Kazakhi Gen Now and Next, full of spunk and verve
By Ashok Dixit
Almaty (Kazakstan), Aug.27 (ANI): What strikes a first time visitor to Kazakhstan or more specifically to Almaty, the cultural capital of this largest of Central Asian Republics is the carefree abandon and joy with which the younger generation of Kazakhs lives.
Here, you rarely see youngsters moving around with their parents or other elders. It seems that when you become a teen, it's a case of you lead your lives and we will lead ours, of course without displaying open arrogance or disrespect. This prevails in India too, but parental ministration there is often in evidence. To an outsider like me, it would appear to be a continuation of the nomadic tradition or lifestyle, a modern form of wanting to present oneself as tough, of wanting to show the can do it spirit as early as possible, and do it with verve, passion and panache.
This spirit can be attributed to some extent to a sustainable demographic profile, as opposed to the excess population that exists in India, and a fairly high standard of living and economic well-being.
Be it their dress sense, their fashion style statements, going to for a drink, a smoke or a meal with their companions, Kazakh youngsters literally have a ball. They don't dress down, but dress up, as if to convey a message to those around that "we have arrived and would like to interact". The latest in European fashion is a big draw for them - be it jeans, jumpers, pants, skirts, tops etc. Revealing skin, especially in the case of females, through figure-hugging attire, is par for the course. You can't help, but wonder and ogle. However suggestive or attractive they may appear, the younger generation projects an image of being comfortable in their skin, with what he or she wears, what he or she speaks.
A visit to the Zibiyak (Silk) caf? and restaurant on Dostik Avenue on Tuesday provided us with a look in at how youngsters spend their evenings. A group ten or twelve boys and girls sitting at a table adjacent to ours particularly fascinated me. When we arrived, they were already gulping down tumblers of Kazakh and European beer, and bantering with each other as if there was no tomorrow and living for the day, a mantra to be sworn by. As their party picked up momentum, the waiters were asked to provide "Khalnaye", the Kazakh version of the Hookah or Chellum. Three of them were brought out, each of them exquisitely designed in a combination of crystal with gold or silver plating, topped by cupolas containing scented coal. It was passed around to boys and girls alike, and while puffing on it, they seemed to be in a stratosphere of joy, laughing at each other and cracking jokes. Others joining the party, were greeted with the traditional Kazakh embrace and kiss on the cheek, and handed out their glasses of beer and shot of "Khalnaye". We asked our Kazakh interlocutor, Rimma, whether this form of entertainment or engagement is common, and she replied in the affirmative, but added that: "For the life of me, I can't understand why people now smoke and drink so much, especially youngsters nowadays." For good measure, she added that there were over a thousand plus restaurants and pubs in Almaty alone.
Another peculiar trait in most Central Asian republics, including Kazakhstan, is that water is not given free, it has a price to it, and comes in two varieties - gas-based and on-gas based. The preference is for beer or juice, or maybe a cup of black tea with lemon. Milk and sugar need not be necessarily offered. A visit to the Ubileiny Caf?-Dastarkhan Restaurant in downtown Almaty provided us with another aspect of Almatian life. Here, one got to see the range of multi-cuisine on offer - Central Asian or others. I opted for the Ukrainian form of Borsche and a Kazakh salad. Momos too have a standing in Kazakh cuisine, although in Almaty they are popularly known as "Malti" (meat based) and served with a tangy tomato-based sauce.
Rimma also informed that in some parts of Kazakhstan, alcoholism is a major problem, adding that in the past such was not the case. The preference then was for fermented horse or camel milk, which when consumed in sufficient quantity, gave the necessary intoxication.. She also said that Kazakh wine is popular, and especially developed in the vineyards located to the south west of Almaty.
For youngsters, having the latest in wheels is also a must. With the roads here being wide and well tarred, driving around in an SUV or luxury cars like the Toyota Camry, Mercedes Benz, Fords, Skodas, Volkswagons and Audis is normal, and projects fun and pleasure. Driving fast, whether it is a youngster, a middle-aged person or someone even older, is okay. It's common here to hear screeching wheels and at times skids, and one wonders what the road mishap rate here would be like. Road sense, however, prevails. Kazakh drivers are essentially disciplined, and at least during the day, will not cross road signals irreverently. Jay walking is not encouraged and avoidable given the speed at which vehicles move about. Pedestrians cross when signals permit them to. Walking on roads is frowned upon, as there are tree-lined pathways to facilitate this exercise.
Gen Now and Next Kazakhs can often be found in the lush green and tree-lined parks of Almaty. A favourite haunt is the Almaty War Memorial Park, which has a monument dedicated to the erstwhile Soviet Union's military accomplishments and tragedies, including the defence of Volvograd or Stalingrad as it was known then under the leadership of Kazakh Major General Panfilov and a memorial dedicated to the 28 soldiers who prevented over 100 Germans from storming Moscow in the 1940s. Trees planted by various leaders, including those from China and Pakistan, dot the park's landscape, as also the "Temple of Holy Ascension", made entirely of wood by Almaty's erstwhile Chief Architect, Andrei Zhemkov in the early part of the 20th century.
As Rimma says the younger generation may not entirely be disrespectful, but external influences are having a huge impact on their psyche, adding that the nuclearisation of families in Kazakhstan is becoming a reality. (ANI)
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