Apr 11, 2013

Anket Anketov

Mir Jalal

From the day that Anketov was appointed as Chief of the United Bath ‎Houses, people stood outside his office, waiting to make their appeals to ‎him. Sometimes there was a long queue - someone complaining about his ‎boss, another asking for a raise, another wanting to change positions, ‎another wanting to study at the university while another wanted to take a ‎vacation at a health resort.‎

From the book "Dried Up In Meetings"
Published by Azerbaijan International, USA,1998‎

From the day that Anketov was appointed as Chief of the United Bath ‎Houses, people stood outside his office, waiting to make their appeals to ‎him. Sometimes there was a long queue - someone complaining about his ‎boss, another asking for a raise, another wanting to change positions, ‎another wanting to study at the university while another wanted to take a ‎vacation at a health resort.‎

Anketov was new on the job. It was an important position with lots of ‎responsibilities but very few staff to assist him. Many believed that Anketov ‎would not be able to handle the position and some had even opposed his ‎appointment. But when Anketov heard such criticism he said, "Let them ‎criticize me. Why should I care about such people - these dregs of ‎capitalism? They want to continue their despicable work and are afraid that ‎they're doomed to be wiped out. Just leave them to me. I'll get rid of them."‎

The first thing he did after getting the job was to summon all the managers of ‎the bath houses, and asked them to bring their "personal files". "Yes, sir!" ‎they replied, and tried to pull up chairs for a meeting. But Anketov would not ‎allow them to sit. "Yes, sir!" is not the same as "Here they are, sir! I need you ‎to get your personal files and bring them to me now."‎

‎"But Comrade Anketov, if we leave, there won't be a meeting," one of the ‎men said.

Anketov was a bit puzzled by this statement. Opening his arms as if to ‎embrace someone or something, he spoke with a calm voice, "Without a ‎personal file, what's the use of a meeting, my son? Shouldn't I know with ‎whom I'm meeting?"

So, the managers got up and left Anketov's office. They returned with their ‎personal files, some from home and some from the office. And some ‎hurriedly filled out application forms while others prepared resumes and work ‎files. When all the personal files were on his desk, Anketov apologized to the ‎managers and said, "Comrades, I want to get to know all of you. That's why ‎I'm asking you to wait outside my office. I will have my secretary call you in ‎shortly." Saying this, he shut his door and began to page through the ‎personal files, reading them slowly and haltingly. "Mmmm...Mursal Hadiyev. ‎Born 1911. Father, blacksmith." Anketov underlined this word in red and put a ‎question mark in the margin. Then he examined the rest of Hadiyev's file.

The managers had waited about an hour in the hallway, when, from the ‎adjacent room, Anketov's secretary appeared and announced, "Murad ‎Ahmadov may go in now. Mursal Hadiyev must go home and return with his ‎father's certificate. All others, please come in."

Ahmadov didn't understand, "Comrade, what are you telling me? Let me talk ‎to him and see what he wants of me!" Hadiyev joined in and shouted, "What ‎certificate? My father has been dead for more than thirty years. Even his ‎bones have disintegrated by now!"

The secretary, making fun of him, said, "Why are you acting like such a ‎simpleton? The chief doesn't want your father literally. He just wants to know ‎his profession." Hadiyev pleaded, "My dear, let him look at my documents! ‎He was a blacksmith. All the information is right there in my file."

In order to get away from the complaints, the secretary returned to her desk, ‎but the managers would not leave her alone. Finally she cried in ‎exasperation, Write a letter!"

‎"What kind of letter?"

‎"Write a letter so that we can see what you want."

‎"We don't want anything! You tell us what you want from us!"

The secretary said, "You know very well that the chief is checking the records ‎of his staff. He's been reading your personal files for an hour. Now he calls ‎me and tells me that your records do not satisfy him."

Ahmedov left in protest. Hadiyev waited until the meeting was over so that he ‎could talk to the chief.

Anketov did not keep the managers long. He gave them strict orders to ‎prepare their staffs' personal files and to bring them to him in three days. ‎After the managers had gone, Hadiyev came in. Anketov's head was down, ‎buried in the files he had so nicely arranged on his desk. He raised his head ‎and not seeing any certificate in Hadiyev's hand he asked, "What do you ‎want?"

‎"I don't want anything. According to your secretary, you wanted to question ‎me about something." The chief ran his fingers through his hair and asked ‎Hadiyev, "What is your name?"

As soon as Hadiyev answered, the chief found his file. Uttering a meaningful ‎‎"yes," he put his finger on the question he had written on Hadiyev's file.

‎"You have written this in a rather vague manner. I read your file. I read all of it ‎very carefully, yet I still don't know you very well. For instance, in one place ‎you say your father was a blacksmith. There are many types of blacksmiths."
Hadiyev interrupted him. "What type? He was a blacksmith. He shod horses ‎and oxen."

A sarcastic smile appeared on Anketov's lips. Shaking his head, he said, ‎‎"The question is not about horses or oxen. The question is about their ‎owners. Did your father shoe the animals of wealthy exploiters or those of ‎the poor and helpless?"
Hadiyev began to laugh. "Whoever gave him money¬¬he shod his animal!"

‎"But surely, during the bourgeoisie period, when your father lived and ‎worked, the landowners had more money than the poor."
‎"Of course, the landowners were wealthy."

‎"So, as you say, most of your father's earnings came from the exploiters. ‎Isn't this so?"

Hadiyev asked, "What difference does it make?"

Anketov, not raising his head from the papers, raised his hand and ordered ‎Hadiyev to silence. He went on, "Just a moment, just a moment. Isn't it so?"

‎"Isn't what so?"

‎"Isn't it true that landowners had more horses shod?"

‎"It is true."
‎"That will do. You can go."

Hadiyev said, "I don't understand why are you so interested in my father's ‎occupation as a blacksmith. Do you have an animal to be shod?"

Again, Anketov did not raise his head from the papers. He placed his left ‎thumb on the family name "Hadiyev," shook his right index finger at the man ‎standing before him, and taking his pen he wrote, "You are not allowed to ‎have the job. Take ten days at your own expense and clarify your parent's ‎social position."

Because the chief was so absorbed in the personal files, application forms, ‎resumes, character recommendations, investigations, explanations and ‎requests, he very likely did not hear Hadiyev's last words as he left the ‎office. Anketov could hardly wait until he could get the chance to organize ‎his files. He really believed that everything depended on those folders. Some ‎days he would sit in his office from morning until late at night reading ‎personal files, one-by-one, like a delightful novel. He would arrange the ‎folders according to the social positions of their owners. The folder of any ‎person he disliked would go to the bottom of the pile, while the folder of the ‎person he liked would be put on top. In the margin of request letters, he ‎would pen, "I gave him another job. Fifty manats added to the salary. As you ‎have worked hard, I am giving you a raise."

Anketov would have real conversations with the folders that he'd ‎occasionally take from one shelf to the other. Someone overhearing him ‎might have thought that Anketov was dealing with five or six kindergarten ‎children. It was as if Anketov were taking the hand of these children, putting ‎one child here, one child there, and still another child on a chair. Sometimes ‎he talked to the folders as if they were real human beings, or in his own ‎words, "workers." To Anketov, it seemed that these folders were actually the ‎good and bad workers. The real people - the bath house managers, cashiers, ‎boiler attendants, cleaners-were mere shadows of their files. The actual thing ‎was these folders and there neatness and accuracy indicated the honesty ‎and integrity of the owner. If "Fired" appeared in the margin, its owner would ‎disappear like a phantom. On the contrary, the person who had "Accepted" ‎written in his file would be called to work that very day.

If someone told the chief that one of his workers was ill and was in the ‎hospital, Anketov often refused to believe the news. Immediately, he would ‎go to the files to look up the personal folder. If there was no mention of ‎illness there, he would say, "I beg your pardon, but he is safe and sound and ‎is doing a fine job." Sometimes he was so familiar with a particular folder ‎that he would not even open it. He would simply look at the shelves, and ‎seeing the folder number in its right place, shake his head and say, "He's ‎doing a fine job."

It was at such moments that his secretary would slap her hand on her knee ‎and exclaim, "Oh my God, he doesn't believe me! Comrade Anketov, ‎Gurbanali has been in the army for the last three months! He sent a letter ‎from some far-off region, and I think he's presently working as a sanitation ‎worker."

Anketov would get angry, but controlling his anger he would say, "Stupid, ‎can't you understand? Don't you see his personal file in front of your eyes? ‎How could he go anywhere without it? If he had gone, his personal file would ‎have gone with him to the appropriate place!"

Frustrated by such explanations, the secretary would walk out, not wanting to ‎continue arguing with him. It was useless to do otherwise because the files ‎were, in fact, everything to him. It was as if whatever one did, whatever one ‎believed or whatever one thought immediately penetrated the personal file ‎and remained there - indelibly - until the end of time. In order to evaluate ‎someone's work, it was enough to bring that person's file to the chief¬¬almost ‎as if to the Day of Judgment.

One day, in one of the meetings, Anketov stood up and said, "Comrades, we ‎have a tradition here in the bath houses which is really quite absurd. I'm ‎referring to the Complaint Books. Every passerby stops and writes ‎something in them. We don't know if he's a friend, an enemy or if he's ‎neutral. I propose that the person who files a complaint should first fill out a ‎request form and have it certified by us; otherwise, we should not allow his ‎complaints. People write and write, and we don't know into which personal ‎file you should place their complaints."

Upon hearing this, Anketov's boss, the Head of the Municipal Department, ‎interrupted him. "Comrade Anketov, that's enough! Be sensible. It seems that ‎you are having a hard time listening to the voices of the masses and learning ‎their opinions. You must understand that the Book of Complaints is the voice ‎of the people - our customers' opinions. The complaints are a permanent ‎record!"

Anketov blushed deeply and regretted what he had said. He asked for ‎permission to speak and with quivering lips, said, "I have made a grave ‎mistake. Now I understand my mistake and I fully accept it. But please, I beg ‎you, don't write this incident in my personal file." Anketov guarded his own ‎personal file fiercely.

Sometimes the managers approached and complained, "Comrade Anketov, ‎the workers want you to come and see them, to see how they work."

Immediately, Anketov would pull out the workers' folder and ask, "Which ‎worker requested that? Let me see. . ." Then he would point to the shelves ‎and sigh, "Day and night, am I not with them? What more do they want?"


Then one day the manager of Bath House Number 10 needed some workers. ‎He wanted a bath attendant for the women's section, a cashier and two ‎cleaning women. Since he knew Anketov's style, he had already prepared the ‎applicants' personal files, put them in a folder, and brought them to Anketov. ‎He said, "The applicants are at the door. Do you want to see them?"
‎"What do I want to see them for? I'm not interested in what they look like!"
‎"I thought you might want to talk to them."

Anketov slapped his large hand on the folder and said, "Here are the files. I ‎want to talk to these."
The manger left and Anketov began to examine the "future employees."

One of the personal files belonged to Nuru Nuruzade, a member of the ‎Young Communist League (Komsomol), and the manger wanted to employ ‎him as a cashier. He had some experience in accounting and in high school, ‎he had received excellent marks in mathematics. Another file belonged to ‎Nisa, daughter of Qanbar, who had six years experience in Bath House ‎Number 11 in Tbilisi. She was very good and the manager wanted to take her ‎as the bath attendant for the women's section. Sharabanu, an old woman, ‎and her divorced daughter, Masma, both wanted to be cleaning women.

Anketov took his red pen and wrote his comments in the margins. He ‎rejected Masma, asking her to bring an official document about her relations ‎with her ex-husband, but he employed Sharabanu. He was really pleased with ‎the personal file and the account of Nisa, daughter of Qanbar. He was ‎becoming more impressed as he read, "She is the daughter of a blacksmith, ‎none of her relatives include any suspicious characters, she is a housewife ‎and is enrolled in the literacy classes. I need an employee with such a clean ‎record." He made her a cashier. Instead of Nisa, he made Nuru the bath ‎attendant of the women's section. He filed the files in different folders on the ‎shelves and came back rubbing his hands together in satisfaction.


The manager called on the phone and complained that Nisa, daughter of ‎Qanbar, did not want to accept the cashier's position, and that she had every ‎right to do so because she was illiterate and could barely add and subtract ‎numbers. Anketov was beside himself with anger. "Who is she not to accept? ‎Let me talk to her!"

He put down the phone, quickly picked up her folder and began to scold her. ‎‎"I really didn't expect this from you, not from you. I had absolute trust in you ‎and that was why I appointed you to this position. Is this a joke? I call it ‎nothing but a joke. Don't joke about such things! Now get to work!"

He put the papers back in the folder and returned it to the shelves. Suddenly, ‎the door opened and a teenage boy came in.

‎"Hello, are you Comrade Anketov?"

Anketov walked around the desk as if busily looking for something. Then, ‎raising his head, he asked, "And what if I am?"

The young boy replied, "I have come to thank you. You want to make me the ‎attendant at the women's bath."

‎"What do you mean 'want?' It has been two days since I appointed you. You ‎should be working there by now."

‎"No, excuse me, but in order to take this job, I'd have to be out of my mind, ‎just like you."

Outraged, Anketov stared at Nuru, but he said nothing. He went to the ‎shelves and removed Nuru's personal file. Angrily, he opened the file and ‎wrote, "You're fired! Go wherever you want to go!"

Nuru grabbed the folder from Anketov's hand. Anketov was taken aback. "Be ‎careful, the papers might fall out!" he cried.
‎"Let me see what you've written in my file."

Nuru opened the folder and read Anketov's note. He burst out laughing. ‎‎"Look at this idiot and his claims! Who are you to fire me? You fool!"

Saying this, he tore the Chief's note into pieces, right in front of him. "Uff," a ‎sigh escaped Anketovs' lips, as he fainted and collapsed on the floor in a ‎heap.‎

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