Archive for October 18th, 2013

What can you be? Death! you sound much more

Profound and wiser, than you will ever

Be on this side of living or the other:

Death, I shall name you are least spoken of

Among genteel or rude folks, What’s it?

You hold no part of continents where life

May set foot and claim neither for fame nor

for light,-it casts no farther than dead wall.

If thou be one what avails my life to fight

A dead weight that is better cast aside?

Death I shall name you are least spoken of

And get on with precious joy of life’s savor.

Death is least of the heartaches that I need

While life has with heat of love enow for now.


 John Donne original:

Death be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,/

For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,

Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,

And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.



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Chapter- 2

The Visitation

Turks land on the part of the Garden; the Sleepy Heads welcome them.



Süleyman the great is known as the conqueror of three continents. He raised the Ottoman Empire to a level, which his forefathers could never have dreamt of. He held his court in a domed council chamber deep inside the Topkapi Palace. From there he thought he could be the monarch of all he surveyed. So naturally he wanted more: besides continents there were islands to be had. Rhodes fell in 1522. He would have also plucked Cyprus had he but time. But no. Death came in the midst of his grandiose plans. Only after his death in 1566 the matter of Cyprus could be given its due attention. A decree was signed by his successor, Selim ‘the Sot’. It was rumored he speeded the Operation Stymie in order to seize the prized Cypriot wine for his personal use. Seraskersultan or the Commander in chief one morning summoned the head of the Department of War to receive his order. Only at that point the Council of Ministers knew they had a war on hand. Operation Stymie was at last in place.


The engagement would harm the interests of Venice, which pleased the war minister. The idea of swallowing the island of Cyprus in one fell swoop to spite the Christendom made the hawks in the Court of Topkapi think of the operation as a distraction. A war against the infidels gave them an excuse to paper over their own rotten governance. The sultan even went to the extent of deputing a mullah to arouse the fighting spirit of Prince Al-Wa’sik an half brother whom he did not particularly relish. Mullah Murad came thus to be part of his entourage. Of these two we shall hear more later on.


Finalization of war plans always had some festive air attached to it. The minister of war, a prince trusted by the sultan distributed a piece of meat, a rose and a few dinars as token of his favor to every member: from the lowest rank to the secretary who put the entire war plans into series of orders and sent them sealed to various admirals and field commanders got the same token. Such gifts made them believe the war must be really a delightful affair. They in turn praised the generosity of their master and averred the sultan was truly enlightened to have entrusted such an earthshaking operation to him. The prince was happy and his dependants were also on an upbeat mood at the turn of events.


Operation Stymie’ was beyond the point of recall.




A month later.


It was a cloudy over cast day but it did not upset people from spreading out and thereby turning the rumor-mill. The Turks on the street asked one another, “ Why do we go to places so far from home?” We do not get to see our own friends enough.” They were friendly people. ” Why do we go places at all?” one wanted to know.


Didn’t our sultan set forth ‘Operation Stymie’?” another one was sure of his facts,” It means war. By Merciful and Compassionate Allah it will add to the glory of the sultan.” ( Of course no one wondered what one, so exalted as Süleyman the great could have a son whose nickname was not in the same class as of his father.) Yes, Selim the Sot could have done with much more glory than he had.


We ought to widen our horizon as our sultan never tired of telling us.” another said.


Yeah, “one who always was noted for his skepticism observed,” Every time it happens at a cost.”


How so?”


Those whom we conquer will have to narrow their horizon. Is it not?”


It is what we call Shock and Awe!” One who mentioned of the Operation Stymie declared with a smirk. He was one of the Turks who believed in the justness of their cause. He explained. ”Operation Stymie is meant to put a chicken in every Turkish cooking pot.”


An ordinary Turk no more cared for politics than a Cypriot. But seeing so many horses being led about by their trainers into ships and seamen taking their positions aboard so many warships festooned with flags and pennants of the Admiralty so many Turks felt somewhat grand. The man on the street was finally getting to see a series of vignettes,- all chaos and haste, as a result of preparations all planned and coordinated in high secrecy. What was hatched in the sultan’s war Council was as though being declared from roof tops. So obvious it was to all. ‘There is going to be a war!’


At the harbor overlooked by the pleasure palace of many princes and their harem, there was a milling crowd who had come to watch their fleet. The Turks had come to see their friends and relations who were in the many ships that were moored there. “I am off to war!”, said one as the Turkish ships got ready to set sail.” Bring something golden; something to remember you by!” another said. “Why can’t you then come along?” To which the other replied with a bashful smile,” I hate war! Dying before my time? Not for me!”


Those who had time on their hands shuffled their feet while the soldiers entered so many ships. They could not understand. ‘Why go to fight in foreign parts?’ They could see ‘Mullah’ Murad who had appointed himself as the ghazi(* the champion of the faith or the jihad the war against unbelievers.) They knew he was there in his official capacity. ‘He will explain to us’ they hoped.


Murad Mahoud held neither the position of ulema( *guardian of sacred law)or as a Kazi(judge). He was not a mullah in strict sense of the word but he nevertheless showed certain fanatical fervor to every opinion he expressed. He was a busybody who was also ‘an untested scholar’. What struck all was his snobbery. He was an outrageous namedropper. Having dropped his real name into oblivion he was all the time trying to salvage it by showing how well connected he was. He knew the sultan and also the princes. He was called behind his back another name, which expressed him pat. Sitting Dervish. While the traditional dervishes showed their spiritual fervor by whirling about, he just moved from one big name to another whenever was in company. All those who knew him treated Mullah Murad as a pest.


On that day he was there holding his head high and waving his hands about as if he had something important to remind those who milled about. Many more melted towards the speaker. Murad saw how big the crowd had become and he smiled. He was an avowed expansionist, he declared.’ Our solemn duty is to bring the Island of Cyprus under the heel of Turkey’. He had a few dog- eared books always at hand. Those ordinary folks saw him waving his books and they thought that he must be very learned. Yes indeed his learning came from books, which he shouted out to the hangers-on.


After quarter of an hour. Murad Mahoud had by then hit his stride and let his words come forth.


Oh mullah tell us,” asked some who were watching sailors busy in ships, “ Why do we go to Cyprus?”


Correction!” mullah said sternly. “ We do not go to Cyprus.” “We do not?” They were taken aback.


I go to Cyprus and you do not. So your usage in plural is wrong,“ They were impressed.


One asked, “ Why do you go to Cyprus, mullah?”


The mullah held up his hands to show his finger with a dirty nail. With a flourish he wagged his forefinger and then scratched his ear and said,” I do not scratch my ear with my foot. Observe the fact well.” “Why did I not scratch with my foot?” He asked drawing himself up as an orator would do to impress his audience.


One of his listeners asked, “ Because you’re knock-kneed?” “ Wrong,” replied mullah ignoring the insult, “ Because my finger can reach my ear closer than my foot can. That is why!”


What has it got to do with Cyprus?” One hamal (or porter) who carried heavy boxes at the harbor wanted to know. “ Cyprus is close to us.” replied Murad. They would have asked more questions had not a captain of one of the ships come toward the mullah and said,“ The wind is favorable and we are ready to sail.” “ What Cyprus has that we go in such large numbers?” the mullah asked as he followed the captain. ”Classified,” said the captain with a wink, ”mum is the word!”


Yes, there was only one topic, which Turks asked themselves in those days.




The Sleepy Heads saw a fleet bearing towards them. They knew the Great One was behind its smooth sailing. One said,” He is the Lord of the four elements. He doesn’t wish his angels to soil their garments.” They had learnt a few things from the doctor though some of them were untutored in everything else. “We will put smile on Santa Claus’s face!’ they exclaimed. They knew how to do it. They will keep a proper decorum as they came in with gifts.


The Sleepy Heads did not believe so much in guardian angels as much as what they could do on behalf of the Great One. Each Sleepy Head believed he or she had a personal Santa Claus. (No one has seen a guardian angel but does that stop us from believing in a personal angel?) There on that afternoon they were pouring out of a fleet of ships before their eyes. They imagined there they had in so many ships come to please them.



(2 b cont’d)

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