Words, Love & Life – IX
Kemal’s visits to meet Fusun become more intimate with Feridun away filming. Fusun was working on a painting of her pet bird Lemon( whose cage now hangs at the entrance to the museum ). She was so fond of the bird that she gave the bird’s name to the Film production company that Kemal funded to enable Fusun’s husband follow his dream of making movies.
When she was painting Lemon, the cage was moved to a back room where Kemal would watch Fusun painting. Not touching, not referring to the intimacy they shared in the past, Fusun’s quiet demeanour, her pretenses, non-chalance keeps Kemal wary of revealing his great love for her.
“Feridun doesn’t take bird pictures anymore, “said Fusun “And so I have decided to paint from life instead” Fusun’s mood, her poise as she talked about Feridun as if he were someone from her past-it all set my head spinning but I kept my calm.
Money was scarce, the civil war had devastated businesses and there were ‘opportunists setting themselves as bankers’ offering high interest rates, the gullible middle class invested heavily in them often the whole of their life’s savings. The Keskin household was also hard hit and when Feridun stopped paying towards the expenses, Aunt Nesibe began visiting rich households for work. She resumed her sewing and dinner became frugal. Kemal who was in the habit of snitching any odd object that Fusun touched, now began leaving money on the tables and shelves. He also bought them pastries, gifts or squid cartilage for Lemon from the Spice Bazaar, the famous Misir Carsisi. Next to the spice bazaar was The New Mosque , a misnomer because the date mentioned is 1665. Imposing like other mosques in Istanbul it was first commissioned by Safiye Sultan, who was the wife of Sultan Murad III, an interesting fact I learnt from a travelling Italian couple .
The bazaar was a riot of colours and around the bazaar were shops that looked as if carried in from an ancient kingdom by the genie in Aladdin’s service. Anything you wished for, was sold here and I wandered as mesmerized as the poor Aladdin when the genie brought forth precious treasures at his command.
It was as noisy as the markets of the East, and seeing me walk by, brown and cotton-clad in a bandini print kurta, the vendors calling out their wares, burst into Bollywood songs in a strange Turkish tongue. What a blend of music, smells and colours, as if the universe had come together: Impeccably groomed western corporates; exuberant Egyptian, Turkish, Indian shop keepers; and food joints with Mexican and Chinese chefs; refugees and tourists and craftsmen and bakers and weavers and a whole crowd of mixed humanity. Everyone finally matched everyone. Like game Tarik Bey and his family used to play, matching people who appeared on television with people they knew in real life.
Her father’s sudden passing away rendered Fusun and her mother rudderless, and it’s Kemal who takes care of the funeral. Life turns overnight and fortune smiles upon some in some tragic moment.
Kemal says,” But as I grieved for Tarik Bey, there was also inside me a boundless will to live; as I considered the new life awaiting me, I felt deeply happy, and on this account ashamed.”
Feridun is nowhere found. He is with the film crowd and his affair with an actress had left a proud Fusun stone-like. Kemal keeps away for a while to avoid a scandal. Neighbours, whose sympathy might soon turn into nosiness and gossip and insensitivity are his concern .
Then the reader realizes, in her is both filth and beauty: a slight shift in the atoms of her mind, could make her a monster or an angel or whatever is in between on the spectrum.
Pamuk’s observations of the Turkish society, the hypocrisy, the family ties, the greed, the joy de vivre, the broadmindedness, the pettiness, the snobbery, the sense of beauty, prudery, and strength of will translates to us through live characters in flesh and blood. We are frustrated, compassionate, exuberant, disgusted, anxious, exultant and tender as we read along.
A while after Tariq Bey passed away, Feridun and Fusun decide to separate. Kemal feels he is just one step away from his long-cherished dream of marrying Fusun. Aunt Nesibe advises Kemal to talk to Fusun before he decides on anything else. Fusun wants to visit museums in Paris as he had promised her when she had taken to painting. It had then seemed a distant dream never possible. She wants them to travel with her mother before they get married.
Kemal goes to ridiculous lengths to obtain Fusun’s visa to Europe: We see a Kemal, willing to fulfil any wish of his beloved Fusun and a Fusun ready to give up her heart’s wish, frustrated and helpless. It is the corrupt materialistic world against Kemal’s and Fusun’s untainted, sublime love marked by an absence of guile. Love and hope prevail.
Kemal finally succeeds in making the trip to Europe as his beloved desired. Kemal and Fusun make their dream journey. They stay overnight at a hotel and Kemal and Fusun discover each other again but their exquisite time together is short lived as Fusun is killed the next morning in an absurd car crash. Every old tree I walked past in Istanbul resembled the gnarled evil block of wood that the car rushed into that cruel morning. Kemal is badly injured but he imagines himself happily dying with Fusun.
“Fusun knew she was about to die, and during those two or three seconds she told me with her pleading eyes that she really didn’t want to that she would cling to life as long as she could, hoping for me to save her. But I could only smile at my beautiful fiancée, still so full of vitality, the love of my life to the last, and believing I was about to die as well, I felt glad of being under way to a different world”
However, Kemal does not die. He survives and goes on to make a museum. A museum that vindicates hoarders. A museum that records Love in its infinite forms.
When I made my return trip, after my final visit to the Keskin home which now houses the Museum of innocence, I imagined myself in the car with Fusun and Kemal travelling to Paris. My scatter-brained driver who lost his way to the airport many times, I indulgently called Cetin. And as Kemal described, “ As we drove over the Galata bridge, I (sic ) opened the windows, happily breathing in that familiar Istanbul smell of sea and moss, pigeon droppings, coal smoke, car exhaust and linden blossoms”
And the book and the journey fused together.
(Travelogue Series Completed)