Muhammad Sharif (Uzbekistan)
Muhammad Sharif, writer, journalist, born on January 10, 1968 in Kasansay district of Namangan region, Uzbekistan. He graduated from the Faculty of Journalism of the Tashkent State University. Muhammad Sharif’s short stories have been published in literary periodicals of Uzbekistan since 1990s. He is a journalist with 20 years of experience. He writes in Uzbek. This is author’s translation.
– Defendent Bazarov! Stand up and tell the court, do you agree with the indictment that you have heard right now? If yes, tell us in detail why did you commit this crime that is how you hijacked the airplane and why? And please start with introducing yourself, when you were born, where do you reside, what you do? – the judge, with a sharp nose and reddish face, touched his bright purple tie while turning his glance to the left corner of the courtroom where the defendant sat in an iron cage. The judge’s iron, cold voice gave the defendant a sudden shook, he tried hard to keep his shaking hands between his knees tightly and looked at everyone in the courtroom with beseeching eyes.
The defendant, a small, dark-skinned man in his forties, with deep brown eyes and graying hair, stood up, helplessly trying to maintain confidence. Either the indictment that prosecutor read out right now or dozens of intently looking eyes made him too nervous, and somehow he took a painful gulp and began continuously touching the buttons of his shirt one by one.
– I, defendant Adkham Bazarov, was born in nineteen sixty-eight in our village…
– What village, name it, please?! – the judge interrupted him.
– I, defendant Adkham Bazarov, was born in nineteen sixty-eight in this… our village Sakkizkurgan in the family of a peasant. I graduated from school in this… our village. Then I went to college to study agricultural machinery and got a secondary special education. Thanks to the efforts of our government that created favorable conditions for workers to work and have a prosperous life, I was too doing my job honestly, helped my parents, got married, nowadays I am bringing up four children… – he suddenly paused and looked at his defense lawyer. The defense lawyer with a shortly trimmed prickly moustache that reminded a hedgehog looked back at him and slightly shook his bald head with satisfaction, then moved his eyeglasses up.
Adkham, like a school boy who remembered the multiplication table that he had been learning by heart all night, got inspired by the look of his lawyer and continued:
– …so I worked hard as a mechanic doing all my best to serve the public, my beloved country and to grow my children patriotic… But… but in the morning of July 9, 2010 I made the biggest mistake of my life. I committed the crime – hijacked a plane. I deeply regret doing this… I ask this fair court to show me mercy, take into account that I have four underage children, old parents that need love and care…
The defense lawyer suddenly raised his eyebrows to show his disapproval, wanted to give Adkham a sign, but did not make it, the judge was ahead of him:
– Defendant Bazarov! You were not given the last word yet. You will have enough time for it. Now tell the court why did you commit this such a serious crime, who were your accomplices, what was your goal? So, how did you do it?
– I, Adkham Bazarov, in mid-June that year, I can’t remember the exact day, invited Orif Mannopov to my place.
– Can you remind us please, who is Orif Mannopov?
– This… pilot Mannopov, who operates the plane. He accepted my invitation. Then I slaughtered my only cockerel in my yard to cook plov, so we made a small party, ate plov, drank…
– What did you drink? Green tea or black tea!? – the judge asked ironically.
– We drank this… our vodka. Then we almost became friends. In the next fifteen days I kept slaughtering a hen daily to cook plov for him, most of the time we drank alcohol, so that I gained his trust, then I hijacked the plane… I am really sorry…
– Bazarov, please tell us, you were asking for a pardon citing your family’s poor condition and that you are the only caregiver for your underage children and old parents. However, you had fifteen lush parties with the pilot. Where did you get money for that? – the judge wondered.
– I usually repair cars and farmers’ tractors and sometimes manage to save some money… and then the hens… they were really not hens… they were only three-month old chickens. This spring the governor obliged businessmen to give donations to needy families. Many were given young chickens; some families got a cow or a sheep. We have heard on the radio that the global food crisis was coming, food prices were on the raise and households were told to increase the number of domestic animals, like sheep, chickens, and plant more vegetables, fruit trees in their gardens. So our family was given fifty young chickens for free, many died and around twenty survived.
– Well, according to the indictment, before committing the crime you have been telling everyone and everywhere that you were about to “fly again”. Rumors were spreading in your village about your “next flight”. Tell us please, when did fly for the first time and how?
– This… I had flown in my childhood… on the rocket.
A loud laughter resonated in the courtroom. The judge got nervous.
– Bazarov, you are not in the circus. Do you realize how serious your crime is?
– Comrade Justice, I am telling the truth… I had flown by hanging up to the rocket which had a parachute. I was a fifth grade schoolboy then. I was grazing my cow on the verge of the cotton field, by evening time a strong wind started blowing and brought black clouds from over the mountain. I was certainly sure that a hell of hailstone and a storm were coming, so I rushed home. There was an anti-hail unit not far from our village that used to fire cannons towards the clouds. They started firing the cannons, the earth was shaking, the air was trembling, dozens of frightened bird flocks flew by, cattle was bellowing and dogs were barking, they could be heard from everywhere. Later the unit launched several rockets as well.
The judge started losing patience and looked around as if he was looking for someone who was as indignant as he was. A people’s advisor, who was sitting next to him, leaned to his ear and whispered: “There is a paramilitary anti-hail unit in this town to protect cotton plantations from hail. Back in the Soviet times they used to fire rockets which later landed on parachutes. Now they fire Russian-made “Alazan” rockets, no parachutes, they explode and disappear in the air.” Now the judge looked at the defendant and showed a little bit of interest in what he was saying.
– … When I reached a hill just over the village, I saw a rocket slowly coming down with its bright red parachute. Back then some lucky people used to find parachutes the morning after the stormy night, hanging from the trees or in their orchards. The fabric that parachutes were made of was very useful, and people used to make sports shorts and T-shirts out of it. The school playground was full of red colored clothes then. Its ropes were used for cattle and could serve for several years, because they were very durable. My happiness was so endless that I started jumping and kicked my cow away, she knew the way home. When the rocket was about to land, a gust of strong wind raised it in the air again. I ran after the rocket, and when I reached it, it was about a meter above the land. I grabbed the rocket to stop and bring it down. It was still hot, a stinky smoke was coming out of its top. The rocket wasn’t big, it was around one and half meter long. But even then I was a very small and thin boy, so I couldn’t get it down to the ground. Then I just hugged the rocket firmly. A sudden gust blew the parachute and my feet could not feel the ground any more. I was flying, first one meter above the land, then two, three meters. The wind was getting stronger and stronger, I was higher and higher. In a few seconds I was flying over the village which was in disarray: the dusty storm was bending poplar trees, they were swaying and swinging back and forth, some roofs were ripped off, and sometimes there were flashes out of electric cables and noise. “I am flying, I am flying” I was shouting all the time hoping that someone could see me flying. But no one heard me… In a few minutes when a heavy rain started I landed in the middle of the cotton plantation. But I wasn’t lucky; a worker who saw the landing rocket had phoned the anti-hail unit. When I was trying to rip the parachute away from the rocket they arrived and took everything away. On their way back they took me home and told my parents that I might had been poisoned and should drink yoghurt for a week. So I couldn’t have that parachute and until now no one believes that I had been flying.