January 2nd 2010 · Prague Watchdog / Khasukha Magomadov · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

The President's day

The President's day

By Khasukha Magomadov, special to Prague Watchdog

Grozny, Chechen Republic

Allahu Akbar ... Allahu Akbar ... The voice of the muezzin calling to prayer from the inside of a cell phone wrenched President Che from the embrace of slumber. He always used the adhan as an alarm, because the first thing he did on waking up was pray.

The morning was advancing. About an hour remained until Namaz. And President Che still had much business to attend to.

First he took a routine glance at the display of his cell phone, which just as routinely showed the date December 4 – and sighed.

Then he called his assistant with instructions for the urgent delivery of a pony. He got dressed and left the apartment to go to the Central Mosque for morning prayers.

Outside it was still dark. The traffic lights at the intersection blinked a regular yellow. Directly below them, two women in orange vests with the logo "Sursad" on their backs were diligently scraping the verge of the road with shovels.

- Hey, Maret, good morning. How are things? How is Akhmad?

Hearing her name spoken, one of the women turned round. Some figures in padded jackets were coming straight towards her. The man who walked slightly ahead of the others smiled, and then she recognized him.

- President Che?

- Yes, it is I, - he replied. - Here, please accept this pony as a gift for your son, it will help him to fight his infantile cerebral palsy, it is what you have dreamt of. – At these words, a truck drove up and a small horse was unloaded from it and led to the woman.

President Che gave her a friendly nod and got into a police car. Maret remained standing with her mouth open – how did President Che know her name, and even that the doctors had advised her sick son to go horse-riding, and that she had long dreamed of a pony or foal for him?


It was the 1146th Groundhog Day of his life. Though it might actually have been the 1145th or even the 1100th. President Che had lost count of the days long ago, after his second year in office, in fact. He called his 24-hour chronoclasm “Groundhog Day” without much thought. The analogy between it and the plot of a certain Hollywood movie was all too obvious.

For no apparent reason a normal winter’s day suddenly took place all over again. On the morning that followed it the date was once again December 4. Everyone in President Che’s entourage was convinced that it was a new day – except the President himself. Only for him was it a repeat of the day before.

From then on, December 4 turned into his nightmare. He saw the same people, tried to solve the same problem, spoke on the same topics. There seemed to be no way out of the vicious circle, though President Che tried all the ruses he could think of.

For a long time, watching the movie Groundhog Day was less a favourite pastime than a vital necessity for President Che. He watched it over and over again, as he fumbled for a new line of policy that might save him.

Several times it seemed to him that he had found it. The first time, in the film’s romantic aspect. For this reason President Che even married several pictures of beauty, on one day even twice, but it did not help. The next morning he woke up again in December 4.

The second time, President Che thought he might find salvation in inner perfection – through education and enlightenment. He decided to change, and to that end bought the dictionaries of Ozhegov and Dahl, gradually learned English, and became a professional dancer of the lezginka. He played soccer and rocked on his exerciser, losing up to five pounds of superfluous weight a day. None of it helped.

Then President Che decided to retreat from the film’s rigid framework and went instead to a certain death, in spite of the strict prohibitions on suicide in Islam. He alone went into the forest in order to challenge Dokka Umarov to a duel. He walked across all the mountains of Nozhai-Yurt, climbed the highest peaks in Sharoi, discovered all the militants’ weapons caches and on one occasion accidentally stumbled on Umarov. Three times President Che was victorious, three times his opponent, and on two other occasions neither of them won. . But it changed nothing in his life, it was all to no avail.

Unable to cope with this daily nightmare, President Che simply began to make his Groundhog Days tolerable by trying to diversify them, look for something new in them. And to find the silver lining in the clouds of the routine. The tastiest dishes with no weight gain the next morning, a supercar for one day: smash it up if you want, drive it over a cliff, you’ll still have the same amount of money. On the sixth attempt he even hopped over to the Minutka roundabout and drove round it – thanks to a sports car from Jaguar.

He tried not to sleep through until morning, forcing himself to stay awake next to his closest friends and supporters and impressing them with his capacity for working at night. But somehow every time he thought a new day was about to begin, sleep had a way of assailing him. Suddenly President Che would once again hear the adhan from the phone and turn out to be lying in his bed, full of strength, but with little hope of a new day.

So the months flew by, and there was less and less around President of Che that was new. Life rolled on...

And now President Che began his 1146th Groundhog Day in the usual manner. He got up at four a.m. and went to the Central Mosque for morning prayers, making his traditional present of a pony to a woman on the way.

This time he decided to travel the road to Tsentoroi on foot, he would jog there. "I’ll lose a couple of kilos" - President Che decided.

Losing no time, he jogged along, calling his friends on his phone and wishing them good morning. He personally congratulated all the traffic cops he met, addressing each of them by name and giving each of them a five thousand ruble bill with words on it that said "please take the day off”, wagging his finger at them at them even so.

In Tsentoroi he breakfasted on fresh oysters from Paris. Then he set to work. He married off his entire ministerial cabinet for the second time, personally bombed Umarov’s camp near Bamut from a helicopter, summoned Maradona from Argentina and played practice soccer with him.

In the evening President Che gave a live broadcast on local TV. Throughout the day there were regular television announcements about the upcoming phone-in, and viewers were invited to call in or send text messages to President Che. And now the studio’s phone lines were jammed with the pleas of suffering victims.

But by now President Che knew these questions and pleas by heart. The first viewer to call would be an elderly woman from Oktyabrsky district complaining about the lack of housing for herself and work for her children. Later, however, it would turn out that her three sons were in fact employed: one as a policeman, the second as a tax official and the third as successful businessman, while the old woman herself lived alternately in all three of their luxury homes on the same street where her old shack was situated.

Then there would be a text message from a woman who really needed treatment for her son with his neglected congenital scoliosis.

And so it went on. President Che remembered all the people by heart – both those whose questions were aired and those whose questions were not heard live.

Today he decided to surprise everyone – to do without the hearing of the pleas. This he found easy – over all those years he had learned the names of all the inhabitants of Che, and all their problems.

President Che interrupted the moderator, who was greeting the first caller:

- Zulpa, hey Zulpa!

There was silence at the other end of the line.

- Why the silence? You’re going to ask for a new house and new employment for your sons, don’t you? Well, I’ve arranged it all. Your house is going to be built with the bricks your sons stole to build their mansions. And I’ve also found them new jobs for them – they’re going to be bricklayers on the construction site.

At the other end of the line there were loud sobbings. President Che shrugged. He had done what had to be done...

After a couple of hours President Che ceased to pay attention to the calls and began to dispense philanthropy to all and sundry. First he addressed the people in the studio.

- Said-Mokhmad, for you, an apartment in the centre of Grozny with a view of my portrait and spectacles made of white gold! Ruslan Shakhayevich – for you, the medal of Hero of Russia! Eili – you are to be Prime Minister! Odes – you will remain Prime Minister, but only on Mondays and Saturdays!

His round of the studio complete, President Che moved on to more distant circles, then to his fellow villagers, then to his fellow district residents, and finally to everyone else. He called out their names himself, as well as the gift that each person would receive. The presidential aides were run off their feet as they tried to write down all President Che’s instructions.

The programme dragged on and on. Residents of Che called their friends and acquaintances, telling them to turn on their TV sets to see what had never been seen before. But the latter had long been glued to their screens – and suddenly President of Che remembered them, too.

And he called out their names, thus refuting his own sacramental "I am not a magician".

The programme ended at four in the morning. During the final hour President Che simply read out the names and said briefly what he had done for each person.

Finally the last name was called out. No resident of Che escaped the President’s philanthropy. Each person was promised the assistance is he or she craved the most.

The total cost of the cars, flats, jobs and trips to the best clinics in the world was nearly equal to the annual budget of the United States of America. But it did not matter. Next morning President Che would once again wake up in his bed, and once again none of the other inhabitants of Che would remember a thing.

Meanwhile President Che was surrounded by excited supporters. The many hours of broadcast had passed quickly for them, so amazing had they found it.

From outside the studio a chant could be heard "Pre-si-dent! Pre-si-dent! Pre-si-dent!"

The chanting rose from all the inhabitants of Che, gathered in front of their television sets despite the late hour.

Suddenly the studio door swung open and in came Vladimir Vladimirovich, accompanied by two guards from the Federal Protection Service. With broad strides he walked up to the startled President Che and, smiling, said:

- I watched your broadcast via satellite. But I couldn’t get through. The lines were jammed. I decided to fly here in person. I wanted to say that you have had a very good day today.

President Che was only able to laugh happily in response, pressing his head to Vladimir Vladimirovich’s shoulder and keeping it there for a moment as a sign of gratitude.

Suddenly the voice of the muezzin was heard, calling to prayer.

"What time is it?" - flashed through the head of President Che. Mechanically he looked at the display of his cell phone. The sound was coming from there. It was his morning wake-up alarm.

President Che looked around him, expecting to see the wall of his bedroom. But all around there was still the TV studio, and beside him stood He. President Che shook his head. Nothing had changed.

His Groundhog Day was over. President Che found himself in a new day. "I’m saved!" Inwardly he rejoiced in every fibre of his being. The idea of the film was correct - only through a relationship with a person who is psychologically close to you and who can serve as an indicator of your inner change will you be able emerge from this "loop in time".

And that kindred soul had responded – He was standing beside him. He had come flying in the middle of the night. And nothing could have been a more substantial testimony of friendship and affection.

Here the gaze of President Che alighted on the table, which was piled with sheets of pleas and questions from residents of Che. Today – the day that followed Groundhog Day – those promises would have to be fulfilled ...

 NB: The Russian word for a groundhog (or marmot) is surok. “Groundhog Day” is Den’ surka. The adhan is the Muslim call to prayer (tr.).

(Translation by DM)

© 2010 Prague Watchdog (see Reprint info).




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