“Grapes bring funny memories from my childhood…”

By Emil Suyunaliev

It was evening time when I decided to catch a taxi to visit my friend from high school. I usually sit in the back seat of cabs, but this time I sat in the front, next to the driver. On the way to my friend’s house, I started to talk to the cab driver. He introduced himself to be as Joldosh bayke.

He is a man of around 35-40 years of local origin, from Bishkek, one of the thousand cab drivers in the city who have no options for earning money but driving a cab. He has a degree in chemistry but can’t find a job in his field with a decent salary.

Joldosh bayke asked me where I wanted to go. When I told him I was going to the village Kara Jygach (Кара-Жыгач) to visit a friend, he smiled a big smile and laughed. He told me he knew the place well and he began to tell me about his childhood memories about this place.

The name “Kara-Jygach” came from the name of the a grape branch, referring to its color.. “Kara Jygach” literally translated into English is a “black branch”. The area where this village is located used to be a grape field before and it was developed..

“Kara-Jygach brings memories from my childhood times, most of them are funny,” explained Joldosh bayke. “As students we used to work in the grape fields, collect grapes, as we were sent there to work by the order of our government”.

While he was driving, he told me about his experience there.

“I remember, I think I was a only 12-13 year old school child, when I went there with my friends to eat grapes without permission on the sly,” he said laughing loud. “My friend got shot with salt from a shotgun in his seat by the watchman. He was wounded, but only slightly.”

“You know what the funny thing is?” the taxi driver continued. “After that incident, every time my friend is offered a seat, we say, ‘We are sorry, but he can’t. He’s better off standing’.” “We still make fun of him, after all these years!”

As Joldosh bayke told the story, he remembered there was another guard, as well, who guarded the grapefield most of the time. She was an old Russian woman with a very strict nature and the loudest yell or scream I have ever heard. She used to shout at the strangers very loud and everybody could hear that it was her.

“Once I got caught by her when I was in the field eating the grapes. My friends could escape from her. The punishment was 10 hours of work in that field. After being caught, I stopped visiting that field,” he said, turning his attention to the road and driving.

“She was strict. We all were afraid of meeting with her in person, but I liked grapes so much that I was ready to meet her again if I could get some grapes. But, finally, my family moved from the city and I stopped going there.”

“I still like grapes, but now I don’t steal them anymore. I am too old for that! I purchase them in the bazaar, like everyone else,” Joldosh bayke said, laughing.

Childhood memories of grapes in Kara Jygach, Kyrgyzstan.

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One response to ““Grapes bring funny memories from my childhood…”

  1. This nice story raises a bunch of great questions for me: Is the story also a parable? Does it give insight into the folly of lost youth? An illustration of the real people that suffer to economic hardship? What does the story mean in its larger context? Plus the photo is timeless.

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