İt was 3:15 am when my phone rang. I was so sleepy and it awakened me in a sweat. The voice was a bit weak but very understandable. Those days I had already faced with it many times. It was Umman again: “So, what? Did you find someone?”, he asked.
His voice was very hopeless at the same time.
“Hey Said, did you find someone to bring it?” he asked once more and remind me what I had promised him few days ago.
“Yes,” said I, and asked to let me sleep and talk about it in the morning
Yousif is the youngest and a bit spoilt brat of his rich family.
The weather was very cold when I first time met with him outside the Baku State University’s building. He was and is a very thin and a merry boy. We were taking a look at the semester schedule hanged on the door and by a stroke of chance understood that we would study in the same classroom. 15 minutes after our meeting, we were talking about football bets already. I observed he had some kind of proud towards his loses in football bets and about talking about girls and alcohol was his favorite topics as well.
“Look”, he said. “Yesterday Umman and I get a “samogon” from the neighboring Russian uncle. Once I helped him to repair his roof and he promised to give a bottle of samogon…” that was the first conversation between me and Yousif and during the first time I heard Umman’s name.
Yousif somehow understood that I am not familiar with Umman and cleared me that they are “the best friends in the world” and he was studying at the bachelor degree at tha same university. Then he continued the revious conversatioion – girls, bets and alcohol.
To be honest, i was feeling a bit bored from those topics not because of that i was not engaged with them. But because my financial situation was worse than Yousif’s and i should get a job to make a living.
Days after the classes started, we were very close to Yousif. I don’t know why maybe it was because we were the only boys in our group and the rest were girls. But maybe the reason was different.
After a few weeks, once I saw Yousif near the “Bakusovet” metro station. There was a thin, tall and beardy young boy beside him. “This is Umman, I have already talked about him to you. We are going to “chaikhana” if you wish you might come”, told Yousif. But I was in a hurry and had to go to meet for the first time with my future spouse. So I kindly rejected the offer and left them after a very short talk. But after leaving them I was remembering Ummans ironic voice during the conversation and the pent-up anger in his eyes. He was such a strange looking young man.
I was sure that they were not going just an ordinary teahouse but to “TOPAZ”, the only legal football betting network in Azerbaijan.
After this first meeting, I had a chance to meet with Umman very frequently at the university canteen and I knew him better. As time passed I learned that Umman is very older than us and had been forced to leave the university two years ago. When there was a rally with the demand for the resignation of the rector of Baku State University Umman was one of the organizers. Afterward, the rector promised to fulfill all the demands from the protestors but later he forgot it and started to repress those students who organized that rally. So, Umman was forced to leave the university and then he went to the military service. After one year and a half he came back and already the rector was changed and a bit reformist.
He did not reject Umman’s apply to continue his study. So this time he had met with Yousif and me.
I hang off the phone and continued my sleep. It was very early to think about the promises that we make despite the fact that we are not able to realize them.
The next morning we met with Umman and the middle-aged woman near the “Nizami” cinema. We sat in a bank and the conversation started.
“Look”, said the woman, “I cannot guarantee that a hundred percent you will find a decent job there, but anyway it will be better than in your situation. Even you will be a trash cleaner, you will be treated as a human and will earn at least ten times more than know”
Umman’s eyes were full of hopes after a long time and hurried to ask the fee.
“So, how much should I pay for those all? He asked.
Around six hundred US dollars said the woman.
After the second semester once I got that Umman and Yousif are not “best friends” anymore. The reason for Yousif was that “he had musunderstood Umman so far and after the last accident which he does not want to talk about, he has got who is Umman in real”. But the story that Umman told was a bit different and easy to describe: Ummans father had sent money for his education fees with a man coming from the region. Because of the exams, Umman cannot go to the bus station and asked Yousif to go there and take money from the person coming from the region. But that day Yousif took and lost all the money in “TOPAZ” and had no source to give the money back to Umman...
That year Umman used to work for a very outspoken media company which was in the blacklist of the government. It was very hard if you once work for such kind of media organizations you cannot get a decent job in any organization financed by the government or pro-government sources. Umman’s salary was very low so it was just enough to pay flat rents and to eat something.
So, after losing his university fees he could not tell his father about the situation. He was embarrassed and a bit scared about the thing that might happen. So he decided to earn that money himself but unfortunately he could not manage it.
Those hard days for Umman were the last year at the university for me and I graduated from university and moved to Turkey and started to work for a media company. For a long time, I could not talk to Umman.
Know all the hopes glimmering on the eyes of Umman were gone. I was sure that he had no chance to make 6 hundred US dollars to give this lady. But he behaved he had and told that he would give it: “ I will bring the money, please continue the procedure”
After the short conversation, the woman left us. We both knew the situation and did not say anything. Umman was looking to the child driving bicycle and tried to smile carefree.
“I should and will find this money. I have not any other chance but to go to Canada, you know Said”
“Yes, I understand you,” said I nodding.
But we had no idea how we, actually he can get this money.
It was not easy to make it, especially after the last devaluation of the Azeri currency
It was 2018 when I moved back to Baku and started to work for a new media organization. I was already married and had a different lifestyle. I had lost contact with many of my friends and Umman and Yousif were included in those categories.
Once I had a task to interview a very well-known Azerbaijani politician. He advised meeting in a restaurant close to her house. So we appointed a meeting in that restaurant close to the old part of Baku. I was very eager to interview her because it was very high-level state authorities and kind of proof that I am already ready for such kind interviews.
We sat down on the reserved table and asked for the menu.
But suddenly I saw Umman bringing the menu in a suit of a waiter. I fell into mixed feelings but what was clear for me that one of those feelings suppressing other was a shame. I did not know how to behave in that situation
We shook hands with him and made a very short exchange of pleasantry for meeting again. Then he left the menu and did not come back again. Maybe he understands that I am ashamed and did not want to make trouble for me again. After the interview, the politician left the restaurant but did not I.
It was the end of Ummans shift and we had a chance for conversation.
“I could not manage to finish the university once more,” said Umman. “I did not dare to tell that my friend had lost all the fee in a gambling game and they expelled me from the university. Then I started to work as a waiter in different restaurants. This is the fourth one now.”
Then he started to tell me about his new plan. “I have made already 5 thousand dollars to migrate to Canada. This is the only way for me now to save my life.
I asked why he does not work for a media company again. Because there were a lot of vacations in the newly opened television companies. But Umman told me that because of his journalist past none of those television companies an eager to hire him and the previous media outlet was closed already because of lacking financial sources. So he was forced to work in the other fields.
After this meeting, we again did not see each other for a long time. I applied for GIPA and get this university and moved to Georgia. It was completely new life style form me again. But during the eve of New year, I came back to Baku for the holiday.
Then I received a message to my facebook account from Umman. He asked to to meet with him in a very short time as possible.
When we met in Baku Bulvar, he was wearing a bit worn-out coat and beardy again as the last past days of university.
“Said, I need help. I have to go, but seems as if someone does not want me to go there”.
İ told him that during our last meeting in the restaurant he taled me that he has 5 thousand dollars to migrate and it was enough to amount of money to go there. But he explained after a few minutes that the owner of the restaurant got that Umman was a member of the opposition party whose leader was in jail then. So, the owner who was actually police chief fired Ummad and later then he could not get a normal paying job. So he started to deep into his savings. After few month he realized that he has just 1 thousand and 500 dollars. He paniced and went to TOPAZ again and bet his money. In one weak he earns 200 hundred dollars but the loss was more than 1500 US dollars.
“Said, can you help me? Or do you know anyone to help me?” he asked
İ had some saving but since I was married my attitude towards money was a bit changed. So my saving was not a matter of discussion. So we had to find another way to help him migrate to Canada.
Then suddenly I had an idea. Maybe we can ask Yousif to help us. His parents were rich and he had played a huge role in the current situation of Umman. Maybe he was regretful and might help Umman.
The next day I called Yousif but could not reach him. The following days i continued calling him but could not reach again. Finally, I decided to write to him on facebook.
I saw he was online and jump on the chance
We started the conversation. Yousif offered to talk on video chat and we did it.
He was in Izmir, in Turkey since 2017 and was working with his elder brother. He said his conditions are good and did not think about coming back to Baku again.
During the conversation, I explained to him the situation of Umman but as I started to talk about this issue his face mimics changed
Look said him. Said I will give the money that I lost mistakenly that times in TOPAZ back to him. It just 800 hundred dollars. But my current situation does not let me give an old friend 5000 dollars. It is really huge said, Yousif
Umman was still looking to the child driving bicycle. I will steal he said suddenly.
“There is no way left. I will steal,” he repeated again.
He was saying it in a very calm manner. It seems that he was thinking about it for a long time.
After a month, I heard that Umman was in jail for robbery attack to the TOPAZ betting station. Now he should spent 1 year in jail and I do not know what kind of a man he will be after being released from the prison.