The Picture of Dawn
Writer: Mekhri Abdurakhmonova
Translator: Khafiza Mukhtorova
The Artist went outside to smoke. I was in the grip of heavy thoughts. How will these events end?
In order to make productive use of the short break between our conversation, I will go to the exhibition hall and start watching “The picture of dawn” more carefully. I talked to a dumb girl in my imagination; I listened to her pains. I would say that I do not condemn her. I would explain that she also deserves to love and be loved. I tried to comfort her by telling her that a person cannot escape from fate, that the story of unhappy love has happened in all times and places, and that such love stories will continue as long as humanity exists. She smiled innocently. Behind this smile I felt a shadow of deep pain and suffering. I wanted to say that I know that true love is a pain. When this pain strikes, you lose your control. You forget yourself. Your mind becomes weak and you think only about Him… Whether He is worthy of your great love or not, this issue does not interest you in the slightest. An imagination about Him becomes the meaning of your life. There is nothing in the world except it. Only He exists. That’s all. Those who have not experienced this pain will accuse you of immorality, throw stones of reproach and tear your painful heart to pieces.
Darling! The name of femininity requires great devotion, not sacrifice. If you have no devotion, you will be a victim. Poor, you do not know that this name is greater than the Love. If you knew, would you open your chest to the fresh winds of your dear steppe and reveal your secrets, would you have been opened like a flower and scattered like petals in one breath…
Poor darling, the times when you cried without knowing the existence of the long languages of the world, unable to comprehend the feelings that tormented your heart, when you met a little girl carrying a book and herding a calf in the village a little away from you, she would have been your sister…
Even though she could not understand your pains because she was still little, she would take out a handkerchief from the pocket of her red satin dress and wipe your tears. Even you could not hear, she would read you interesting books and sing songs. You used to pick koshoyoks and chuchmomos and eat them together. Your lambs would have played frolic with his calves. How happy you would be then. What a pity…
I didn’t want artist’s sad tale to end. When I came to this point as if the story of the dumb girl’s dumb love stopped here and the unhappy ending was avoided, I went home without saying goodbye.
After several years, I forgot about these events… I couldn’t go to the village for a long time because I was busy with government works. I went to my native village on the pretext of relatives’ wedding. Before entering the wedding hall, I went to the edge of the village and walked around my beloved fields. At the top of my village, where the number of houses increased and expanded, Koshintepa still stood proud as before. Looking at there, the stories told by the artist came alive in my memory. Does that dumb girl still live on the other side of these hills?… Did the mother of Musavvir save her from inevitable destruction?.. These were unknown to me.
My phone rang and my sisters told me that I should go to the wedding hall as soon as possible. I gathered my senses and hurried to see them.
How it is good! How good it is to have relatives!.. How good it is to witness their happy days!.. Crowded circles, happy faces…
There is a lot of noise around the table, where the in-laws are sitting… Meanwhile, one of the women from the in-laws’ side asked permission to leave.
“Is it okey? Why are you going to leave suddenly?” said our elder aunt to the woman who was about to leave.
– Not so good, actually. we have no sorrow but we have now, it was sad that my mother-in-law died. Our aunt, who is in psychiatric hospital, passed away. My son just called and told me. It is said that the sultan does not insult his bones. Even she was bad, she was our aunt. It is our duty to bury the deceased according to tradition. Sorry, I have to go.
– Oh poor Tozagul. After all, she passed away. May she rest in heaven.
Women prayed for the deceased. That woman has gone. When she left, the old stories about the dead woman was stirred up.
– The poor woman came to this bright world but passed away without seeing a bright day. As Jumagul brought up her, she said “Even she was bad, she was our aunt,” said one of the in-laws in a sad tone.
I noticed that one of guest’s women pinched her without telling to be quiet. Another slowly gestured as if to say, “We are sitting with in-laws, don’t reveal your secret.”
But since the name Tozagul intrigued me, I couldn’t stop myself from asking about the deceased.
– Yes, there is nothing to say. Dear in-laws. Okay, I’ll tell you. When my father’s mother died, my grandfather married a widow who had a daughter. My grandfather brought up that girl, who was our step-aunt. The parents gave her to the husband, and she had a son, many years later without having any children, when the eldest child turned fifteen, God blessed her with an incomparable daughter. When this little girl was two years old, our aunt fell ill and died. Our brother-in-law married an infertile woman. The barren woman looked lovingly at the little girl. In the meantime, their eighteen-year-old son married. My brother-in-law’s life is short too, maybe he ate more meat of the slaughtered sheep at the wedding, he had high blood pressure and lay down for three days and passed away.
– That summer was very hot. Especially on the day of the wedding, the day burned, actually, – joined the conversation one of the women.
– After brother-in-law’s forties, his wife moved to her brother’s house. A three-four-year-old boy and his brother were left in the hands of a sister-in-law. One of she spoke beautifully, what a beautiful girl. One day, my father gave me money and told me “Go to your uncle’s house and see your little sister but before you should buy sweets for her. I was still a teen girl, and I thought that I was going to hang out with my aunt’s daughter-in-law on this pretext. When I went, the small door built in place of the gate was locked from the inside. I called, I called. No one came out. I was about to knock on the windows, but there is no any window installed on the street side of the house. Since the wall was small, I jumped over it. When I went inside and shouted “Sister-in-law”, the sound of a little baby came from inside the house. I immediately entered the room where the sound had come from, the little baby was burning with fever.
“Oh, no. Tozagul, honey, what happened? Are you sick? I could not even talk. I was in a hurry, brother, I checked all the rooms, calling my sister-in-law. I ran to the neighbor’s house. They did not know where she went. We took the girl and ran to the doctor. Unfortunately, the doctor is not at home. The doctor’s wife immediately gave the girl antipyretic medicine and put the girl to bed at her home. I ran home to inform my father about the incident. My father and I went to the doctor again. The little girl was still shivering, and there was no sign of the doctor. My father found a car (that time cars were very rare. There was also only one paramedic in the whole village) and we took him to the district hospital, the baby was very wet and was constantly crying. After the doctors performed the necessary procedures there, they said: “You would be deprived of the child a little, why you are so careless? They told my father that the child would have died if it is a little late. My father was sitting silently looking at the ground. Only after the girl’s fever subsided did they return to the village, leaving me to look after her.
In the hospital, the little girl began to recover quickly. A Russian doctor caressed her saying “Tozashka, krasavitsa*”. But the baby could not answer the questions and stared at the man. It seems that the flu left a very serious complication in her. She became deaf and dumb…
She had such voice like a bell… A little girl like a fist, she laughed so beautifully…
To this point, the woman shook her head regretfully.
– Where did her brother and his wife go?
– Her brother went somewhere else on business for a couple of days. Her brother’s wife went to her mother’s house to have fun as her sisters came looking for her.
When they asked “Why would you leave a sick little girl alone?” she said that I gave medicine to the child and put her to sleep thinking that I would come back soon. She said that she stayed for a long time because of the conversation….
Uh-uh… The poor girl got rid of the pain. Anyway, let’s make the wedding ceremony soon. Then we mourn her and do the traditions.
When they said that Tozagul aunt is dead, I thought that she was Tozagul that the artist said. After guest aunt said, “she was so mouthy”, I was relieved that it was not about her. And now…
– Aunt, that woman spoke even deceased woman was bad, she was our aunt…
Everyone seemed to be embarrassed by this words of our elder sister. However, it was evident in their faces that they knew about it.
– What else to say? There is an aphorism that on the burnt skin cannot be written. She became a mature girl. Although she had no tongue to talk, many matchmakers came from the good men. Sister-in-law kept turning away the suitors, not wanting to lose the girl who was making a living in their house. Gradually, no one asked. Then the sister-in-law gave the girl in marriage to an old widower. they didn’t tell us, but we heard about it in wedding ceremony. They gave the beautiful girl to the marriage unceremoniously, as if she were a widow.
– Oh my God, “Don’t leave the child to another child” – our ancestors said that. His brother has no brain, actually. What would her sister-in-law do when her brother’s opinion was over?
– It is true that if sister-in-law takes your destiny into her hand, you will definitely end up on the street regretfully.
– If I tell, my tongue will burn, if I don’t, my tongue will burn as well. She had an affair with a young man of the same age who was her husband’s fellow villager. He is also an orphan. The two of them were talking while herding sheep. Rumors about it reached her husband’s ears. Jealous husband shot the young man.
It is said that Tozagul was screaming and crying in front of the young man’s head lying on the ground covered in blood… he did not afraid, he did not run away…
When the policemen took the young man to the hospital, he had already died due to massive blood loss. Before his death, “Tozagul has no fault. I fell in love with her. I kissed her on her face only twice…” he said.
Tozagul’s husband said: “I wanted her to herd sheep on purpose so that the young girl would be further than the impulse of my daughters.” I didn’t think it would happen… My brothers used the hunting rifle left by my father. I myself have not shot even a single bird in my entire life. I didn’t want to shoot him either. I just wanted to make him scare. “I don’t know how the bullet hit the young man even though I didn’t aim,” he said in court.
– He was imprisoned for several years. After releasing from prison, the poor man did not live long.
– Yes, he lived for about a year. Although the lungs were sick. Fortunately, he did not die in prison.
It is also said that some time after this terrible incident, seeing that her sister-in-law is no longer useful, she said: “If she does something wrong again and puts us to shame, how can we bear it.” She persuaded her husband to send Tozagul to a mental institution.
Fatiha wedding* was over, and the in-laws were escorted with honor. Relatives and we went to the road.
I was happy to meet my relatives whom I had not seen for a long time, but the tragedy of Tozagul made me sad…
When we set off, the coolness of the evening fell on the village, and the sky over the seemingly endless steppe became more and more magnificent, as if red paint had been scattered on the pale and dark shades of blue.
The sun spread light to the world, and at the end of the day, it left such a beautiful trail behind the horizon that my heart fluttered and my eyes were dazzled by such beauty.
It was at this moment that I fully admitted that my conception of colors, which I had been accustomed to see as blue, azure, green, and called by simple names, were false impressions. At these happy moments, the sky, which was shining in seven thousand shades of blue and blue colors on the red dawn that spread to the horizon, entered my heart and occupied my seventy-two veins.
Painful feeling sinks into my heart, and tears well up in my eyes. I wanted to cry falling to the ground.
Although I did not speak, my screams filled the sky inside me, make lightning flashed and rain fell.
The rains, the rains of forgiveness!
Oh my God! You are the real artist, the real master! It’s like my heart melts like wax from the wonder of a single particle of your incomparable beauty!
Thank you for introducing yourself, God! Thank you, my God!
Running like a madman across the field, my spirit sank down in front of the still blooming flowers in front of the ruined remains of the hut that my grandfather had once built in the middle of the lawn.
There, a little girl asked her mother:
– Mom, are the flowers so beautiful?
– It has the beauty of God, my daughter.
– Who is God, mom?
– God is the great Lord who created me, you and us.
– I want to see him, mom. Show me, show me…
The car shook violently and I regained consciousness. I stared at the driver, wondering if I had unknowingly blurted out what had crossed my mind. He seemed to notice that I was looking at him, and kept his eyes on the road: “Sister, have you woken up?” “The roads are in a very bad condition. Even though I was trying to find smooth road, we still fell into one of the potholes,” he said calmly.
Luckily, he thought I was falling asleep.
The calmness of the driver was also contagious to me.
As I tiredly looked around, I saw a caravan of flying cranes.
I stood on the side of the road and watched the flight of cranes. Sometimes the birds flying like ropes, sometimes like carpets sang the song of life with “Hurey-Hurey”…
When the horizon was turning crimson and the sun was setting, I was comforted by the thought that the free spirit of Tozagul was standing next to his lover in a white wedding dress…
After getting into the car, I asked the driver to speed up and rushed to my dear home…
Author of the story
Abdurakhmonova Mehri Qudratovna, poetess, writer, winner of the “Shuhrat” medal, head of the Jizzakh regional branch of the Writers’ Union of Uzbekistan.
Translator of the story
Khafiza Mukhtorzoda, a student of JSPU, laureate of the Ilhom Award. The owner of the state scholarship named after Navoi, Uzbekistan.