Empathy

I recently flicked through my TCT diary and found a piece of paper given to me by an old man who took me into his home for a night. The piece of paper shows his name and DOB as well as the names of his children and their DOBs. He handed it to me as I was leaving his home the following morning to the event described in the passage below. I tell this story as part of my TCT talk but as I had thought I had lost the piece of paper, the story began to feel as if it didn't happen. Seeing this piece of paper again, and being reminded through physical evidence that this did indeed happen to me got me reminiscing about the experience, so here's what I wrote when sat in my tent a few days later.

Across the table sat Mr Sirakan Setrakovich Gigalov, the fork shaking in his hands that bore the indisputable marks of years of labour as he ate his plate of pasta. Every so often he would look up to push the plate of homemade cheese and vegetables closer to me each time, encouraging to take more than my fair share. The silence had been undisturbed for the thirty minutes or so since the 70-year-old Mr Gigalov had beckoned me into his home, except for a knocking at the door by a young boy to deliver a multipack of cigarettes. Finished with the pasta, he pulled a book from the window ledge behind him to take out a collection of photographs, pulled his chair close to mine and pointed to the ring on his finger and then a middle-aged woman in the photographs before drawing his thumb across his throat and pointing to the ground to convey the passing of his wife. Not knowing what to say or do, I nodded my head and looked back at the photographs of his family wondering what life was like almost half a century ago in southern Georgia under the Soviet Union. Silently, a few tears ran down his face as he poured each of us a shot of chacha, lifting his glass without verbalising a toast but simply a warm smile before tilting his head back.

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