It is as if someone has turned back time.
The clouds of steppe dust fly around the hooves of rich landowners’ herds again.
The shepherds receive their salaries in kind, in lamb and foals, just as in the old times.
In Soviet times, a traveling shop used to come to jailau (a Kazak nomad camp) and it was like a holiday for the whole shepherd family; they bought everything: food, matches, tea, new boots and even children’s toys.
Now everyone in the village lives on credit, placing their hopes on a future harvest or offspring.
The shepherds Aydos and Batima were a little luckier.
The son married a Russian girl without even asking his mother and father.
The war in Afghanistan had taken away the old couple’s first-born boy, Baurzhan.
The health of their oldest daughter had been ruined by vodka.
They held hope for the youngest daughter, Madina.
She obtained a straight-A grade, which gave her a grant for study at the medical institute in the city.
She studied there for half a year, but in the same year, in the spring, fragments of a Proton rocket fell on the steppe.
In six months, leukemia turned a young seventeen-year-old girl into a skeleton wrapped in skin.
The summer promised the elderly couple some joy.
They migrated at the usual time of the year to jailau, where there were plenty of lambs.
A wonderful black foal ran with the other horses.
And there was another joy: their son had changed and now respected the old people and customs more, and brought their grandson, Yerkebulan.
After four years, they met for the first time.
The boy pleased the old people with his round, swarthy face and black eyes.
The old man kissed his grandson’s short hair and tears came to his eyes.
The grandson, Yerkebulan, who barely spoke Kazakh, was fussing, wanting modern food and demanding a TV.
The grandson was large and chubby.
Although he was a sturdy one-and-a-half-year-old child and had undergone the rite of ’tusau kesu’ (2) he still crawled more than he walked.
But the old shepherds decided to ask to keep the black-maned foal named “Karanayzagan” (“Black Lightning”) as a payment for their work and make him the“besere” of their grandson.
Often the birth of a child coincides with the birth of a domestic animal.
In such cases, the foal or young camel is assigned to the newborn and this animal-besere is considered the property of the child.
According to a popular belief, the future of a newborn is closely connected with his besere.
Therefore, they don’t ride such an animal, they don’t slaughter it for meat or even sell it.
On the contrary, they look after the besere just as carefully as they do the child.
Having matured with his animal, the child who owns the besere feels confident and learns from an early age to value and groom cattle - the main wealth of the Kazakhs.
To be continued...