I met Ulugbek stepping into the cafe where he sells Uzbek food. I invited him to sit with me while he had some free time. He told me about life in Uzbekistan, about his family, and how sixty percent of young men go to the Ukraine or Russia to find work. I returned several times last fall, ate, and listened as he told me more. About wedding traditions, about his life here in Irkutsk. I met Gavhar his wife, who prepared food at the cafe, her dishes were great! She struck me as a loving and devoted wife to Ulugbek. I even photographed them together, but I didn’t like the results and deleted the photos. I thought, ‘I’ll just go back another day to photo them.’
Only, it is not to be. I hadn’t seen Ulugbek for some time, as we were Stateside in November, after which I was sick for some time. When I got better, I went to his cafe, invited him to sit, whereupon he told me he had sent his wife back to Uzbekistan! As I asked questions, it became apparent their marriage of seven years was over because they were childless. I asked Ulugbek, “Do you still love her?” He replied, “Yes, but what was to be done, we have had no children.” Going on a hunch I asked, “was this your idea, or your parents?” He said, “my parents have pressured me for years to get rid of her.” I said to Ulugbek, “you really miss her don’t you.” He nodded his head and said, “But it is fate, there is nothing I can do.” I sat with him for some while and digested his grief and loneliness with him. I kept seeing Gavhar’s shyly smiling face in my head. How crushed she must be! I left towing my low heart.
Ulugbek and Gavhar moved to Irkutsk three years ago, and now I think I know one of the reasons, to get out from under the constant pressure to have a child. This is common all across Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In Muslim cultures a child, especially a son legitimizes the wife in the eyes of her in-laws. I keep thinking of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or as the Koran refers to them Ibrahim, Ishaq and Yuqab. Each of them dealt with this very issue, wives unable to bear children. They prayed for years, God listened, and Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel each conceived.
Please join me in lifting up Ulugbek and Gavhar. Pray for their restoration. If you choose to pray, please leave us a comment telling us you are praying. Blessings in the name of our God of grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.