I had to give my
hand to Hodja Effendi by going his home, kissing his hand and taking his good
wishes all the time.
I used to see the school building, which was dark gray and high and under which
were grocery and herb stores for five or ten times a day. But I hadn't entered
it. If I had been told: "Come in", in fact I was not so voluntary
to plunge into.
One day I bought,
what a greedy I am, some Russian olive or nuts, and when I was eating them I
saw Hodja Effendi. I put the nuts in my pocket immediately.
let me kiss!" I said and stretched my arm to. He gave me his hand and I
kissed. But this time he did not release my hand as he usually used to. He used
to be more charming when he smiled since he was a pretty man. We walked hand
in hand for a few steps. Then he said to me:
starting school, yet"
I remember very
clear. I said neither yes nor no. And from that day this situation turned into
a habit for me. I don't answer any question that I don't estimate the consequences.
We walked till the school door in this way. "Come on, let's go upstairs.
Come and stay for a while, then you may go." said the hodja.
I obeyed. We entered.
We were still hand in hand. Steep stairs the light enters through the big windows
that are on the right side. When we went up nine or ten steps we entered a large
room through a door of which both lives were opened. I saw at first sight: Fifteen
or twenty children of my age kneeled down on the cushions in front of narrow
tables that are called bookrest. They are reading silently. Among these, Monitor
Mumin whom I know well was moving about. The edge of his green turban over his
fez was waving. He was wearing a striped cardigan similar to that of Hodja Effendi's
that he wears sometimes, but his nape of the neck is wider and in layers. Both
edge of his brown mustache come over his short-cut beard. By this way, his thick
lips and white big teeth become clear. His face is more smiling than that of
Hodja Effendi took
me until to his seat. All the children are staring at me. The ones who are my
playing friends among those are smiling at me.
The Hodja Effendi's
seat is opposite the door. It is higher, at the bottom there lain a rather large
sheepskin, around it there is pillow. He moved his lower, big table and sit
on his divan. He showed the cushion on the right of the table to me and said:
I realized immediately.
In fact I was young but I was very clever and agile. The Hodja had taken me
to school as guest.
After Hodja Effendi
had said that and smiled at me again, he called the children in twos and threes
in each turn. The ones that had been called came with their books and sat before
the hodja's table and read altogether. The ones who read individually followed
them. It took long for them to read. I grew impatient at my place.
When they finished,
or did we stay more, I did not remember, the hodja stood up. I also stood up.
He held my hand. My legs had got numb. We left the school. Our houses were only
thirty or forty steps far away. We separated; I went to my house and the Hodja
All of a sudden,
the door was opened. My mother was sour-faced. Then she asked harshly:
She would never
beat me in fact, but she intimidated me. I was afraid of her.
"I asked to
you, where were you?"
"At that ruins
again, weren't you?"
"I swear I
Don't swear. How many times I warned you, let me get you punished…"
me, the Hodja Effendi took me to…"
The poor woman
who spoke harshly than the hodja once, became completely silent as soon as I
said the hodja… She slowed down.
Effendi took me to school."
the case… What did you do at school?"
He made me sit near him… The children came… They read."
"Did you like
Frankly, it would
not be true to say no.
"I did. Furthermore,
the Hodja Effendi did not beat anyone."
"Why on earth
should he beat the one who reads, who keeps quiet? Instead he loves. If you
want, I make you start school."
Yes, she said so:
"If you want, I make you start school." This sentence echoed inside
her with amen voices. May she rest in peace; my black skinned middle-aged wet
nurse interfered in this as she interfered in my all affairs.
"If lady said
so to me, I would start. The best clothes, fezzes with golden amulet on head,
brand new shoes on feet. Book pouches made silver thread… Who doesn't want?
I prepare a puffy cushion and a mat. When you sit on your head touches to the
ceiling. Everybody says 'may god preserve him from evil!' What's more, the mouth
of the one who reads smells sweet. Because every night the angles kiss him while
he's sleeping. (She turned to my mother.) Lady is it possible that my son doesn't
want? See, I did not read and my face became that black. You want, don't you
Since I was encouraged by the scene, that there was no beating, clubbing, cuff,
slap, I saw I said:
wet nurse, stressing the r, said:
I think I took
"I mean immediately!"
immediately! Not this Thursday but next Thursday…"
My mother was happy:
"I hope so…"
First Days At School
In the morning
that I would go to school, as soon as I woke up my wet nurse dropped in my room.
My face, my hands and my feet were wiped off. I had my eyes on my new clothes
and my book bag. I was dressed, and my book bag was hung on my neck.
If they let me,
I would go to school on my own. I was very excited, and I was moving about in
the house aimlessly, and all together with the creaking sounds of my new boots.
The knocker of our door was knocked. And my heart fluttered at the same time.
To a sound echoing
as "Come on! Go to school!" a few more sounds from inside of the house
joined: "Come on! Go to school!" I would run. But my wet nurse's black
hand grabbed me:
" Will you
go without kissing the hand of the lady of the house?"
And she shouted
" He is coming!"
I dropped in my
mother's room without losing my initial speed. I kissed her hand.
And she also kissed
" May god
give you comprehension and mental alertness!"
I went down stairs.
I saw that my wet nurse was also waiting for her turn. I kissed her hand, too.
I also kissed Dilfeza's hand. I went out of the door, and I saw the doorkeeper
of the school, Tahir Agha. I moved and kissed his hand also.
That's the way
it is… You will adjust… If you want to behave more mannerly gradually, you will
kiss the hand of whomever you see aged on the road until you arrive at school
and have the blessing of them… Because they taught me like that.
Besides Tahir Agha
I had a few more new friends. I also joined them. We walked, and we came to
It is tragic to
be crammed into this building.
What you call school
must be a place like a garden, like a field that it is worth your leaving home.
My feet that did not lose its strength till the stairs slackened here. They
did not move backwards but they did not also want to go forward.
Anyway, we climbed
the stairs all together collectively. We entered the class. Monitor Mümin was
sitting in his place.
The puffy cushion and the mattress full of big, blonde branches on a blue ground
were also beside him.
One more hand kissing.
" Sit down!"
I kneeled on the
" Take out
I took it out.
" Did you
study for your lesson?"
" I did."
" Read now."
I read before taking
out my book:
" Is that
" Hodja Effendi
told this only."
" All right."
As the school was
getting loaded, the noise was increasing. The shouting of the ones who pronounced
"In God's Name" in Arabic was growing more. The noises of the ones
who were reading fast as " bab, bat, bach" loudly and the ones who
were coming to listen to the lesson as the monitor called were gradually increasing.
The class was turning into a mess.
As I was new, I
could not look around without getting shy. Even so I could notice. All of the
ones that were reading were swinging. Especially swinging of the one seemed
very harmonious to me. He kneeled on his cushion with sheepskin on it. With
his fingers attached to each other, both of his hands were on his knees. In
front of him there was a small table that was collapsible. He fixed his eyes
on Koran that he put on the table. And his body was moving forward and backward
in harmony of a pendulum. Later on I also got used to such swinging and imitated
The noise got out
of control. Especially the reading of six or seven children that came together
in the same way and in the same pendulum movement was more powerful than all
the others. They also tuned their voices as if they were singing a song, and
they were reading aggressively. The noise of an irritating song that was composed
of the voices that were more shrill and smooth and inharmonious occupied everywhere.
This noise could
not find an opportunity to get louder. Right beside me, a thundering sound,
a cracking sound that surpassed all the others boomed all of a sudden terrifyingly.
Monitor Mumin hit his shiny, short, boxwood stick on the table in front of him
with all his might.
In a moment silence
It seemed that
he hit the stick at just the right moment. Hodja Effendi entered the class with
his tender appearance. Slipping quietly away like a shadow walking, with the
silent footsteps of his heelless thin-soled boots he came near his place and
He took off his
robe. He gave it to the doorkeeper Tahir Agha coming behind him. He felt about
his beard with his soft hands. Suddenly he looked at the corner and called someone.
A child that I hadn't seen since I came and that was five or six years older
than me rushed out of his place. He went near the Hodja Effendi. After kissing
his hand, he kneeled down. He was thin turbaned, and he had a fair complexion.
He was wearing an overcoat that was pretty clean and closed up completely.
I was all ears.
Hodja Effendi leaned his both elbows against the table, and the head of that
little hafiz started to swing in the space between Hodja's both hands. Hodja's
right hand was sometimes touching the table slightly. Every time he touches,
the child was shaking his head as if he was correcting his mistake. Spontaneously.
Then in a moment he was turning back to his former swinging again.
At first I could
not understand such reading without any book. Later on I saw many of them that
read without any book. I learnt that the blonde child was trying to memorize
He must have finished
the lesson of that day that he stood up. He took a Koran out of his bosom. He
showed something. And then he kissed Hodja Effendi's hand again.
As soon as the
child came back to his place, Hodja Effendi fixed his eyes on me. He called
me with the movement of his head. Immediately after I grabbed the holder of
the Koran, I rushed. For I had seen all the events that took place… I behaved
just like the child hafiz. But I wasn't without a book like him. I took out
my book. One the one part the papers and on the other part the peacock's feathers
that would help me to write. I started to read the first letters.
I had read at home
with my wet nurse already. I knew till the letter "dal". Elif, be,
te, se, cim… We stopped at the letter cim. My lesson for that day was this much.
After the lesson finished, Hodja Effendi turned towards me.
is this much. Did you understand? Tell your mother to buy you a book like the
ones at our school. It's a pity for this book; it may be torn. Go and kiss the
hand of the monitor, and then go home. You come after lunch."
The monitor… The
doorkeeper… After finishing the turn of kissing hands, I rushed to home. Confusion
" Why did
" The Hodja
Effendi told so."
" What did
" Go home
and come after lunch, told he."
My mother started
" This is
being a guest."
She said so, but
could my wet nurse remain still without interfering in my affairs? She interrupted:
" But keep
your eyes open. Being a guest lasts three days. If you behave naughtily, you
get the bastinado."
For three days
I took lessons from the Hodja Effendi. I sat on the cushion with the satin covered
pouf that was right by the monitor. I returned home one hour earlier than all
other children in lunch times and at the afternoon breaks. However, when I came
to the school in the morning of the fourth day I could not find my cushion in
its usual place. Pointing out to a place far at the back, in front of a window
and with a rather harsh expression on his face the monitor said:
on you will sit on there. I will call you."
The school democracy
that was disturbed because of me for these three days seemed to be reset by
this way. However, this situation turned out to be better for me.
I have told you.
Hodja Effendi was a gentle man. But the monitor was rather stern. During those
three days I did not see the Hodja giving a flick to anyone. Neither heard him
rant and rave. But the monitor was either smacking or hitting with his stick
all the time. It was his habit to pull by ear and even more bloodily to scratch
Those whom Hodja
Effendi send from in front of himself by saying "Go and recite your lesson
to the monitor" he would grab at once from the ears and after shaking them
violently he would give them a heavy slap on the face. Or he would make them
open their hands on the desk and hit them till they cried without heeding to
their begging, "Please Monitor Effendi, I won't do it again… Ouch! ow!"
One morning he
even sent for Tahir Agha. He subjected the thin, little, blond hafiz in turban
to the bastinado he had taken down the wall, pronouncing "in God's name."
He hit his bare
feet with his shining stick of boxwood shouting, "You did not study, did
not recite your memorization, moreover did not perform ablution!"
Monitor Mumin became
a "terror" in my eyes with his similar manners, each of which separately
caused my heart to miss a bit and affected me deeply. As I told about them to
my wet nurse at home she used to say
"If you sit
still, don't behave naughtily and study your lessons the monitor won't beat
My mother did not
care about it.
Our childhood can
be described best with the words "whatever you do is bad". You aren't
satisfied with dressing-downs, scolds, slaps you get at home? Then don't study
and don't stand still at school either and you are getting a beating there as
well. It was only the zone between these two places that was safe.
In fact my having
been placed in front of the window at school was to my benefit. While sitting
next to the monitor I had to look at the book all the time. So I used to get
bored very much. Now here I had several fellow cronies. Especially one of them,
I think he was called Fevzi, was very found of fine arts at that age. He would
find and brought such things like papers and pencils that I would look for at
the shops and could not find at all. And then he would sell them to us. I got
intimate to him immediately.
Days were passing
without any event. I would not sit before the Hodja any more. I would recite
to the monitor. And the only literate person at home was Dilfeza. In the mornings
and evenings she would help me learn my lessons. Some one or two weeks passed.
Now I had finished the alphabet table and moved to another page. I also got
used to the school. And as I was among the intelligent, sometimes I would even
get impatient while the monitor was teaching.
Oh! I used to like
balls… whether they were made of rubber or of leather. Plays with ball were
among my favorite entertainments. I used to throw the ball and catch it back;
hitting it at the wall and clapping I used to count one, two, three then catch
I was best at the play called "goal post" that was the primitive form
of kicking a goal, of which today's footballers are very proud. I would take
aim at the goal post and kick. It was another excitement to get into different
protection positions in the play called "hit" so as not to be hit
by the "it". Hitting the rubber ball to the ground and making it fall
on my head was particularly entertaining.
One day my friend
Fevzi secretly took something out of his green striped bag for book, which he
would always hang on his neck. Then he immediately hid it and made me curious.
I begged him earnestly. And he showed me at last. It was a tiny red ball of
leather. Such a lovely, such a nice ball it was indeed. Having been sewn in
slices, all of them in the same color. It dazzled me.
"Give it to
I will give it back."
"I swear I
"I swear I
I could not manage
to get it. Not at that moment. But due to an absence of mind I achieved my goal.
At one point either the Hodja bawled someone out or the monitor hit someone.
When Fevzi was engrossed in that I immediately struck at the ball and got it.
A High-pitched, sharp voice ready to cry drawled:
No sooner than
the voice had come out the monitor plant himself right beside us. A slap on
my face… moreover the ball was gone. In addition he got the ball torn into pieces
with the knife he would sharpen a pencil while sitting on his place.
We did not go pale.
As the slap had flushed one side of our faces. Particularly mine was burning
fiercely. I hadn't get such a heavy, pain causing slap that far. Sometimes my
wet nurse used to be fed up and give me a slap. But compared to that of the
monitor's hers was a drop in the bucket.
When I went home at lunchtime my wet nurse realized this at once. It must have
been because of my fear that the redness had increased. To my mother:
"My lady one
side of this child's face is flushed," she said.
Mommy looked for
a while, then having understood she asked:
monitor hit you?"
No sooner than
she said this I broke down. Whereas not a single tear had come down my face
My excitement must
have reddened even more that already very red area. I squatted down in front
of the cushion. I leaned my head against its edge. I wept and wept.
My mother, my wet
nurse, and Dilfeza gathered around me.
First my wet nurse
my son, let me kiss it so that the pain goes away."
After her Dilfeza
see! I have got many things for you. I will cure it immediately."
Suddenly she took
me, a big boy at his six or seven, to her arms and carried to her room.
My wet nurse grew
even more anxious. She was talking to herself angrily and produced sounds similar
to bellowing. And in the meantime she was saying to my mother something like:
"Is he right
to hit such a fine boy with his giant hands."
Dilfeza gave me
some things in her room. She asked me the entire event that had taken place.
I told her.
"I will go
now and get one made."
It must have been
my mothers order that she fed me and allayed my hunger. Putting a pillow on
the cushion she laid me and put me to sleep.
I don't know how
many hours passed. Upon opening my eyes I saw Hodja Effendi incanting a spell
over me. I jumped up suddenly and kissed his hand. He was stroking me without
speaking. From time to time he was running with pressure his thumbs from my
temples down back sides of my ears and then again pressing he was running them
Guess what! The
right part of my neck had started to swell. He incanted a spell over there as
well. He said to my wet nurse:
"I will send it immediately. Pour it in half a glass of warm water. Leave
it there for about one hour. Then have him drink it. If it isn't gone by tomorrow
I will come again and write."
The sadness of
the blessed man was apparent from the look on his face. And he warned Dilfeza:
"As you put
him to sleep incant the spell I told you over him."
It must have been
because of that slap that a gradually increasing sickness appeared in me. I
was laying, sleeping, and waking up. I saw sometimes my mother, sometimes my
wet nurse, and sometimes Dilfeza with three both large and small red balls in
their hands and was falling asleep again.
I suppose that
malaria with high fever last for about a week. It was at the times I had started
to recover that the steward of our house whom we used to call Black Mother tangled
the red sherbet in the green cup around my head. Then she went directly to the
garden. Out of the window I saw her pour it at the foot of the mulberry tree.
Dilfeza was saying
these about Black Mother to my wet nurse:
"May God preserve
her from evil, grand steward knows everything. All those medicines, those amulets
were of no use whereas after her third pouring, may God preserve him from evil,
When she returned
Black mother looked at my face carefully:
"Now say the truth. If you don't I won't take you to bed with me no more.
Have you ever pee at the foot of this mulberry tree?"
God knows what
a manner I adopted that the three took that as "yes". So Black Mother
turned to my mother who had just entered the room:
my lady… I had said to you. He has done."
we do now?"
My mother was confused.
And Black Mother said decisively:
to live in this house. Once jinns begin to haunt the result won't be good. The
slap of the monitor is because of them and nothing else. The poor man has no
fault at all. Tomorrow I should give one more sherbet. And then let's look for
a house far away from here."
That meant a new
school for me.