"Nutty Salman," as some of his friends used to call
him, was pretty inept in life. Even though he felt so helpless
when others took advantage of him, one day he decided to say
and do exactly what he thought, with unprecedented results.This
story deals with the issue of rampant corruption in the society.
first, he used to just grumble a lot, complaining that we didn't
help him. That we didn't act like normal human beings. That other
storekeepers had people who delivered the goods to be sold. That
other storekeepers hired sales clerks to work at their stores.
He complained that he couldn't leave the store and had to close
it every time he went to get more goods. And if he did that,
he would have to carry the goods inside and then back outside
again for display.
Next he tried a different approach. "It's not my business,"
he said. "I earn enough to make a living. I'm just saying
this for your own good, you miserable ones. Don't you think it
would be better if you helped me and made some money instead
of just hanging around wasting your time? At least you'd have
money to buy cigarettes."
Photo: Saday Budagli
the meaning of living any more? Are you going to find a son again?
Get married? Settle down? Why don't you just die, man!
(Addressed to an old refugee man, who was found dead a few days
Finally, he started to hassle us. "It's your own business,"
he would say. "If you don't want to come, then don't. You're
not going to harm me by not coming. Sure, it's winter now, there's
no glass in the windows and the floor is bare concrete. But things
won't always be like this. They'll change as time goes by. Even
if they don't change now, there's still spring and summer. I'll
even put a fold-out bed here so you can stay here at night. Then
you can always gather here, fawning upon me and treating me nicely.
Don't worry-I'll find the appropriate thing to say to you at
I was one of those he accused of not acting like a "normal
human being." The only day I was free to go there was on
Sundays. Even then, if something else came up, I didn't go. Besides,
it had to be nice weather-it was impossible to be there during
cold weather. But soon, summer would come, and it wouldn't be
so bad to earn some money during my two months of vacation, just
like Salman had suggested. And the idea of getting away from
home sounded great.
That's why I didn't pay attention to Salman's rude words. I kept
my silence and when he insisted that I come, I muttered that
I didn't have enough time for my homework.
Salman had a ready answer. "If you studied hard, I wouldn't
even ask you to come here.
But I know you. You don't want to work at all. If a person thinks
about tomorrow, then he needs to work, to wake up a bit early
and go to bed a bit late. You're spoiled: you've gotten used
to being supported by your parents. They feed you, give you a
little spending money, and so you pass your days this way. If
you continue this way, what will your future be? Do you think
that after graduating, the university will change you into another
person? Don't fool yourself. You're a bum now,
and after graduating, you'll become a
Later, we laughed among ourselves at Salman's words. We even
chose a nickname for him-"Nutty Salman." When he wanted
to volunteer for the Karabakh war, my aunt went crazy, pretending
that she had become really sick, trying to make him change his
mind. But we considered Salman a hero. After five or six months,
he was wounded at the front and sent back to recuperate. He was
in the hospital for a while. Then my aunt prepared some papers
and managed to get some land for the store.
Sketch: Masses Greedy for Benefits
of Oil - Gunduz 1997
When Salman got out of the hospital, we were eager to hear about
his memories of the war, even more than seeing him. But it was
as if that bullet wound had made him lose his memory. He didn't
talk about the war. Whenever we insisted, he used to get angry
and say: "If you want to know about the war so much, then
why don't you go and see for yourself. Nobody is keeping you
here. Go and see it with your own eyes."
Even though his store was next to the bazaar, it wasn't very
visible and didn't do well. "It doesn't matter," said
Salman. "If one has good quality and sells it a little cheaper
than others, then he'll have so many customers that he won't
even have time to sit down and rest."
He made plans for his store, but they all required money. If
he could just save some more money, he would buy glass for the
windows, have the floor tiled and ask someone to make shelves
for the goods. He would buy a refrigerator, an air conditioner
and a tolerable car for transporting goods. But those things
were difficult to get for the time being; he needed some more
The main thing was to put the store in order and hire a salesman.
Then the place would become a real store and he would be a real
merchant. He would have enough money to procure goods for sale,
and his salesman would be busy selling them. Then he wouldn't
need mongrels like us hanging around.
But there were people who prevented Salman from achieving his
plans and schemes. After each of their organized "attacks"
on the store to take money or something else, he forgot the words
that he had said only a day or two earlier.
He used to swear at the store and at the person who had given
him their story. "What kind of life is this?" he would
say. "Let one or two come, but everybody seems to come to
my store and act as if I owe their fathers something. It's as
if I owned a bank. If I had made enough money, I would have put
the store in order. But I'm spending my entire day here making
very little money." He was talking behind their backs mostly,
but when he was face to face with them, he wouldn't say anything
and would try to accommodate them somehow.
"What can I do?" he would say. "I have no other
choice. They can do anything to me. If they set a newspaper on
fire and tossed it inside the store some night, what could I
do? Who would I complain to?"
There were also those who used to come to the store for just
a loaf of bread. Salman was never angry with them. He gave money
to some and goods to others.
We got used to Feyzi Kishi.1 He was a short, thin man
between 60 and 65 years old. He wore an army cap and jacket.
He used to come and stand silently near the electric heater.
Sometimes he would eat lunch with Salman. Feyzi Kishi was a refugee
from Karabakh. He had lost his entire family-his son, daughter-in-law
and two grandchildren-in the war. He used to spend his day in
the bazaar. He would bring water for one, carry goods for another.
He didn't expect anything in return but would take whatever they
Feyzi Kishi knew that Salman had fought in Karabakh; maybe that's
why he used to hang around the store so much. Once he even tried
to get Salman to talk. He asked him in which part of Karabakh
he had fought. Salman quickly muttered that he had not fought
in his region at all. They never brought up the subject again.
Once I saw Feyzi Kishi laugh. He had learned that I was studying
at the institute and had asked me what I was going to become
after graduating. Salman answered for me. "After he graduates,
he'll become a scoundrel," he said.
Feyzi Kishi gave a chuckle when he heard this. He laughed: "Don't
talk like that. He looks like an intelligent boy." It was
the first time that I was not offended by Salman, because his
words made Feyzi Kishi laugh.
During my winter exams, I came to his store nearly every day
in order to gain Salman's favor. I held my books under my arms
and in order not to return home in the afternoon, brought my
own food. I used to have lunch at the store so that Salman could
leave the store when he needed to.
One day, Feyzi Kishi was sitting quietly near the heater. I was
reading my textbooks and not paying attention to him. When Feyzi
Kishi stood up to leave, Salman took a plastic bag and filled
it with various things so that he wouldn't leave empty-handed.
But Feyzi Kishi's hand remained outstretched. He asked for money.
Salman faltered and asked, "Why do you want money?"
Feyzi Kishi replied, "I need it."
"Why do you need it?"
"I just need it."
Salman turned and looked at me. He had a strange expression on
his face. It was as if Feyzi Kishi had just insulted him. "Why
do you need money?"
This time Feyzi Kishi didn't say anything more. He just shrunk
low where he was standing.
Salman couldn't hold still and bustled about. Then he stood in
front of Feyzi Kishi. He was still holding the bag.
"Why are you still alive?" he whispered.
I was afraid that Feyzi Kishi would start to cry any minute.
I muttered something to try to calm Salman down. But he didn't
"What's the meaning of living any more? Are you going to
find a son again? Get married? Settle down? Why don't you just
Feyzi Kishi didn't raise his head. He left the store very slowly.
I couldn't maintain my composure. "You had no right to do
that. He's an old man"
Salman yelled at me: "Shut up! Everyone tries to act as
if they were nice people. If you don't like it, f- off from here."
I stood up, took my books and left. Two or three days later,
I went back as if nothing had happened.
One evening, the District Inspector appeared at the door. Immediately,
Salman started digging in his pocket for money [for a bribe].
But actually the District Inspector had come for something else.
He showed us Feyzi Kishi's photo. We learned that they had discovered
his dead body in the bazaar that morning and were trying to find
out where he lived. When the Inspector wasn't able to find out
any information from us and started to leave, he saw the money
that Salman was holding in his hand.
"I see you want to give me some money," he said. "Don't
be shy. Just give it to me."
Salman looked at me. "What are you going to be when you
"I'm going to become a scoundrel," I said.
Salman smiled. "Good for you. This time, you get the money."
I stretched out my hand to take it.
is an expression of polite address or reference, meaning "man".
It follows a man's first name, in this case, meaning Mr. Feyzi.
by Vafa Mastanova
(7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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