Chapter 1.
The fruit of Peace
is Silence
The fruit of Silence is Prayer
The fruit of Prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Service
The fruit of Service is Love
The fruit of Love is Peace
The fruit of Peace is Silence

Umit Kaan Hadzibektashogullarindan.

His name means Umit descendants of the (sons of) Hajji Bektash Wali[1]. I shall not trouble you with details of his name. In short, he is known by everyone as Umit Wali.

That was what Umit had endorsed on his navy blue Turkish passport, which was issued just a couple of years back, five years after the Turkish government first issued passports to their citizens. He was carrying the same passport along with him on this journey.

It took him six and a half days to travel from Munich to Istanbul[2] by train. Passing through Salzburg, Vienna, Budapest, Bucarest, the tedious immigration and visa processes, the change of trains and endless stoppages while crossing each European country, made his journey an interesting experience.

At each station, looking out of the window into the meadows, the trees, row-homes, the rail-road work, the graffiti walls, people passing by on cycles, cars, motorcycles and trucks, Umit did not recognize a single face, yet all the faces and life seemed known to him. Each person had a unique life story, much more juicy and absorbing than he had been through. Nevertheless, Umit thought no one was like him, travelling back in time, to search for his associations with his first love - Masum.

Outside Istanbul, the train had stopped due to an accident between two passenger trains, including the legendary Venice Simplon Orient Express that had collided head-on near the outskirts of Istanbul. An old grumpy German co-passenger told Umit that the train would remain there for another two-three days until the tracks were cleared.
The journey and the time had churned Umit’s desperation to curdle and there was no patience in him to wait for another moment, leave alone one-two-three days. Umit got down from the train which was standing about two kilometres away from the next small station outside the periphery of Istanbul. He walked till the next bus-stop and then took a bus, which was over-crowded. Like him, many others were opting out of the train to catch the bus to Istanbul.

Sudden memories of the streets, the mosque, the trees, the fragrances, the local areas - Bosphorus, Galata, Beyoglu, movies, parks, Taksim square and Grand Bazaar engulfed Umit’s mind. Crunched like a thin tin can between a very fat middle-aged Turkish woman and a smelly perspiring, sleeping young man wearing a Turkish cap, his tears seemed to be liberated. The tears did not stop and they trickled down all through the one-hour journey, which took them to the Istanbul central station, Sirkeci.

Chickens and goats come to Istanbul to be wringed, slaughtered and butchered, Zeheb had said once; Zeheb, Umit’s mentor, philosopher, who never claimed to be one.

Umit realized how true it was - in this decade - as it was four decades back, when he was born; three decades back, when he had first seen Masum; and two decades back, when he had last seen Masum.

The general buzz at the central Sirkeci station confirmed that about 95 people had died and more than 150 injured in that train accident which he had been part of and had left behind.

Umit could have been one of them, died on the wayward memories in the quest of finding his tracks back to the world of his only love of life.

He had planned to reach on a Friday, 18 October 1957, and stay for one week. Instead he reached on Sunday, but he still did not change his decision to stay for a week.

Stepping out of the train station, Umit was part of the Istanbul crowd and he was again a black spot in the ocean of buzzing porters and people, as he had been when he first came to the chaos of Istanbul for studying. He loved it – being lost in the crowd, as an unknown spot.

As he walked - he preferred it that way, to walk - not a single person was even keen to look towards him. No face was known. Nevertheless, all of them looked familiar. They were there before he was born, and would be there after he would die.

The roads, the street, everything looked new, not because the old buildings were not there, but the colour, the people and sound had changed. Yet, the smell was still the same.

Umit suddenly heard the music all around him and the fragrance of Masum passing by him.

He turned to see behind him but there was no one, just the corner of the street which was playing hide and seek with his thoughts. It was the same corner where he had seen his love for the first time. He tried to stop for a moment to capture the essence of that memory, but the crowd around him pushed him and his thoughts, physically moving him away from his memories.

Ogul, what is your name?

Umit, Hanim[3]. He told his real name.

But there was no one there today to ask his name.

I pass by these walls, the walls of Leyla,
And I kiss this wall and that wall…

He touched the entrance gate of the mansion where Masum had stayed, and felt the stone texture. He went a bit closer to the wall and smelled it, kissed it; tried to put his ears on the stone clad wall; could he hear the echo from Mirza’s house?

Mister, are you ready to work for free? We will provide you food, clothes and shelter.

That was during the second season and phase of Umit’s contact with Masum, when Masum’s husband had asked him. Without uttering a word, he had agreed to work for them.

These were the voices calling from different periods of his life.

[1] Bektash Wali: Who was the principal teacher of Sufi order in Turkey.
[2] Even though officially the name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul in 1930, all over the world, especially in maps and speeches, Istanbul was still referred to as Constantinople until the 1960s. In this novel, for simplicity purposes, two main cities of Turkey are referred to as ‘Istanbul’ and ‘Ankara’ instead of Constantinople and Angora respectively. I use the recent name of the cities even for the events before 1930. Readers may permit this liberty in this narration.
[3] Hanim: Respect for older women.

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