Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2004 (12.3)
Page 12

Reader's Forum
Azerbaijani Lullabies

My husband and I have a beautiful baby girl named Jasmine. The moment she was born, we fell in love with her. Her gorgeous starry eyes took my breath away; her toothless smile made us drunk with joy. Like any new Mom, I could go on for hours on such fascinating topics as messy diapers, scheduled feedings and upset stomachs. With the eagerness of a college grad hired for her first job, I embraced the weight of responsibilities and joyfully submerged myself into the life of gooey baby cereals, first teeth, runny noses and, oh yes, how can I forget-embarrassing gas problems. But as the months past and Jasmine and I somewhat figured out how her major bodily functions worked, I was faced with a dilemma. Since we are living in the United States, what language should I use to communicate with her? English? Azeri? Or both?

Left: Scene from one of the narrow alleyways of Ichari Shahar (Old City) Baku. Nura with her mother Leyla, showing off her school books for learning English.

I'll never forget how the son of one of my Azerbaijani friends had come to the United States at age four. He didn't know a single word of English but within six months at kindergarten, he started to refuse to talk to his mother unless she spoke to him in English.

Irina, another friend, had to find and hire a tutor so that her 10-year-old daughter would not forget her native Russian. Yet, my closest girlfriend Tata successfully managed to keep her son interested in speaking English, Russian and even Polish-her husband's native tongue.

Often on the playground, I observe Hispanic mothers talking to their children in their mother tongue, only to hear the children reply back in English. At the mall, Indian teens, dressed in designer jeans and T-shirts converse in English about the most recent Harry Potter movies. On our block, a family of seven Chinese children often play outside, and guess what language we hear the older children using around the little ones: English, no less!

Maybe Jasmine will never quite develop the taste for the beauty of the written word, but, at least, I feel that I must show her the path to the magical door of Azerbaijani literature. It will be up to her to open it and enter that enchanted forest. I want her to grow up to feel the lyricism of Samad Vurghun's verse, to laugh and cry over the struggles and passion of the heroes in Anar's novels and short stories, and to be challenged by many of our other writers to think deeply about life and about our culture and our realities.

And so, every night, before she goes to sleep, I read her Azerbaijani stories such as the adventures of Jirtdan, that clever boy who outwits big monsters. Then there are stories about Kechal, the main character in Novruz celebrations (March 20-21) and Tiq-Tiq Khanim, the little Lady Beetle.

Of course, during the day Jasmine sings along with Barney, the Purple Dinosaur. She knows by heart the rhyme about Jack and Jill's disastrous journey uphill to fetch a pail of water, and the cartoons about Dora, the Explorer, intrigue her.

But in the evening, we set aside time to read folktales and sing lullabies to her-all in Azeri, her mother tongue. As the saying goes: "How can you get anywhere in life if you don't know where you've come from?"

Irada Aliyeva
Plano, Texas

From Azerbaijan International (12.3) Autumn 2004.
© Azerbaijan International 2004. All rights reserved.

Back to Index AI 12.3 (Autumn 2004)
AI Home
| Search | Magazine Choice | Topics | AI Store | Contact us

Other Web sites created by Azerbaijan International
| |