Friday, 15 January 2010
One day, not so long ago, my mother was going to a little girlie get-together with her friends. Everyone was to bring something along, so mother made a cabbage pie. Her friend, whose flat they were gathering at, highly respected my mother’s cabbage pie making skills.
The friend lived out of town, and my mother took a bus.
Right next to her sat a very old, Russian babushka. Babushka’s husband- also very old-was standing nearby.
My mother is an incurably sociable type. She apologized to babushka. The pie was freshly made, and still hot. It was a long journey across Baku, and the babushka had to put up with the smell of cabbage.
Babushka smiled a toothless smile. She said, casually, that they have long forgotten the taste of a cabbage pie. Slowly, as the bus kept making its way through the busy streets, babushka told my mother about her life.
She told her how lucky they were, her husband and her. They had each other. They did have three children, she added, but one of them had passed away; and the other two left the country. Their old neighbours died or immigrated, and the new ones were doing their best to pressure them to move out of their little flat. Things that mean neighbours can do to elderly people. Shout abuse, threaten them, drive fast and too close past them, trying to intimidate..that kind of stuff. Bullies like to bully those who can’t fight back. Those who can not bribe police to protect them.
Their pension is very small. But, she added, they were coping.
For instance- look!- this potato is not bad, is it? And it only cost 10 qəpik per kilo.
They travel across Baku to the big central market, where potato is cheaper. In their local one, it is 60 qəpik.
She was not asking for anything, she was not moaning. She was just grateful she had a listener. My mother, embarrassed for her cabbage pie, awkwardly pushed a 5 manat note into the little wrinkly hand. Babushka tried to refuse the money.
That is just too much! If you gave me one manat, it would be plenty- she said.
My mother told her she had no other cash but wanted to help. Babushka took the money.
‘God bless you’- she said, walking out at her stop. My mother watched the old couple slowly shuffling away, holding hands and carrying the old fabric carrier bag with cheap potatoes. And of course, my mother cried.