Nepali Kalasahitya Dot Com Pratishthan


Bhishma Upreti


Joyl – a twenty-eight year old young Kyrgyz with eyes of a dreamer. He was my friend Aisalkyn Imanalieva's brother and also an integral part of my eight days stay at Bishkek.
I was all set to leave for Bishkek to visit Aisalkyn, but just a day before my departure, I received a message from her. It read, ‟I am out of Bishkek for a business trip. I won’t be here when you come. I am really sorry about it.” To bring me out of my dismay she did make sure that her brother would take charge of mine when I was there, which was from 24th September 2014 to October 2nd. In this duration Joyl became my friend, my guide and also my navigator.
It was already 9.30 pm when we reached Kievaskaya Street. I came out of the cab and then Joyl took me to 161th house up to the 34th apartment which was in the same side of the street. He walked carrying my suitcase in his hand. I followed him quietly with a small handbag. He kept the suitcase in a room that was set aside for me and gave me briefs regarding the bathroom, kitchen and the internet. I was excited and curious, but as I already knew that Joyl didn’t understand English, I chose to keep quiet keeping my questions aside. This didn’t make me comfortable.  I was afraid of being hovered by thick silence.
Joyl made 2 cups of hot coffee. He also made omelets and toasted some bread. I just kept gazing at him while he was busy doing all that. He kept working as if he were some kind of an automated machine. He came out of kitchen with a laptop in his hand. He sat on a chair next to mine and opened Google converter. He started typing in Russian. I read that in English and replied my part. He read it back in Russian. We communicated for a while. He casually asked few things about Nepal. We then made plans for the next day. He also told me about his habit of waking up late. The communication process was stressful and tedious. He was very slow in his replies but yet, it was better than having no conversations at all.
Joyl could speak Kyrgyz, Russian and Kazak fluently. He also was studying Korean. He was good with it too and could easily carry out two way conversations. Besides that, he also knew a bit of Chinese. On the other hand, I knew Nepali, English and Hindi. Apparently the problem was there was nothing in common between what we knew on our part.
Our eyes met with curiosity and enthusiasm but there was nothing to fill in those gaps created by languages. We were clueless. We tried using signs and gestures but even that didn’t seem much convenient either.
Next day, we went out to visit Bishkek. The first impression embarked in my mind when I saw the city was its clean wide streets, greenery all around them, hustles of the vehicles, and faces of different ages passing by, along the tall concretes. Everything was so proper and well managed. Notices, signboards and hoardings were either in Russian or Kyrgyz. English was very-very rare. Almost void.
When I was too keen regarding any information or subject, I would even stop the passersby to have my queries answered but yet again, most of them didn’t understand English. This made me ponder- if words are not consecrated by emotion and cognition they would be lifeless. Lifeless words are worthless.
The first thing Joyl made me do was to buy a SIM card, and then he slid it in my mobile. After that he saved his, his sister’s and Uzak uncle’s (his father) number in my mobile. He also saved mine in his cell and called Aisalkyn and made her do the same. In one way I was relieved. This way I could easily contact any one of them even if I get in any sort of trouble. ‘Joyl is smart’ was what I thought when I thanked him.
He smiled.
There was a moment of silence again. He broke the ice- “Do you mind if I smoke?”
“I won’t”, I said.
He smiled back again and rushed to a nearby shop to get two packs of cigarette.
We reached near American University. His father is a professor there. I could see crowd of youngsters. Their carefree laughter and the flexibility in their walk were quite attractive enough to remind me of my own student life. Most of them were walking in couples. Neither their lifestyle nor their get up made me feel like I was in a place where 90% of the populations were actually Muslims. Whether it be, seeing Joyl’s father sipping vodka before sleep or roaming around with Joyl I didn’t feel I was actually staying with a Muslim family.
We reached the national library. It was the same library which would conduct committee meeting of international PEN (Poem, Essays and Novels) in 27 ways. I gazed at that huge library again.
The more I went round the city the more excited I would be. I had so many questions to ask and they were growing. Showing different images and recalling various events, Joyl wanted to feed me with more and more information but he used to get stuck over and over again. He used to jerk his hands away in reflex. His face turned red and had lump in his throat. I felt pity on him so much that I concealed my zeal within me to make him feel a little better.
There were huge statues in various places. One of them was of ‘Manas’. A little far away was of ‘Chingiz Eitamatav’. He told, they were their national heroes. Similarly he pointed another statue- “she is Okomaliva of Soviet Union”. I don’t know what she was she famous for. He again pointed little faraway towards a huge statue that was in a park, in front of an Opera Theatre.
He said “Maldova- a very famous musician.”
Roaming around Bishkek, I felt that Kyrgyz had high regard for art and literature. Civilization persists where art and literature is honored. Such places own warm, decent and sensitive residents.
We were now inside ‘Marinaski Opera and Ballet Theatre’. I like Russian ballet very much and I hoped to attend a show too. I went towards the counter and asked the lady there, about the performances being shown. She didn’t get me. I turned towards Joyl. He didn’t respond either. The barrier of language had again built a rift between us. Meantime a young lady came in. She was as pretty as a doll. I was in a perplexed state of mind. I looked at her. She lit up with a smile. On faith of that smile I asked her- “Do you speak English?”
“How can I help you?”she replied.
I told her, I was staying there till October 2nd and by that time I wanted to make out a day for ballet. She then talked with the lady sitting in the ticket counter, then replied to me- “There are no ballet performances for now. They just have a drama.”
I thanked her and had a glance at the poster of the drama that was being shown. I didn’t find the poster much attractive. We left.
“I don’t like ballet”, Joyl said.
I asked, “Why?”
“This is a girly thing.”he said.
There was full stature statue of famous musician ‘Toktog’ in the courtyard of the theatre.
“He created music for National Anthem”,Joyl said.
There was an Art Museum nearby on the opposite side of the street. My passion drew me towards it. Many a times the subjects of my poems are inspired by paintings. Be it poems or paintings, both are artistic expression of feelings and sentiments. I moved towards the museum. Joyl followed me but he stopped as we reached the main gate.
He hesitatingly spoke; ‟Paintings bore me to the core.”
I stood still and gaped at him. He was there standing stiff as a tree.
If youths start losing interest towards art, literature and music; society becomes dull and dejected. I wished for a change in Joyl’s disinclination towards art.
We had to buy tickets to get into the museum, but, I didn’t want to buy boredom for Joyl.
The same evening I asked Uzak uncle-“You are good with English, so is your daughter ....but Joyl?? Why didn’t he learn English?”
He laughed for a while.
He then said, “I don’t impose my desires on them. They are free to do whatever they want.”
Joyl was a chain smoker. He didn’t take much time to finish a pack of cigarette.
I advised him to limit his smoking habit. He smirked, but a few moments later he again went to a store to get a pack of cigarettes.
“What do you do basically?”I asked.
“I’m learning Korean”. He said.
“Why Korean and not English?” I asked.
“I will go to Korea. I’ll work there for two years. Earn some money .......return back to Bishkek.....and marry.” He finished with many pauses in between.
His face lit up when he said that. He looked very charming with that glow in him.
The base of Kyrgyz economy was its remittance. Millions of Kyrgyz leave their country for employment. Mainly they opt for Russia, firstly, it had no visa requirements and secondly, language was not a problem there. Joyl’s dream of going Korea also was leading him to be a part of the foreign employment.
“Why don’t you marry a Korean girl instead? They are as beautiful as Kyrgyz women.” I joshed.
He laughed merrily but didn’t speak a word.
I went to’ Issyk Kul’ with him. It’s a lake that lies in eastern part of Kyrgyzstan. It’s the tenth largest as well as the second highest lake in the world. It took us about 4 hours to reach the lake. On the way, I saw villages. horses, sheep and cattle were grazing in the fields. The mountains were more alluring as I moved along. I was eager to know about those mountains which were similar to my own. I wanted to know about the rural life, their customs and traditions. I looked with a hope towards Joyl. He simply smiled as usual. I didn’t ask anything.
“I worked in a Casino….8 years”. He said as we were walking by the lake.
He was struggling with his words as they stifled each time he spoke.
“Was casino fun to work?” I casually asked.
“Yes. I learnt smoking while I was there.”he responded.
Then why did you leave your job?”I asked.
“I’m done with it. Now I want something new.”he replied
Working in casino for 8 years he might have been working till late nights and obviously would be sleeping till late in mornings. Probably, this was the reason for his late mornings.
He met an old friend there. He now resembled a kite that soared high along with the waves. He was composed and content. He didn’t have to feel clueless anymore. He didn’t have to restrain himself despite of knowing that many languages. I explored his garrulous side that I didn’t come across.  He was expressing himself with smiles and gestures. I felt good.
Joyl intended to drink beer. He confessed and I was okay with it.
He smoke and drank. He was relaxed but lost in some deep thought. Maybe it was his future that he was serious for; about holding his dreams tighter to himself and not letting them go.
Youths ought to be serious. This enables progress.
“Please don’t let my sister know about the beer.”he requested.
I looked him into his eyes and said, Ok.”He eyes emoted immense respect for his sister. He had great reverence for his father too. He called Aisalkyn almost 8-10 times a day. In an age where most of the boys are busy talking to their girlfriends he wasn’t. I was amused and I asked “don’t you have a girlfriend?”
He blushed. After a pause he replied, “Nope.”
He was even more handsome when he blushed.
For three days Joyl spent most of his time with me. These three days made me realize the importance of articulations in our lives. Even to remain healthy we need to express ourselves some or the other way. I couldn’t escape the throttle even though I had been letting my words out in a diary. I can’t even imagine what might have Joyl been through.
Just a day before I left for Nepal, I was wandering with Joyl. We were together but yet lonely. The silence was covering us up. The loneliness wrapped by the dense tranquility might have been intolerable for Joyl. The burden of helplessness of repressing himself since the day we met might have engulfed him so much that he burst out all of a sudden, “Next time when we meet, I would be talking to you in English.”
I was moved by his statement. I could feel a wave within me. I looked into his eyes. He was firm in his decision. There wasn’t any plight of smile nor did the color of his face change, but a faith had kindled indeed. I liked the confidence in him. I loved the determination of this young Kyrgyz. I kept gazing at him.
Joyl continued moving without any response.

Translated from Nepali by Nimisha Kunwar

Translation: Nimisha Kunwar

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