I was in Istanbul this weekend, courtesy Orhan Pamuk...... no, not really, virtually. That is what his book did. Took me to Istanbul, to Nisantasi and the other surroundings of Istanbul. The yalis, beautiful and burning, so much a part of the identity. Not to mention the pashas. The view of the Golden Horn, the smell of the Bosphorus....... Pamuk shows how a person identifies with a city, and the city lives inside you. How one becomes part of the city, breathes the city, understands and lives the city.
I felt the 'Huzun' get into me as I read the book. It did really get me melancholic, a strange kind of melancholic at the end of it. No, I did not cry, nor did I feel discontent. Actually, resigned is the feeling, and it did take over me powerfully.
Istanbul is about culture, the co-existence(not happy always of course), the resignment. The book shows the amount of research and reading he has done. It also shows how he has breathed the city. The only thing lacking was the food aspect. Towards the last fifty pages, when I ruminated over what I had read and assimilated it, I found that food was one aspect of the Istanbullu culture that he had not spoken about much and wondered why. Was it because he wasn't a food fanatic. But then, in his early days he speaks about how he was hungry and kept eating. Finally, towards the end, he does speak about food, but in passing. He does not attach Huzun with the food of Istanbul. He does not speak about how the smell of the food added to the Huzun. This because, he has discussed how every aspect added to Huzun. I wondered why ? Or is it that is is by default so.
I guess any city that has a river, large lake or a seashore has a more definite personality than those that do not have. Because, they become the focal point of the place. The point which infuses life and takes it. The point that gives continuity between generations, aids transformation and enriches culture. So, it is for the Bosphorus with reference to Istanbul.
Whenever they showed Istanbul on the TV, I always wondered why I felt a tinge of sadness. No, I am not telling it in hindsight. The music that played along with the pictures were oriental - maybe that was it. Or was it because the places looked old. Or was it because the pictures had people who were not dancing and laughing. Rather it had people who looked resigned, not content. Now I understand. Pamuk has spoken about a city like no one I have read. His love for the city(may I call it that) comes thru the way he writes about her. Of course, with fifty years spent in a city, it does define you totally. But then, how many people put that in words. Or how many people think about it that way.
Reading Istanbul, I am reminded of my home town. The place I grew up. She has a beautiful river passing through her. Trichy has culture, old glory(not as much today), architecture and music. However, westernization is taking over here too. When I reminiscence about my Trichy, I remember the bridge over the river and spending sunday evenings with my parents silently looking at the river flowing by, the breeze gentle on your face. I also remember her fury, when she overflowed and flooded the city. I remember the fort area and the Rani Mangamma palace. All falling prey to the new. The old places becoming older. However, I love my place and she is still the best in the world. Pamuk through his novel helped me bring out in words what I felt for Trichy.