GRANDMA TOTY'S STORIES
While Father and my brother were gone to
rescue the cow, Grandma Toty came to visit. Taking a seat on the carpet,
she pulled out a spindle and some tow, and was soon spinning yarn.
"Lukman had a father who was very, very old,"
Grandma Toty began in her soft voice while we sat holding our breath, "and
finally he grew so old that his son, according to the ancient laws of the
steppe, was bound to take the feeble old man to the other side of the mountain
and leave him there to die. And everyone saw how one day Lukman went off
to the mountains with a full sack, and when he returned later, the sack
was empty. 'He carried away his father; the people assumed, and then they
thought no more about it, for this cruel custom was the law for everyone.
Old Lukman had had a talent for healing the sick, and soon people began
to notice that young Lukman too knew all the right herbs and remedies for
any disease. Lukman became famous throughout the steppe for his skill as
a healer. Once he was asked:
"Have some tea first, Mama said. "The soup
will be ready soon.
Just then I caught a whiff of the pheasant
soup Mother was making from Father's latest catch. While Mother went out
to the hearth, we all gathered around Grandma Toty. She knew what we were
waiting for. Setting aside her spindle, she took a sip of tea and began
her story. First she told the story about the sly fox who helped the young
boy slay the gluttonous king and become a king himself. Then she told us
about Lukman of the Lukman tribe.
"You're still young; how is it that you
know about all the herbs and healing potions?" 'Have you forgotten about
my father?' young Lukman replied. 'My father knew how to heal every disease.
I didn't take my father to the other side of the mountain to die; I took
a sack of old sheepskins! And my father has told me all his secrets.'
"The people began to ponder, trying to decide
whether or not to banish Lukman together with his feeble old father, but
they were afraid to be left without a healer able to cure any disease.
"And so Lukman became the elder of the Lukman
tribe, and the people grew ashamed of themselves and from that day on they
revered and looked after the elderly until their dying day."
I loved listening to Grandma Toty's stories,
but this time I listened with ever mounting impatience.
"Grandma," I asked, "have you ever seen
"Allah have mercy!" Grandma replied.
"But Grandma Toty, do you know any magic?"
"I only know," Grandma said, "that we Turkmen
people have maybe a hundred or two hundred names, while the snakes have
a thousand. A snake never reveals its name to anyone. If you learn the
name of a snake, it will bow its head and become your faithful servant."
I would have asked more, but just then Mother
came in carrying a big tureen of soup. We began to eat, but Grandma Toty
ladled out a few spoonfuls and began chewing so slowly on her churek.
"Take some meat," Mother said. "It's pheasant
- very delicious."
"Thank you," Grandma said, but she still
didn't touch the meat.
Then Mother put some meat in Grandma's plate
herself, and Grandma began to eat. Grandma Toty was very old, and she observed
very, very old customs.