Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Another Temple on a Sunday

Here we go again. This Sunday we‘ll go to a new temple.  We whizz through a Sunday morning Mumbai streets.  The roads do not have the full fledged crowd we always see. The shops are not open yet, there are sleepy eyed people wandering around, not made their minds up yet how to start the day.  The cows are awake; they follow their owners with a very slow pace chewing juicy grass bits. Their foreheads are coloured with red orange powder, ready for the devotees who would pay Rs 10 for  a handful of grass to feed them. We go through streets I haven’t seen before, Sea Link – the bridge connecting the new Mumbai  and the old Bombay- has made these areas less popular. We pass several small temples, big temples, goats, (why are they out this early?) green mosques and short white minarets with elaborate carvings.  People get along fine happily in this multi faith street in a fusion of food, culture and aroma of  religious incense. Then we are there.  

A white building stands majestically like layers and layers of clouds on top of each other have come down from the heavens in this tiny corner of Mumbai to this hot, dusty maidan streaming with people.  There is a massive river of yellow, glittery, sequined, pink, red, saris always draping over one shoulder, bangles, hair decorations, bindis,  earrings, finger rings, toe rings,  kajalled eyes waiting to go in. There are mountains of flip flops of every design, every colour in front of make shift stalls. These are serious stalls, you can buy marigold garlands, little yellow pyramids of food, coconuts and many more things for the temple and leave your shoes with them. Multi purpose temple stores they are.  My friend does the negotiation, we buy a basket of goodies, I follow the conversation only hearing ‘ha, ha’ from the man, he must be agreeing with something. I clumsily take my camera out, ‘no photography’; I need to give the camera to the man. He gives me a little tea token kind of white round disk with a number on it. I want to take the photo of that too. The shoes and the camera are gone, we have one small wicker basket of things and I am ready to join the queues of young women carrying their heavily sleeping children in their arms. Grannies must have applied black soot on their foreheads and their cheeks to keep the evil eye away. Then may be there is another explanation I cannot even imagine.  This is India; there are people who do not eat garlic, onions and potatoes for religious reasons.  The assumptions I make are bound to be not correct. No assumptions, to judgments.  I can only see things and accept as they are.

Old women shuffle their tired feet swaying their body as slow and as an old elephant.  Years of flat flip flops make it painful to walk elegantly but they turn their heads and arm thick, long,one single braid of greying hair decorated with jasmine blossoms whip the space around them.  Ears adorned with multiple earrings. They wait so close to each other holding their baskets and a little square handkerchief wiping their sweat away. I am well prepared for this wait; I have a bottle of water and patience. It is a part of waiting with people, you smile at them, they smile at you their unquestioning gaze resting on your hair slide, nail polish, bracelets, skirt, you become a part of the crowd, they take you in and push and shove like they do to each other.

 Today we are lucky, the man on the stall tells us to follow him and we do, we go through ‘foreigners and VIP’ gate.  I follow my friend holding my little token, we go through small gates, go up a couple of steps, go down a couple of steps, enter from this door, that gate and we are there. We missed the joys of waiting for hours in the stuffy heat of the temple: we are in. We give the basket and the temple man blesses it and gives it back to us, and puts an orange powder on our foreheads with his thumb.  I look at the small Ganesha wrapped up in glistering blankets and orange marigolds, white rice shoots, offerings of red flowers, green grass, It is too crowded to have a moment in front of him. Everybody wants to see him, touch the enclave he is sitting in and touch their foreheads and their hearts. Ganesha is powerful; there is enough of him for everyone. They are so happy to be there, their lips moving in murmured prayers, handing their baskets to the monks and taking them back, they are too busy to see the beauty of the enclave and the ceiling and the lamps surrounding it. It is hot, crowded, temple guards tell the people  firmly to move up so the new ones can see their Lord as well.  We sit on small round platform opposite Ganesha, the masses are slowly moving from left to right. There is a screen on the left showing the idol, if you can’t see it properly when you are in front of it, you can gaze at  the screen as long as you want. I look at my friend, she must have touched her forehead, the orange splodge has yielded in a soft mango coloured triangle along her hairline, mine must look as elegant as hers. We sit there she is in her serenity, me observing every minute of the buzzing temple. The crowds move eternally from left to right in small shuffling bare footed steps and one of the ladies just let her self go and fell like a silk scarf  on the marble floor. They carried her to our side; she is obviously hot and needs water but still not stopping her silent prayers.  I give her my water. The fans whirl on every corner, the air is heavy and I feel the sweat meandering down on my back. There is a collective content, a mass low key happiness that they are there, that they have made the effort and came to the temple on a Sunday morning, that they are healthy enough to wait for an hour or so and walk around and touch the pedestal.  They swan their necks to see the idol and they say a prayer or two and move on.

 We need to move on too. We leave to the right, through little shops selling every thing related to Ganesha and all the other gods; bracelets, earrings,  pendants,  Turkish blue eye beads.  You can even buy the seeds of a tree, Shiva’s tear drops, Rudrashka, they calculate  there and then which one is suitable for you . You can even buy a glow in the dark  night lamp with Ganesha and Vishnu and Parvati on it. Naturally, I fulfil my duty and buy little Ganesha, middle sized Ganesha, dangling Hanuman, toy size Shiva linga; you name it I buy it. We are on the street now, but the Temple occupies the street. Faith is more important than organised traffic, people can wait in jam-packed cars for the non-existent red light to change on dwarfed roads, Ganesha is worth it.
 We find our stall, I find my token. Our shoes are neatly placed next to a flip-flop mountain  and my camera is there too.  I knew Ganesha would have looked after them but you need a shoe mountain man to make sure.
 The people who started to wait the same time as us are still waiting, the young child is still a sleep, black sooth smudged more. He must be getting heavy for the mum, she is going to wait for some time to go in see the Lord and probably pray for an easy life, health, success in school, money for milk, new bangles and shiny flip flops.  I look at the soft white curves of the cloud like building, the light blue sky behind it and the lovely people who will eat bell puris at street stalls, swallow water from plastic a cup without touching the rim of it and go back home on hot, heaving busses which would take more than two hours, tired but full of hope and complete trust that Ganesha is on their side.

 In the refreshing coolness of the car, on the way back, I think of the book I have been reading: ‘He listens, he sees, he cares’ it says about the elephant god. I am sure he does too.. .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday Mornings.

On Sunday mornings, with the first coo of the pigeons below the bedroom window, with the first lazy yawn of the dog downstairs, when the household is asleep  having a long Sunday morning sweet, warm and comfortable dream in the twilight of the closed curtains with the eternal clink clank of the fan on the ceiling, I get up. I take the Sunday papers from the door and put the kettle on.  This side of the flat is brighter and hotter.  I have my tea reading the papers; there is nothing scandalous in Mumbai this Sunday. All is well.

 Almost every Sunday I go to an old small temple opposite the big modern Hare Krishna Temple. I leave after the morning cup, when the streets are dotted with sleeping dogs, sleeping men and children.  Crossing the roads is easy; there are only a couple of autos around. One by one they come and offer to take me to places. At the end of the street the peacock is already up and standing on the gate of a bungalow. He is hungry and quiet, hasn’t opened its tail yet. The street seller prepares the first puri of the day. Men standing around wait for their turns to have small portions of what looks like left over rice and onion shavings.  I look around; there is no reason for the men to be there on that corner. It is not a bus stop; there is not a construction site, only a cricket ground and some street urchins scratching their matted hair. It is so  natural by men to get  together   who have nothing else to do on a corner of a street and  the puri men know this like 6th sense.  A few steps away one little child has already started the day with the first call of the nature on a gulley grating.

The market between me and the temple is just waking up, little kittens prod little orange flowers left over from yesterday, the vegetable sellers are examining their faded green cucumbers and  yellow tomatoes and several green examples of fine Mumbai flora deciding how to arrange them on their stall today. The bindi shop is not open yet, the glass bangle stall owner, the bindi man’s sister in law is looking for the key in the waves of her sari. I walk on.

 My friend is already there. She has already taken her shoes off and she is in, she comes towards me with two little plastic baskets. A coconut, two small bananas, a couple of white long stemmed buds, a cracked beetle nut and a piece of paper with my carefully written name. The letters have round edges and curls. ‘Robert Son’. ‘Today we are going to do the Sun Pooja.’ she says,  a warm smile in her deep jet black eyes. I follow her.  Her name sounds like waterfalls, cool waves of the ocean meeting the shore in  a cooler season.  We go in the temple; the young man sitting on the floor with his prayer books, and oil cups smiles at me. I smile back. Last week he put a red and yellow powder on my forehead.   The first god  is the Monkey God. Hannuman with his human body and a monkey tail, palms together stands gazing calmly at these two ladies putting their baskets on the mantel piece.  ‘Oh Hannuman’ I say, ‘You are a great traveler, you are the friend of the Mighty one.’ I have read  your stories about your journey to   Hindustan from China. I hope this travel of mine will be as fulfilling as yours.’ He does not promise anything. The next room we go in is a windowless one with a coiled metal cobra right in the middle.  There is a big colourful mural on one of the walls with everyone. Shiva is there, his wife, their human formed child and elephant headed one, the little mouse , the monkey god, they are all there, sitting by a big mountain, very happy, very content with people down below.   There is a sign on the wall to remind people to pray for themselves and not to send their maids or drivers to do it for them.  A quiet recording of ‘Om Namas Shivaya’ repeats in the air. ‘Oh big cobra!. You are alert and erect and strong. I know some of your stories. I don’t know why I dribble milky water on your head but I am following everybody else and the sound of water is good.'  I know this ritual is important for them. I am there, in their territory, it makes it important for me too. Then we visit other figures of serene faced, smiling, bright eyes colossally kajaled,  lovingly decorated gods. We put little flowers on their toes, look at their comfortable and confident smiles, earrings, necklaces and little shiny cloaks over their heads.  There is a lovely big cow sitting facing the cobra, garlanded with orange flowers. I do not talk to the cow. There is a limit to my conversation.

Outside a tree with arrow shaped leaves as  rooted as our families stands reclined to one side . Seven times we circumnavigate it clinging to our little basket of coconut and bananas. ‘Oh big tree, I hope my family lives as long as you have’ I say, tiny little ants and flies join the walk with me.  Then we water the sacred tulsi plant.  It is Indian basil. Its leaves are smaller than Italian and bigger than the Turkish . It has a sweet delicate smell. 

Then it is over; we transfer our little baskets in the little bags they give us. All through the temple we talk about gods, universe, stars, Caesar, films we have seen, books we haven’t read. We look at the people coming in and out of the temple, I touch the bell and it gives out a lively brass sound reminding me of other bells, other temples by the rivers. I now know what the secret message hanging by the bell is.* We put our shoes on and leave the small temple to people from the South with yellow powder on their forehead who have come all the way here on a Sunday morning.  It is getting busy.

 My friend leaves to the left, I go to the right. There is a long, hot market to go through. I walk purposefully swinging my little white plastic bag full of hope, coconut, and two little bananas.
Until next Sunday.

·*It is  sign by the bells on the ceiling and I assumed it said something like. ‘Don’t touch the bell if you are not a believer’. Or ‘only at sunset’ or ‘5 times after the prayer’. I asked my friend what it meant. She said
It read  ‘turn your mobile off’.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

13 Mayis Pazar

Ankara. 13 Mayis. Hava isinmaya baslamistir simdi. Nisan’in o guvenilmez ikindi yagmurlari ve serinligi gecmistir coktan. Havada Haziran’in isiltili yeslligi sinmistir ortaliga. Orta okul cocuklari 19 Mayis toren hazirliklarinin son gunlerindedir. Ellerinde bir hullahup, bir yelpaze, bir ne oldugu ancak televizyonda toreni izlerken anliyabilecegimiz bir sey  tasiyarak kipir kipir yollardadir. Universite kursuna giden cocuklar  dersane cantalari ile uykulu, bitgin adimlarla surunerek  caddeden karsiya gecerler.
 13 Mayis Pazar. Erken kalkmistir annem, sabahin ilk cayini o meshur kirmizi termosunda yapmistir. Balkonlari yikayacaktir simdi. Televizyonun uzaktan kumandasini hedefe kitliyerek basar. Hangi sabah programinda haber varsa ilk once Londra sonra Hindistan, sonra Istanbul, sonra Samsun  hava raporunu izler.  Londra Ankara dan biraz daha soguktur, yagmur yagiyorsa endiselenir bizim icin. Hindistan cok uzak ve cok sicak. Samsun hep sisli.

 Sokagin basindaki   hava ne kadar sicak olursa olsun yelek ve ceket giyen sari taksinin soforu radyosunda cizirtili turkuler dinler eski arabasinin aynasinda ‘yarali ceylan’ yazisina ve surmeli goz cikartmalarina bakarak.   Kosedeki  Simitci camekanini siler gazette kagidi ile,  sicak nar gibi kizarmis simitler ust uste siralanmistir bile. Yanimizdaki binadaki ‘Kuafor’s’ in delikanli ciragi uykulu gozlerle simit kemirerek ustasini gozler, 5YTL ye duz  sac fonliyecektir  butun gun.

  Annemin kapisi aciktir simdi. Salih gelir, kapiyi tikirdadir.  Komsular yavas yavas kahve muhabbetine  gelirler.  Leman teyze gunun ilk kapisini dualarla acar, Nuray teyze yesil cayla. Sohbetlerle  gune hazirlanilir. Sut alinacaktir, artik kalorifer yanmadigi icin  disarinin icerinin derecesi konusulmaz, baska cok onemli, dinlerken bile anlam veremedigim bilmece gibi konulardan konusurlar, anlasirlar. Bir o komsuya gidilir, bir bu komsuya. Eminim politikacilara kizilir, hangi televizyon dizisinde ne olmussa gecen aksam o yeniden tartisilir. Asagidan biri zile basmistir, annemin kapi zili kuslar gibi sakir, Emine simit getirmistir, annemin istediginden cok.  Yeniden baslar muhabbet, mutlaka bizden konusurlar, ne zaman gelecegimizden, ne kadar kalacagimizdan, simit, ay cekirdegi ve cay hasretim konusulur yine.
 Telefon calar. Bu saatte ya Banu arar, ya da ben.   Londra’da iken daha kimse okula gitmeden, burda herkez okula, ise gidip cayimi ictikten sonra. Sesi sen sakraktir. Cok ozlemistir Kitty’yi, hemen onu sorar. ‘Bugun tapinaga gidecegiz diyorum’ guluyor, Maymun tanriya  gidip hindistan cevizi ve muz ikram edip, ‘sen bildigin gibi yap’ dememe, Boga tanriya ‘sen guclusun bize de guc ver’ deyisime, aile agacinin etrafinda 9 kere donup, ‘sevgili  kocaman agac benim ailem de senin kadar uzun yasar insallah’sozlerime icten gulumsuyor, ‘bende senin dualarin kabul edilsin diye dua ediyim’ diyor. Bize zarar gelmez artik, Allah Kerim.

Sonra Banu arar sonra Cansu en son da Tolga. Her birimizle  guzel guzel konusur, her birimize  ozel ogutler verir, ‘ders calis, salataya cok tuz koyma, cok gec yatma’; her birimiz ona soz veriririz.  
 Hic evde duramaz, balik almaya Sakarya’ya gider, tavuk almaya Beyendik’e.  Iki komsu kahve arasinda gidip gelmistir bile.   Bu arada gonderdigimiz cicekler, cukulatalar gelmistir. Bize soylenir niye gonderdik diye; cicekleri  komsulara paylastirir,  kirmizi termosa yeniden cay yapar, iki cirpida profiterol bile yapmis olabilir.   Sukru gelir, Verda gelir, baska gelenler olur,  evin ici bir dolar bir bosalir, terlikler giyilir, cikarilir, kapi onundeki dolaba yerlestirilir.

Aksam oluyordur yavas yavas, O guzelim Mayis Ankara aksami.  Uzakta Hacettepe Hastahanesinin buyuk bayraginin arkasindan gunes batar. Akdeniz mavisi gokyuzu kavuniciden,leylak renginden alev alev kirmiziya donusur. Cama alinlarini dayamislardir yine gelen giden, mutlaka onu temizler, televizyonda Pazar gunu ne dizisi varsa buyuk dikkatle onu izler,  kapisini kitler. Yorgun ama mutlu , yalniz ama etrafinda onu seven bir suru insan oldugunu bilerek  gununu bitirir.
Anneler gunu kutlu olsun.