban, surely,” blushed the village Imam, whose heart had only just begun to settle.

“If we left it to you, you would write a complaint saying ‘the cow in my animal pen has not calved, what should I do?’ Imam-akhunum[10]!”

“This is the person that wrote to the Mingbeg saying the head of the river did not touch the waqf land!”

“He said the pancake oil did not become sour and sent a complaint to the Ellikbash against Qasim Tarsa!”

“He calls the Mutiwer if his belt goes missing!”

“He calls the government to sue lice when his beard is itchy!”

Ha ha ha… he he…

The earlier feelings of fright, Ulugh-akhun’s sadness, and Hepizkhan’s moans and complaints were soon forgotten; the villagers began to laugh as if nothing had happened. Mukhtar Bay, accustomed to hosting these sorts of gatherings, sparkling his teeth against his course, thick black beard, choking with laughter, began to goad people into making jokes:

“Ha, come on Rehim Toghay, sing!”

“Musa Qagha[11], speak!”

“Hamra Toqum[12], how come you’ve gone silent?”

“Sultan Palaz[13], Nadir Boynaq, Tursun Qanjuq ha ha ha”

“Hey hey hey, Mukhtar Bay, brother, today is no laughing matter! Ten years’ worth of Ulugh-akhun’s wealth was just stolen. If the serfs make our lives a misery (do not leave us in peace), will we Taranchis not understand and continue to laugh? Let’s sue the serfs. There, Nuri has arrived.”



[1] Shortened form of Ziyawden
[3] One of the preeminent scholars of the Jadidi movement in Kashgar
[5] ???
[7] Three Principles of the People
[8] Religious scholars
[9] Judge
[10] -um is a suffix that means “my”
[11] Crow
[12] Saddle? The blanket you put on a horse to ride
[13] A roll-up mattress


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