Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years Eve, Dushanbe

Christmas and New Year appear to be a time of confused identity and symbology. Wrought iron Christmas trees decorated in dead branches and flickering lights hold court in the central avenue, whilst inflatable snowmen and Santa outfits keep guard at the presidential gates. These commercial Christian-based effigies are redundant in a predominantly Islamic country, so their meaning of ‘goodwill and happiness to all men’ is transferred to the New Year celebrations.

So, it is the final evening of the year, a rather wispy guard checks my crumpled documents and ushers me through the metal detector; the gateway to the Tajik extravaganza. The soviet style square is a mass with men supporting black jackets and straight fringes. Thankfully, all the guns were handed in to the sheriffs office, but it is still after sundown, and the women and children feel safer hiding at home.

At 8.00 the concert begins. Two banks of militzia guard the stage, the peoples’ celebration army are kept at bay. The statue of Somoni, peers down like a God of Judgement on his divided people. The Tajik’s form rank in conga style chains rushing and pushing through the crowd, laughing like children on the last day of term, the adventurous step out from the conformity and start to dance, a ring of support guards falls in line to protect them from prying eyes, as their renegades skip and clap in the circle of rebellion. Eventually, they are spotted, walkie-talkies bristle, spies have infiltrated the peoples’ celebration army, and the subversion is squashed.

One bank of guards charge forward, trungeons and sticks in hand, half grinning as the crowd scatters, they retreat and the defensive wall is reformed, the void is instantly refilled by more goading revealers. There is a distinct bristle in the air; the concert seems only to serve as backing music to main screen picture.

At 9.45, fireworks whistle time out, and the collective mood lightens with the sky, mobile phones are whipped out to send blurred pictures home to patient women and children. The two sides bond as one people in hope for the New Year, even Somoni appears to smile in explosive light.

At 10.00 the fire works stop, the bond of togetherness snaps and miltizia usher the crowd home for the pending presidential speech. 20,000 tajiks disappear into the night, only a deserted Somoni, abandoned by his people, watches as the country’s digital clock ticks over to signify the new year.

Engulfed in the sea of sober well-wishers, no kisses of celebration here, we too abandon the streets. To escape the silence we wrap up the hazy festivities at Chez’s Karoke Farm, crowing like roosters to welcome in the dawn of a new decade.

1 comment:

Douglas Miller said...

This is a great, well-written blog. I shall be visiting Dushanbe in May and came across your blog as it was recommended on the Lonely Planet site.

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