The Tales Study Group Notes – p46

So when he would come in the morning to the rope with which he released the steam for the whistle, he would, before taking hold of the rope and pulling it, wave his hand in all directions and solemnly, like a Mohammedan mullah from a minaret, loudly cry:

“Your mother is a—— , your father is a—— , your grandfather is more than a—— ; may your eyes, ears, nose, spleen, liver, corns . . .” and so on; in short, he pronounced in various keys all the curses he knew, and not until he had done so would he pull the rope.

When I heard about this Karapet and of this practice of his, I visited him one evening after the day’s work, with a small boordook of wine, and after performing this indispensable local solemn “toasting ritual,” I asked him, of course in a suitable form and also according to the local complex of “amenities” established for mutual relationship, why he did this.

Having emptied his glass at a draught and having once sung the famous Georgian song, “Little did we tipple,” inevitably sung when drinking, he leisurely began to answer as follows:

“As you drink wine not as people do today, that is to say, not merely for appearances but in fact honestly, then this already shows me that you do not wish to know about this practice of mine out of curiosity, like our engineers and technicians, but really owing to your desire for knowledge, and therefore I wish, and even consider it my duty, sincerely to confess to you the exact reason of these inner, so to say, ‘scrupulous considerations’ of mine, which led me to this, and which little by little instilled in me such a habit.”

He then related the following:

“Formerly I used to work in this station at night cleaning the steam boilers, but when this steam whistle was brought here, the stationmaster, evidently considering my age and incapacity for the heavy work I was doing, ordered me to occupy myself only with releasing the steam into the whistle, for which I had to arrive punctually every morning and evening.