Thursday, March 18, 2010

To my amigo: Come back

The darkness is here
And I am afraid to enter
~from a poem by Selcuk

There is a certain understated elegance about Selcuk – pronounced Sel-Juk -- that makes him very impressionable. He is satiny, like a Pasha who never got to go to a war. Selcuk wrote amazingly sensitive poetry in Turkish but could never hold a conversation for too long. He understood the happiness of winter and walked along the Bosporus on cold evenings – all alone – with nothing but a merry tinkle in his eye.

I bumped into him many years back in a virtual alley. He sounded like an upriver boy with no pretensions. That enamored me. Like so many young souls in Turkey he wished to break free and float to freer lands. Eventually he came to the United States and took up a small job in Cincinnati, Ohio. He fell in love with America. Selcuk went back to Istanbul to complete his studies. He said he would return but never really did.

A trademark tuff of flowing hair easily camouflaged Selcuk as a rock star. His lone weapon was a disarming smile which he used to devastating effect. Originally a Kurd, his folks came from a beautiful place called Siirt in Southeast Turkey. According to a legend a local lord had a beautiful daughter whom he decided to give in marriage to someone important from another clan. The girl was in love with a shepherd named Ali.

The big-nosed father paid no heed to the girl’s objections and she was obliged to give in to his wishes. The wedding day came and the wedding procession, with the bride riding on a horse, set out for the bridegroom's village. On the way back mournful strains of a flute were heard in the mountains. The girl knew it was Ali playing and called out to him, 'Run Ali! Take me away.'

The shepherd galloped up beside her on his horse, pulled her onto the saddle behind him, and the couple was soon out of sight. Some time later a village was built on the spot where the elopement had taken place, and it was called Seyirt, meaning 'run', after the girl's cry to her beau. In time Seyirt became Siirt. Selcuk was born in the same romantic village, though I am not too sure if he ever visited the exact spot.

In one of my last conversations with Secuk he told me that I’d love Taşbaşı, a place near his home. It is a deep gorge with intriguing rock formations through which the river Uluçay races along its winding course. The Billoris spa is located next to it. The spa has a large pool with hot sulphurous water. Selcuk invited me to come and take a dip. One feels strangely revived and rejuvenated, he chuckled.

It was tales like these and many more that made me like Selcuk.
He had a sudden offhand charm that innervated you. I haven’t met too many people who are so truthful, transparent and kind at the same time. Yet there was an inferno in him which I found hard to fathom. It came to me as a cross betwixt a burst of poetry and a wordless note of zest. May be I could never completely understand him.

Early today I was told of his pain. He lies comatose in an Istanbul hospital. Quite unknown to me, it appears he was nursing a brain tumor for which he underwent an operation. Soon after he slipped into a deep coma, out of which he is yet to emerge. I suddenly hear words on the night breeze. I feel heartsick. It is sorrow, the size of sky.

I wish life had an undo-function. It is such an uphill battle. Such an unjust trek.

I just hope Selcuk – my friend -- makes it. I’m yet to take the dip.