WHAT A PITY!
My father was the most popular shoemaker of our town Bor,
Nigde. For years, he had made and repaired shoes in his shop
“Fashion Shoes,” which was very near the Government Square. The
bank manager’s wife, the beauty symbol of our town, Nigar Hanim
(Lady Nigar), would never wear any shoes but those made by my
father. My father was a very respectable shoemaker in our
When my eldest sister insisted on going to college, the whole
family had to move to Ankara, the Capital. My father kept to his
shoemaking in his shop at Demirlibahce for a while but as he was
no longer a demanded master of shoemaking, he wasn’t earning
enough money, so he found a job at the military shoeandclothes
factory, where he made boots for soldiers, pushing the buttons of
some machines he himself had seen for the first time in his life.
He spent a whole life as a clicker. A lifetime between his
job, home and the KAHVEHANE (*). Now he is seventyfive. He had
told me, in one of our rare talks, that he had done his military
service in Iskenderun, a seaside town in the South of Turkey, and
that one day when he went to have fun by the sea with his fellow
recruits, they decided to get on a rowing boat and spend some
time at the sea. However, my father, immediately after he put one
foot into the boat, decided not to do it saying that the bottom
of the boat was liquid and that he would not dare to get on that
scamp. I had learnt that, all his life, my father had never ever
been on a ship. I was shocked.
My father was very happy when he heard that I bought a flat
in Istanbul, a flat looking down on the Bosphorus. As I was sorry
for him because he had never lived anything related to the sea,
the other day I took him by force to Istanbul.
I was determined to take dad to Labor Cafe, on the other
side of the Bosphorus, after some tea at Dalyan (Fishgarth) Cafe
As soon as we finished our tea, I told him that we were
going to have our breakfast at a beautiful place amongst
enchanting seaside residences. He did not resist. Until we came
to the Beikos quay, where we had to take a boat to cross the
Bosphorus, he did not ask anything. But when he heard the bawler
shouting “Yenikoy, Yenikoy” (**) and seeing the boat was filled
with passengers ready to go to the European side, he grew
“Where are we going?” he asked anxiously.
“To the other side, to Yenikoy.”
“How are we going there?” he inquired again, this time
“We’ll get on that boat dad. It’s the shortest way.”
Dad grabbed my arm.
“You mean we’ll sail?” he roared.
“Yes, in a way,” I murmured.
“I’d rather die!” he shouted.
The rest was a hard time trying to persuade dad to get on the
boat. As I believed that dad had never lived anything worth
remembering, my only aim was to get him to live something
exciting. Thus, I would feel happy and relieved as if I was doing
some charity. However, my father was so obstinate. He just would
not set afoot aboard. Everyone around joined in my efforts to
persuade him to get on the boat.
“Come on old man. There is nothing to fear. Look, we are
aboard, aren’t we? You think we want to die for nothing?”
No one could believe that in this age one would fear to get on
a boat. They were dying to share the joy of getting my dad
aboard. They were so eager, as if it was their only aim in life.
“Poor old man, he must have lived like a hermit,” one
In the end, we managed to get him on the boat. Victory for us
Dad kept looking at his shoes and never put his head up. As
the boat reached half way on the Bosphorus, dad put his head up,
saw Yalikoy, Beikos, moving away from him like an island, he took
a deep breath as if he was fearing to be petrified. As he was
shievering out of fear, he mumbled:
“What a pity!”
“Why dad?” I asked.
“I have wasted a life son. So far, I have led a whole life of
nothing but illusions!”
“You love this, don’t you?” I wondered, expecting
“Yes, so much!” he exclaimed. Then he added:
“I wish she were here on this boat, and wearing the shoes I
made for her.”
He probably meant mom.
“Who dad?” I asked, sure about the answer.
“The bank manager’s wife, Hicran. Ah, what a pity!”
(Translated from Turkish by the author.)
(*) KAHVEHANE is the equivalent of a pub frequented by the old,
the retired, the unemployed and the idle, where one can drink
only tea, coffee or beverages, and no spirits.
(**) One of the beautiful districts on the European side of
Istanbul, means “New Village”. (New York?)