Words, Love & Life – II
There is a vein of Indian in the perspective on city planning running through the town ship of Istanbul: build where you will. Yet, there is a strange mysterious magic here. There were antique shops with artefacts from Alladin’s cave or Alibaba’s household displayed in delicious disarray. Coffee shops and eateries and houses built one on the top of the other.
A coffee shop where a few young women sat talking was chic with a courtyard and a small garden, adjacent to it was a dreary prosaic establishment with a sign Vintage Industrial Lighting and Accessories Onsekiz Ltd. A little ahead, on a steep climbing, was a stylish building with a sign Beygolu Loft. A window looking out onto the streets, had fable like faces, faint and shadowy, I saw Fusun and Kemal after an afternoon of stolen love-making, earth-free, heaven –kissed, looking upon the mundane world.
As I climbed down I could see the Bosphorus in the distance. Turning round the corner passing an old Turkish bath there was the unassuming building of The Museum of Innocence recording a history of a life time.
At the door, I produced a well thumbed copy of The Museum of Innocence and was allowed a free entry.
At the door I was greeted with the sight of Lemon the budgie’s cage glinting copper in the half light. I saw Fusun and Kemal stealing a few hours of company in the upstairs room where Fusun kept the bird and her easel.
One of the cupboards in the Museum was filled with butts of cigarettes which Fusun smoked while Kemal visited hopelessly for 8 years when she was wedded to another. There were lipstick marks and signs of stress on these miserable looking leftovers which Kemal records in his diary entries as mental states of his beloved.
A glass cupboard full of porcelain dogs was a memory of the time they watched television together while Kemal inclined his gaze towards Fusun. A porcelain dog sat on the television and if Fusun got up and shifted it, Kemal would pocket it. These numerous dogs that Kemal took home those years now seem so full of life in the museum cupboard.
The dress Fusun wore on the fateful day of the accident hung mute in a cupboard bringing back a vibrant Fusun unwillingly giving in to Death.
A child’s tricycle by the upstairs bed and various objects a reminder of the seventies and eighties Turkey are housed so lovingly in the museum.
The book, actually turns more poignant with a visit to the Museum. One finds it difficult to distinguish one from the other. The novel is fiction, but the Museum so material and manifest, does not allow us to read it as such. In another book, The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist, Pamuk describes the crafting of stories.
The Museum was put together along with the novel. The author conceived the Museum as he was writing this story of great love, which in fact is a history too, of Istanbul, his beloved city. The reader is often made to hover in an unreal space, that the author convinces her is real.
Some Turkish men and women, I passed on the streets did not stop to respond and I did look so eager and anxious. Perhaps they took me for a Syrian refugee.
Syrians were everywhere so unlike Kemal’s world where the Islamists and the progressives of Ataturk’s reign were at loggerheads. The new Turkey seemed to be more modern and inclusive. All the haloed spaces were tourist spots.
The first morning out of the hotel I had glimpse of the word refugee: men and women not much different in facial or physical characteristics, yet looking so mislaid and rudderless, the shame of being hungry in those empty eyes.
One afternoon three young Syrian boys, very polite, unkempt in expensive clothes, uncomfortable approaching a stranger, asked me if I could buy them some food. I tried entering local restaurants with them in tow but I was stopped, and I realized poverty and homelessness are among the cardinal sins. We had food parcels smiling at one another, other languages forgotten and somehow insignificant.
That afternoon as I walked to the Museum, I hung between the fantastical and the real, the past and the present, the opulent and the impoverished, the East and the West, in short, a Turkish phenomenology.
(to be continued…)