An Interesting Conversation between 3 Caucasians
It was 11 September 2018. We were on the train going from Kiev to Dnipro for the second part of our training. We were watching news about the 11 September terrorist attack on a large screen fixed to the ceiling of the train. Myself, Neno and Karina (if I’m not mistaken) were sat on the third row. Karina was from Armenia and was interested in everything related to Azerbaijan. She said that her brother was serving in Karabakh. As for Neno, it seemed that Georgians knew more about what was happening in Syria than about the Karabakh war.
Our journey was not short at all – we would arrive in Dnipro in 7 hours. I think you’d agree that in such situations there is a need for people to talk to each other. Even the most pointless topics are discussed with excitement when one finds oneself in the suffocating atmosphere of a train or bus. On such journeys in Azerbaijan it is custom that middle-aged women would asked questions of and give advice to young girls sat next to them, tiring them out with phrases such as “when are you going to get married” or “is there somebody looking after you”.
Our topic of discussion was, however, interesting. We talked about values that unite the Caucasus. Politics, culture, Pashinyan, Saakashvili, history – we mixed up all these topics with one another. I don’t know exactly how, but I learnt from our conversation that one thing that unites us is a dish that I don’t like called “ajabsandal”. Yes, ajabsandal. Let me tell you what that is: ajabsandal is normally eaten in rural areas and consists of tomatoes, peppers, aubergine and potatoes. Although I personally don’t like it, it has an interesting taste and it’s worth trying it. So apparently our Georgian and Armenian neighbours also eat it, even with the same name. I liked this and we should definitely use it to create a common Caucasian identity!
Since we were talking about the Caucasian identity we couldn’t not mention the story of Ali
and Nino that unites the three peoples. And we did talk about. I told them that my father had translated the work into Estonian and this aroused their interest. I could talk about literature for hours and I’m fond of characters such as Ali. The difficulty he experienced in identifying himself, choosing sides and being stuck between the East and West is a familiar feeling for me. I think this is Azerbaijan’s, and in more general terms, the Caucasus’ destiny. There’s also the fact that the local people of these lands have long ago harmonised one another’s juxtaposing world views in not simply a synthesis but a symbiosis. Caucasians are the masters of staying alive without being marginalised within the borders of great empires. Thanks to their dualistic, and even contradictory way of thinking they have become more tolerant, more creative and more open to the world. I tried explaining this to my Georgian and Armenian companions but I felt that my language proficiency was not sufficient to express my thoughts and so I attempted to use gestures to get my point across.
Neno had read Ali and Nino. She said that she liked the novel, as well as the statue in Tbilisi and the film dedicated to the novel. When she asked me about the film, I replied with a smile, “it doesn’t resemble the film, it resembles the film’s trailer”. Since Karina had not read the novel she asked about everything related to it – from the characters’ names to the plot. I enjoyed the interest she expressed in the novel. I don’t quite remember the details of the end of our conversation. What I do remember is when Karina asked what happened to Melik (the Armenian character in the novel) I inattentively replied, “nothing, Ali killed him”. Oops! That seemed a little harsh, but what can I do, that’s how the novel plays out. “Don’t worry, these things happen all the time in the Caucasus”, I added, in an attempt to calm the air. Our train finally reached Dnipro.