Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Turks’

Chapter- 4

The Mayor Parleys With The Grand Mufti-

The Mayor and Prince compare notes and Al-Wa’sik offers freedom on condition.

 

Prince Al- Wa’sik (meaning Terrible Eyes) was the grand mufti of the Turks. Never was he known to have laughed. He had always known that he was different from others. When he got angry he wore flaming red, which to any Turk meant bad news. It meant that some one would have to pay the price.

Head will roll!” It was the case so far. Because of it he was also called Kismet or Fate.

On that day in April he discovered he could laugh. It was priceless. The discovery made him very happy. It had taken some forty years and the prince could not believe it would have come as it did, far away from home and in one of the strangest places. Laughter was not what his father the most dazzling figure of his age could give him. Having learnt many things from the sultan, of which duty was preeminent, he had kept going never realizing he lost what was of necessity a precious gift.

 

As a young prince he did not laugh; neither did he let himself go. Why? He did not like being thought as irresponsible. He had cultivated gravity, which he had been told by the so called wise men of his age, as appropriate for the movers and shakers of the world.

His tutor let him mix with other children of princely blood. They helped him hone up his skills in hunting and riding. Laughter wasn’t one quality, which they cultivated. ( Isn’t laughter at the right time and in right places sure sign of humanity in its pure form? In that spontaneity it seems to tell all,’Here I am with all defenses down!) The princes took themselves seriously. So did Al-Wa’sik.

So seriously the prince took himself that others for fear of displeasure could not have done otherwise. Had anyone in his suite was in the middle of telling a joke he would have instantly killed it hearing his master’s foot steps. The prince allowed people come to him with their problems and they never laughed to show how he had relieved their distress. His seriousness must have given warning signal to all: “I am Terrible Eyes! Laugh at your own risk!”

In the process what had he become but a human machine to which men in fear paid their respects?

It took a scrappy but lively human being who was in no way his equal in form, advantages or in rank to undo the damage. That day he laughed hard before he could realize what had come over him. In the end he had to agree it was very pleasant.

So naturally he esteemed Calisthenics highly as someone special.

After having spent some time alone disposing of many supplicants and writing orders the prince whispered to his bodyguards to call the mayor. During their first round each wanted to know the other. So they chatted this and that. When it was time for his evening prayer he excused himself. Before parting the grand mufti asked,“ What makes a smile the same as a tear?” “ By facing up to it, of course.” the mayor replied with a laugh.

2.

The next day the prince received the mayor and he was seated in a princely tent erected on the beach. Above the tent flew the prince’s personal standard and around the tent were many janissaries who watched the crowd with suspicion. The grand mufti was still friendly and said,“ As a mayor what sort of problems do you face?”

People are fine O grand Turk. It is just what they have to put up with is the problem. We are called the Sleepy Heads. Do I look sleepy?” The mayor asked. “ No, not by any means.” The prince said with a polite emphasis. “Do you know another joke?” the host asked eagerly.

O Prince why does a peanut come in a pod?” The grand mufti thought for a while and gave up. “You tell me.” The mayor replied, ”Because there are too many nuts jumping the queue.” The Turk laughed. ‘You know what makes a Turk tick?’ the mayor asked. The prince waited eagerly for a surprise. ”Because he is Turkeyed up!”

In the meantime the admiral came in with letters of request from various officials.

The mayor took care not to distract Prince Al- Wa’sik while he worked. He could see so many people with different insignias were cooling their heels to have a moment to speak their cases. Having disposed of the letters the prince stroked his beard, which was neatly trimmed and he turned towards him. His face showed a touch of regret as if he could not call that moment as his own. The mayor was about to rise up and go but he restrained him. ‘This shalln’t take much time’, he seemed to say. He beckoned his personal secretary to let the people come one after the other. Calisthenics had a new respect at the way he disposed them. A look said volumes; a gesture in place of so many words saved him time and effort; it put one in a dither and another cheery eyed. Where comfort or encouragement merited the prince spoke softly and as the mayor could hear, his voice acquired a peculiar timbre. His authority expressed with his proud gaze combined with such clear-cut enunciation of syllables so softly spoken was unmistakable. In him was power and gentleness. Even while walking tightrope between duty and mercy neither did betray the other. He had learnt how to perform as a prince who must at all times be just.

Each went off kissing his hand as if he were a holy relic. After he had sent the last man he turned to his guest and the seriousness, which had made his sharp features points of steel gave way to ease. His eyes seemed to say,”Where were we?”

Mayor Calisthenics began. He spoke concisely the history and cultural traditions, which he said if he should write it all down it could be done in one sitting. ” But the Sleepy Heads are known for breaking all such classifications. We have a saying among us, which goes thus:’ In a world of right-handed traditions we are left handed.’ Even there they do not strictly adhere to the rule.”

Really?” the prince could not imagine such a lawless society did really exist.“ If the Sleepy Heads hate to work with me or my council it is the tradition of the ruling class to make the work simplified in a manner the people can understand.”

Must you descend to their level?”

Yes,” the mayor replied seriously,” I am sent to bring order among the Sleepy Heads. Imposing it from the top I think is not a permanent solution.”

The prince was sure an iron fist would make order among the lawless at which the mayor showed in mock-seriousness his agreement. “Only that my Venetian Masters themselves are losing their grip. What avails me then to mould the Sleepy Heads according to their ideals once power itself has changed hands?” After a pause he added,” People friendly that is how the ruling class should be.”

So easily you give in to the mob?”

No, not at all.”the mayor was sure,”I can only work as one who respect the people who are governed. I govern better, so it seems to me, O prince, by turning their natural inclinations into something worthwhile. A catalyst perhaps.”

He defended his people by saying they were yet to divide people according to haves and have-nots.”He paused and the prince was impassive. “Yes it would seem so, we are backward not to let the things rule us.” the mayor added.

So the Sleepy Heads do not put things above the people?” Calisthenics nodded and said,”People come first. Always!”

You rule and your power..”

The mayor replied,” Our power is good up to a point. With such power as I have to hurt, will the ruled trust me freely?”

But should you not correct those over whom you have authority by setting a good example?” “If I set an example to the one lower in rank all that benefits me would be his ill will. Who knows he may complain to the king that I am itching to stand in his shoes. Or some other report to damn me.” “Come, come you are being cynical!” the prince said. “I said from what human nature is capable of,”replied Calisthenics simply, ”I am only human, I am only a Sleepy Head’ as our prayer to the Great One goes.”

I can appreciate you to some extent. But being good… “ “Good in some parts and spoilt in some others ,sir. None of us are perfect. You shall not convince me, prince that you are perfect.”

The prince solemnly admitted he was far from perfect. ‘O Allah kerim!’ and he was quick to add, “ I will not think of using my power for any thing other than to correct…”

By correcting do we change their basic nature or by arm-twisting do we achieve lasting results?” replied the mayor. The prince was deep in thought. Calisthenics asked,” What makes you think you know better how a matter leads to? Did not your prophet, as you believe the truth is, speak the last word on the subject?”

Yes Truth,”the grand mufti said reverentially, ”Nabi-mursil (Prophet-apostle) spoke the truth.”

You revere his message. Don’t you? If that be the case why Shi’ites or Sunnis?” The prince suddenly stiffened. “ Surely we can keep the matters of religion out of our discussion?” The mayor bowed and he soft-pedaled to say, “Merely because I have the power, would it mean I can see the outcome of things better? Or what I say to be the truth will be the last word on it? You may win an argument at the sword point and make the ‘infidel’ retract his stand. He who so retracts does only because he sees some perceived advantages. He is only human.”

You may see it well, O prince,” the mayor explained, ”from the manner a thing is done.” The prince heard him seriously. “You may teach your camel to carry you but he must stop whenever he has come to end of his tether. No amount of your truth or words of wisdom shall suit him if his legs are too tired.”

So human weakness in the end dictate truth?”

Not really,”Calisthenics replied,”the one who dictate what is the truth is as human as the one who must show what it is to be true.”

Whom I rule have their own viewpoint as we who make rules,” the prince said,”is it what you wanted to say?” The mayor nodded and explained by letting the people decide how they wish to be led ‘makes my office easier and leaves me enough time for my own

things.’ The prince frowned at times but he listened to him without interruption.

Somewhere along the line the topic about the Great One came up. Immediately the face of the prince lit up,” We have something common there. Allah the compassionate, Merciful and Just!” The grand mufti spoke the name reverentially and with great wonder. “But I was given to understand we should keep religion out of our discussion?” Calisthenics asked with a mischievous glint in his eye. ”Yes,”the grand mufti said, “My fault. I forgot myself for a moment.” “No, “replied the mayor,”Belief is so essential part of our nature. As easy as we walk. Do we ever wonder if our legs are adequate enough? No, faith is sufficient. If we did not think our legs would hold up would we walk? It is faith.”It surprised the prince. “That faith which we possess sometimes makes us just as you admitted a moment ago, forget ourselves. We are, as I said earlier, humans and imperfect too.”

That is why Allah has kept the paradise for those who trust in his mercy and do good.” Al-Wa’sik declared. “Paradise is an idea.” The mayor replied,”We have to think of what is so basic, in

terms of ideas. Whereas my dog will approach the same differently.”

Why bring a dog into discussion?” the prince snapped with a frown,”so many other examples would have equally fitted.” Calisthenics excused and said he had a dog which he considered was his trustworthy companion. “I did not know it was a contemptible animal according to your beliefs.”

Where were we?”the mayor asked and he got back where he had been diverted,” We make sense of our world in terms of ideas. If I do hold an idea others will also be at liberty to hold their ideas and of course some may hedge it with some special meanings.”

Touché.” The prince said with a smile and added,

Yes we are ready to fight for our faith and guard it with our lives.” ”Yes, your standpoint is different from mine. As different as your paradise.” the mayor observed.

Still such a vast difference? How is that possible? ” Calisthenics had thought on such things and he explained, “If we believe we live on solid ground it shall lead us to an idea so we may make our house also permanent. Another who loves a life of the open spaces may only want to spend the night under a tree or snuggle into a cave and move on with the first light. My brother is a nomad whereas I love a laid-back and sheltered life style. If my brother cultivate a life devoid of all luxuries and I a sybarite, O prince our standpoint is yet again the cause. Each of us with each day, from cradle to grave, merely adds to that essential self. O prince!”

Do not feel shocked. O prince,” the mayor said.

God is in the laws of Nature and in everything which serve a purpose. As proper for imperfect beings we are, we see Him as some one to serve our purpose. The Great One!”

The grand mufti imperiously waved his hand to desist the mayor from saying something awful. The guest took the hint and said, “In our respect and our love for one another we may still prove all such ideas as coming from one source.”

The prince asked,” The Great One?” The mayor nodded,”Or Allah, since we are calling names!”

Love and other romantic notions serve for a brief wink of time,”the prince commented,”where shall you be hereafter?” “You talk of paradise as if it is not yet come. We believe in the present.”

We Sleepy Heads live for the day,”Calisthenics added,” and we fear neither man nor their rank. For all that we do not consider ourselves as perfect or good. They pray to The Great One. So what? They pray for gifts. I expect their asking for gifts is not for improving their lot but merely a childlike curiosity. They seem to tell the Great One, ’Surprise me!’ The gifts are for the present and not for hereafter as you believe.” Al-Wa’sik heard him out patiently.

 

They talked of this and that. Calisthenics explained they had come to adopt customs on from hearsay. The mayor spoke about Santa Claus and of Sandman who came nightly to give them sound sleep and the prince thought were old wives tales. The mayor quoted Doctor Jerry Can who the prince thought was a dunce beyond belief.

Dismissing what the mayor said as something of a joke he could not understand, he moved to other things. At the end of their meeting he asked the mayor, “You shall dine with me tomorrow?”

At this point the mayor could hear a low roar, which came in waves from outside. It sounded as if people were all shouting and screaming. The grand mufti heard it too. He clapped once. A guard came to whom he spoke in whispers. After a while the same guard returned and spoke in whispers.

After he was dismissed the Turk laughed. “ Do we look like angels sent by Santa Claus whoever he is?” Calisthenics explained, “ Pardon me. Santa Claus is what we call our Great One. It is what our Doctor Jerry Can swears by.”

Outside your people are getting very restless. They want gifts.” The grand mufti said. “If Santa is an angel and one of them happens to take your shape I could believe in Santa as I believe in you.” the mayor answered. “Funny you believe in angels bearing gifts? And you expect me to give them gifts!” The Turk exclaimed.

So what you propose to do?”

Calisthenics knew that the Turk had friendly feelings towards him. So he dared to ask him questions as if he were his equal. “ You, my friend tell me. What sort of gifts you want some cash, clothes or freedom?” “Freedom of course “ the mayor replied.

You made an excellent choice.” The Turk said,” But no one is going to hand it over to you in a platter.” The mayor nodded.

I shall make it easier for you. Prove me your way of life has something good.” “ That is easy.” Replied the mayor, “ There was nothing to laugh for with your way of life. Was there?” The prince gravely nodded. ” The fact that you could laugh now proves the point.” After a pause Al- Wa’sik said, “ Perhaps you are right. I shall make my intentions clear.”

Prince Terrible Eyes wrote an order and folded it many times till it was no wider than an inch. Having folded it crosswise he sealed where the edges met. While the red wax was hot he pressed his signet ring. He instantly brought his guard to whom he commanded,” Here take this to the admiral.” “Hearing and obeying!” the guard went off quickly. The prince had let word around that the Sleepy Heads were under his personal protection.

3.

That night the mayor on reaching home asked his son if he knew two boys of 14 with strange accents. “One is called Rufus and the other a twelve year old, Nevis is his name.” His son replied they were as mysterious as the west wind. After a pause Maxim who was his firstborn wanted to know what was the matter with them. The father with a chuckle answered,” My lips are sealed. Act of Official Secrets and all that.”

He knew his son knew much more than he was willing to tell. So he played dumb in his turn. Like son, like father.

 (To Be Cont’d)

Read Full Post »

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.

They landed at the Bay of Morphou, which was clean and so broad for their purpose. Certainly the Turks looked very impressive even as they with one bound landed ashore. Each Sleepy Head saw how rich their dresses were. Every one of them had turbans of white muslin and red robes. They looked generous in their size and very friendly to wave towards them as if they had not forgotten them after all. Besides all those baggage which passed hands and laid in heaps before one who looked very authoritative, who instructed those two who knelt before him to make sure with the counting. ‘Bulging with goodies’ as one Sleepy Head remarked, “ which one shall be mine?”

The Sleepy Heads waved to them and they waved back. One Sleepy Head exclaimed, ‘I must be dreaming! There are thousands of them’. Another chimed, ‘Our angels have come! Which one is mine?’

There was a great commotion and Sleepy Heads ran pell-mell. “ Gifts! Millions are to be given away.. Oiiks! Free!” They all shouted. Boy, did they love getting presents! They mistook the Turks for Santa Claus of whom Doctor Jerry Can was often talking about.

One was doubtful. It was the month of April. Scrofulos said, “But did not the doctor say Santa pays visits only in the first month of the year?” Another one was too excited and he said, ”So what? The doctor also said the Sandman comes every night. Did he not tell so, otherwise we would have to count sheep?” The mayor who overheard them said with a gasp,” Here we see ships before our very eyes and you are talking of counting sheep. Fine state of affairs!”

To one who asked if Santa ever comes during the month of April the mayor said, “ The day Santa Claus comes with presents is the Day of Visitation. I shall pass an order to the effect if only you all would come to the Town Hall. Tomorrow?.” They just vanished.

The crowd was getting very restless and each one was jostling the other. The mayor said: “This is no way to greet Santa Claus. We will form a queue.” The Sleepy Heads thought it was a good idea. They formed themselves behind their mayor to welcome their angels, so many of them.

4.

Meanwhile the brouhaha on the land was not lost to those who were still in ships. The admiral of the fleet took one look at crowd and asked his captain, “ Why are we landing of all the places on this wild part? The town cannot even afford a decent name board.” Captain Kouskous said, “ May the sun ever shine on my master kindly. May his star rise steady to its bright destiny. What a far seeing vision master has, May that bright gaze remove my ignorance”.

Let us talk turkey, Captain Kouskous,” the admiral said firmly as he laid his telescope aside, “I asked you a question.” The captain kissed the hand of his master and said, “ We are landing here because it is the nearest point to us.” Feeling the anger of the admiral the captain lowered his gaze and said,” Blame it on geography, master. It is our kismet.”

Balderdash!” The admiral was angry.

The Turks meanwhile poured out of their ships and presented themselves to the crowd. It gave rise to a saying among the Cypriots, “When the enemy came the Sleepy Heads formed a queue to receive them.”

But at that moment the Sleepy Heads were all for collecting their gifts. They loved to be surprised.

What could be more surprising than receiving Santa Claus in the month of April?

Read Full Post »

 

The Garden of Neden

 

The Garden of Neden is a part of Cyprus but you shall not find it in any of the maps. It is something like what happened to Atlantis that overnight disappeared from view. The sea covers now where the mighty Atlantis once stood. The Garden of Neden suffered a similar fate.  So I will not go into that part and instead narrate a story that is very entertaining. The Island of Cyprus still rings from the events to which the Garden  had a part.

No mark for guessing the inhabitants of Island of Cyprus are called Cypriots. But those who lived in the Garden,-take my word for it, Sleepy Heads they were called. 

The garden of Neden in terms of geography lay facing Morphou Bay on the west; the thin strip of beach on the north ringed a promontory running to a foul smelling beach on the east. It was flat and mottled with patches of color resembling some leftover of a pancake. It was an eyesore. Once a well meaning Cypriot told a Sleepy Head, “Your beach smells dirty.” The Sleepy Head’s response was, “Don’t tell me you intend to do something about it?” Oh no the Cypriot didn’t want to do anything about it except make an observation. So the beach remained as it was.

 

The very nature of the people of the Garden was such they let Nature take care of herself. What we may call as laziness they termed as being natural. As a proof to this the word laziness never did figure in their dictionaries.

Yet they lived on the bounties of Nature as though their naturalness allowed her to keep on providing for their bellies. For a Sleepy Head eating his meal was the number one in his daily life. He would have eaten at all hours if he could but the question what not to eat made him miss his meals. Everyday was a feast day only that he never got to know where it was celebrated. He made to the nearest table to dine but found to his cost that one man’s meat was another man’s poison. He made no bones about his place at the dining table but just the same he always had a crow to pick with the cook.

The Sleepy Heads left things as they were. Hungry or not.

Their days were spent taking life as it came. Next to a good meal the Sleepy Heads loved to play. They made rules as they went on so the loser had something of an advantage. At least he thought he had. Anytime he had a lead he let it find it own level. Every Sleepy Head took his play seriously so much so to call it politics.

Advantages such as they got with the governments they chose, became a political system that the body of Sleepy Heads let it find its own level. Thus once they had kings to rule the Garden but they went on changing rules, it was more like musical chairs: kings ended up looking for a chair to hang their authority in while Sleepy Heads changed the tune.

Perhaps politics for them was more like a game and their naturalness was so pure they gave the loser a standing ovation while the winner was sent to walk hot coals. Sleepy Heads tried many models and found the games as with politics none ever lost. Their naturalness never suffered since spirit of the play was the thing.

A Sleepy Head played to lose. Since he made work his play he worked for no purpose. He gave tit for tat and pat came his retorts but none saw any difference in such give and take. He told tall stories but finished them short so whoever heard him thought he was only wasting his time.

A Sleepy Head took the easy way out even where it led nowhere. No wonder Cypriots took them to task but found it easier to make remarks that didn’t cut even an onion.

 

2.

An average Sleepy Head grew to a middling height and did not bow and scrape before titled heads.( His stature did not prevent him from calling a spade a spade as long as he was not asked to use one.) Judging by their mode of dress of course it was very plain and coarse; only a Robinson Crusoe could have chosen it as a last resort. In terms of technology of course they would have looked to the Flintstones with a touch of envy. The Sleepy Heads were by and large ingenious and they lived as best as any people could, mind you without a sweat, a proof of which may be gathered from the fact that no one ever died among them either of hunger or disease.

Since their recorded history is wiped clean we may assume they had to come to terms with events that overshadowed the fortunes of the Island of Cyprus. Since they were born to be happy no matter how the rest of the world convulsed over matters great and small they didn’t express any awe while mentioning the name of Suleiman the Great. He was to them the father of Selim the Sot. The King of Cypress who was noted for his gargantuan belly they described as the king behind His belly. The Sleepy Heads sure knew fellow with such a belly was no more to be revered than one however ‘great’ to raise a son who was a lush. By the same token whatever they did was only a hiccup in the even tenor of their lives.

If the conflict between the Turks and the Venetians kept an ordinary Cypriot awake the Sleepy Heads simply laughed it out.

3.

The Sleepy Heads with such ominous clouds in the offing could afford to be lackadaisical since they played politics. In that game of politics they let their Mayor do all their work. They made merry from sunrise till sundown and declared all was well. Besides there was a Scholar who did all the soul searching for them in matters of their faith and belief. Without them the story, which I narrate would be a non-starter.

It so happened that some three decades before our story begins one of the inhabitants was washed away by a swell; he was a young man who was a typical Sleepy Head in temperament and abilities. A Venetian who adopted him as his own son also taught him the way of the world. When he chose to return after many years he had acquired all the trappings of a scholar. Gervais the idler had become enlightened after breezing through so many universities and lecture halls in Europe to drop his rather boring name to Jerry. At Sorbonne he acquired a nickname in commensurate with his level of scholarship. Whatever manner in which his detractors may have pronounced it to annoy him Jerry Can believed he was a Full Can, which was not what any fool can. Dr. Jerry ‘Full’ Can set up his school in his native land and he avowed, ‘to drive some sense into his compatriots.’

While he was at Sorbonne he found out that the medieval unicorn was none other than a rhinoceros. It was a great letdown for many of his fellow scholars. He vowed that such an error should never occur to him. As an idler he was all for sweeping the old ideas of being natural and he knew he shall find one for his fellow men. After a dream he has had he found one more in the shape of the king, a man of gargantuan girth who gave gifts. He knew God had expressly shown it so he may make the Gift-giving day a day to remember him. The learned doctor knew God had a mission and he was his instrument. But after his stint in Sorbonne he knew he had to be a saint. By and by when he returned to the Garden he held a serious palaver with the new mayor and their talks got around to more serious things. The scholar wanted to know if the mayor believed in a higher Being who gave gifts. The wily Mayor Calisthenics put back the question to him. He said,’ Yes. Santa Claus is His name’. The mayor thought a saint who gave presents would bring the Sleepy Heads together as one. Next day he called for his Council and said, “ There is a Higher Being who gives according to what we put in. So we need to teach our people to work together for a better society.”

Why work against our naturalness?” one councilor asked and it caused such a controversy among the Sleepy Heads. In their eyes a Higher Being was OK even if he came by a strange name as Santa Claus. Dr Jerry also fuelled their expectations by saying that there was a Great One who bestowed riches and every good thing for the asking. The Sleepy Heads had considered themselves sufficient unto themselves till that time. How they took to Dr. Jerry ‘Full’ Can, showed the Sleepy Heads were like everybody else in some things.

They loved the learned doctor to lecture to them, especially the part where they were entitled to free gifts.

At a time Venice controlled the destiny of the island Mayor Calisthenics was sent to the Garden to give the king of the Sleepy Heads a lesson in good governance. In such a move Venice miscalculated since the Sleepy Heads never let either the king or any other run their lives for them. For all that Mayor Calisthenics made them change their ways. For better or worse I cannot tell but you may judge yourself from the story.

In 1570 the Ottomans took over the island state of Cyprus. Well almost. Except for a Garden, which had been elevated into a town. The Sleepy Heads remained free. How did it happen? 

Read Full Post »