I first saw the Caspian Sea when I was 5-year-old boy. That year we were not able to find tickets for a plane as there was a flight of the small passenger LI-2 from Ashgabat to Krasnovodsk (Turkmenbashi) only twice a week, so in order not to lose time, we had the train trip.
It was a sultry summer and our train under sun slowly made its way along the edge of the desert as a green gekko. The drink water that we took finished soon and my father had to go out of the wagon at each train station to replenish the stock of life-giving drink. He poured warm water into the bottle, wrapped it with a wet towel and put it out the window to cool it a little in the wind. Outside, on the right side, flat land with squares of fields was stretching until the horizon, while on the left side, there were low mountains of the Kopetdag ridge.
The train kept going and going, and my father encouraged my mother and me: “Just take a patience; there will be a sea soon”. “What is the sea looks like?” I asked. “It is big and warm. And green,” replied me father.
Silently our train was covered by twilight, and then we drove into the night. Early in the morning, my father woke me: “Wake up; you can sleep away the sea.” The train slowly came up to the platform of a beautiful station of the city of Krasnovodsk (Turkmenbashi) that looked like carved box, and there is a water was outside, as far as the eye could see. It sparkled in the morning light and, indeed, it was green-colored, like bottle glass. That was how I met the Caspian Sea.
Having accommodated and having breakfast in the hotel, we went to the place called Avaza. It is now Avaza is a fashionable seaside resort, which attract those who wish to have a rest in comfort; that time, it was consisted of a dozen shield houses chaotically located on the shore. Again, I was in shock by the abundance of water. Before, I knew only two largest pools – wide aryk (irrigation ditch) with running water near our house and a “paddling pool” – pool for kids at Ashgabat bathing pool, where even the sparrow would not swim. And the picture that I saw was hard to compare with all that I had seen earlier. The sea was huge, and staying in front of it, made you to feel yourself small and defenseless.
Small waves, like kittens, played with coastal pebbles, stroking it with their soft paws, then running back. My father grabbed me like a rolled carpet and took me into the water. Firstly, he took my arms and legs, hold over the wave, and then said: “It’s time for you, my brother, to learn to swim. It is the most suitable place for doing this.” And, unclasping his hands, he sent me on a long training session. I won’t say that I immediately swam like an ocean liner – proudly slicing through the waves with my nose. I rather looked like a float, diving up and down, stretched into the string like a lezginka dancer and tried to grope the bottom with my feet.
Although my father stood nearby, he did not interfere in my attempts to squeeze extra centimeters out of me. I looked hopefully at my mother who was sitting on the shore. She smiled and waved at me, sending either hello or the last goodbye. Of course, it was possible to shout loud like: “Good people, save me, I’m drowning!”, But this would be, firstly, shame on a man to behave like this, and secondly, I had already choked up the salty Caspian pickle and it was hard even to draw the attention of others to my misfortune by loud gurgling.
“Where are you, my paddling pool?” I thought, while realizing that there was no chance to get any help, and that I had to rely only on myself, I began to follow the well-known saying “saving the drowning is the work of the drowning themselves”.
I began fiercely thrashing my hands along the huge and evil waves, as it seemed to me at that time, trying to drive the water as far away from me as possible, so that I could finally feel the bottom under my feet. If at that moment there was a wheeled steamer nearby, it would envy me.
“Don’t flounder in the water! Swim, do not rub,” I heard a voice. Either it was my father’s voice, or it was my inner voice that woke up, or maybe it was a wave whisper – I don’t know it exactly as I was busy trying to pul my head in puppy style, desperately moving my hands, and, simultaneously, spitting out too salted sea water. In this condition, I stayed no more than a minute, but it seemed to me that I had been fighting the sea from the day it was born.
Taking me out to the save place and covering me with a towel, my father said: “as a first step, it was not bad. You behaved courageously enough. Remember the main thing – never afraid to do something. If you are afraid, you will not succeed in life. Remember as the lyrics of a song says “Only the brave obey the sea”.
The next day, we continued our swim training session. And on the third and fifth days as well. Finally came that victorious moment when I felt that I could stay afloat. The fear of water overcame, and the waves no longer seemed so ruthless in their desire to drag me to the bottom.
Many years passed away. Since then, I have often visited Turkmenbashi with editorial assignments or just spend some time with friends. I love this amazing port city, completely blown by the salty sea wind, its white shell houses, the voices of seagulls, and the smell of seaweed on the shore. With the fishermen of the island of Kizyl-Su, I went on boats to fish mullet, as well as I was on a voyage at the floating fish-and-flour factory “Araks”, and I made publication about taymun makers. And each time, visiting Turkmenbashi, I come to the shore place where many years ago my father trained me to swim. It all seemed to me that the same wave, which I had once fought fiercely, and which had become my friend, was beating against the shore like welcoming me.
According to the scientific theory – the Caspian Sea is a closed reservoir and water does not flow out of it, which means that my wave still walks somewhere in its spaces. One would say that it is an unscientific explanation. Let us assume it. However, is there is any theoretical confirmation of a friendship, or any logical ground of a love?
All my life I have been grateful to the Caspian Sea for teaching me not to despair, not to create fake enemies, to benefit from the most adverse circumstances, to be persistent in achieving the goal. Who knows, maybe a successful voyage along the sea of life begins with the fact that once, having believed in yourself, you stopped being afraid and give up difficulties.
On a global scale, undoubtedly, Hazar is a pearl in its necklace. For a man, the sea means much more than just decoration. Because it is alive.