Çünkü Burası Japonya (1/3) – Kamakura

Özellikle Japonların Sakura dediği Kiraz ağaçlarının açma mesvimine denk getirdiğimiz Japonya seyahatimizin ilk günü 12 yıldır Japonya’da yaşayan Amerikalı rehberimiz Nemo’nun uyarısı ile başladı: “Bu hafta boyunca Japonya hakkında çok sorunuz olacağına eminim; sorularınızı elimden geldiğince cevaplamaya çalışacağım ama bazı soruların tek bir cevabı olacak: Çünkü, Burası Japonya.”

Özellikle Japonların Sakura dediği Kiraz ağaçlarının açma mesvimine denk getirdiğimiz Japonya seyahatimizin ilk günü 12 yıldır Japonya’da yaşayan Amerikalı rehberimiz Nemo’nun uyarısı ile başladı: “Bu hafta boyunca Japonya hakkında çok sorunuz olacağına eminim; sorularınızı elimden geldiğince cevaplamaya çalışacağım ama bazı soruların tek bir cevabı olacak: Çünkü, Burası Japonya.”

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Shalimar The Clown, Salman Rushdie

As we reached the end, satisfied, having sated our (intellectual and culinary) hunger, I felt a little uneasy because the whole night we had been discussing India and Pakistan and on the next table were an expat couple (their timidity signaling a preliminary stage of their dating) one American born Indian (an ABCD) the other asian/oriental. If they end up reading this post I’d like to apologise to them, but they can rest assured that we had the best intentions in the world. And I do not mean it as in the proverb which seems to sum up one of the morals of Shalimar The Clown, “the road to hell is paved with the cobblestones of best intentions”.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, our latest book in our book club was a gem. It was short and dense, made me think about how I waste my time, one of the most important steps on the way along the “know thyself” route. It was a book ideal for introverts and was about the internal reflections one has once in a while. Shalimar the Clown, by one of my favourite authors Salman Rushdie, is another attempt at knowing oneself (as all good literature is) but this time in a different way. Salman Rushdie is more concerned about “us” and others and how the troubles in some seemingly remote part of the world affect those who think they are safe and sound in their glass houses. In that way Shalimar the Clown might even be an orientalist novel especially after September 11 and other terrorist attacks that tainted the “safe west” closing the gap with the tumultuous nations of the “east”.

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Bombay and Istanbul

Eminönü has been the shopping district of Istanbul since the Byzantine times which makes it the busiest part of the city for the last 1500 years. My father and I would start in the Mısır Çarşısı (The Spice Market) and look at the birds, dogs and cats, fish, spices and teas, monkeys, cheese and sausages, hamsters, dried fruit and nuts. We’d have lunch in Pandeli which brings back images of aubergine and tender meat, and elderly waiters with pristine white shirts. And finally we’d walk up the street towards Suleymaniye, the most magnificent of the mosques in the city. I remember my father buying me toys and trinkets from the little shops in tiny and crowded streets: balloons, Chinese toys made from cheap plastic, a small radio, a green ring connected to a small rubber ball hidden in the palm used to spray water to the face of the unsuspecting onlookers.

I spent the last week of November thinking about Bombay.

I only have two posts about India here and I blame myself for my laziness, incompetency and perfectionism. If I delay my travel writing, I always end up losing the feeling of being there, the posts become mundane reports or encyclopaedic entries. So when I know too much time has passed since my travels to write about them, I end up trying harder, reading vigorously and spending more time on the piece which delays it even further until I totally lose my inquisitive tourist’s touch. So I could not write about Bombay, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Delhi, Varanasi, Goa, and Lucknow yet. All of these locations deserve a post of their own.

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Aparna Weds Pratap

They wore red uniforms with flat hats, and around them were a couple of guys carrying huge lanterns. When everyone was ready, we started the march to the wedding area. We probably took 45 minutes for a distance of 2 kilometers because we stopped every few minutes and danced to the tunes of the band. We were joined by local kids on the way who pointed at me, an obvious foreigner in indian clothing, gaped and giggled.

Indian weddings are the closest that I have seen to the 40 days and 40 nights weddings of fairy tales. In Pratap’s case, the various functions took 3 days and 3 nights plus a reception at the his hometown Delhi. Everything except the reception was organized by Aparna’s family. The functions described below were all in Mumbai (aka Bombay), and were on December 12th, 13th, and 14thof the year 1999. Traditionally, the night of dances (Sangeet) and the day of henna (Mehendi) were only attended by women, but this is no more. History is repeated once again in India, men have invaded.

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