Nika Musavi, Baku
There were two things that impressed me most during my recent trip to London: the pudgy pigeons that resembled the broiler chickens, and the Buckingham Palace, or, to be more precise, not the Palace itself, but rather the tourists clinging to its fence to watch the changing of the guard ceremony. I was actually as much surprised as a Mayan on seeing the snow for the first time. And the reason is that it’s simply inconceivable to cling in such a manner to a fence of any governmental building, or any other fence, in Baku. Moreover, it’s not always possible even to simply stand near it. A guard or someone of the kind will certainly appear from nowhere and will kick you out, repeating the words, like a spell against evil spirits: ‘Icazə yoxdur’-‘No permission!’. If translated literally from Azerbaijani, this phrase sounds a bit clunky, but that’s the form that conveys its absurdity to an adequate degree. And every time I hear it, I’m willing to give the floor to ‘Comrade Mauser’, as Mayakovsky, a good, but a bit emotional poet, once put it.
This phrase comes up with Baku residents in the most unexpected places. For example, at the marble poles outside McDonald’s, in the city center. By God, I’m not much interested in whether there is life on Mars or not, or who killed Kennedy. What I am interested to know is why is it prohibited to lean against these poles or, God forbid, to sit down on them. It’s not that I want to do that very much, but when something is so strictly forbidden, you really want to know WHY?
Don’t park your car here. Why? You have no permission!
Don’t smoke here. Why? You have no permission!
Don’t stand here. Why? You have no permission!
Don’t take photos. Why? You have no permission!
Don’t sit on the grass lawn/sidewalk/stairs. Why? You have no permission!
Who’s permission? Why? What for? You can repeat these questions until you are blue in the face and you won’t get any sensible answer. And you’re lucky if you don’t chance upon the rough stuff.
No, the matter doesn’t concern either a military facility or an ammunition depots; or the areas with ‘No parking’ signs; or the private premises, where you’ve got into having climbed over the fence in a hooligan manner. It could happen in a very ordinary public place, where there is no danger lying low there. Or is it still lying there? Maybe all those ‘No permissions’ are somehow substantiated, there is a relevant law etc.? If so, then, first of all, it could and must be explained. Preferably in a calm, polite and clear manner. And secondly, long time ago the mankind invented such a cool thing as notification signs, that are designed exactly to notify: that you can’t do this or that in this particular place. But that’s not the case in our country. No one will grace you with explanations.
And the most important thing, in my opinion: it’s not ‘Forbidden’, but it’s exactly ‘No permission’.
There is a significant difference between these two expressions that seem to be so similar at the first glance.
Since ‘No permission’ is not a sort of specific restriction.
‘No permission’ is an a priori ban on everything that someone hasn’t deigned to permit us.
In other words, you are required to get a special permission for everything, like small children should ask their parents for a permission to play in the yard or eat a bar of chocolate. And that amounts to the whole philosophy that is forced upon the public, a philosophy of life ‘with gracious permission’. And what is more, it’s not a permission issued under the law, but rather a permission of God knows whom.
Is it a trifle thing? Well, it depends how you look at it.
Does it stress you out? Very much.
And it’s damn annoying.
Baku residents, who have behaved well in this life, will probably get to a special part in heave, where everything is permitted. Let’s say, you are walking down the heavenly alley and then an angel with awry wings, as plump as the London pigeon, will suddenly jump out from behind the tree and tell you: ‘Why are you passing by? Sit on a cloud for a while, plunk down on a grass lawn over there. It’s permitted!’