August the sun in the south of Uzbekistan is especially evil. It seems to be only an hour before dawn, but from the shadows and go out do not want to, but Dilmurod and Nargiza tried not to pay attention to it. They, the students of the Faculty of Philology, had to catch a few villages a day and talk with the locals, in order to return to their studies in September, to provide their scholarly leader with the collected materials concerning folklore and traditions preserved in the countryside. Of course, all these materials could be written and based on books, rather than trudging along the far end of the earth, as all of their classmates did, but the guys themselves were not averse to a little stroll. Moreover, there was a real opportunity to learn a fairy tale or a legend, not described by anyone else before.
Having reached the bus, full of women with empty cans, coming to the city early in the morning to sell milk, to the first kishlak, the guys wandered about it, but the local residents were still very busy to talk, and the old people did not have time to come to the village teahouse.
The bus did not go to the next settlements, and the road was suitable except for tractors only – all in potholes filled with fine dust, like flour, rising at each step and settling on the shoes. Fascinated by the discussion of classmates, read books and viewed movies, the guys passed by the endless fields, where heavy cotton boxes were hanging on high green bushes. A light breeze swung the stems, which made them look like the disturbing surface of some pond.
Not finding anything interesting for himself in the second village, Nargiza and Dilmurod got a little upset, but nevertheless they continued their journey. The sun had already risen high and generously poured down streams of hot rays, easily piercing clothing and scalding the skin. Visibility at such an hour is greatly reduced, as the hot air already turned into a swaying curtain, twisting everything behind itself, twenty meters away. Quite tired, the boys noticed that the cotton fields came to an end and they were replaced by flatterer melons, on which striped watermelons could be seen through the leafy green leaves. The field was huge, and in the center stood a strange canopy of poles and reeds, apparently a lodge, from which the dog’s bark could be heard.
“You want to drink,” Nargiza sighed as she licked her dry lips, “maybe we’ll ask the watchman to sell the watermelon?”
The field was divided into wide, in a meter, beds, on which, as if on a dastarkhan of an unknown giant, lay watermelons of different sizes and shades of green. Carefully, trying not to step on the stems, the guys wandered to the canopy. An elderly man in an old light chapan came out from under the canopy.
– Assalomu aleikum, aka! – greeted the students watchman, – Do not get tired of you!
“Vaaleikum is an assal!” A long way to go?
Having shaken the strong hand, stretched out by the watchman, Dilmurod told him about their little expedition and asked to sell the watermelon. With a gesture of the master, the old man invited the students to pass under the awning, and soon the sun shone through them, breaking through the thatched roof, with the smooth skin of a handsome watermelon. The old man brushed aside the money offered and began to cut the food. Watermelon was ripe – it immediately became apparent by the way the cracks from the knife run out, and a characteristic crackle sounds – the old man knew how to choose the sweetest watermelon! This was confirmed by his velvet-red flesh, which appeared before the boys, and with nothing incomparable aroma, instantly saturated with hot air. The guests were pleasantly surprised that, lying half a day in the heat, inside the watermelon was cool.
– Do you know, guys, the parable, how did Hodja Nasreddin help the poor man sell watermelons? Asked the watchman, looking at the students.
“It was in Bukhara,” the old man continued, without waiting for an answer, “he worked as a mardikor for a rich and greedy bai, and he paid him work with twenty watermelons. The poor man is upset – pennies are worth the watermelons in the season of their ripening, and even then you will not sell it to anyone. And you will not complain about the bai – he repaid after all for his work. Meeting with Khoja Nasreddin, the poor man told him about his problem. Nasrudin only wisely winked and said that along with him he would sell these watermelons. At the market, there were almost no buyers at that time, but sellers, including watermelons, were more than enough. The price for a watermelon was only three coins. Noticing the rich buyer, slowly passing through the bazaar, Nasruddin began so skillfully to praise his goods, that he became interested and asked the price. Hodja said that one watermelon costs three coins, and three watermelons give for ten. The rich man’s eyes gleamed greedily, and he bought first a watermelon for three coins, then a second, and then a third. After that, pleased that he had deceived the merchant, he retired. Having sold out the remaining watermelons in this way, Khoja Nasreddin went further on his business, and the poor man for a long time recalled his resourcefulness.