Dushanbe Stories: Qandil.

A series of interviews with Dushanbinci.

Qandil is a middle-aged man from a village near Hissor Fortress. He drives the 11km to and from work, as the property manager of Maternity Hospital No. 2, every day. During the last years of the Soviet Union, he worked as the chauffeur for the Zebo Music and Dance Ensemble.

In 89, 88, 87, I drove Zebo into Afghanistan for concerts. We went to Kabul, to Kunduz, to Mazar-I Sharif. Back then, the only way to enter Afghanistan was through Termez, in Uzbekistan. And Mazar-I Sharif, that was Uzbekistan. Faizobod, that was in Tajikistan. So we’d drive through Termez and get to Mazar and then take a plane to Kabul. We’d get off the plane, see all these Afghans with their heads wrapped in turbans, and be like…[mimics eyes bugging out].

My son is the same age as you, from ’92 [24-25 years old]. He was in Russia for a long time. He kept saying he was coming, he was coming; then finally, he came home about a year ago. When he got home, I gave him two things: A new Mercedes, and a wife [laughs]. She’s the relative of one of the nurses here. They were married six months ago. His wife — get this — was born in ’99 [17-18 years old]. She couldn’t do a single thing around the house. Not a single thing! She didn’t know how to cook a single dish! She’s very good at watching television, though. So I point her in the direction of my wife, and just say, watch and learn, bit by bit. Just watch for now. And she’s gotten better, it’s true. She finished 11th grade, but the wedding was still technically against the law. Everyone told me it wouldn’t be possible, but I said, just wait and see, and you know, we found a way [winks]. She doesn’t have a father — her father is dead — and she has one of those social security cards so she gets a little allowance every month, so we appealed on those grounds. You know — she doesn’t have a father, she has to find a husband — and it worked out OK.

I think all these new buildings are great. Look at this building [points to maternity hospital]. It’s how many stories? Three stories? And that building [points to new 10-15 story building going up one block east]. Everything in that building is new, and new is good. Listen, you’re from America. How many stories are the buildings in America? 80? 150? So, give us our 15-story buildings.

Aren’t you afraid they’re going to fall down in…

In an earthquake? No. Back in the Soviet Union, they told us we couldn’t have buildings more than three or four stories because of earthquakes. But they broke their own rules all the time — look at that trio of 12-story buildings by Profsoyuz. Back then, everything was made of iron. Now, there’s no need of iron. We have new materials.

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