IS LIKE BREAD
Pigeons used to
alight around the pool. With a light splashing sound the water used to flow.
It used to overflow the little section and form a mass in the fountain. Of the
birds, one used to fly and the other alight. I used to feed them with the crumbs
which I had brought in my pocket without informing my granny. They used to carry
off the crumbs scuffling on the wet marble with their red feet. I used to be
as if I was scuffling with birds, I was flying with them. This way, I used to
keep myself amused until the time of namaz [the muslim ritual prayer]. One of them was crippled. It was
my pigeon. Its fingers got dull like the head of a walking stick. It used to
walk hopping and skipping on the mosaic stones of the fountain. Its eyes used
to glitter like the sparks of a fire. Not walking, the poor animal was hopping.
But it was not worse than the others at flying. Perhaps I pitied my pigeon.
I loved it because I pitied it; its acting tough, while rushing to take the
crumbs, was very amazing… I used to drop the crumbs towards it all the time.
So that it would become stronger and not let itself be beaten.
My granny used
to have a heart to heart talk with the other beggar. They used to tell each
other about the old days. They used to tell about their escaping from their
home country when the war had started. The Asmali Mosque did not have any other
beggars. The other did not beg but make his son, who was in a wheeled case,
beg. I used to be afraid of the old man. His white hair and beard covered his
whole face. He looked as if he was a thousand years old. I used to leave the
birds and go near them only when my granny wanted water. The old man used to
look in front side all the time. The body of his son fit into the case with difficulty.
He was nothing more than a heap of flesh. His flesh puffed up. He had no other
movement more than opening his eyelids as well. The passers by were dropping
money in the bowl, which was put in the middle of his chest.
The man with white
bread was apart from this heap of flesh as if he had no connection with him;
then he got up himself and drove away the flies on his son's face. In fact the
old man was not looking at anybody's face. The ones who saw him used to suppose
that it was his guilt that his son was in such a situation.
I heard when he
was talking to my granny. Years ago his wife died and he married a second woman.
But she left him and ran away. Since then he was looking after his son himself.
When he was young he used to work as a butcher at the slaughterhouse. When he
became old he lost his job. He wanted to make his life by giving call to prayer
but the inhabitants of the quarter did not accept this since his voice was bad;
they cast the badness of his voice in his teeth. So the man was annoyed. He
gave up giving call for prayer. He took his son, for whose death he used to
pray to God, out and they began to beg.
The man with the white
beard used to cry when he was telling us these things. He used to praise the virtue of his
first wife all time. I used to see that my granny was also crying when the man
was crying. The man used to say that he was feeling bitter regret for having wanted his son to die.
me feel ashamed," he said, "I was tired of looking after him, but
now he allays my hunger. Now every bite of food sticks in my throat. "
Just then the azan
[call to prayer] started to be called. The garden of the mosque used to be filled with people
rushing together for the namaz. My granny used to count people by their footsteps.
The more people joined in the namaz, the more alms were given.
My granny used
to come here and drink the cold water of the fountain before she lost the light
of her eyes as well. Then they used to sit under the grapevine tree and take
a rest there. She did not pass by before she drank water, sat and rested here.
Sometimes she used to ask me "Hulusi, are there grapes on the grapevine
this year? Did they remove the moss the stones of the fountain? Are the birds
drinking water from the marble fountain? Did they change the broadcloth of the
I had been three
years old when my granny's eyes had turned blind. My father had been suffering
of nephritis that year. "When he had the gripping pain he writhed to and fro
in pain…" used to tell my granny. "Many doctors saw him. He spent
a lot of money on drugs. Lastly they offered to do an operation. He had no
other remedy, no other hope then. Went and lay down, my poor… He lay down once but he
could not get up again… He passed away leaving his wife, his son behind. We
did not have even a penny. We had no one to looked after us. Two
women and a child… I was in great pain for both the dead and the bereaved. I was
shocked. I was crying all the day for twenty-four hours. I was making the mother
heart bleed and shedding tears… "
"After a short
time that fainthearted whom we call daughter-in-law had run away. Already
she was as short as a hand span. You were a very little baby having no idea
of anything. Apparently, she did not have just a little bit mother love in her
heart. Her blind heart did not know the love of a child. Many unbearable rumors
arose about her. Many unbearable words were uttered. Some concocted that
she jumped into a river. And some said she was working at a bad house in Adana.
You can't stop people from talking. These rumors hurt me more deeply. They decayed my heart
even more. Then my bloody tears did not stop anymore. I could not fall
asleep for many dark nights. Meanwhile I was taking care of you. I was both
crying and bringing you up, son. I was taking care of you crying for your being
an orphan and for your misfortune…"
"One day my
eyes were clouded with rage. A smoke fell over the world. Everything grew cloudy
as the time passed. Then I could not see ever again. I did not see the world
in which I lived through good times as well as bad times for years…"
I used to forget
about the birds and go near my granny when the namaz was over. We used to hold
the door of the mosque, which opened to the marketplace. The other door
belonged to the man with the white beard. My granny did not play the tambourine
while begging at the mosque door. She used to believe that it was a sin to play
an instrument at such a place. She only begged from the men whose foot steps
"For the sake
of the azans, namazes give us alms…"
"For the sake
of your children's health…"
"For the sake
of the God, don't pass by masters…"
I used to stand
still near my granny watching the men dropping money. The money bowl used to
be in my granny's hands. Some used to go down the steps of the mosque, and take
out money from their pocket as they were passing by as if they had just seen
us. Some would put their hands into their pockets before they came nearer.
the men used to disappear, the garden of the Mosque used to sink into the former
silence again. Wingstroke of the birds, the sound of the water flowing into
the fountain used to dominate.
My granny used
to leave herself to my eyes and to my steps and this time we set off to the
marketplace. We tried to collect money, which would be enough to survive, from
people who still have a feeling of pity. My granny always used to say that while
begging she was in a complete peace and comfort as she was taking tips when
she was playing the tambourine at the wedding feasts.
no need to take offence at taking and accepting the money which is put in my
hand." she used to say; "It's only that I'm taking tips for the last
time from people whom we, husband and wife, by playing instruments entertained
With my childish
way of thinking, I used to be astonished at the people who gave money. There
is something that I did not understand in giving money without a return. It
had to be something different to collecting money by playing an instrument. I had asked
my granny once, "God loves his alms giving men." replied
she. "For this purpose God already creates the rich. For they look
after, take care of the forlorn, the poor… If not, how would the people like
us make their living? Moreover their wealth won't run out by giving a penny.
It's like you pick a hair from a pig… "
I was not persuaded by what my granny said. If only God had given the money
to the poor. Why did the God leave it to their seclusion? Furthermore why did
he create the poor at the beginning? I could not comprehend these with my childish
point of view. Then I used to want to grow up quickly. When I grew up I would
not let my granny beg; I would earn money and buy whatever she liked. She should
stay at home all the time. She should spend her time with the other women of
her age in the quarter… I would either play my grandpa's violin at the wedding
feasts or work as an apprentice like the other boys of my age. I would earn
money. Many children were working at the shops where we stopped to beg every day.
They wore aprons. Boys of my age in soberness using hammer, driving nails, removing
meat from bone near their masters… They used to seem as big men to me… But my
granny did not let me do any of them yet. "You're my hands, my feet."
she claimed, and did not let me reply. "I can't cope without you,
son. You're the stick of my hand, the light of my eyes. When you hold my arm,
I take support from you. How can I give you as an apprentice to the others?
Otherwise I too, want you to acquire a craft. I too,want you to earn your living with your effort. First you will take a job and then learn to play the violin.
It's my only wish in the whole world. I kept your grandpa's violin for you for
so many years. I lost my eyes but I did not lose it, so that you might play it! You
have taken your name from your grandpa; I hope that you, your hands will be as
talented as his… It's enough that I hear your grandpa's melodies before I'm
dead and buried. I don't want anything from God anymore. I don't have any
other wish in the world…"
So my granny used to say. I was as if tired of growing impatient to find a job and then to
become able to play the violin. And I used to get angry with my granny inside.
I did not used to say anything but going out for begging was unbearable for
me. I used to believe that I could never grow up. I would never have money in
my pocket like
the shopkeepers of the marketplace. Why on earth my father died
so early? If only he hadn't had that operation on his own will… Then maybe
my mother would not have run away. Even if she did, my father would go and take her
home. Is it possible that she may come some day? Yet my granny would drive her
away. She was working at a bad house. I could not attach any meaning to this
bad house in my mind. Why did they call the house where my mother was working,
bad? How was it? And also, what one can do every day at a house… She must have
been cleaning the floors and the panes. Just like Yasar's mother. She goes to
other people's houses for house work. And Yasar was working as a painter
at the marketplace. Yasar's father was in prison. He used to go to visit
him every Sunday. Yasar used to say that he would beat his father's enemies
one day. He had two elder sisters as well. But he was an independent boy. He
did not use to heed what he was told. Nobody would bother him. His mother used
to make Yasar afraid saying, "I will complain about you to your father."
When she was fed up with his behavior. In this way, the woman used to rein her
son in. In fact, Yasar was not afraid of his father either; but apparently he
did not want to upset him.
On the other hand,
Hidir was a quiet and shy boy. He was working as a porter with his father and
his brother. All three of them used to go out in the morning all together and
come back all together in the evenings with food in their hands. They had come
to the city migrating from the village. Since there was nothing to do, they
began to work as porters as soon as they had found a rope.
I loved Yasar and Hidir since they did not talk about my mother. They did not
gossip and laugh among themselves. They weren't arrogant either. I used to
beg my granny to let me go to the cinema with Yasar. She did not.
There used to be a silence at the marketplace in the evenings. There was not
much shopping at those times. The traveling hawkers would not cry out then;
the sherbet sellers would not rush about with their kettles on their backs.
The shopkeepers would put a seat in front of their shops and recover from the
whole day's fatigue. It was only us who broke the silence.
clink clank, clink clink clank…"
We used to play
the tambourine in front of every shop for a while and then pass slowly. The
shopkeepers would either drop some pennies into the bowl, which I had put forward,
or try to get rid of us saying, "God grant!". We used to begin to
walk again without saying anything to anyone. My granny used to keep her steps
with me. If you did not pull her from her arm she would stand still and
keep playing tambourine: "clink clank, clink clank…"
My granny used
to cover her eyes with black glasses. She would never leave her pale, worn out
coat. However she was very careful about her clothes' cleanliness. She used
to get prepared as she was going to a wedding feast. The women of the quarter
used to be jealous of her meticulousness despite her eyes being blind. She also
used to cover her head with a black veil. Her white hair used to fall from the
edge of her veil in silver gray gleams. Her tambourine playing fingers, on the
other hand, looked like dried sticks. They move about the stretched leather
quite exhausted; and make some sounds heard with their habit and skill acquired
through the time…
Since the shoemaker's
marketplace was just next to the Asmali Mosque, we used to go through here first.
The marketplace used to smell of tanned leather entirely. The noise of the hammers
coming from the shops used to be louder than that of tambourine. Black slippers,
boots and shoes used to be hung in front of the shops. They looked as if they
were decorating the marketplace with black gleams. Boys of my age were seriously
cutting leather, and soling shoes. I used to watch these boys with such a growing
respect inside me that I forgot to collect money.
knew us. The ones who were willing to give money used to take coins
out of their drawers as soon as they heard the sound of the tambourine. I used
to pull my granny in front of the shops watching her steps. Her black glasses
were like a mask on her face; as if these glasses were the mask of the storms
breaking out inside her…
After the shoemaker's marketplace we used to move to the serial bazaar, and
from there to butcher's marketplace. I would never leave my granny's arm.
Because she used to get very angry when I did so. She used to scold at me without
considering that we were at the marketplace, among so many people. We used to
walk step by step always with this fear in me. I used to walk sweating in my
winter sweater in summer. What is more, I would not look at people's eyes
who were giving money. I don't know whether I perceived a glimpse of teasing.
Perhaps in a childish concern, I used to believe that people whose faces and
looks I did not see would not see me…
There was a friend
of my granny. That was an old butcher. My granny used to call him Ibrahim. He
used to give bones with marrow to my granny to get broth sometimes. Butcher
Ibrahim's large bushy-mustache covering his mouth. When we came by his shop, my granny, I don't know how she realized it, used to stop playing the
tambourine. They used to talk about the daily events, the wedding feast of old
times and singers who were forgotten by then… And every year, the old butcher
used to give to my granny a young goat leather. She used to remind him very
early and take the leather on time. She used to renew the leather of her tambourine.
I did not know why, my granny would not go begging with loose, old leather.
She used to pay great attention to her tambourine. It was shining deep black.
My granny used
reproach him that he did not give young goat leather.
my granny used to call in front of the shop. "The Agha of the butchers,
the Agha of the butchers! Was your promise like that? Spring has come and
passed, the summer is also passing, you will still give me young goat leather,
hah! It's a shame that you are an agha! See how kind a man you are! See, how
the wedding feasts where I had made you play, lost! Were they all lies to you?
I have lost everything I had. I only have this tambour. I looked on this as
a memory of the deceased. It is my only hope even to beg and make my living.
Its leather is loose again. It makes no good sound. Why did not you give me
a piece of leather this year?"
used to drop a shining 25 pennies into the bowl in my hand in order to make
himself excused, while smiling at my granny's words.
Woman Elmas" he used to say. "I appeared to be a liar to you. But,
I did not get leather suitable to your tambourine this year. Yours should be
thin I know. It should be of a newly born goat. Like paper. Don't worry my
dear. I'm keeping my promise…"
My granny would calm down then; a smile would cover her face.
she would say, "roll a cigarette and let me smoke here. Since I will wait
till next summer…"
She used to take
her tambourine and squat down. She used to find the door with her hands and
lean on it. Her face used to glitter with delight as she had received good news.
I used to see as if her calm heart at her smiling face.
I stand and wait
for my granny standing by her.
takes a cigarette rolled with smuggled tobacco from his cigarette folder and
lights it; and he places the cigarette between my granny's two fingers. My granny
takes a breath in complete peace and comfort; and she puffs out the smoke into
the air, which she can't see.
is nice, Ibrahim agha, is it hashish tobacco?"
hashish tobacco… "
There used to smell
tripe and salted leather. This pungent smell used to irritate one. Cats snarled
at each other for the bones thrown to the street. I used to think about the
abundance of meat at the shops. I wondered if the butchers weren't fed up with
eating meat. They both sell and eat meat. Every day the butchers' children eat
There used to be meat at our house on Feasts of the Sacrifice. My granny puts
the meat in a large pan and salts it not to let it go bad. We used to make a
fire in the garden and cook it with sister Gulsen. I blow towards the fire,
which has started to give off sparks, and sister Gulsen turns the cooking meat
licking her fingers. Sister Gulsen would not eat her share but take it to her
husband. I did not used to comprehend why she did so. Her husband used to beat
her very badly. Since they could not have a baby. He comes home drunk some nights;
pulling her from her hair, drags her along the ground in the garden. Sister
Gulsen's eyes were the most beautiful of all. Her eyes turn into purple; her
hair gets tangled when her husband has beaten her. I did not love her husband,
Suleyman. He used to beat sister Gulsen till Father Husam came down from upstairs
and set them apart. Then Suleyman would go and sleep. He did not used to oppose
white haired Father Husam. Sister Gulsen would spend all night with my granny
with great sobs and crying seizures then. They used to stay awake and talk all
night. They used to talk in whispers not to awaken me… However I did not sleep
and listened to them in my bed. My granny used to smoke all night, her eyes that
had forgotten sleep. The light of her cigarette would shine and fade like a
little star in the darkness. She used to try to console sister Gulsen. Sister
Gulsen, who was dark-skinned, buxom and had curly hair, had met her husband
at a construction site in Adana. She saw him and fell in love with him. Then they
run away from Adana together. Her father was wealthy in their hometown. He expelled
Suleyman from his house when he came to say that he wanted to marry Gulsen.
They haven't shown concern for each other since then. Sister Gulsen did not
know whether he was alive, either… There was no sense of regret in her voice
when she was telling this. She used to love Suleyman despite all this and forget
about what she had said. She used to praise his good nature.
Perhaps what she
had told was true. Perhaps she was creating a means to rely on since she had
no way to go back. But I did not understand and pity sister Gulsen. Her sobs
made me feel depressed. Was it because she was kind to me all the time? Or because
of the repulsiveness of Suleyman whom I knew as angry and sullen? Maybe there
was something that I loved in the desperation and fidelity of her to her husband.
my granny and the old butcher would talk about me. I used to feel ashamed while
they were talking about me. The eyes of the man were on me. Sister Gulsen, feast,
meat all used to fade in my imagination, immediately. I used to be irritated
because of this, because my imagination was interrupted, who knows?
"May God preserve
him! He has grown up," said the old man one day. "He became a man
in front of your eyes. See, he makes you move around. No man is too many. He
can make his own life three or four years later. He takes care of you…"
"It's a memory for my painful heart", said my granny, "My son
was my guarantee in life. I lost him, but at least the deceased left me this
kid. He did not leave me desperate, when he had gone… What shall I do then? I
installed him on the deceased one's place, but may he not go to such an early grave.
I take him to my heart in place of him, to smell the scent of him."
any news about his mother, since she left."
When the old man asked this, my granny stood up as if her old wound was opened
up. While she was standing she dropped her tambourine. "No, no news."
she said angrily. "It's better that no news come from the one who strayed
from the straight and narrow path. She was nothing to be compared to my son. His
fate was bad, what can we do? If only he did not die and let her be such a person…
Saying these, my granny dragged her hand out to me again. The skin of her face
was trembling because of distress. We started walking without saying a word.
She used to be like that whenever her name was pronounced. She used to mutter
to herself then. I did not mind her swearwords. As if she hadn't talked about
my mother but somebody else. I did not have love for a mother inside me. My granny
was both my mother and my father…
I had an ardent
desire to grow up early and earn money partly for this reason. In order to settle
down with my granny… I should have saved my granny from begging. She should also
put a cushion in front of the door and sit on it, like the other women, like
the women of her age. She should smoke her cigarette. She should tell about the wedding
feasts of her time continually. She should tell about the drunks who used to cry when
my grandpa played his violin… The death of Tahsin, the mandolin player…
How much she used
to enjoy herself telling these! Perhaps she would tell for a thousand years
if she found anyone willing to listen… I used to believe so. I used to listen
to them as if they were tales.
Tales that would never be lived again. Wedding feast tale. While telling, my
granny used to be as if she had been living a sweet dream again. As if she had
nothing else to tell. My granny's wedding feast tales were the adventures experienced
in a country no one had ever been to. I used to feel sorry that I hadn't lived
at those times, that I hadn't seen those wedding feasts.
My father had been
only of my age then. Everything used to be abundant at our home. Whatever my
father had wanted used to be bought. He had been the only son of a family… His
shoes, his clothes used to be bought in pairs; she used to comb his son's hair
every day… However, they used to leave him alone at home when they went to wedding
feasts, because they used to stay for three days and three nights at the owner
of the wedding feast's house sometimes. My granny used to worry about his son
on one hand while she was making the drunks enjoy themselves on the other hand…
she used to be engaged with home all the time…
feasts of old time weren't same as today's at all." was telling my granny,
"they weren't sudden and short lived… they mostly lasted for three days
and nights. That three day wedding feast used to be told for a whole life and
did not end. It used to be talked about everywhere like an epic poem… sometimes
the wedding feasts used to end in blood. We did not take your father with
us partly for this reason. We used to fear that something bad could happen to
him; we might lose him in the hullabaloo… "
I used to try to
imagine what my granny told. I used to find the men who shed blood while enjoying
themselves strange. I used to illustrate the wedding feasts houses, which turned
into a battlefield. As if there were some scenes from the films, which were told
evening the owner of the wedding feast used to take a phaeton in front of the
house. Oh, we would go on foot either. Your deceased grandpa used
to make the bargain on that condition. And your grandpa had a friend, Tahsin,
the mandolin player. He used to come to wedding feasts with us. They were good
friends! They both passed away eh… Tahsin died before your grandpa. He got tuberculosis!
He was in love. His heart was heavy with anguish. Doctors did not let him get
married. He was in love with a girl younger than him. While your grandpa was
playing a long piece of music he used to accompany him with his mandolin. How
beautiful days they were! The phaeton used to take us first and then we used
to go to Tahsin's house. He used to live alone, may God have mercy on him…
he had a ruined house."
"When we arrived
the house of the wedding feast owner, the tables used to be already set. Firstly,
we used to sit and eat our meal. They did not know where they would
make us to sit among the guests. We used to be treated with great respect and
honor… As the musician meant the wedding feast… "
grandpa took his violin, there used to be a slight movement among the guests and
the noises used to end immediately. The deceased, as if willing to increase
their impatience, used to smear the resin on the bow in great detail. He
would not use a bow other than that of rose tree, either. He had brought from Istanbul. Anyway… After he had smeared the bow he started to
tune the strings… The patience of the guests comes to an end then; there used to
be some saying, 'Come on Master Hulusi, we're tired of waiting…' And as soon
as Hulusi touched the strings there used to be a silence. Nobody makes any noise.
As if a fly flies the voice of its wings will issue sound. His fingers
used to touch the strings like a kiss. The bow was pulled from one end to the
other. So courteously. And gradually his fingers turn into wind. The sound comes
from a deeper pitch. It decreases from medium to the lowest pitch. He, the deceased, hadn't
kept away from Huseyni . In fact he used to play for himself all the time. He
was searching for the melody of his own imaginative world on the strings. When
such heavy melodies were played the tambourine was not needed. Then I used to
take a rest like the other guests. Everybody used to watch me. I would not wear one more time what I had worn at
a wedding ceremony once. My hair
used gleam like black coal then. I was beautiful and young then. The
men did not see a face of a woman… Their wives used to live and die in carsaf
[strict cover]. Hulusi was a wise man. He left me on my own. His love and trust never decreased."
of those times are no longer played now. Those who listened to heavy melodies
are lost. The old songs used to affect one deeply. Especially when the deceased
had played… He used to seem like a magician to me when he was playing the violin.
That voice, that melody, used to seem as if it was pouring from an invisible
source but not coming from the scratching of the bow on the string. It used
to flow like water. The night used to begin with Huseyni; and then Ussak and
Rast used to come. He used to combine the melodies in a skillful way."
"What days had passed, eh? As the night progressed the men became more
and more drunk. They used to become so angry that they could not bear even good
words. We did not stop playing. We did not refuse any of the wishes. At these
times the generosity of the drunks would increas. They used to give larger tips.
They used to get up and put banknotes to the foreheads of those playing. "
used to drink with Tahsin. But they did not get drunk. However
Tahsin was destroyed because of those drinks… He could not recover from tuberculosis.
He was not even at his thirty when he died. Maybe the poor man drowned the
pain of his heart in alcohol, who knows? He used to write songs on himself.
The death of Tahsin burnsin my heart like the pain of a second son… The
others used to think that he was our kin, our relative, really. Sometimes he
used to cry while he was playing. His voice was so impressive, also. Tears
used to flow in narrow lines on his face. The deceased used to make even those
with no concern cry, when he was singing and playing. There was something of himself
in his songs. His love… "
into my heart
Your eyes aren't real,
I don't want you
Turn on the light at my night."
to love Huseyni like your grandpa. Was that melody more proper to explain our
problems, our loves? I don't know… These songs used to be a fire and burn in
the gardens of the wedding feasts at night. They used to turn the hearts
into a fireplace. Oh, one who hadn't experienced those wedding feasts could not know
them. They used to add sorrow to ones sorrow. The trees used to sway above
us. Each of the stars came out and gleamed in such a way that you would think
that they were feast lights. There were yedidag flower carpets on the floor.
The scent of the smuggled raki used to diffuse everywhere. There were kebabs,
strained yogurt, honey… "
not interested in the foods; but he could not help himself drinking the
smuggled raki. As I said before as if he was killing his pain… The fact that
he could not marry, that he could not be with the girl he loved was more painful
than the fact that he had tuberculosis. It was more unbearable. I think he had
fallen in love with this girl at one of the wedding feasts. However she was
not so beautiful as to have songs made for herself. But it is love; he had fallen
in love once. The so-called love is like bread; everybody has eaten a piece
of it. Is there anyone who did not taste the bread, the love? But Tahsin's love
was not bread, it was poison. It had no solution. He could not get married. What
was her name? I've forgotten… But her eyes were very beautiful. They used to
shine like a resinous piece of wood. They used to shine like blue bead. Her
long black eyelashes used to cloud the gleam of her eyes like a velvet cloth.
You could not look into her eyes when she was looking at you. They started to shine magically. Even
I as a woman could not be satisfied with looking at her eyes.
She was magical. She was not of human origin. She was magical from top to toe.
I had realized this at first sight. Maybe that is why Tahsin said: "Your
eyes aren't real". The poor man did not touch even her hand! He did not have
even her photograph to put in his bosom. She did not even give him a handkerchief
to smell. But she used to smile at his face. She never separated her way from
his. But she did not say him her final decision. Definitely, she enjoyed being
loved. She enjoyed the songs sang for her. That was all. And that was what gave
pain to my Tahsin. That was what made him sing and play. I was as if I was his
sister; he had nothing that he kept secret, that he did not tell us. He opened
his heart and showed his wound. He used to pour out his troubles to us. That
was a bad love."
"We knew, but
we did not tell him so. We were unwilling to tell. Tahsin was our bosom friend.
His love was melancholy. It had no end. Is it possible that one can love another
one that much? I would not believe if I hadn't seen. If I were told so, I would
call it a lie. Who would drink if he did not?"
"When he died,
there was no money, not even five pennies, to the poor man's name! Nobody even attended his
funeral. Only his mandolin and himself… We sold his mandolin and bought a shroud
whith the money. His folk songs are all forgotten… No one except him could
sing his folk songs. There was his love in all his folk songs. It was partly
because of this, that he did not make his folk songs known. He used to be jealous
of even the song of that cruel girl! No mother would bear such a one that is
deprived of heart. He could not even touch her hand. She was ill natured. She
had no other beauty than her charm. She was a devil! When Tahsin died; she was
said to be married to one of the merchants. I did not see, I was told. I did not
have enough courage to see her again…"
started to play at wedding feasts with a clarinet player from Harput. Your grandpa
did not want to work with another mandolin player after Tahsin. Was it Memos,
the name of this man from Harput? He had a shop in the tinmen marketplace. He used
to come to wedding feasts at weekends."
"We came to an end with the old wedding feast… We experienced in those
days all we ever experienced. The before and after is a lie. It is not worth
talking about. That's human, he recalls the good days. The kind and
goodness are not forgotten. Now I find out that, the wedding feasts were our
life, our breathing in the world…"
My granny's wedding feast tale did not come to an end. She only used to stop
telling for a while. She was as if woke up from a long dream, a dream that is
full of light pink, deep blue beauties. She used to talk about and interpret the dream she had. My granny's tale was affecting me
too. I hadn't seen my
grandpa, but I knew him as a tale hero. Especially, I could not forget Tahsin,
the mandolin player… He was the voice that was echoing in the depths of my child
heart. He was a tale hero that I loved, became friends with, and that I felt
pity for. Furthermore Tahsin was a boy of my age. We went out to the countryside
to pick up sultan nauruz flowers on a spring day. We had a bath in the water
of river with willows. But he went after a childish love, a thing that could
impossibly be realized and started to drink and left us. Tahsin got out from
the tale. As if he did not die but turned back into reality…
I was eager to
continue the tale from where Tahsin had left. I certainly would learn how to
play my grandpa's violin. When I learned to play the violin, the days that my
granny told about would come back. I thought so.
My granny would
be happy again; there would be abundance in our house… we would not beg anymore.
But my granny did not let me even touch the violin for the time being. It was
in its black box. The violin was a magical stick for me. Everything depended
on my playing it. I believed so. I would play the melodies of my grandpa and
I would assume great proportions to my granny.
what I told you into consideration," said my granny this time. "When you
learn to play the violin that doesn't mean you have a craft. Don't be deceived
by the bright days I told you about. They are gone. They have become a tale. The ways
of earning a living are different today. The world has changed; everything has
changed. You can find anyone to listen to the Huseyni folk songs of Tahsin.
Those folk songs aren't written today either. And that love which I would not
wish on my worst enemy won't be experienced again. Don't be eager to become
a musician. I won't let you become a musician as long as I live. Take our situation
for example. His mandolin became only the money for Tahsin's shroud. When your
grandpa died we hadn't any hope other than your father's earnings. The man from
Harput would not earn his living if he did not make tin ware. And me, I'm begging
and making our living, you see. Who would hold my hand if you hadn't been there?
They used to call me Lady Elmas the tambourine player; but now my name is the
blind broad beggar! When I think I find out that we could not even save little
money when we were in such abundance… We could make ends meet only. That
abundance had no real basis. One awakens after such a long time. But we had no
other solution. We were in famine, going thtough difficult days. We had reached those
days among those that died of hunger. Being musician was our lifesaver. Not
our ancestral craft… Your grandpa's father was an examining magistrate before
the war. He used to employ teachers for his son, so that he would learn to play
the violin. Later on when he was escaping from the enemy he, the deceased, took
his violin along. He did not even think that he would earn his living with it…
Be reasonable and take a lesson from my words! Don't forget that Tahsin who
spent his short life drinking at others' wedding feasts died before he reached
his wedding feast dream."
When we returned
from the marketplace the deep blue shadow of the night used to fall upon
the quarter. The quarter used to roll into a deep silence as if someone died,
as if everything was forgotten with the one who died. It was a fearful and daunting
silence. "Depressing time" my granny used to call those times. Was
that why I felt depressed then? I felt distressed. In the eve of the night,
it seem to me that everybody was as if preparing to escape. All people were
in a hurry. As if they were preparing to spend their last night in the world…
The houses of the
quarter became old. The plaster of the mud-brick walls was old and shabby; and
the walls were covered by moss and wild grass. In the past, Armenians lived
in these houses. They emmigrated during the years of the war. The immigrants came
and settled in the houses they had left.
My granny and grandpa
were among those immigrants. They came here from far away,from Kars. They had lost their
kith and kin. They met during that escape, during those days of life or death.
My grandpa had taken care of my granny. They got married… My grandpa hadn't
a job or a craft. He only knew how to play the violin. He thought of playing at the
wedding feasts. Later on, he had started to take my granny along.
Ours was a large
house with two floors. Tailor Husam lived upstairs with his family, his wife,
his two sons, his daughter in law and his grandchildren. Downstairs was separated
with a board fence. We used to enter the house from one of the leaves of the
door with two leaves, and bricklayer Suleyman and sister Gulsen from the other.
As soon as she
entered the door "May your work be easy, ladies!" my granny used to
say. "How much you are occupied with the problem of eating!"
Sister Gulsen used
to cook in a hurry in the garden to make the meal ready by the time her husband
came, to pump the kerosene burner that was burning with snarls, trying to make
it burn with more flames all the time. On the other hand, the wife of father
Husam, mother Hacer used to milk her goat when we arrived. In reply to my granny's
are occupied with the problem of eating and you, are you in God's way? When
you were younger, you played from one wedding feast to another; you earned too
much money. You did not even play at everybody's wedding feast since they did
not give enough money. When you grew old, you took your tambourine again and
started to collect taxes from the marketplace."
And my granny used
to laugh at mother Hacer's words. She used to laugh but that did not last long;
soon resentment used to cloud her face:
angry with me my dear!" she used to say complaining. "Don't want to
be in my shoes. May God protect you from falling into my situation. It's for sure
that the three or five pennies are what they feel like giving. I got through
all of their wedding feasts successfully. I made all of them dance before my
tambourine. What you call wedding feasts is the mere entertainment of a whole
life. And is it much that there is a five-penny tax of the only entertainment
of that life? Furthermore, the alms are favorable in God's presence."
Mother Hacer used
to say nothing more. Her silence used to mean, "You're right".
My granny used to come in and take off her coat and her glasses. She did not
need my help when she was in the house. She had spent nearly fifty years of
her life among these four walls. She used to find everything from needle to
filament gropingly. But she had to get me or Sister Gulsen to do most of the
When sister Gulsen
tried to move more quickly in the eve of the night, she used to do nothing
right and call me for help.
and pump this kerosene burner; you are young and you aren't tired. If your brother
Suleyman comes and sees that the meal isn't prepared, he will cut me! I swear that,
he makes me lay down and cuts. He is also a kind of crazy, you see, there are said
to be seven kinds of lunatics in the world. Mine is the one that doesn't listen
to reason, that sympathetic one. I beg to you Hulusi!"
Mother Hacer used
to keep milking the goat that was tied to the plum tree. Father Husam used to
buy a goat every year; they used to drink its milk whole year and slaughter it in
the autumn and roast its meat. Since there was no other place, the goat used
to stay under the plum tree, tied to it, day and night. The plum tree had never
born fruit. It did not have so many branches, either. Its very small leaves
used to turned into white because of the dust every summer. It used to spring
itself and drop its leaves again itself as if it was in an out-of-way place.
That tree did not draw my attention, although I spent my all childhood in this
garden. I did not touch its branches, its leaves even a day. I did not grow
a tree love towards it. But an evening, in the eve of an inauspicious, distressing
night, in one of those depressing times when people were very anxious and worried
to spend their last night in the world, I saw my mother under the plum tree
in the garden… There was the silence of death in the house. Sister Gulsen was
not preparing the meal for her husband. I don't know how she realized, but my
granny was petrified with astonishment as she stepped into the house. The
daughter-in-law of father Husam, maybe for the first time since she had come
here, came to the garden with her baby that was in swaddling clothes in the
night. And I was worried and astonished as if an inauspicious bird alighted
on the branch of the plum tree of which presence and absence meant no difference
to me, and as if that bird had brought bad news from an unknown country…
I understood everything
later: That woman who was invited to come in neither by Mother Hacer nor Sister
Gulsen was my mother! She had come home while we were begging outside. She was
accompanied by a man; the man left my mother and went to find a hotel.
She stood up when she saw my granny but my mother's eyes were on me. Her tears
started to flow continuously as if they had been lying in ambush. She took a
step towards us. She had a scarf on her head, a bag in her hand, and a blue
nice dress on her. Her tears were running down like silver wires. Even if I
realized that it might be my mother, the feeling of the inauspicious bird bringing
bad news from an unknown country drew me nearer to my granny.
"Why did you come, owl?" roared my granny. "How did you dare
come here? Thank God that I'm blind. Otherwise I would take your eyes out with
my two fingers. You fainthearted! Ungrateful! Fair weather friend! Neither Hulusi,
nor me, the only one lacked is your inauspicious foot, that's all! You left
and settled in the Pasha's mansion, is that so? You were disloyal to the deceased
and your head reached the sky, is that so? "
My granny could
not say more. She collapsed down and started to cry. First slowly and then as
if howling she cried. The other, my mother was also crying. She could not
make her eyes move away from me. I was looking at my mother as if I was looking
at the plum tree with dusty leaves that had never born fruit… I was looking
free from every kind of feeling. I felt neither pity, love, disgust, nor fear.
I was empty towards my mother like dried squash.
Sister Gulsen held
my granny at her arm and made her stand up from the ground. The neighbors
who heard the crying voice came into the garden. The crying of my mother turned into moan. Everybody was standing in the light of the moon as if being
judged in the presence of God.
Father Husam told
everyone what he had talked about with my mother before we came. My mother got married
in Adana. Her husband was a civil servant. My mother was the second wife of
the man. He had children from his first marriage. My mother had come to take
me along. Her husband would come in a few hours and take us to the hotel and
tomorrow to Adana… Everything was up to my granny and if she would let me go…
As if it was my
turn to cry!
had been understood my mother crossed the distance between us and held me in
her arms. She kissed me, smelled at me and put my head on her bosom.
I had never seen
my granny so desperate, left sitting high and dry, so daunted and miserable.
who should decide to stay or go… " settled my granny quickly and finally.
"Here is the mother, here is her son. And you all here my neighbors… I
have begged and made our living for so many years, I did not keep the boy hungry.
You all know. It was my mother responsibility as well. He was the son of my
deceased son. I could not leave him at the door of a mosque. I could not throw
him away, I could not sell him. I lost my eyes after my son… I can abandon a
boy as well. How many years more will I live? Hulusi can be of no use for me
even if he becomes a pasha, a sultan. I may live for three years more, or I
may not. In any case I will spend these three years begging. Here is the mother,
here is her son… but I have a request from Hulusi, a wish spoken before you that
he should not forget the efforts of that blind woman… For the rest, he'll make
his own decision…
As I said it was
my turn to cry.
For a long time nobody said anything. The neighbors were crying then. Father
Husam took me from the arms of my mother. I was weeping loudly. I escaped from
father Husam too, and ran towards my granny.
" I cried. I could not utter any other word…
I was not crying
but sobbing this time. My granny was concealing the storms bursting inside her
with the mask of her blind eyes and calm face again. Her voice was so calm so
soft… How fast did she become so calm!
she said. "Stop now. Look, am I crying? Yet you're a man my son! "
left. Father Husam took all of us upstairs. He made her daughter-in-law open
the guest room, and ordered her to make tea. I could not look at my mother's
face then. But my unfeelingness was replaced by pity slowly. On the other hand I
Since my granny
was not willing to talk to my mother, father Husam was talking on her behalf.
"What's done is done…" said Father Husam. "The blood should be
cleaned with water. The boy is still your son, my daughter. But he wants to
stay with his granny. Nobody can reject this. You may visit your son whenever
you wish. Nobody can interfere. Since your mother heart is heavy with pain,
then take over the expenditures of the boy… Send money for his clothes sometimes.
Don't forget that, this is also a responsibility of a mother… That woman is
not so healthy. She begs for herself but takes the burden of the boy on her shoulders…
My mother sat on
the threshold all the time. She did not even take a sip of the tea that was
put in front of her. While listening to Father Husam, she did not look at anybody's
The next day, my
granny took out my grandpa's violin and gave it to me. Sister Gulsen's husband
bricklayer Suleyman employed me as an apprentice with a weekly wage of ten liras.
Regarding the plum
tree in the garden, it was always in my mind.