Vrezh IsraelyanMany years ago the Armenian author, Avetiq Isahakian, seized the saying, ‘Why don’t you get pulled down to the complete ruin, o you world?’ from the folk’s mouth and delivered it to Granny Aghavni. She was teaching the Armenian language to the village elementary schoolchildren at the time. And her teacher’s biography began and finished with this very saying. It wasn’t accidental that many honourable men and lovely women, from various spheres of the Armenian land of almost half a century, used to sugar their everyday live of an academician, or an economist, or a builder with the confectionery and pastry grasped in their school days. The audience full of scientific people can’t understand up to now what was the reason that the talented scientist that had conquered the title of an academician finished his speech of gratitude with the saying, ‘Why don’t you get pulled down to the complete ruin, o you world?’ and the Armenian Parliament members tried as hard as they could to understand the reason why the economist senator ended his report on the next year state budget design with this ill-fated thought as a full stop. Also the consumers of the magnificent sports hall were just astounded, too, when they noticed the elements of the same curse sounded by the builders’ organization head.
The pupils of Granny Aghavni had inherited only boldness and obstinacy from that forgotten village, and they invaded the capital like long hungry wolves and seized everything they could from its panic stricken flock. And they did everything to get rid of the past but didn’t succeed.
They got many inconveniences through that saying, but the past showed itself mightier than reason.
Now this very Granny Aghavni took her son’s family upon her wings with her four score and seven years on her shoulders, flew into the capital and dwelled in a flat of our Yerevan house, like a teacher looking for an audience or a bee looking for flowers.
It was Saturday and the yard was full of children. The sun was so cheerful after the rain that the mischievous children had become more mischievous, the diligent women had become more talkative and men were more inclined to joking.
Our first acquaintance of Granny Aghavni took place without any formality. Her son and daughter-in-law were busy carrying the furniture with the loaders, and she took the chance as soon as she got off the van and trotted to us with her tiny but imperious paces.
“What the mess it is?” she asked.
Then she trotted about for a few times and then went up to the inhabitant who was washing his own car in front of the garage.
“Who are you?”
The car owner was taken by surprise.
“Just a man.”
Granny Aghavni turned to us, the children:
“Hey, hunters, is he saying the truth?”
We laughed and said yes.
“What’s then, a Turk is a man too? Do you know me?”
The car owner said without looking up:
“Who doesn’t know you?”
“Is he saying the truth?”
We nodded yes and, getting interested, surrounded her. She scrutinized every one of us with admiration and recited, looking up at the sky:
“Why don’t you get pulled down to the complete ruin, o you world?”
The car owner put his head up and said:
“Did you write that for yourself?”
Granny pointed to the sky with her finger:
“He wrote it.”
Then she put her hand on the car and gave severity to her stare:
“Haven’t you got home? What’re you doing in our house?”
The car owner had neither any desire to offend the strange old lady, nor he could answer her questions with humour, and he grumbled something under his nose and went on with his business.
Granny Aghavni began to scrutinize the yard and she didn’t like something there:
“Have these trees got any owner?
We shook our heads. No
“So all these have got no owner, have they?”
We again shook our heads.
“O my dear Lord!”
Her son and daughter-in-law paid the loaders, came up to her and took hold of her arm.
“Let’s go home,” the daughter-in-law said.
“Is this ruin my home?”
Granny Aghavni forced her free of them, almost fled to me and whispered into my ear:
“Hunter, be on your guard, all the daughters-in-law are thieves.”
I wouldn’t have said that our house accepted the new family with admiration. In the last years, many of the former inhabitants had sold their flats and left for their fate for various countries. The new inhabitants had bought their flats almost for nothing and they looked like misery with their only presence. Every new family invading the house would destroy the moral atmosphere of the house formed for decades. Good or bad, but the house lived, breathing the same air and creating the same garbage.
“The house’ll get into an asylum for the old,” a woman said with a sigh, seeing Granny Aghavni.
“Well, not only the house; the whole country’s getting into an asylum for the old,” another one said.
“May they not be slovenly and untidy,” another one said.
“Well, such slovenly and untidy people fill me with loathing!”
“The villagers flee from the villages and the townspeople flee from towns.”
“Fuck!” the most humorous woman said. “If I’ve got no way out, I’ll go to the headquarters of that political party and say, ‘Guys, I’m a sodomite just like all of you, so take my care of.”
“You’re dead right, friend, it’s their time now; they took the place of the basest whores and scoundrels.”
These talks were the everyday butterflies of the adaptation instinct of our house. The house found its shelter inside these talks; it protected itself against the big or tiny strokes of care and amorality.
The next morning Granny Aghavni came down into the yard. She was more cheerful now. Her wariness was clearly seen even under her wrinkles. And she, like the commander that had just taken the city, began to study the house building: each of the balconies, every leaf of the flowers, every garage, and every large and small pit in the yard. She breathed the dampness coming out of the windows of the underground cellars and carefully scrutinized the riches the inhabitants exhibited on their washing strings.
“Christ my God!”
“Good morning, Granny Aghavni,” I said going up to her.
All the children followed me nudging one another.
“May your own mornings be good,” she said and, taking her face into her palms, went on, almost sobbing, “They did rob, o yes, they did!”
“Who and what?”
“My underwear. Those whores! All daughters-in-law are thieves!”
At the very moment the impertinent cat of our building meowed and rubbed herself against us.
“Christ my God!” said she forgetting her cry and ran after the cat.
“Shoo, Shoo!”
We laughed and joined her.
“Who are the owners of this country?” asked Granny Aghavni.
“The Armenians,” I smiled.
“And where are they?”
“I can’t see them! Why are they meowing then?”
“The Armenians don’t meow, Granny Aghavni, the cats do it.”
“O my dear God! And I thought the Armenians did.”
Our friendship with Granny Aghavni lasted short, just two months. They never let her out into the yard anymore. The neighbours might have complained. They said she used to knock at every door and force the inhabitants out. She used to say the house wasn’t for thieves and whores. Either the daughters-in-law might have complained, or the meowing Armenians. In short, she was under house arrest. They said she had declared she wouldn’t eat anything, and she wouldn’t drink anything, and she was trying to protect her rights in every way she could. As a result, they allowed her to come out on the open balcony for certain hours of the day. Granny Aghavni used these short moments of freedom cleverly and expediently.
The bold champion used to stretch her hands proudly and cough a few times and cry as loudly as she could:
“Hey, people, aren’t there Armenian Christians among you?”
Freedom isn’t given anybody just for nothing. She made her four-score-and-seven year essence into a stronghold of rebellion. But the balcony from where Granny used to sound her slogans of freedom was shut by Euro-windows in a month.
“People, the Turks locked all the doors!”
Whenever Granny Aghavni said the Turks, her son or daughter-in-law came out on the balcony and dragged her inside. We saw this and probably the Armenian Christian awoke inside us, the one whose help our arrested friend used to call for. The one that had stored so much strength and life in her wrinkles and now she was abundantly shedding them out for the sake of freedom. She was taken out on the balcony once more, under a strict watch. First she was silent and was walking about the balcony for a little while, and then she unexpectedly cried out:
“People, break the locks and the doors! Daughters-in-law – the thieves are attacking the country! “May God the Highest help you!”
The son of Granny Aghavni and her daughter-in-law dragged her inside wanting to hide Granny’s shameful deeds, for they wouldn’t accept that form of struggle. For a few days they were rudely violating the constitutional rights of having fresh air of the arrested.
It had been raining for hundred times those few days; it had been hailing for hundred times those few days; the sun had been rising and setting for hundred times those few days. We were hundred children there, and there were hundred children in the nearby buildings, and we gathered them all and held a meeting. We declared our meeting ‘secretly,’ and we didn’t invite newsmen of either the state media, or those of the opposition. When we declared the details of our tactics, they were approved by voting without any objection. We specified the time for carrying out them. The eldest of us recited for a few times:
“Why don’t you get pulled down to the complete ruin, o you world?”
The day came, and may good be our end. Our illegal march began at the central heating block yard. The eldest of us and me were holding the huge placard having the words: ‘Freedom for Granny Aghavni.’ We soldier-like marched solemnly into the building yard, crying:
“Freedom! Freedom!”
The pupils of Granny Aghavni were marching behind us with the same solemnity, the academicians, economists, builders. Behind all of them our quadrupedal friend the impertinent cat was coming, the one who was meowing, and we never understood was the meowing for Granny Aghavni or it was against her.

Translated by Meruzhan Harutyunyan

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