Words, Love and Life – VII
Kemal says of these times he frequented the Keskin place “… I had realized that seeing Fusun twice a week on pretence of making a film was enough to assuage my pain, at least for now…”
In a chapter titled Time, the novel turns its most philosophic and poetic. In reflecting on Time and its vagaries, Kemal takes on the precision of the wall clock which was very popular in the Istanbul households once upon a time. One of which is displayed in the Museum. This is how it is recorded in the novel, “If we bear in mind that my first visit was on Sunday, October 23, 1976-and that my last night in Cukurcuma with Fusun and aunt Nesbit was on Sunday, August 26,1984,we can see that there were 2,864 days intervening.” He goes on to calculate the average number of days he had been to see Fusun. This precision, the details only add to the myth and magic of the love that both lifts him up and whirls him round. Like the dance of dervishes.
“There were weeks when I saw them every day, and others, when growing indignant, again and again convincing myself that I could forget Fusun- I stayed away. But never did more than ten days go by without Fusun (that is, without seeing her), because after ten days I would be reduced to those levels of misery that I had endured during the autumn of 1975…”
On such days of utter despair Kemal had frequented the Top Kapi palace. I decided to make a trip to the place. And by now I had befriended most characters in the book on the streets of Nisantasi, Cukurcuma, Beyoglu so I thought I will take a metro from Taksim to Fatih where The blue mosque and The Topi Kapi palace stood. As I tried buying a ticket I found I didn’t have the right change, the kind gentleman behind swipped his card to let me in. And seated me beside a sweet motherly Turkish lady with a cane basket covered in embroidered cloth; it smelt of freshly baked bread. I immediately thought of her as Fatma Hanim, the old maid in Kemal’s household. We talked, she in Turkish and me in a mixture of Urdu, English and sometimes Malayalam in my eagerness. Here’s what she told me. She had two sons and five grandchildren; she was off to visit her grandchildren in Fatih. She showed me photos of her beautiful green – eyed grandchildren and I showed her our family photographs. I showed her my son’s photo and she said he was tall, I nodded. She gave him a flying kiss and said some prayers. I kissed her hand. She patted me on the head. No language but so much said. These people were family in just seven days. When I got down, I asked someone on the street the way to Top Kapi palace. He said I could either take a tram or walk. And advised me to walk,which I thought was sound advice; I was not in a hurry nor was I with anyone who would hurry me up, so I walked.
It was late autumn and roads were strewn with leaves, there were occasional restaurants and shops on the way, quiet establishments with exquisite façade as if out of a fairy land. I had a coffee and sandwich on the way, smiled at cats and beautiful trees all ablaze in gold and red or some bare. I walked past the blue mosque, and had to look around for a while to find the entrance, it was huge and nothing like I had ever encountered. The Mughals had brought a slice of this fine, exquisitely rendered miniature art, to some of the monuments they built. The mosaic of colours was dizzyingly beautiful and there were slivers of light everywhere, a million dancing twilight suns.I forgot to click photos mesmerized as I was.
As I stood before the Top Kapi palace which was a short distance away, I didn’t share Kemal’s melancholy .I must have had a beatific smile on my face when the stranger said salaam. I continued smiling at him as if in a daze. He introduced himself and said he was a weaver, and his family has been in the weaving trade since the time of Ottoman Turks and they had a weaving establishment two minutes away. He asked me if I were from India or Pakistan. Thinking back on the conversation, I am surprised how easy it had been to talk to some strange Turk when dusk was falling in front of an old, ominous looking castle. I walked with him to see his shop and family and it seemed more than 2 minutes away, I felt a strange unease but not enough to retrace my steps. The shop was modest in front and inside was a silent stern woman with a fine profile weaving on a loom, he said it was silk and led me inside and inside was a huge, high- ceilinged hall full of grand carpets some rolled, some hung. He offered me a chair and brought his many brothers and uncles out. After that it seemed that they took me for a wealthy tourist who would buy them out. They rolled out carpets after carpets before me, some costing lakhs and every one of them a work of love. There was a tray of apple tea brought in, which I had, thinking foolishly it might be drugged. But it wasn’t. And as I bought the least expensive shawl there and said goodbye, the weaver offered to walk me to the tram station. He asked me if I would like to go to a derwish dance and I almost said yes but then I recovered my good sense and politely declined. This gentleman bought me a tram ticket to Taksim and I knew Kemal was real.