If I could choose where I can be brought to this world again and as whom, I would, without any doubts, choose… Georgia!
There are several sound reasons for that; below are only some of them:
First of all, just as many residents of this part of the world, I am inclined to enjoy the present moment. To be in the state of bliss, Georgians do not need vacations, New Year holidays, and vague prospects “to have rest at the end of one’s days.” Georgians are great at finding reasons to be happy and celebrate something every day. It must be because they are so light on their feet and easy to tempt into impromptu merriment. Georgians are virtuosos of spontaneous joy. To be honest, can real joy be any different? Georgians subconsciously strive for it; they intuitively find it in trifles and generously share it with the others.
Without a doubt, Georgians are not unique in this kind of attitude. There are many nations that, similarly to Georgians, tend to follow Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” South Italians, Spaniards, Cubans (one of my friends who worked in Cuba said: “They are all bare-bottomed, but they dance all day long.”), Indians, with their laid-back perception of daily problems, and other residents of South-East Asia. In order to be imbued with some nation’s art of being happy, one probably has to understand well and deeply feel its people. That is why, I guess, being happy Georgian style is the closest and most understandable to me.
Secondly, I have never seen anywhere else but Georgia the way people glorify a person that I met during supra, the traditional Georgian feast. It is amazing how supra brings together people who are not acquainted; however, thanks to wonderful party and skills of tamada (toastmaker), many of them get to know each other pretty well and even become true friends. I will never forget the day when my Georgian father-in-law, who has travelled half the world, was hugging and kissing his new Georgian, Russia and German friends at a feast, obviously moved to tears.
Tamada does not simply make people meet each other. Most importantly, he makes them meet… themselves. Yes! Listening to tamada’s praise, I was often surprised: “Is that me he’s talking about? Am I THAT good, clever, generous, kind, and so on?” Then I comprehended that supra’s main goal is to let people believe in themselves and others by showing them their potential strengths. The tamadoba phenomenon (a supra-feast under tamada’s guidance) is probably one of the most refined and wise ways of interacting at the table – the art of glorifying a person.
Thirdly, nowhere else in the world have I seen such strong family ties as in Georgia. “Family” is a loose concept in Georgia. It includes types of relatives that other cultures have not even heard of. Those who have family here can live with no worries about what tomorrow may bring, because they know that “family” will always support them and never let them sink to the bottom. This attitude, of course, has negative aspects, such as certain family members’ parasitizing way of living, which is based on the principle “my family will not let me down.”
That is why I think that elderly people have few worries about their age in Georgia. Most of them think along the lines of what has been said earlier.
Relationships between generations are built on chain principle. If there is a son in a family, it is common practice for parents to present him with an apartment or a house by the time he gets married. This gift serves as a kind of guarantee for their own old age: as parents, they not only lay the foundation of their child’s adult life, but also partially transfer their responsibilities on to him, including responsibility for their own well-being.
Lastly, I certainly would like to be born in Georgia… as a man. How else would I experience the mysterious phenomenon of male friendship, which is cultivated in this country? It is no secret to anyone here that male friendship is cherished above all; it is sacred.
Here is an example: if male friends have things to do together, it always comes first. Only in Georgia have I seen so many men-only companies. Men kiss each other on their cheeks when they meet; they often stroll in park holding hands; even considering their esteem for female beauty, they often celebrate events in purely male companies.
If you have a friend, you can spend most of your time with him/her – be it work, business, or leisure. It is unlikely to make anyone see any ulterior motives in it. However, a husband’s friend will never become a friend of wife’s own, because the concept of friendship between men and women does not exist in Georgia. Locals have a hard time to comprehend this notion.
I have often found myself in female companies, when my friends’ husbands called their wives every half hour to find out where they were, with whom, and when they were going to go home. Women do not usually check on their men like that, although it may be my subjective perception.
That is why I would very much like to solve the riddle of Georgian men’s sacred friendship. For that, I would definitely have to be born a Georgian man.
As to the other above-mentioned points, it is not necessary to be born Georgian at all. It is enough to feel this extraordinary land and begin to enjoy it immediately, which is exactly what the author has been happily doing for almost four years now.
Epilogue. I hope that if I am born in Georgia in my next life, I will be able to even better demonstrate Georgians how wonderful their motherland is.
Tbilisi, January 14, 2014