A Story by ARIF TUCNER

বাংলা English

THE EARTHQUAKE

by ARIF TUCNER

He was woken up from his deep sleep by a shake. Immediately, he stared at the closed thick curtainthat always leakedthe light. He would bealways woken up by the bright glow of the morning that was coming into his bedroom through the gap between this curtain and the wall.It was still dark. He tried to understand what was happening. He thought fast and suddenly searched for his wife, who was lying next to him. She was theresleeping. He thought whether he was dreaming or not. It was not a dream. The bedstead underneath was shaking and the squeaking was getting louder. The darkness of the twilightbrought a deep fear. There was an earthquake. Yes, it was an earthquake.The sound of utensils in the kitchen confirmed the earthquake. He had never experienced an earthquake in his life.With great excitement, he tried to wake uphis wife Cemile. When his wife stirred slightly, he shouted and ran to the room where his daughter was sleeping.He touched the switch of the lamp with habit of his hand. It didn’t work. He tried again and again. The electricity had been cut off.He reached his daughter’s bed. The girl was awake, clutching her blanket, breathing heavily and trying to understand what was going on. She started to cry and shout when she heard her father’s voice.

Meanwhile, Cemile had also woken up and had come to her daughter’s room, staggering. Instinctively, the three of them hugged each other and waited for a while.Then, without thinking, they rushed to the garden of their one-story house. They threw themselves into the garden, slamming the doors and the walls. When they went out, the noises and shoutings coming from the other streets were getting louder. Screams were coming from far away, and roosters were crowing from distant neighborhoods. The street cats were walking silently through the crowd of people with their tails hanging down.

People didn’t know what to do out of bewilderment. Some were clustered inside the car, some with a radio in their hands, some with searchlights and flashlights, trying to understand and interpret the situation in excitement and fear.There had been an earthquake. A few hours before the morning, the whole of Istanbul was shaken by a great earthquake. People of the neighborhood were examining the environment, trying to take precautions for a possible danger.Thanks to God, there was no debris in the neighborhood. News and rumors were circulating in the streets, spreading from ear to ear, and reaching to distant districts with some exaggeration added from every mouth.

  • “Bakirkoy disappeared from the Earth”, someone was saying
  • “In Avcılar, the sea destroyed the apartments”.
  • “The Asian side of the city was worse”, the other was saying.
  • All the buildings in Kartal were demolished.
  • All the firemen and soldiers were called to Kartal and Ümraniye.

Uncertain rumors were wandering around in the street. Everyone was saying something that noone knew whether it was true or not. All these rumors were increasing the fear more and more.Hasan Ali took his wife Cemile and his daughter Elif away from the noisy crowd and brought them back to the garden of their house. He told them to sit in the garden. With the searchlight he had just bought from Tahtakale, he wandered around his house and then, he searched all the rooms. He had made all of these walls with his own hands. He was sure that thewalls werestrong. But it was an earthquake so one can not know what would happen. The sun was rising. It was understood from the radio news that the situation was not as serious as the rumors.Since it was summer, it was okay to sit in the garden. He advised Cemile and Elif to sit in the gardenagain and not to go inside no matter what happened.It was time to go to work as usual. He started walking towards the square, where he was familiar for years. His house was fifteen minutes away from this square. He walked in a strange silence on the roads. He was in a poor-spirit. He quickened his steps. Bad possibilities were pouring into his mind and he wasn’t able to get rid of them. He was saying to himself “Probably, the tradesmen have come, a lot of goods have been accumulated, the truckers are grumbling”. He took the shortcut way and felt relieved when he came to the square where he had been working for years.

It was his street. A slope one… It was five or six hundred meters lenght. His life journey started in this steep street andnow he was coming to the end of his middle ages. He had shed lots of sweat while he was carrying loads on his back in this steep slope. Nearly twenty years had passed since he started carrying loads here.When he started to walk uphill with white nylon sacks on his shoulders, he did not remain uninterested and saluted everyone who called “Easy Hasan Ali”, no matter how heavy the load on his back.Everyone would call him as “Hasan Ali”. The ones who know him better called him “Our Black Hasan Ali”. Why did they add “Black” to his name? How did it happen? Interestingly, he was not dark. He was just an Eastern type of man. He did not care about it.

He always worked on the same street and did not look for another job. He was happy there. He was spending more time there than at home. Trucks full of loads would come to the wide square that was at the bottom of the street in the early hours of the morning. So much so that everyone had to be there before the sun shined and before the adhan. Trucks had to be emptied until the adhan, and the goods filled in sacks, mostly textile products, had to be carried to the shops lined up on both sides of the street. Before the city woke up and the traffic started, the trucks were emptied and distributed to the addresses written on the huge sacks.

Since the shops were not opened yet, sacks, huge bars and parcels were piled up in front of the shops. When the shops were opened in the morning, the tradesmen, who had placed their orders in advance, would understand which goods came from the waybills attached to the sacks. They would open them in front of the door and carry them to the shelves or warehouses inside. When it was seven o’clock in the morning, all the work on the street was finished. And retailers, market sellers, shopkeepers and sellers from Anatolia were expected to come for shopping.

Since Hasan Ali was one of the old friends in the street, the shopkeepers trusted him and had no doubts about the distribution and protection of goods without any damage.The shopkeepers of this street had not changed much. For the past two decades, Hasan Ali had lived with them and grew old with them. He was in a square close to Sirkeci where the trucks stopped. Towels from Bursa and Denizli, blankets from Burdur, yarn sacks from Antep, fabric balls, scarves, clothes sewn in the side workshops of Istanbul were distributedto Mahmutpaşa slope, to Çakmakcılar slope, to the historical buildings on Mercan slope from there.Trucks and lorries could not climb these slopes, the porters in the square would carry the goods on their backs and distribute them to the shops and earn money.

The porters shared the work among themselves. They knew each other well. They did not interfere in each other’s job and they did not do wrong anyone. Hasan Ali loved his own street and accepted it as his home.When the goods were being delivered in the morning, as a breakfast he would eat bread, cheese or whatever he could find in Sümbül inn. Then he would go back to the street where he was working. This time, he would carry the goods in the black bags for the retailers to the parking lot, the bus stop or the ferry port in Sirkeci. He would gain a few cents from there. He wasn’t gaining little. He could make a living with his earnings. His work here had given him a two-room house with a small garden.

This narrow five or six hundred meters long street had become an indispensable part of his life.He would miss the street if he didn’t go there just one day. That is why he had come here in the day of an earthquake.

He was walking fast and under the summer sun the sweat was flowing from hisforehead. From time to time, he would take his hat in his hand, wipe the sweat with the back of his hand with a familiar gesture, and continue on his way.The fact that there were no trucks or even people in the streets took away hiscalmness that he was feeling just before. He remembered the fact of the earthquake, which had been erasedslowly from his mind. He became confused again. He started to question himself. Whyhad he come here when everyone was trying to take care of themselves at home and take care of their children, their spouses?What had brought him here?

He walked silently towards the steep slope with these feelings that occupied his brain. He began to think about the past twenty years he had spent here. How did the years pass quickly? This slope had never been as deserted as it was today.This hill, which sold goods,lining, fabric and small trinkets to the whole country, even to Eastern Europe, had turned into a quiet desolation. Glorious rich people had come and gone from here. A Turkey and a world flowed from here, from this slope.

The place people called as “Tahtakale University” was exactly these streets he was walking. Those who grew up in the shops of Tahtakale and rose to important positions, did not fail to praise this slope, which they proudly called the “University of Life”. Indeed, a history and a life flowed on this slope and on its surroundings. These streets had been a place for movies and an inspiration for poets. It was an Asian window with full of mystery for tourists.

He couldn’t endure anymore. As he passed through the out-of-light signs, his soul was in stress.The shops, which were always open at this time, were closed. This fact made him even sadder. He wanted to get away from there as soon as possible. He glanced at the coffeehouse where he was hanging out in his spare time. It was closed. There was not a single vehicle in the parking lot of Büyük Valide Han. The high walls of the innseemed to come over him. He could not get rid of his distress.

He walked down to the sea. Maybe, he could see a sign of life there. The sea was closer when he took the way ofBahçekapı. Therefore, he turned towards Bahçekapı. Nimet Abla LotteryOffice, where people waited for hours in queues, had closed its shutters to dreams and riches. Then, he walked towards the new mosque.Pigeons were flying lonely. The flapping of their wings was timid and joyless. “Yemci Dede” who always sold bird food was not there. Seagulls were flying towards the rooftops by the sea. Island steamers, boats, fishing boats moored to the shore, forming a random crowd with their smokeless chimneys.

Between the historical Hacıbekir Lokumcusu and the National Lottery building, he saw the fluttering sea again. His tight chest eased. He was overjoyed when suddenly a ship, which had just fallen into silence, blew its whistle. The earthquake had blown away from his brain, and life had begun again. When he set out on the main road, he got involved in the daily life among bustle of the hasty drivers and made his way home. Although he felt thousands of hopes and thousands of extinguished lives inside himself; a ferry whistle, hasty taxis, running people, the flapping of pigeons’ wings, the tram going by whistling, the suburban train coming to Sirkeci Station, the street sellers in front of the New Mosque heralded the continuation of life. Thanks God he had taken the long way to the home.

ARIF TUCNER
Arif Tuncer
 He was born in 1963 in Ardahan Province, Göle District Yiğitkonağı Village.He graduated from HatayEğitimYüksekOkulu in 1982 as a teacher.
 His first place of duty was the Tan Village of Muş. Later, he worked as a teacher in the center of Erzurum  for four years. He has been working as a teacher in Istanbul since 1989. During his teaching career, he worked in the field of writing and literature. He became the editor of some journals. He graduated from Eskişehir Anadolu University, Department of Turkish Language Teaching while he was a teacher.
 The author, who also conducts research on educational administration, also writes articles on education.  He still works as a school administrator in Bakırköy.
 He has published nine books. Especially his books published on children's literature come to the fore.
  
 Author's Published Books
  
 1-      Çınardaki Çıngırak (Rattle in a Sycamore)
 2-      Okullarda Münazara (Debate in Schools)
 3-      Kambur At (Children’sNovel/Humpback Horse)
 4-      Kışa Kalan Leylek (Stork Overwintering/Children’sNovel) 
 5-      Sırma   Kedim   (Children’sNovel/My SirmaCat) 
 6-      Saklı Göl            (Hidden Lake/Children’sNovel) 
 7-      Suya Dökülen Hasret (A Longing Poured into Water/Story)
 8-      Ninemin Gizemli Sandığı(Grandma's Mysterious Chest/Children’sNovel) 
 9-      Gölgeler İz Bırakır (Shadows Leave Traces/Poem)

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