Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
Humankind has been speculating about love for centuries. Every single day hordes of writers, poets and singers devote considerable efforts to trumpet love in their novels, poems, and songs in search for an answer. Why bother? After all, everything seems so tangible and overly simplified in our pragmatic age. But not for everyone. There are individuals who cannot just go with the flow. Their 'planet of love' is orbiting around their own moral principles and beliefs that fit well the same pattern of behaviour described long ago in the commandments of the Torah, Bible and Quran.
'All roads lead to the abodes of men',
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Little Khalida, the daughter of Aliullah and Khadija Mutallibovs, has found her future path shortly after reading Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The characters of her favourite novel were speaking French, which sounded so beautiful, unusual and... exciting! She could not sense the secret of this excitement yet, but she has quickly realised that learning a foreign language was a real thing for a Soviet girl. Admittedly, her mother Khadija, who was coming from a family of Sayyids, had nevertheless a rebellious character coupled with utterly democratic and modern views. That is why she had made sure that all of her five children study in a Russian school. Khalida has inherited many features from her mother, including an ability to defend her own point of view. After graduating from the school with a good command of Russian and French languages, Khalida wanted to go to the Institute of Foreign Languages. But the family thought that graduating as a doctor, saving and extending the lives of people was more relevant and respectable of a job for her. That was a reasonable argument! Khalida agreed. She easily passed the tests, studied for half a year, then… dropped the college. Apparently, medicine was not her calling. After all, teaching was just as good as healing people, since it enlightens and brings good to people too, let alone teaching languages! The family reacted to the decision with understanding. Goethe's saying 'As many languages you know, as many times you are a human being!' was a very popular maxim among the Soviet people. The Mutallibovs' children could speak fluently in two languages. Hence, Khalida decided to use the remaining six months to prepare for the admission exams to the Institute of Foreign Languages. She was reading a lot – fiction, national classics, books in Russian and, especially, in French, which was the subject of her genuine hobby. At that time, Khalida could not even imagine that she would go to the college as a married woman before she even turned eighteen years old. Khalida's union with Azer was firm and happy.
With a sophisticated sense of beauty and style inherited from her mother, Khalida knew well how to present herself properly. One can see a very beautiful young woman – as glamourous as a movie star – portrayed on black and white photographs of that period. Well, this sort of offers could hardly have interested her anyway. She is dressed in the extreme of the Soviet fashion. And not only the Soviet fashion, by the way – everyone knows how some fashion magazines, packed in suitcases of travellers from Europe, could find their way to Baku easier than say to Moscow or Leningrad.
'I wonder whether the stars are set alight in heaven so that one day each one of us may find his own again',
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Khalida could find her own star. It is that sense of happiness not everyone is gifted. Some live until their hair turn grey without realising their true mission in life. It happens so often. But this was not true for Khalida. Perhaps, she too was chosen by the stars to light up the path for many coming along and after her. For her relatives, friends, students, colleagues, neighbours, and the people she has gotten in touch throughout her lifespan.
After graduation as a teacher of French, Khalida Mutallibova has quickly improved her professional skills. More than fifty years of teaching gave amazing results! In 1969, she defended her thesis on the comparative grammar of French and Azerbaijani languages. In 1971, she became an assistant professor at her alma mater. Apart from teaching, she has authored many textbooks for secondary schools and universities, dictionaries of French-Azerbaijani and French-Azerbaijani-Russian languages. Professor Mutallibova has regularly attended international conferences and events on linguistics in different countries of the world, including Switzerland, the United States, France, Sweden, Italy, India, Iran, and Turkey. Perhaps, having been raised in a family of a Soviet chekist (intelligence officer, R+), the word patriotism had a very specific meaning for Khalida.
She joined the Communist Party because she believed in it, not because it was a widely recognised tradition in the Soviet Union. But in Black January, Khalida burned her membership card. She was not a member of the party of communists anymore. From that moment on, she has decided to follow her own well-established principles. Little Prince of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, which was her first read in French, has long become a standard of Khalida's life philosophy. Later she bought the book, which has eventually become a desktop manual for the whole family. Throughout her entire life, Khalida and her children, friends and students have quoted passages from the Little Prince. It is amazing how a fairy tale for adults became sort of a code of honour and human dignity. During the hard times of tribulation and misery in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Union, she has found herself where a woman of her principles and character should be – almost on the front line. Nobody has offered or compelled her to do so, as she could perfectly determine the line of actions herself. It is quite natural that during the Karabakh conflict she has often travelled to the war zone, delivering humanitarian aid to the affected areas. Even the regular skirmishes along the front line could not stop her. The bridge over which she left Khankendi for Shusha exploded after a moment. But it did not scare her. She was the daughter of her homeland, following her guiding star, as she has always done before. This was her path leading to the abodes of men, the one that Little Prince was talking about...
'We become responsible, forever, for what we have tamed',
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
These words need not comments. We should never forget our loved ones, even for a second. We must make sure that they never end up in the land of tears. It is our responsibility to take care of them. Same as this amazing woman did for the people she knew by enlightening, saving or taking part in their lives. We do not know everything and everyone. Khalida-khanum did not like boasting about her deeds, as she did not consider them anything special. Just a part of her life. Ordinary life of a normal person. Occasionally, her home used to be a shelter for children left without one of the parents. It was difficult for men who lost their wives to work and raise children at the same time. Being aware of this, Khalida was trying to prevent such children from negative effects of the street. Joint dinners would smoothly flow into interesting discussions on books and movies, sometimes to opera performances. Khalida somehow has managed to instil in little hooligans the love of opera and art! As a rule of thumb, , she used to attend each weekend performances at various theatres of the city – opera, the Russian Drama and AzDrama. Khalida-khanum believed that Art should be an integral part of everyone’s daily life. She knew well the history and culture of her people. She believed that people had the greatest value and knew how to love them. It was not a show of fake love. She was doing so because she had an organic feeling of love for people, trying to be as useful to people as possible. She supported the daughter of the great philanthropist Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, Sarah-khanum Taghiyeva in her most difficult times. When she died, Khalida-khanum made sure that Sarah-khanum's corpse is taken to the burial place from her father's mansion, according to the tradition. Something that is, perhaps, possible in our country only, when a state-owned property was granted permission to be used as a family nest. After all, Khalida-khanum could find the right words and be convincing enough to achieve the result she needed.
'When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care',
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The planet of Khalida Mutallibova is her friends from twenty countries of the world, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and numerous relatives. She remembered each of them and tried to keep abreast of their lives, problems, daily affairs and concerns. She was trusted. They shared their most intimate secrets with her. This was the meaning and essence of daily life for Khalida-khanum. She loved the people surrounding her, considering them an integral part of her own self. Same as the Little Prince, she believed that any living creature could come to life in another one. Therefore, she thought, the exchange of the pure energy of love is inexhaustible. Even when she was ill, she did not neglect her people. She would hardly remain in the bed, trying to keep herself occupied as much as possible. Movement is life has been Khalida's childhood formula staying with her up until the end of her days. Having mastered WhatsApp, she would send text messages, images and sound files to all who have been a part of her planet. Just a few hours before she died, Khalida forwarded her last will to everyone she knew: 'May everything be all right with you all!'
It is indeed impossible to describe an individual, let alone a woman of great service like Khalid Mutallibova, in its entirety. No words will be enough to accomplish the task. Khalida-khanum was one of such individuals. She passed away on December 23, just nine days before the New Year and twelve days before her own birthday. On January 3, she would have turned 81 years old. But like her favourite character, Little Prince, she left her planet for other dimensions.
Her tablet is still receiving messages from around the world. All these messages, perhaps, would make into a booklet of non-standard format. Perhaps one of her students will do it. The language of the book does not matter at all: Russian, Azerbaijani or French. Publishing the book does, because it is impossible to describe Khalida-khanum in such a short article. Obviously, the words are not enough to ease the pain of her relatives. The pain will be there forever, in an intimate corner of our hearts, the one with a completely different memory structure – emotional. This is the strongest pain. It suddenly rushes into your mind with a smell of mother's perfume or with some distant details from the past. Like, for example, a transparent glass brought from Kislovodsk. Mom used to take the children to Leningrad and Moscow. She was their first guide re-discovering with them the beauty of monuments and architecture of Leningrad, its famous museums and artists. Her students also feel a strong pain of loss. Here are just a few quotes from Khalida-khanum's table teeming with messages of inconsolable grief: "Dear teacher, I would like to be like you", "You will live in our hearts", "Your soul will rest in the heaven"… And many more sincere and emotional messages like these ones.
We asked the following question to two people who have known Khalida-khanum for many years – her student, now a teacher, Guldasta Mammadova, and a collegue working at the Women's Society of Azerbaijan, Nazila Vahabova: What was so unique of Khalida-khanum Mutallibova?
Nazila Vahabova, Deputy Chairman of the Women's Society of Azerbaijan:
She has always been ready to help those in need. She was a great speaker. She was gifted – only a few people can read poems as well as she could. Her personality has manifested itself in many other unique ways.
Guldasta Mammadova, Teacher of French language:
She was able to make her students be better than they really were. She has always been a role model. Even today, I sometimes find myself trying to do what she used to do. I would like to know that my students find me interesting and necessary. Just as interesting as Khalida-khanum was to us: a mother, a friend, an adviser and a mentor.
'But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart... ',
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When she was dying, she tightly squeezed the hand of her daughter Irada and said with eyes wide open, as if she has just been revealed the Truth: "I'm dying!" Loudly, clearly, courageously, with unfaltering voice, without fearing the unknown, with clear mind. As if dying was a simple thing. That is how she was warning the relatives sitting around her about her departure to another dimension. Irada, her elder brother Ali Heydar and everyone who was there will remember this episode forever. It seems that Irada wanted to understand something that she could not do at that moment...
Dr. Yagub sent a letter from Oslo, trying to express the pain of irreparable loss with clever and heartfelt words. Being a famous cognitive therapist and a good friend of the family, Dr. Yagub had tried several years ago to persuade Khalida-khanum, albeit unsuccessfully, to take some medications. After the death of her mother, a persistent prejudice against medications has emerged in Khalida-khanum. She remembered the words of her father standing by Khadija-khanum's deathbed with a handful of pills: "So many drugs that could not help your mom!" At that moment, Khalida decided not to waste time and efforts on meaningless things. Drugs did not make sense for her. The only meaningful things were the mind, strength and will. She then decided that only this trio could be an ultimate panacea and meaning for the mankind. That is how she had lived for all these years. But she was aging and it was necessary to take heart medications. That is when the family sought professional counsel of their friend. Dr. Yagub arrived to Baku, and had a lengthy talk with Khalida-khanum. After several hours, the European celebrity doctor came out to her relatives and said confusedly: "I have to admit that I did not succeed at all. I could not counter her logical arguments!" That was the nature of Khalida-khanum – to dig deep to the very essence. She instilled the same principle in her children as well. She often used to advise her daughter Irada not to read the books by skimming over the text but to understand the essence of the narrative.
"I am responsible, forever, for each of you!" said Khalida-khanum to her students at her farewell lesson before leaving the University of Foreign Languages. The students were shocked. They remember her words even today. They remember everything about Khalida-khanum: her personality, her favourite authors and books. She used to monitor all the novelties of literature. Bernard Werber was the last author that Khalida-khanum has been interested in. She would re-read many of the past novels each time discovering new dimensions, those that had previously gone unnoticed. She used to return regularly to national sources, which had made her love the national culture, traditions, and morality since her childhood. Nevertheless, the Little Prince has always remained her all-time favourite. Perhaps, she is looking down at everyone from the heavens, sending quotes from Exupery to the world of sorrow.