Bastard of Istanbul

The Silver Rule of Prudence for an Istanbulite Woman: When harassed on the street, do not lose nerve, since a woman who loses her nerve in the face of harassment, and thus reacts excessively, will only make matters worse for herself!

The cab driver laughed, the horn of the Toyota behind blared yet again, the rain hastened on, and several pedestrians tsk-tsked in unison, though it was hard to tell what exactly they were reprimanding. Amid all the tumult, Zeliha caught sight of and iridescent bumper sticker glittering on the back of the cab: DON’T CALL ME WRETCHED! it declared. THE WRETCHED TOO HAVE A HEART. As she stood there blankly staring at these words, suddenly she felt tired beyond herself_so tired and taken aback that one would suppose it wasn’t the everyday problem of an Istanbulite that she was dealing with. Rather it was some sort of cryptic code that a faraway mind had specifically designed for her to decipher and that she in her morality had never managed to crack. Soon, the cab and the Toyota left and the pedestrians went their separate ways, leaving Zeliha there, holding the broken heel of her shoe as tenderly and despondently as if she were carrying a dead bird.

Bastard of Istanbul written by Elif Shafak

Black Milk: On Motherhood and Writing

There, in a city as spiritual as Mount Athos, beyond a wooden door, sits Dame Dervish_her head bowed in contemplation, her fingers moving the amber prayer beads. On the tray in front of her there is a bowl of lentil soup and a slice of bread. Her thimble is full of water. She always makes do with little. On her head is a loosely tied turban that comes together in the front with a large stone. Patches of hair show from beneath the turban. She wears a jade dress that reaches the floor, a dark green vest and khaki slippers.

Seeing she is in the midst of a prayer, I sneak in and listen.

“God, Pure Love and Beauty, may we be of those who chant Your name and find restoration in You. Don’t let us spend our time on Earth with eyes veiled, ears deafened and hearts sealed to love.”

I smile at these words and I am still smiling when I hear her next words.

“Please open Elif’s third eye to Love and broaden her capacity to grasp the Truth. Connections are the essence of Your universe; please don’t deprive her of Your loving connection.”

“Amen to that,” I say.

She flinches as she surfaces from her thoughts. When she sees me standing there she breaks into a smile, lifting her hand to her left breast in greeting.

“I need your help,” I say. “Have you heard the question Ms. Agaoglu asked me? I don’t know how to answer it.”

“I heard it indeed and I don’t know why you panic so. God says He sometimes puts us through a ‘beautiful test’. That is what He calls the many quandaries we face in this life. A beautiful test. There is no need to rush for ‘the answer’ because all answers are relative. What is right for one person may be wrong for another. Instead of asking about motherhood and writing, ask God to give you what is good for you.”