According to any textbook of our schooltime, all distinguished Georgians were taught how to read and how to love reading by their mothers. Throughout centuries, while the Georgian father was fighting in a war or going hunting (or even indulging with a lover), mothers were reading books to their children and then teaching them how to read and write. Whatever was written in the books, the same was happening in the Soviet Georgia, because most of Georgian mothers would not have entrusted raising a child even to their own husbands. But in my case it was different (just like in many other subjects) and as my grandmother would say, our family did everything the opposite way – instead of my mother, my father was reading books to me. Of course, this was not because my mother was gone hunting at those times (obviously that was not the case), they just had such an arrangement (probably). I graduated school and my mother had never even attended any parent-teacher conferences. My father was always the one present at those meetings (and never my mother). My proud and satisfied father would sit in the classroom (the only male parent) and listen to the school teachers together with thousands of moms. It is not surprising that my father was also the one who took me (with great pleasure) to the Pioneer Palace of that time and even picked his namesake teacher. Probably, this was not a random choice – Mr. Shota Intskirveli turned out to be a very attractive man. Though, despite his attractiveness, the trainer gave us such amount of homework on the very first lesson that when I got home, the same afternoon I made a historical decision and on the next day, after the lessons, I went straight to Mamuka Nadirashvili. Mamuka was my neighbor and friend, who, since childhood, had always attended the football lessons in our neighborhood. I went to him and said that during the days (and hours) when I was supposed to go to the Pioneer Palace, I had to attend the football lessons. By the way, my dear and precious friend Mamuka Nadirashvili - who, as I already mentioned, played football since childhood – actually had the bowed legs (since childhood) and I was heartily afraid that the same thing could happen to me very soon and my parents (with one look at my bowed legs) would easily realize that instead of playing chess, I had been playing football. The second danger was catching a cold and as soon as I was passed a ball, I remembered my father’s everlasting warning – “do not run, otherwise you will sweat and once you sweat, there will be a wind and after that, you will get pneumonia”. If I had caught a cold, my father would become suspicious and have a question (“did you play football”?) and I would not have been able to tell him that it was windy during my chess lesson at the Pioneer Palace. But there was the third and, probably, the biggest and most important danger – twice a week, in the evenings, when I was supposed to come home from the Pioneer Palace (after a chess lesson), my father would bring out a chessboard, place the pieces (while rubbing his hands) and gallantly ask – “tell me, what did Mr. Shota Intskirveli teach you today”? What was I supposed to do?! During the days I was ought to learn chess, I was playing football (with my football boots and uniform hidden in the Vake Park) at the Locomotive Stadium of that time and my trainer’s name was actually Vova Eloshvili, not Shota Intskirveli. Fortunately, I soon found an answer – I remembered that the chess exercises were printed in the only newspaper I would read in childhood. That one and only Soviet newspaper I found interesting was called “The Village Life”, the last page of which was beautified by my favorite painter’s, Vakhtang Kutsia’s caricatures and on that very page (the fourth), I found what I needed the most. It just so happened that the only chess lesson I had (fortunately) attended, Shota Intskirveli had explained how to read chess exercises and taught us so well that I would delightfully offer my excited and happy father any chess exercise that was published in “The Village Life”.
In Georgia (probably since ancient times), the grandmothers and grandfathers would teach backgammon to the kids with a sole reason, so that they could play with their grandchildren (in their spare time) and probably, my father also needed a partner in chess at home and that’s why he bought me a chessboard on September 20, 1976. I remember this date, of course, because it is written inside the board, along with a text my father asked my mother to write (“you have a good handwriting”). Every time we opened the chessboard I would see that memorable inscription and, despite the fact that I had seen it a thousand times, I would still read it one more time before the chess matches. We haven’t played a thousand games, of course, but whenever I miss my father, I always remember this scene – we are sitting in front of each other, a father and his son, and play chess, while my mother asks (for the thousandth time) a bit nervously:
- Should I start preparing Ghomi (a Georgian dish)?
The caricatures by Vakhtang Kutsia: