Many moons ago my dear friend Ahmet related a story to me – in very much his own words, it went something like this . .
‘My father was a judge and when I was a child we seemed to move around quite a bit. Traditions were strong in those days and we would always journey back to visit our elderly relatives whenever a Bayram (holiday) came around. Both my mother’s and my father’s parents came from Nazilli in Aydin Province and that is where the family homes were.
There was a time when my father was based in Fethiye and so, when a holiday came around, we would hop on the bus and journey back to Nazilli to spend time with my Grandma at her house. I loved that house with its wonderful, mature gardens and its amazing method of heating that was modelled on the Roman system that allowed hot air to circulate under the floors. It was a perfect childhood playground.
Anyway, back then, one of my strongest memories was of this strange old woman who always seemed to be visiting with Granny. I met her during these trips to Nazilli – Nazik was her name. We were little kids, around four or five years old I suppose. Everybody called her Nazik, which means ‘polite, delicate, kind or gentle’ in Turkish. That was her name, rather unusual! Even then!
She used to talk with my grandmother mostly. They seemed more or less the same age but then everybody looks old to a child! I did not know where they were friends from, or how they met. I did not know if there was a relationship with our family. Maybe, at that age, I was not aware of relations at all!
Now, when I say her name, Nazik, you may think of an old Turkish lady with a scarf. And so she was but there was much more. Looking back (and if I may be very politically incorrect) she was proof positive of the theory of evolution! Truly! So she used to be very, very much something like an ape! Something in between – the missing link between the chimps and homo sapiens! You would really be surprised! Probably, the only difference was that her feet did not look like a hand, but she’d got real feet!
Surely, she was a major attraction for us kids. We used to play outside, in the garden, and when we got tired, we would go in and peer secretly, we thought, around the door. Or, like glasses in a cupboard, sit in a row, leaning back to the wall and watch her speak with my grandmother. All the while fixing our eyes on her with curiosity! She used to be very interesting for us, so we really could not take our eyes off her. Surely, within some time, our grandma would get the point, and worrying that Nazik would understand the reason, would chase us out yelling, trying to scare us all. With our small meatball like puffy feet touching our backs, we would run away like kittens back to play in the garden. This used to be repeated until we grew tired of it!
Years passed. Years without ugly, old Nazik and soon enough the memory of her faded.
One day, when I was visiting Granny at her home I noticed an old faded photograph of a gentleman in a frame. White hair and moustache, a really nice face, smiling, handsome maybe. No, no, definitely handsome. Taken a long time in the past, and surely, you can tell.
Who is this man Grandma?
Oh, son! You haven’t met him, my brother. He died before you were born.
Really, what a nice looking man he was. Didn’t he have any other relatives, kids, wife?
Yes, sure he had. Nazik was his wife!
What? How come? Nazik, that old witch, and this fine, handsome brother of yours? How was that possible?
It was then that she started to tell the story:
Part of our family is from Afyon. Some kind of a landlord. Their surname was Kabaağaçlı there is a close relation with the famous Çevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı (Fisherman of Halicarnassus). There was another family in the town. They were very wealthy and they had a beautiful daughter.
This great uncle of mine, a handsome, young and wealthy man is mature enough to consider a marriage. He starts dreaming of marrying this beautiful young girl from a rich family. He decides to snatch her and elope, a common practice in those days.
this is how he dreams it will be
He plots and tries to find a way to make an arrangement with the girl. The girl has a maid, a foster child of the family and our hero, having poured his heart into a letter asks the maid to deliver it to her mistress. Soon, the maid brings a reply. Reading it he thinks the girl is also in the mood, or hopes she is. The letters pass back and forth each more passionate than the last. Finally, he writes a letter to the girl, saying he will be waiting at the fountain, early in the morning on a particular day, to take her away.
Early in the morning of the fateful day, before anyone in the household is awake, she is waiting with her pack by the fountain her face covered by her peçe (veil). Soon enough, our handsome, proud hero comes by on his fine stallion, reaches down and sweeps the girl up onto the horse behind him.
After riding for several hours our couple arrive at a cottage that our hero has organised and prepared for them. Can you imagine the passions, the excitement, nerves a jangle from the vibrations and the motion of the horse?
They jump off the tired horse and go into the house. Two young persons consumed by passion stand in the defining moment of their lifetime. Hearts beating as if to break out of their chests they look at each other. So my great uncle moves to open the veil. Of course with a bişmillah! (‘In the name of God’ or ‘In the name of Allah’)
With the expectation that he will see the face of this beautiful girl, he opens it and there is the face of Nazik!
As his eyes open wide in shock, Nazik takes his hand. ‘What you see is not who I am.’ she says. ‘Who I am is what is hidden inside of me. Who I am is the one who poured out her heart to you in those letters for it was me who wrote them and not my mistress.’
What do you expect was his comment? ‘So this was my kismet!’ (my fate) he said.
Well, my grandma told me the story of an ever happy couple who really lived the happiest of lives of anyone she had ever known. How passionate they were for each other, and how they managed to get along so well all their lives.’
At this point Ahmet was crying – and so am I!
Now, Nazik and her husband Sabri Dayi were childless and so they adopted two orphans, a girl and a boy, and raised them as their own. Here is a photo of Nazik, Sabri and their adopted son and his bride on their wedding day.
standing, back row left is my grandmother Sakibe – my grandfather Tevfik is standing, back row third from right. Nazik and Sabri, her dashing Prince Charming, are seated with children on their knees. Is it possible that these are the orphans they adopted?
So, there you have it! This is a love story – a true love story. I hope it has warmed the cockles of your heart in these difficult days and shown that ‘human nature’ is not always as it is painted and that a book should never be judged by its cover!
Alan Fenn, (somewhere in the mountains)