She was not sixty at the time. Rather plump, with a serene expression on her face. Notwithstanding her age, her eyes at times were animated by fiery sparks. She had dark hair, full lips, a proud mien. At first glance she reminded one of Chloe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, yet there was something majestic about her appearance – her movements, her stance, her speech.
“There aren’t too many of you in the audience. Is anyone absent? The entire class is present then. I shall ask you to make an effort to attend all my lectures – provided of course you are not bored. If you are bored you may feel free not to come. I have always believed that one should avoid the use of coercion in these matters, because coercion offends the soul.”
Never before had we been exposed to such reasoning. We were overjoyed, but in time we came to realize that this gift of freedom bound us to her more effectively than any other authoritarian regulation, and notwithstanding the sincerity of her words, I don’t recall a single instance of absenteeism.
She went on to speak and we grew very fond of her. We just loved her.
During intervals, whenever we spied an open door, we would peer in curiously to catch our professors in their unofficial capacity. Zabel Yessayan would be seated at the podium smoking. That too was a novelty for us. In those years we were not yet accustomed to seeing women smoking. But we were so much under her spell that whatever she did seemed to us correct and beautiful.
Once or twice I met her at the writers’ home. On one of these occasions we even had a short talk about Mkrtitch Armen’s Heghnar Fountain concerning which there was some controversy in the press at that time. Yessayan took part in these discussions defending the author against his critics.
At the writers’ home, Someone, I can’t recall who, asked Yessayan how she could suffer the inconveniences of Yerevan after the comforts of Paris. The expression on her face darkened as she delivered the following reply:
“These inconveniences are meaningless in my eyes because I take an active part in building the future of our country. Does that answer your question?”