By Tanya Goudsouzian
Many centuries ago, in a remote Armenian village, there lived a man known as Nazar the Lazy. Legend says the young, able-bodied Nazar would spend his days loitering and begging for charity from the other villagers.
One day, as he sat at the foot of a tree, whiling away the hours, a fly came buzzing around him. Annoyed, he raised his hand and struck, killing the insect in a single go.
“Aha! I've killed you!” he declared. A passerby overheard Nazar's jubilation and inquired: “What have you done?”
“I killed a pest in a single strike!” boasted Nazar.
The passerby, who was heading for the village, told the first person he encountered: “I just heard Nazar the Lazy say he killed a man who vexed him? in a single strike!”
This person, in turn, told others: “Nazar the Lazy vanquished an enemy in a single strike?.”
By the time the news had reached the neighbouring village, Nazar the “Brave” had defeated an army of a thousand men? in a single strike!
I first heard Nazar's story when I was a little girl. It was among the many folk tales found in our textbooks, which were meant to teach Armenian children in the Diaspora their mother tongue, while imparting some of the wisdom of the eastern lands.
It would have been simpler to say: Be wary of hearsay! Or perhaps: Be wary of those who claim to have achieved spectacular feats! Or better yet: Reputation is not based on fact, but on rumour.
Time and again, I am reminded of these folktales, which were inculcated into my soul during my childhood, and over the years, I have come across numerous characters worthy of the eponym “Nazar the Brave”. This year, especially, has been full of them.
There was the old Iraqi peasant who allegedly brought down a US Black Hawk helicopter with a single shot from his rifle, and became a symbol of Iraqi resistance.
There was the young American GI whose daring escape from the clutches of the “evil” Iraqi doctors who treated her wounds, has been converted into a book. They say she now stands as a symbol of
There was the British scientist who portended to know something the rest of us did not, and took his secrets to the grave with him.
There was the young American journalist, who lied and plagiarised his way to fame. A movie detailing his trials and tribulations is due out soon.
Every single “commandant” in
Every single US soldier who has served in
One point the folktale never specified was how Nazar the Brave felt about the hoopla made over his non-achievements. Did he feel ashamed at fooling the other villagers? Or did he bask in the glory? Did he try to set the record straight? Would his efforts have been futile?
Perhaps the villagers were so eager for a hero, that they were willing to forgo the truth and overlook the inaccuracies for the sake of an inspiration?
Whatever the case, the legend of Nazar the Brave lives on. “Genatzu khmenk,” as they say in Armenian. (Let's drink to his health!).
Gulf News (Dubai English language daily):
www.gulfnews.com, 16 December 2003