The Cotton Picker Who Knew Everything
by Mir Jalal
From the book "Dried Up In Meetings"
Azerbaijan International 1998, USA
"Let the baker bake the bread, and give an extra one to him. (Old Azeri proverb).
You've heard it before: "So and so has lost the respect of people and now everyone makes fun of him." I wouldn't want that to happen to anyone. Being respected and influential and then having no one pay any attention to you is the most painful thing to have to endure. It's understandable if the person has committed a shameful act or loses respect by doing something bad. But the man I'm talking about is a friend that you know quite well. He has not done anything of the kind. His loss of respect came about in a very strange way.
I should say that my friend has not committed any shameful act or done anything evil. In his job, in his duties, as in his profession, he has tried to retain his position and status. But he has lost respect among the people in such a way that he himself has been amazed. Let me not hide my friend's name, Medad Ahmadov. Definitely, you all know him. In our district, everyone knows him as a skilled cotton picker, and his art has been demonstrated in the Kolkhos [collective farm] as the finest work on many occasions. Even now he is the best cotton-picker in the district and is the head of the Cotton-Pickers' Brigade.
Then you will ask, how is it that such a person is not respected?
He lost the respect of others simply by interfering in everything regardless of whether he knew anything about it or not. To tell you the truth, Medad Ahmadov himself was not so much to blame. The Executive Committee of our district was to blame. Because Medad's name was mentioned with respect everywhere, the committee started consulting him about everything.
A draft was prepared for building a cultural center for the district. When it was being discussed the Committee would not listen to a single person. They only consulted Medad Ahmadov. He fingered each paragraph of the draft and made corrections. The Committee agreed with these so-called "suggestions," but the architects were shocked.
A statue of the poet Fuzuli was being erected in our district, but the Committee asked Medad Ahamadov about it first. "Comrade Medad, what do you say? Would it be better to have a hat on Fuzuli's head or not? Tell the artists what you think and let them do it.
" Medad Ahmadov looked around him and said, "It's very hot; it's better to be without a hat. Wearing a hat is old-fashioned."
Once again, the painters, poets, scholars and sculptors were ignored. The Committee stood by his suggestion, allowing the leader of the cotton pickers to determine the dress code of the poet. At first, the people involved respected the wishes of the Committee and the cotton picker and voiced their opinions, but later on, when they saw that the Committee slavishly followed the cotton picker, they became silent.
The Committee undertook other projects. A considerable amount of money was put aside for an electric station. Again, they asked the opinion of the cotton picker. But dear friends, whenever the name Medad was mentioned, nobody said anything. People came to think of him as not a very serious person and they turned away from him.
The head of our Committee has a very strange habit. He calls the local cook and asks his opinion about a newly proposed building project. He asks a singer about a dress fashion, a well-digger about a song, a carpenter about a legal case, and consults them on these matters. When you say, comrade chief, everybody has a profession. He waves his hand in denial and raising his head says, "In the past it was like this. Now our people know about every profession. Don't you see me, I am the master of every profession, you name it!"
The Committee chief made the head of cotton pickers almost into a prophet, consulting him in every matter. Of course this gave him ideas, and made him think he was a great person. Nowadays when someone gets a boil on his neck, they say, "No need to go to a doctor, just consult the head of the cotton pickers!"
He has become a laughingstock. Nothing is left even of his mastery at the farm because he is busy with an easily won fame. We have an expression, "Not only did he not catch a fish, he even left his fishing rod at the river." Of course, being sorry later on has no effect. Once respect has been lost, you cannot go door to door searching for it.
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