Born with a convulsive disorder, he suffered from epileptic fits until he was 13 years old.
As elsewhere in the region, Azerbaijani parents tend to envelop family members with severe health problems in a protective cocoon, keeping them away from the outside world, and trying to prevent them from having to fend for themselves.
Over time, that cocoon grew ever broader, the man says.
He recollects one episode when he was 11 or 12, and went on a school tour of Baku’s Old City.
“On the way back, they forgot about me, and I got lost,” he recounts. “I wanted to ask people the way to get home, but people [instead] took me to the police. The police took me to my family, and my parents were angry [at me] about it. After this, the control [over me] increased,” he says.
When he finished school, his family debated at length where he should continue his education. His parents cited his partial blindness as the reason for not sending him to a public university, an environment where he could be just a face among hundreds.
Instead, their choice was Baku Medical College, an institution that reflected his mother’s profession as a nurse. The man studied there for two and a half years.
He himself had an interest in medicine and very often read his mother’s medical books, but, nonetheless, points out that “Nobody asked about my preference and interest.”
His parents’ protective instincts also extended to his personal life, he claims. They selected his first wife, a distant cousin. The marriage ended after a few months.
“After it, [my parents] told me to marry whom I want and that [they] won’t interfere any more in my private life,” the man says.
He met his second wife through a friend. The couple and their two-year-old son live with the man’s parents.
But his parents’ attempts to shelter him have had its effects, he continues.
He describes his self-esteem as quite low. He hesitates to object if someone cuts ahead of him in line or if a taxi driver rips him off. He senses discrimination everywhere.
His relatives don’t understand what an emotional disorder is, he alleges, and, instead, look on him as a person with limited cognitive ability.
“My relatives, when they discuss some important things or decisions, they never ask my opinion,” he claims.
“When my sister’s husband wants to have a dialogue with me, he approaches and asks the question ‘How much is two times two?’ He basically fools with me,” he continues. “My sister never defends me and thinks it’s normal to check my brain every five minutes.”