The reverse side of Ararat

The reverse side of Ararat

- Our mountain rises so pitifully.

It was the year 1985 or 1986. I was nine or ten back then. It was a summer evening. Along with my parents, my aunt with her husband and daughter, and my grandmother we had made a stop at “the ark of Charents.” After staring at Ararat for a while, my grandmother suddenly said:

- Our mountain rises so pitifully. Captured, it remains there.

Of course, I was surprised at seeing my grandmother talk about the mountain as if it were a real person. I did not know the meaning of the word “captured,” and neither did I understand what she implied by “there.” If my memory serves me well, I asked my grandmother to explain her reason why she finds this beautiful mountain pitiful, but right now it does not matter whether she explained it or not, or whether I managed to comprehend her or not. What matters is that I remember those words of her to date.

Two-three years had passed since then and one day an odd poster caught my sight. With the text “Back to Ararat” this poster also had the picture of the mountain but in no way it seemed to depict the mountain I knew as Ararat. After coming home I told my dad about it, who said that it’s the same Ararat but from the reverse side. My “discovery” of the reverse side of Ararat was both frightening and tempting. A few days later my dad and I went to “Rossiya” (Russia) Cinema to watch that movie.

With only a few people watching the movie during the afternoon showing the huge hall seemed almost empty. The film was long and it disappointed me. What I was expecting to see were lots of pictures from that “new” and mysterious Ararat, but they were shown only at the beginning and at the end. Instead of showing the mountain, the movie more focused on people who were long speaking about their lost homeland and the impossibility to go there. With all enthusiasm, my father was listening to them, and I couldn’t get what exactly in those long talks had roused his interest that much. Afterwards, my dad managed to obtain one of the posters of that movie and it remained hanging in my room for over a decade.

During a visit to my grandmother’s place in those years I came across an article in “Garun” magazine in which U.S. Armenian father and son were recounting their secret ascent of Mount Ararat by bribing the Kurds and shunning Turkish soldiers. I was so carried away with reading the article that from the outside it might seem I was reading about the first expedition to the moon.

Early August, 2009 – my friends and I standing at the foot of Ararat. A few more seconds and we would start ascending the mountain. I was looking at the mountain from the side I first saw back in 1989, on the screen of “Rossiya” Cinema. An incomprehensible feeling had wrapped up every inch of me. Rising high up there it was neither alien, nor dear to me.

In reality, unlike the moon, Ararat does not have a reverse side. Ararat is us with our flaws and virtues, high or low spirits. Ararat does not have a beautiful or ugly side, and neither it has “our” or reverse side. How can we ascribe the word “ugly” to that particular side of the mountain from which our grandparents, Tigran the Great and Movses Khorenatsi looked and gazed at it for thousands of years?

- Our mountain rises so pitifully.

Years ago my grandmother uttered these words – my grandmother whose parents, escaping the Genocide, had migrated to Eastern Armenia from Yerznka. Her father was a soldier - one of Andranik’s soldiers, who then fought in WW2. Thank God, my grandmother is still alive, and she is 90 years old. She probably no longer remembers what she told me at “the ark of Charents,” while I do. And although those were words of sadness, they do not make me sad. My grandmother’s joy - her great granddaughter and my daughter - is growing up. One day while sitting with her granddaughter at “the ark of Charents” my daughter will say different words to her:

- Our mountain rises so proudly!

Ara Tadevosyan is the Director of Mediamax.


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