Autumn gilded Bishkek. Golden leaves fall from trees. Golden yarn of sunrays envelops streets, buildings and people. Jackets of Saturday strollers glisten with golden embroidery.
Among all the people – he. Very elegant. A black vest on a lilac shirt. A dark tie tied in a large knot. Long hair falls on his shoulders from under the white, gold-embroidered kalpak. The autumn romantic.
“Excuse us, can we take a photo of you?”
“Of course! Please!”
His ease and naturalness in contact with the lens surprises. Probably it is not his first time in front of the camera of charmed tourists.
“Can you send me these pictures over Facebook? Key in Muratbek Rysbekov. Oh yes, yes. That’s me”, the man confirms his account and adds, “You can also find me on Amazon.com”.
Consternation. Okay, but why? We won’t get in touch via Amazon, right? However, out of politeness, we do as he says. The result pops up immediately: “The Advance To Heaven”, a collection of poems by Muratbek Rysbekov.
Ten minutes later, with a Kyrgyz poet, songwriter and journalist, we sit in the cafe “Yrahat” by the street where the Silk Road once ran. At the table in front of us, there are lepioshka, samosa, fresh vegetable salad and three shots of “Silver Vodka”.
Muratbek’s hospitality gives way only to his storytelling. He talks about Kyrgyzstan, its beautiful nature and turbulent history. His words paint Bishkek as it was during the Silk Road times. In one breath he mentions Kyrgyz writers, actors, musicians and opera singers. He praises his five children and seven grandchildren. He speaks beautifully. But even more beautifully he listens. With care, attentively. As if every word of our imperfect Russian was worth its weight in gold.
Between the stories – toasts. Everyone has a turn. Here is to the meeting, to the success in further literary work, to a peaceful journey. And to the Silk Road so it would connect our paths again.
We do not even know how long we sit together. Time is tiptoeing somewhere behind our backs. It does not want to interrupt this peculiar meeting of strangers whom fate turned into friends. It tiptoes and wonders: what if they passed each other without a word like thousands of others do?
Before we set off – each in their own direction, Muratbek turns the last toast into a blessing:
“May the sky be clear for you, God favourable and the road wide”.
Gestures of open palms washing the face with air complement the words.
The next day, on Muratbek’s Facebook page, we see our photo from the cafe with a capture: “With friends Andrzej and Aleksandra”. Underneath the photo, there is a poem. One of its last verses says:
“The way you treat another human being,
It is your portrait.”
Muratbek painted his in gold.
In Bishkek they told us, there is no point in going to Issyk-Kul at this time of the year. It is already long past the peak season. There is nothing there anymore. But stubborn as we are, in late October, we set off on tour around the second largest mountain and saline lake in the world.
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