Photographs in Words 22 – The Blue Pomegranate 1/2

Doctor Ahmet Bey: my occupation and my name. My surgery and my home are in Sarıgüzel in the Malta district of Istanbul. In the same flat. I am single.

I have left my black, accordion bag in the flat and am on my way by shared taxi to the Blue Pomegranate Restaurant in Sirkeci. It was my father who first took me there in 1927. I am the only regular customer from outside the area.

The waiters always know beforehand what we would like to have. Just like in any white restaurant where the tablecloths, the waiters’ jackets and the cloths folded over the left arm are all white. But, these days something is different at the Blue Pomegranate. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are its silent days; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are its noisy days.

My patients know I go all the way to Sirkeci for lunch every day. They don’t know the Blue Pomegranate.

On noisy days, the waiters can shout their orders to the kitchen. The regulars can talk as loudly as they like, play any musical instrument, sing or dance. Belly dancing on the tables and drinking rakı from shoes are not unknown.

Today my father will be there as well…What if he says, “ What a racket! It wasn’t like this in the old days”.

I approach the door hesitantly. Inside is full of cigarette smoke. The Blue Pomegranate* has become Café Aman. Everybody is sitting in rows, like a Rembetiko orchestra. Father is right in the middle of the front row with the mandolin he used to play in his youth, but somehow never touched later. I knew he played tangos and mazurkas, but had no idea that he could play rembetiko. Just as I go in, the orchestra starts playing “ Ligo Ligo Tha Me Sinithisis – Olmaz Olmaz ( No, No) … Father stands up at the end of the song and is about to leave. I ask if I could come with him. He hesitates but then says yes. We are walking side by side without talking. One of us, I don’t remember who, puts his arm around the other’s shoulder. We continue walking. Father looks different from how I remember him. How old is he? Who is older? He asks, “How are you son?”… Just as I start to tell him I wake up.

This is how Ahmet Bey recounted his dream… at the Blue Pomegranate Restaurant.

* Cafés from 19th century Ottoman Empire, mainly in Istanbul and İzmir, where musicians from different ethnic groups performed. Aman, a Turkish word of Arabic origin, is a deeply emotional exclamation of sorrow and passion.

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