By Jamala Akmatalieva
Jalil Asanov is turning 26 years old in a couple of weeks. Born in Bishkek, he has been away from Kyrgyzstan for more than seven years.
Jalil was 12 years old when his parents decided he should be attending Turkish lyceum in Bishkek. It was a good chance for entering foreign university after the graduation. He studied at the lyceum for five years and in 2001 got accepted to Turkish university in Izmir along with five other peers.
“At first we were all excited to go abroad, as none of us never been out of the country”, Jalil recalls. “Everything was new and stunningly beautiful; ancient mosques, the sea, even the air was different from the one in Bishkek,” Jalil continues.
The excitement of being abroad lasted for about a month for Jalil and his other friends. It suddenly disappeared when problems started to come into lives of young students.
“It took me some time to realize how hard it was to live in a city like Izmir, because comparing to Bishkek it was very expensive and we didn’t always have enough food, not talking about clothing and going out. We did receive some pocket money from our scholarship sponsors but it was so little, one would laugh at the sum today,” says Jalil after a moment of silence.
By the end of the first couple of months, when the thrill of living in a different country where not only people but simply every little thing was different, there came another problem.
“We started to miss our city – we started to badly miss Bishkek, as if it was a real person, a family member,” says Jalil.
Jalil revealed that he has never thought of something alike when living in Bishkek; he never believed it was true when people said that the real value of something can be fully understood only when you lose it.
Jalil did not lose his native city, but it was surely hard to stay away from it for so long, without having a chance to visit it whenever he wanted. By that time Izmir seemed to be a complete stranger city for Jalil and most of his friends.
“It happened so, that in order to support my family and my own living; I started to work for a company that produced cutters. I was still a student, you see. Work demanded time and effort and at the end I lost my scholarship, but never thought of giving up. I was eager to come back home with university diploma in my hands.
Instead of four years I studied seven for my bachelor’s degree. It was hard and tough but I finally made it,” recalls Jalil.
Jalil couldn’t be happier when he finally bought an air ticket to fly back home and leave Izmir for good, despite the fact that in seven years that have passed Izmir became part of Jalil.
“Circumstances were so that I could not find proper job in Bishkek so I went to Almaty and found one there. I can’t say I love it but there is no choice. Its life that is forcing me to stay away from Bishkek. I only come here for the weekends. But if someone would ask me, what it means for me to love Bishkek, I would answer straight away,” Jalil says with a sad smile, lighting up another cigarette.
“I was born here, and I belong to this country and Bishkek in particular. There is no other place in the world that can bring me so much peace. That’s exactly what I feel here – peace. I love every little bit of this city, and I think that every Kyrgyz does. No matter how hard life seems at times, I know that there is one small city that will always be happy to welcome me back,” continued Jalil.
A couple of Jalil’s friends visited him in Bishkek last summer. Jalil confessed that he was a little worried when it came to sightseeing, as he thought that not everything will interest native Istanbul citizens, as they live in the city of biggest contrasts. Jalil thought that despite the fact that the city is so dear to him, it will not be able to impress his friends.
“My friends were amazed. They told me they have never been in a city like this – all green and friendly which made the whole place beautiful and unique in its own sense,” Jalil said. “If there could be one word to describe my Bishkek it would be peace, as that’s exactly what it brings to those who know how to not only look but see”.
There are many ways in which a person can express love for the city where he or she belongs to. Some may never say it loud, but love still exists inside them. It can never be measured, divided or faded away, as nothing is more important to know where you belong, where your place and where you came from.
Your city does that – it gives you an assurance of being a part of something bigger, wiser and better than you are, makes you understand that your connection cannot be denied or refused, it is always two of you – yourself and your city.