Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Doctors (An Excerpt of the collection "Me Before Them")









Uncle Paul’s partially told story of his relationship with Tatyana intrigued me a lot. So, when my husband Sancho Eko Samson suggested that we drive to see my father and sibling at our family home where Uncle Paul was also spending the weekend, I immediately looked at it as an opportunity to close the chapter on the Tatyana story that was fast becoming an obsession for me. We arrived at our home to find that all was not well there because my siblings, uncle and father were in a bad mood. When I found out the causes of their melancholy, I had to stop myself from laughing.
      My brother Nigel’s new girlfriend Elizabeth phoned him a couple of minutes before we arrived, canceling their planned rendezvous that evening.
      My brother Nigel’s new girlfriend Elizabeth phoned him a couple of minutes before we arrived, canceling their planned rendezvous that evening.
Phelim, my younger sister, overstretched her hands in the kitchen and badly cooked the lunch meant to display her recently acquired culinary skills to her new boyfriend.
My father was an unhappy camper that day because of an action that was decades old. He actually went to bed the night before in high spirits and even woke up that morning looking forward to a pleasant day. In fact, he was looking cheerful until around midday when he stumbled on a note from his late wife’s secret lover. And since he did not want to look pathetic to his family, he locked himself up in the study and brooded on his life with a bottle of brandy whose content kept reducing with every passing hour.
Even my father’s older brother was not spared of a bad day that Sunday. We found him on the balcony feeling the contours of his crystal glass full of whisky. Uncle Paul was in a state of desolateness of some sort following the news on the passing away of his friend Steven, a tragedy that struck barely a few years after they reignited their friendship and became the best of buddies once again. It was only a week ago that he told me about some of the projects they drafted that year, with the intention to start implementing them in the next couple of months.
That was why when Sancho suggested that we leave Phelim alone to round things up in the kitchen and join Uncle Paul on the balcony instead, I willingly accepted the advice like someone looking forward to something good. Uncle Paul’s disposition hardly changed after we greeted him. However, he accepted our regards, and then motioned us to the empty seats before inviting Sancho to join him and share the bottle of bourbon sitting on the plastic table.
“You can use some ice and soda, if that’s the way you want it,” Uncle Paul added.
 My uncle was unaware of the fact that I became a social drinker after my wedding, so he did not ask me to have a drink as well. And since I did not want to aggravate his discomfort, I decided not to drink with them. Instead, I ferreted with the things in my handbag.
Sancho on his part fixed himself a drink, pulled a seat closer to my uncle’s, and then went on to engage him in a conversation. It moved from one topic to the other until they settled on sports. Soccer turned out to be the game sport they actually shared a common passion in because they talked in a spirited manner about the soccer leagues in several European countries, the players that were making a name for themselves, and those that were failing to live up to the expectations of their teams and fans. International competitions also featured in their lively discussion, before they settled on the subject of the nature of the game’s development in America. They talked about this with a great deal of enthusiasm as if the country was on track to win the soccer world cup in the next couple of years.
By the time they stopped talking about the sport, the agonizing look that we found on Uncle Paul’s face when we first saw him that day was gone. And on top of that, he even seemed good-humored. In fact, he was smiling and laughing now like someone whose mood had just been altered for the best or like someone who finally found the joy of life again.
 “On the point of Mr. Steven,” Sancho said suddenly, “What happened?”
 “On the point of Steve,” Uncle Paul began and clicked his tongue, “The report from the Brazilian authorities says he died of natural causes, a heart attack.”
“Sorry!”
“But I think his enemies killed him.”
“Why?”
“His cause went against the interest of powerful people in that country. And he knew it.”
“Tania told me you were close friends for a long time.”
“My friendship with Steven began on our first day as freshmen at the George Madison University. He was a very smart student. Uh-huh! He was perhaps the smartest in our class. Moreover, he had this knack for understanding things faster than his other classmates. We were into accounting and finance, but then Steven dropped out suddenly and left the country. I didn’t hear of him again for a while until information reached me that he was backpacking in Latin America. Hmm! I envied him for his courage. There are very few people out there who have the will or the courage to go for the things they believe in.”
 “Did you join him in Latin America?” Sancho asked.
 Uncle Paul shook his head no. “I confess I was a boring student at the time, the type the authorities are apt to point out as their model student. I completed my undergraduate studies with outstanding grades. Then I went on to do the one thing expected of a stereotypical good student—I enrolled into a Master’s Degree program in accounting. I was actually looking forward to graduating within the next couple of months, at the age of twenty-five, when the bug of idealism infected me too. It all started after the CIA helped the Bolivian dictatorship kill Ernesto Che Guevara in Bolivia. His death shook me hard, you know. Steven was in Peru at the time and wrote to me lengthily about it.”
 “Did you say, Che Guevara? Sancho mumbled.
“Uh-huh!”
“Seriously!” Sancho exclaimed, looking awed.
Uncle Paul nodded. “Ernesto Guevara alias ‘The Che’ was a whiz-kid from a wealthy déclassé family―a leftist leaning family of aristocratic lineage per se. On his own merit, he was an equally extraordinary fellow. He excelled in school and graduated as a medical doctor at the age of twenty-six. So, you can imagine what must have been going through his mind to make him abandon the pursuit of material wealth for something substantial. He thought a meaningful life entailed lifting the trodden masses to their feet and helping them onto the path to a better future. Che Guevara’s death a couple of months before my graduation influenced me to the point where I joined a socialist student club. It was there that I learned of plans by the Soviet government to build a railway line from the northern shores of Lake Baikal to the Pacific coast.”
 “I read about it. I think the Russian government is about to complete the project,” Sancho interjected.
 Uncle Paul nodded. “The Baikal-Amur-Mainline, as the project was called, fascinated me a great deal. So, I enrolled into the Patrice Lumumba Friendship University in Moscow. That was my first step in my quest to participate in the undertaking as a volunteer. You see, I was looking forward to my volunteer work in the Russian Far East as the start of my involvement with future projects.”
“What do you mean by future projects?”
Uncle Paul nodded again. “Not future projects by the Soviet Union. I meant projects elsewhere in the world like completing Cecil Rhodes dream of building a railway line from Cape Town in South Africa to the Egyptian capital of Cairo in the north of the African continent. All sorts of ideas were going through my mind back then. Like bringing into fruition the plans of some prominent Africans to build railway lines that would cut across the Africa continent from Dakar in the west to Addis Ababa and Messawa in the east. There were also ideas to build routes to run across the Sahara from the Algerian capital in the north to Lagos in Nigeria, and then perpendicularly to Durban in South Africa.”
“Prominent Africans you said. Whom are you talking about?”
“I meant bigger than life Africans like Dr. Felix Moumie, an intriguing fellow I should say.”
“I never heard of him.”
“He was a brilliant fellow. He led a campaign for the freedom of his country from colonial rule. But the French didn’t like him, so they set one of their agents on his trail. Posing as a journalist sympathetic to the Cameroonian cause, a Frenchman poisoned him in Geneva by dropping thallium in his drink. The affair created quite an international embarrassment for the French, you know. Kwame Nkrumah is another peculiar person who emerged from that continent. He was independent Ghana’s first head of state. He too met a dismal end, deposed by a moron set up by his enemies from our western capitals. Then there was the romanticized Patrice Lumumba, another victim of ours whose legacy Che Guevara could not salvage in his failed expedition to the Congo. You see, the dream of that new age of gigantic projects to enhance the wellbeing of humankind swept me off my feet and made me an idealist. In my pursuit of that idealistic dream, I gladly set out to become a civil engineer. That is how I became involved with Russia.”
 “Did Mr. Steven join you there?” Sancho asked again.
 “No,” Uncle Paul said, and then took a slug of his drink, “Even though Steven was a leftist, he never trusted the Soviet Union. And he shared Che Guevara’s apprehension of Soviet ways and intentions. Steven made his millions dealing with the markets, but he was nonetheless dedicated to human enhancement. He was regarded highly for aligning with Chico Mendes.”
 “How?” Sancho asked.
 “He assisted Mendes with forest conservation in the Amazon, making it an international concern. That is why we have more than twenty forest reserves in Brazil today, fourteen years after Chico Mendes’s death.”
 “I read about the Brazilian’s death. The bizarre nature of the story left quite an impression on me. I was a little boy at the time. His enemies assassinated him in a plot masterminded by a pair―a father and son, I think,” Sancho said in a halting voice.
 Uncle Paul regarded him with dimmed eyes for a moment, and then nodded. “Your deep interest in the affairs that shape our world amazes me. Keep it up, Son,” he said with a sad smile.
 “I won’t be surprised if a story comes up tomorrow telling the world that Michael Jackson found his inspiration for his ‘Earth Song’ from Chico Mendes’s cause,” Sancho articulated with a furrowed brow.
 Uncle Paul cocked his head to one side, and then shrugged. “An interesting line, I have to admit. Talking about Steve, talking about Steve! My friend was working very hard to get more areas designated as forest reserves just before he died. I blame his death on the ranchers, the loggers and the new soybean farmers who wouldn’t feel a twinge of guilt chopping down the entire Amazon rainforest to feed the Chinese market with their produce.”
 “Well!” Sancho said with a grunt, “I read the soy farmers are aggressive in their quest for more land in the Amazon provinces.”
 Uncle Paul nodded. “It was brought to my attention that Steven cried before he died. Why did he weep?” Uncle Paul said, and then became silent all of a sudden with a distance look in his eyes.
“Why did he weep?” I mumbled.
Uncle Paul sighed, and then darted a glance at me. “I think he wept because he knew he was about to die at a time that he had only realized a fraction of his dreams. The one thing that was particularly strange about the fellow was his uniqueness. He was one of those rare types who could move mountains, one of those variously gifted people we often refer to as the movers of the movers. Yes, Tania, he was one of those rare breeds that are blessed not only with the foresight to show people the future with blinding clarity, but that are also blessed with the strength to carry others into that future. You see, reaching the future he showed involves going over marshes, traversing deserts, climbing and descending mountains, finding the way across rivers and penetrating thick forests. He alone could chart such a complicated route, whip people’s spirit to confront the challenges and create enough order to prevent chaos in the face of the difficulties that come with navigating the treacherous route to that future. That is why he died knowing that the great dream he was just beginning to share with others might never be realized.”
 The discussion about Steven and his idealistic mission in life must have touched Sancho deeply because he said in a thoughtful voice. “Dr. Steven Monthe led a meaningful life. I am glad he left behind a family that is going to honor his legacy. He told me the last time I saw him about his Bolivian wife and the kids they brought into this world. That was almost two years ago,” Sancho said.
 “You will find characters like Steven in strange places in this world. I knew this fellow called Samuel Tchwenko back in my student day in Russia. He was full of life. Samuel was a great inspiration to many in all the places where people got to know his character. Despite the objections of his family, the young medical doctor chose to return to his native Cameroon. It was as if he did not give a damn about the persecution of his ethnic group and the victimization of his family and citizens because of their political affiliation with the liberation movement and the ideals espoused by the land’s union-nationalists and intellectuals. He arrived home with a great deal of enthusiasm to make his society better. The fellow even embarked on his health drive with a missionary, if not revolutionary zeal, an uncommon quality in a country where the government was killing its true patriots. He told me of his frustration operating as a government doctor under circumstances comparable to the situation the doctor in Anton Chekhov’s Ward No.6 found himself in. Even so, Samuel went about his mission undeterred. With his wife who herself was a medical doctor, they did a wonderful job improving the health of the country’s west coast. Samuel tried to extend his vision by creating contacts around the world and scouting for assistance that he finally got as commitment from the East German government to build a hospital in Cameroon.”
 “East Germans! Are you talking about the former communist East Germany?”
“Uh-huh!”
“That should be The German Democratic Republic, as East Germany was officially known.”
“Impressive,” Uncle Paul complimented with a nod, and then continued, “Samuel resigned from his function as a medical practitioner in the public health system, and then went on to operate a private clinic for almost a decade. He built a reputation as a doctor that treated more than half of his patients for free, even to the point of supplying a good number of them with free medication. His acts of benevolence in that regard even started before the East Germans committed themselves to the hospital project.”
“He was an altruist, as Steven would say.”
“You are right, Sancho. The doctor was an altruist. Now, you would think the corrupt system would be thrilled or at least appreciate his efforts and speed up the granting of the permit to allow him to proceed with his project for subsidized health in the area, a project that was supposed to be one of communist East Germany’s greatest form of assistance in Cameroon. Hmm! That was not the case. They wasted ten years of his time and won’t grant him the permit to open a hospital until a year after East Germany ceased to exist as a nation following its reunification with West Germany.”
 “What? That’s insane!” Sancho muttered.
 “Son, that’s our world. Some things defy logic. You see, by thwarting his selfless drive to better the health of the people, the dictatorial regime in Cameroon released Samuel from his constraints. He saw no reason not to let his revolutionary instincts loose again. He knew that many of the ills in his society stem from the institutions in place, from the anachronistic system upheld by a government that has been stealing as much as it can from the sweat of the masses while having little or no regard for the people. He knew that changing the system was the only way to better the lives of his people. He equally knew that such a colossal task required revolutionary commitments from people like him―people whose day-to-day activities occasionally saved one, two or more lives here and there. He knew that most lives were lost in the country due to poverty, corruption, the indifference of those in the position of power and the absence of a functioning system that could guarantee health care, freedom, economic opportunities, education, safety and security for its citizens.”
“I read that some interest groups prefer the dysfunctional systems in many of the third world countries, that the apparent chaos serves the economic and political interests of the beneficiaries of the system, and that it perpetuates a climate of impunity for those with the influence and power.”
“You are right, Sancho. Samuel said the same thing. As a matter of fact, I met his son, his nephew to be precise, who grew up with him. The young man aborted his quest to become a medical doctor for the obvious reasons.”
 “What reasons?” Sancho asked.
 “He thought it was a waste.”
 “A waste? What do you mean?”
 “A waste, I reiterate. The young man said it was a waste trying to save a few lives here and there when the system or the government in power was pursuing policies that were driving millions of its citizens into poverty, poor health and death.”
 “Hmm,” Sancho grunted, “Like trying to drain an ocean using a cup. A frustrating endeavor, I agree.”
“Uh-huh! Just like the case of our doctor in Chekhov’s Ward No.6.”
“Interesting! Futility, futility! There is nothing as discouraging as treading a path that you know leads to nowhere.”
“‘What is the purpose of wealth if it cannot serve an ideal that enhances humanity and betters the lives of the people, even if that means those we have never met before in our lives?’ Samuel said so to me in a discussion one morning over a cup of Cameroonian highland coffee, which I think is the best Arabica coffee in the world.”
“Come on, Uncle Paul!” I interjected.
“What?”
“Colombian coffee is the best,” I said with a laugh.
“Uh! I am not going to get myself into a debate on something like that,” Uncle Paul said, shrugged, and then turned to Sancho again. “Now, let’s go back to the story of Samuel. He was at a crossroads in his life at the time. He became a prominent figure in the movement for change that sprang up in Cameroon in 1990. He invested his time, energy and financial resources to give his party a clear sense of direction and an ideal that was the most progressive in Africa for a decade. However, this man with a vast intelligence and bottomless heart never aspired for ultimate power. Agents of the government burned his medical clinic down, his enemies victimized his family and he lost his wealth. However, Samuel held on. His party, the most popular in the country at the time, won elections, but the system never allowed it to make it to power. Samuel could even have become a prime minister and would have been able to use that position to accumulate wealth, if affluence was what he was looking for. However, this amazing fellow knew that accepting such a position as an outsider operating in the mafia system would not affect change. So he stuck to his fight for humanity.”
“Why did he turn down an opportunity like that?”
“It is obvious he would have been squashed if his party accepted to become a junior partner in an evil system that had lost its legitimacy. The custodians of the system in Cameroon prefer to see it stay unreformed. Those evil people of the system would have killed him, discredited him and framed his party too.”
“I guess I will never understand the world your friend operated in. Even though you have done your best to describe that world to me so vividly, I am still having a hard time getting my mind around it.”
“It is complicated,” Uncle Paul agreed, “You might ask me what became of Samuel, what he is today. As a matter of fact, he has quit the party he sacrificed so much for. He quit after a clique at the top of the leadership betrayed the ideals of the struggle and sold out to the evil system in power. Based on the way things have developed in that country, Samuel looks more like a victim of the struggle than the hero he truly is, than the hero who gave his people a vision. He is like all the other dead heroes of that land, heroes who saw their splendid legacies denigrated by the evil system. I think Cameroon is one of those accursed countries on earth that may never be able to redeem itself unless there is intervention from above or from abroad. The only figures that seem to hold sway in that country are the scoundrels that give humanity a bad name, the superfluous men that are the curse of any country they dominate. Truth be told, Cameroon under the half a century system is a complex country. Most of its good brains are out, and few Cameroonians in the Diaspora see anything good coming out of the country unless the mafia system is dismantled and unless power is taken away from the hands of the oligarchy.”
 I could see that the stories of Chico Mendes and Samuel Tchwenko affected Sancho very deeply. So, I brought up another subject altogether, questioning my uncle and my husband about women emancipation in Africa, which I thought would be a diversion of some sort. In hindsight, I might have done that because I really wanted them to talk about something simple or even frivolous. However, Phelim made the job easy for me in an unexpected manner when she appeared at the door and announced that lunch was ready.
If Uncle Paul had thought that he could get away without telling me his story about Tatyana, then he was badly mistaken. He walked back to the balcony right after lunch and filled up his glass with bourbon. I was at the door at the time, but not until after he brought the glass to his lips did I resolve to do something about his drinking. Still, I watched the disturbing sight of him taking a slug of the drink and reducing the glass of a quarter of its content before I intervened.
 “What are you doing to yourself?” I protested in a manner that jolted him.
“Drinking!” he responded and put the glass on the stool.
“What are you doing drowning yourself in so much alcohol?” I said with a fair dose of exasperation in my voice, and then moved the glass of drink away from his reach.
Uncle Paul looked at me with those discerning eyes of his as if he understood all my fears. He was drowning himself in booze and he knew that I was not happy about it.  He even mentioned in an offhanded manner the day before my wedding that he was having quite a lot of bevvies lately, which would not do him any good in the long run.
 “Ah, ah, ah! What are you up to now, my dear mother? What exactly do you want from me? You wonder why I drink a lot, don’t you?”
I nodded. “Take a break from the bottle.”
“I don't think I can cope with something like that. I sometimes feel like the only thing that matters is for me to quench my dry-patched throat. You are likely to ask me how dry and patched my throat is. Well, it is something psychological and nothing else.”
 “Uncle Paul, I am serious. Listen to me even if all you can give me is just one minute of your ears. I listened to you all the time, I took to heart your wise words, and I think you have helped me more than anybody in the family has ever done. You gave me the tools that made it possible for me to accomplish whatever you cherish about me today. If I am considered happy in life as the wife of Sancho, then you are the one who contributed the most as a directing voice in my life.”
“Your uncle is an old man now,” he said with a sigh.
“No, you are not!”
Uncle Paul ducked his head to the side and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand as if making an effort to collect his thoughts or as if trying not to shed some tears. “Tania!” he mumbled.
“No, Uncle Paul, you still have a lot going on in your life,” I told him in an emotion-choked voice, and then held his right hand.
“Do you know something?”
“No!” I said, shaking my head in a subtle manner.
“You know you are getting old when yesterday turns out to be a fading memory you have difficulties recollecting, when today becomes a challenge that is hard to grasp and when tomorrow promises an uncertainty that you dread encountering.”
 “You are not old,” I repeated and shook his hand with an intensity that surprised me, and probably surprised him too.
His lips twitched as he fought to suppress his emotions. “A lot has changed about me. I mean, there have been changes to my personality that I am not comfortable about,” he said and sighed, “I am not trying to justify anything about myself or trying to give meaning to something that has no purpose at all.”
“I know!”
“Think about your dear uncle sitting here in front of you as a fellow who over the past couple of years has been trying to understand the puzzling aspects of his character. You see, I have had some recent developments in my life, and circumstances have equally forced me to be at peace with myself.”
“I understand, Uncle Paul,” I said in a soothing manner.
“It is obvious you have heard a lot about me. Perhaps I am someone with frequent highs in his temperament, a sort of volcano that erupts from a prod, breaking the calm exterior, that mantle of respectability that some people mistake for my true personality. My inner rage was what often drove me or motivated me to achieve most of the things I cherish in life, things that some people find dazzling or amazing. That peculiar fury also gave my character some degree of depth. Please, do not think that I liked that rage. No, I hated it. I know it is frightening, not only to those who see it or who saw it for the first time but equally to those who have dreaded it all along. The rage frightens me too because it reveals the depth of my monstrous capabilities―the animal-like instincts carried over from my early progenitors of thousands of years ago, to my warrior ancestors who passed it over to me. Still, I have to confess that there have been moments when I savored that rage and sort of liked it as if it gave a breath of fresh air to my being. You know what I mean, don’t you? I sort of enjoyed it.”
 “Enjoyed it?”
 “Yes, Tania! I liked it. I rather liked it, like a cigarette addict taking a drag after steeling himself for so long from smoking. The addict hates what he is doing, but at the same time, he enjoys the sensation that comes with indulging in his addiction once again.”
“Sensation?”
“Uh-huh! Or let’s call it the calming feeling of his action, the sweet-bitterness of his addiction.”
I nodded at my uncle, willing him to open up and to unveil his heart even further, even though I had no idea what he was aiming at. “I know Uncle Paul, I know,” I said with an encouraging nod.
 “You understand what I mean, don’t you?”
“Uh-huh!” I said, nodding again.
“That is the point I have been trying to make. I am now a sick man, a pathetic hypertensive who cannot afford to be enraged any more. I need to let go of my mood swings―that movement from calmness to rage that before was the cornerstone of my being. I need to become meek in life; I need to become somebody else that is a contradiction to my true character. In my effort to control those basic instincts and natural impulses that are the cornerstone of my character, I sucked the energy out of my system, depriving myself of the person that I truly am. I should have been at peace with myself as a soul with inner contradictions, inner contradictions that gave color to my personality. But I did not. So, what have I become today? I am a sort of dour person now.”
 “I know, Uncle Paul! I know. I understand Tatyana affected you badly. It was no fault of yours, you know. She certainly was an outstanding lady to have made such an impact on your life.”
 “Tatyana!” he said and fell silent for a moment. “Tatyana was certainly a splendid lady. Oh, she still stirs mixed emotions in me whenever I recollect our story. She is the woman who left the biggest imprint on my life. I think it is about time you know something about my true role in her life. By the way, did I ever tell you the story about Tatyana?”
I shook my head no. “You skipped telling me about it all the time.”
“That is strange, you know! Take a seat, my daughter. Take a seat and listen to the story about the woman who could have become the queen of her world.”
 It was at that point that Uncle Paul offered to tell me his story about Tatyana. Flustered though he was, he told it with a hold of details that amazed me. It turned out to be a long narration that took him more than two hours to complete. Even so, the story itself was simple:

* * *

Uncle met Tatyana three months after he arrived in Russia. He was a lady’s man at the time and saw more women than he fancied because they flung themselves at him in their numbers. He was an unusual foreigner too, considered as one of the few students who did not need to be studying in the Soviet Union.
If the young Russian women thought my uncle was a cute person, Tatyana was the one who ultimately caught his fancy. He first saw her at a party organized by a friend and her face entranced him in an instant. He seemed to be afraid to look at it afterwards. It was a stunningly beautiful face wrapped in a sort of riddle―part extraordinary, part simple and part foreboding.
Uncle Paul said afterwards that Tatyana’s face reflected an extremely vivacious spirit mingled with deep knowledge and intelligence. However, he went on to add that the face was veiled by a faint aura of futility that only a deeply insightful person could discern.
Nonetheless, Uncle Paul overcame his initial paralysis, deemed it necessary to know the lady, and then went on to confess his love for her that same night. He told Tatyana about his love repeatedly, worked his way into her heart and got to know the depth of her person. The depth of his love drew him closer to her. However, it left him insecure at the same time.
Tatyana was from an aristocratic if not noble background, and counted on the love of her family that was known for their enlightened ideas and history of supporting liberal and leftist elements in the Russian society. They said his maternal great-grandparents supported Fyodor Dostoevsky during some difficult moments in the artist’s life. They also said that his paternal grandfather aided Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Vladimir Lenin, steeped in his conviction that their missions were good for Russia. So, it was rather strange that this lineage of learned liberal souls had a very scientific bent despite their deep interests in the arts and humanities. The family produced a medical doctor in every of the previous four or five generations. Even Tatyana’s parents were medical doctors. Therefore, following the rule of preceding generations, they expected Tatyana, their sole child at the time, to become a medical doctor too.
Tatyana the progeny performed exceedingly well in the sciences while in High School. However, she could also write beautiful poems; she could paint and draw splendidly; and she often drew thunderous applause for her singing and touch of the guitar, piano and other musical instruments. In spite of those talents, her decision to study music and her determination to enroll into the Moscow conservatory took her parents by surprise. Nothing and nobody could make her change her mind. Her parents on their part reluctantly let her have her way, even though they feared that they were losing her to the world.
 Uncle Paul said Tatyana was oppressed by the feeling of death at a young age, that she would cringe each time her parents returned from the hospital with rueful or brooding looks on their faces either because of the state of their patients’ health or because of the deplorable conditions in the hospitals they worked in and in the country in general.
Arts in its various forms brought out the sparkle in Tatyana’s eyes. So, no one was surprised when she blossomed with life in the music world. This charming soul matured into a promising diva with a special if not natural ability to breathe life into the different characters she played in operas. That is why when her assessors went heads over their shoulders about her wonderful talents and proclaimed a year or two before she was due to graduate that she would become a superstar, one of those God-given vocalists that appear once in a lifetime, they were merely stating the obvious.
They say fate has a way of playing tricks on those who try to tell the outcome of a person’s life from the known determinants in that person’s life, treating accidents as harmful physical tests from the heavens. In the case of Tatyana, those who knew her never factored Uncle Paul becoming a consequence in her life. However, she fell in love with the foreigner who talked economics, wrote literature and drew structures. She fell in love with Uncle Paul and followed him as a volunteer to Siberia where she sang among other things popular Russian folk songs like Kalinka and Katyusha. She sang them under dingy conditions for the workers constructing the railway line and settlements along the Baikal-Amur-Mainline route. She lived with Uncle Paul in the new Far Eastern settlement of Tynda for more than a year and even vowed to make the place their new home.



Friday, March 27, 2015