Celebrating Adnan or I don't want a requiem for a dream

Silence my voice
I’ve got no choice
All the world I’ve seen before me
Passing by.. (ATWA-System of a Down)

Tonight I can write the saddest lines
Write,for example, “the night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.” (Pablo Neruda)

You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13, Jesus Christ to his apostles)

I took a screenplay writing class in my last year in undergrad. The professor told us in the first class that there are three types of people: those who tell the stories, those who listen to the stories and...”what is the third one?”she asked. I had a rare moment of revelation and said that there are people who are stories themselves. Adnan belongs to the latter type. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t take this last story seriously and thought that it will be just a funny episode. An unexpected trip to a police station.Yes, a bit of ADRenalin in our blood.

I first heard about Adnan in school, Baku European Lyceum where we both studied. I was in 9th grade when his class was graduating (from 11th). It was the most famous class, known for very bright and active kids, either called by us as “Sevda muellimenin sinfi” (Professor Sevda’s class - our algebra and geometry professor everybody feared, respected and loved) or “Adnanin sinfi” (Adnan’s class) after its brightest representative. Back then we kept the respectful distance as we were regarded as “kids”. Luckily, I met Adnan for the second time when I graduated and came to work in BP. I started on January 6, 2006 and they were expecting Adnan to start in about a week. And so he did.

Now pompous words would sound bitter, but it’s true that it was a privilege to know Adnan so closely. He is indeed of a rare kind. In a conformist land as ours is, Adnan lived according to his own truths, defining himself over and over again with frustrations at a time, but never afraid of challenging himself or others. At first it would seem naive and it took me a while to realize how genuinely true he was to himself. He never preached. If he thought this is the right thing to do, he simply did it. He had this amazing dedication to excellence and would bring excitement even to most mundane tasks. Adnan’s smile and his “ay jan”(more or less translated as “yes, my soul”) when called upon was able to cheer up anyone. That room was an amazing place to be with the endless debates about religion with our hard-core religious Turkhan or hard-core opposition activistSaadat khanim who didn’t believe in youth movements and non-violence and believed in the power of “meydan” only (“meydan” means square in Azeri and is often used in context of Freedom Square, where Azeris demanded their independence from the Soviets). Adnan believed in the evolution of minds.

Adnan was disarmingly honest and never politically correct. Once when our team leader was reading an editorial she wrote for the internal magazine he said “Gulya khanim, this seems too long.” And she said: “well maybe it’s because my voice is boring and squeaky.” Adnan made a thoughtful face and said very seriously: “perhaps, perhaps.”

Then, there was OL! Youth Movement. He would meet with people who had potential and I remember a meeting with one girl where I also took part. She would speak in Russian and Adnan would answer back in Azerbaijani. It went back and forth for the entire time and he never switched to Russian, even though his Russian was impeccable. Yes he couldn’t make others to speak Azeri, but he could do that himself.He was “Plato, you are dear to me but dearer more is truth” kind of a person. Once all three of us in the room (me, Adnan and Rufat) wanted to take a vacation in the same week and our team leader asked us to figure out someone who would stay. I remember writing an email to both of them. It said: “I know that the age of chivalry is long gone, but the spirit is still alive in our room.” Adnan wrote back simply: “No.” And it was hilarious.

I remember breaking his earphones once and then acting capriciously and not buying him new ones. I would say: “Adnan, can’t you buy yourself new earphones? What’s the problem?” He would say that this is not about earphones, but principle. People should take responsibility for their actions. He didn’t nag or anything. He just used the broken ones for about three months until I felt horrible and bought a new set of earphones. He said “see, Humush, now you acted responsibly.”

I remember how on 8th of March he walked in carrying three flowers, one for each lady in the room. No big statements. He just walked in with three flowers, unwrapped, unpretentious, sincere flowers. I think it was a Czech writer Milan Kundera who said that when all the beauty in the world is gone, he would just take a flower and walk around looking at it as the cleanest, purest expression of beauty. I think it was my best 8th of March gift.

He was very enthusiastic to implement a “free hug” campaign in Baku, standing on the street with a board where “free hugs” would be written. I remember laughing crazily for about 10 minutes, breathless and non-stop. Free hugs in Baku? Where you can get in trouble for just looking at a passersby mini skirt? Are you out of your mind, Adnan? He would say: “People need to love each other more here. Too much aggression.” Our Saadat khanim said: “This kid wants to get himself killed. Allah seni guldursun!” (May God make you laugh - usually said when someone says something very funny) He did make this “free hug” thing at a pretty big party in Baku. And he was planning to take it to the streets some time.

Seeing that everyone at work spends too much time at their computers, he came up with an initiative for pedometer challenge. The entire Communications and External Affairs team divided into teams of three and wore pedometers for about a month. A team which had the most steps would win. We were in the same team with Adnan and every morning when I would come to work he would greet me with “Humush, how many steps?” I would try to wake up early and walk to work. And he would encourage me to walk home after work too and would keep the company. There was this craziness and competition in the team, as everyone was running around, jumping around, trying to sneak in and ask how many steps did the other team have. Saadat khanim lost a couple of pounds, as she was a principled and determined woman with a strong will to win.And these walks in a city where many just ride around in big cars, they were nice too.Once I remember wrongly attributing "What is our life? Just a game!" quote to Shakespeare during these walks. A day after he sent me a text message saying that he checked and it's actually Pushkin.

I remember how happy and proud Adnan was when he heard that I was admitted to Columbia. He would ask in the room: “you do know who graduated from Columbia, don't you?” It was a time of Saakashvili euphoria as neither opposition crackdowns, nor war in Georgia didn’t happen yet. I remember an “Orange Sky” CD he gave me with songs from Ukrainian Orange Revolution.I remember a final dinner we had with BP team to celebrate my admission. We were discussing what is freedom and what does it mean to be free. Freedom for Adnan was as water for a fish. He would swim in the topic and breathe with it. I remember him telling in the end: “Humay, make us proud.”

Then he went to the army. Even in army he would show films to soldiers and try to educate them. In the summer heat, he would march in winter boots (no, they don’t have summer boots in our army) and still keep his chin up.

This piece is already long. It could go on forever. I could write about his videos, about his social ads which would be a hilarious satire to some of our indeed very stupid customs (I would translate and explain them to my friends in States and even they would die laughing), about his endless creativity, his integrity, honesty and his searchesfor a true and just world, for a better Azerbaijan. Words are very weak indeed. That’s why Adnan acted.

Adnan, ezizim, you are 26 today. You are celebrating this day behind the bars. Or my guess is you are not celebrating it. But we are celebrating. I am glad that you came into this world and into our lives. I am glad you showed me how much a person can do just by himself. I am glad you proved that one man with beliefs is worth of thousand with interests. I am glad that you dared to dream and took us on a journey too. Please keep on dreaming. I don’t want a requiem for a dream. And please come back. We miss you here.

Humay Guliyeva


Rəşadət said...

super Humay.kovreldim emelli bashli:(

Esmira said...

Humay, da, mne bilo ochen' priyatno chitat' :) thank you.

runya said...

Humay!!! thanks a lot for this post!!! it is great and made me cry.

Crude_Trader said...

thank you for sharing

northwestjeff said...

excellent insight into Adnan's personality. thanks.

Anonymous said...

What is this was, was, was all about? He is not dead!

Humay said...

good comment dear Anonymous. of course, he is not, but "was" is about his life prior to arrest.