Who are you? A subtle, yet very profound question Sadridin’s father asked as he rose angrily. In defense of his community, he raised his son’s hands to face the student who had come from Madrasah and the other town.
Being illiterate, Sadriddin’s ceremony at school commencement got swamped with the horror of tough games and cloud of corporal punishment; frightened by this, he chose not to go to school.
Sadriddin, however, decided to go after a promise from his father. His immense fear of rod, made him cram the beginners’ lessons without being able to distinguish the alphabets, an act that earned him the name; ‘parrot’ from his father.
During the 80s in the 19th century, elementary education in Central Asia featured having children in the community gather to learn from a teacher who is commonly referred to as ‘Domullo’ who would lay the foundation of formal knowledge for the children, ranging from learning the basics of Islamic prayers, Arabic alphabets, and grammar. The sacrifices of these children to learn in a strait environment where they need to trek to school and labor to learn in a harsh learning environment are indeed nothing short of a classical expression of a shared resilience to learn and the author has vividly given these experiences a written expression in this book.
Sadriddin Ayni chronicled the story of how his elementary education started. In mixed feelings, he recounted the story of his movement to literacy- from being illiterate to literate, passing through the rigor of repetitions, labors, and shared determinations colored in peculiarities of culture and religion. He capped the recount with the fantasies of his childhood; making the story a beautiful reading voyage.
More importantly, this is the first time a story by a great Central Asian writer is translated into English and made available for the international audience.