~ Abai Kunanbaev ~

Word Five

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Sorrow darkens the soul, chills the body, numbs the will, and then bursts forth in words or tears. I have seen people praying; "Oh, Allah, make me as carefree as a babe!" They imagine themselves to be sufferers, oppressed by cares and misfortunes, as though they had more sense than infants. As to their cares and concern, these can be judged from the proverbs:
"If you will live no longer than noon, make provision for the whole day";
"Even his father becomes a stranger to a beggar";
"Cattle for the Kazakh is flesh of his flesh";
"A rich man has a countenance full of light, a poor man — as hard as stone";
"The dzighit [1] and the wolf will find their food along the way";

"The herds of exalted men are left to the care of others, except when such men have nothing better to do"
"The hand that takes also gives";
"He who has managed to get rich is always in the right";
"If you can't rely on the bey, don't count on God either";
"If you are famished, gallop to the place of a funeral feast";
"Beware of a lake with no shallows and of a people that knows no mercy".
Such proverbs are legion.

Now, what do they tell us? It is not learning and knowledge, nor peace and justice, that the Kazakh holds dear — his sole concern is how to get rich. So he will twist and turn to cajole some of their riches from other people, and if he does not succeed, he will see the whole world as his enemy. He will have no scruples about fleecing even his own father. It is not customary among us to censure those who gain possession of livestock by trickery, lies, pillage or other crimes.

So, in what way does their mind differ from that of a child? Children are afraid of the blazing hearth, while adults have no fear even of the fires of hell. When they feel ashamed, children would like the earth to swallow them up, but adults know no shame at all. Is it this that makes them superior to children? If we will not give them what we own, if we refuse to let them ruin us and do not descend to their level, they will turn their back on us.

Is this the people whom we should love with all our heart?

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[Footnote 1: dzhigit- expert horseman in the Caucasus and Central Asia] Back to text