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About Him

It was during my university years in Istanbul. I keep wondering where I first heard His name and from whom. Was it at university, in the halls of residence or the houses I stayed in, on the way to somewhere, at a cafe or a restaurant? I think I first heard His name towards the beginning of 1959. They called Him “Fethi Agabey” (i.e. “elder brother Fethi”). As they were always talking about Him I became increasingly interested in Him. (My interest in someone new develops slowly. I cannot make out how this happens though. My curiosity slowly reaches a tipping point when the urge arises to go and see the person.) But things were different this time. I wanted to go and see Him straight away. I was captivated by what I had heard about Him. I found out where He worked, but how could I go there and what would I say? How would He react to me? I went there. I saw Him at his desk; his room was crowded – it was full of his guests. (I could only look inside through the window.) I went there quite often, looked inside, observed what went on, and then returned. I did not have the courage to go inside and introduce myself. I told my friends at university about the state of inner turmoil I was in. “Go in and introduce yourself!” they said. I think a whole year went by like this. It was an evening in spring. (I remember it very well.) I went there plucking up all the courage I could muster. There were several people inside as usual. Seeing Him at such close quarters, I felt as if a universe filled my inner being. (Until now I had only felt the same way with very few people on seeing them closely. Only with very few people indeed!) My whole being was overtaken by a mysterious power. This does not mean that I lost the capacity of free will. On the contrary, one becomes more conscious of one’s freedom in the presence of such a lofty personage. He worked in an Exhibition Centre in front of which there was a tea garden. We went down to the garden and drank tea. (The glass of tea I drank there was one of those I shall always remember.) I went to see Him there several times that summer. (The summer of 1960 was rather chaotic and also an unhappy one for me.) One night, we visited the editorial office of a newspaper in Cağaloğlu and then walked down to Sirkeci. We then walked from Eminönü via the bridge to the pier in Karaköy. (I think He was living in Göztepe district on the other side of Bosphorus at the time.) This was, of course, not a two-way conversation but rather a one-way listening and revivification process. (Those who spoke with Him, or rather just listened to him, would definitely feel on leaving Him that their inner selves had in some sense been treated and healed.) He was a distinguished master at healing people’s hearts and the spiritual wounds within. (I stayed in my home city of Maraş from the end of that summer until the spring of 1961.) I sent Him my regards by letters and received small white postcards in return. (In all these postcards, He encouraged me to take up writing.) I came to Istanbul for my last examination at the Faculty of Law which had been postponed. There I made frequent visits to him. I listened to Him – listened to Him constantly. (When He spoke, it was as though He was taking you with him on a walk towards same destination.) I returned again to Maraş that summer and then left for my compulsory military service. (Did I ever see Him during my military training in Tuzla? I do not think so.) I stayed in Bitlis for my military service from the middle of 1962 to late 1963 – though not exactly to the end of that year. (Strangely, I did not hear from Him.) I think it was the end of 1962 – yes, most probably it was then – that I saw His picture in a newspaper taken as He was climbing the steps of a plane. He was travelling to Germany. It was not long before I received a letter from Germany. (Dwelling at length on the universal role of art and literature, He again urged me to take up writing.) I had the pleasure of sending Him letters as regularly as I could. In 1964, I was in Istanbul, responsible for producing an art page for a weekly magazine. (That did not last long.) I also sent Him the magazines together with my letters to Germany. In one of His letters, of which I am so proud, He urged me to publish a monthly literary magazine and to gather a group of friends around it. (The seed of Edebiyat Magazine was probably sown in me around that time.) He constantly encouraged me with his letters: we need encouragement more than anything in the age in which we live. He came to Ankara from Germany in the early spring of 1965. He was at the Ministry of Education. As fate would have it, I was in Ankara, too. (He was based permanently in Ankara until 1967.) We often visited Him. We spent our evenings either at His house or in a tea-garden which we called “Söğüt” in Gençlik Park – it was so quiet then– or at the hotel He used to stay in 1967 and afterwards when He came from Istanbul to Ankara. We spent our evenings at the patisseries in Kızılay –they do not exist anymore, they were demolished– or around Haji Bayram Mosque –at a tea-garden nearby. We mostly arrived there together and crowded around him immediately. He defiantly stressed one by one the obstacles to be overcome. What he offered was the universal compassion, the joy of friendship which has its source in belief in God and loyalty to the Prophet. He held you by the hand and guided you on a walk towards the light. You would grow and multiply in His presence.

(Nuri Pakdil, The Attachment, Edebiyat Dergisi Publications, 2017, p. 13-17)