بخش 29

کتاب: ملت عشق / فصل 29

بخش 29

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Suleiman the Drunk

KONYA, OCTOBER 17, 1244

Before the commotion I was snoozing peacefully with my back to the tavern wall, and then the racket outside made me nearly jump out of my skin.

“What’s going on?” I screamed as my eyes snapped open. “Did the Mongols attack us?”

There was a ripple of laughter. I turned around and found several other customers making fun of me. Dirty bastards!

“Don’t you worry, old drunk!” yelled Hristos, the tavern owner. “No Mongols coming after you. It’s Rumi passing by with an army of admirers.” I went to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there they were—an excited procession of disciples and admirers repeatedly chanting, “God is great! God is great!” In the middle of it all was the erect figure of Rumi, mounted on a white horse, radiating strength and confidence. I opened the window, ducked my head out, and watched them. Moving at a pace no faster than a snail’s, the procession came very near. In fact, some of the crowd were so close that I could easily have touched a few heads. Suddenly I had a brilliant idea. I was going to snatch off some people’s turbans!

I grabbed the wooden back scratcher that belongs to Hristos. Holding the window open with one hand and the scratcher in the other, I leaned forward, managing to reach the turban of a man in the crowd. I was just about to pull the turban off when another man inadvertently looked up and saw me.

“Selamun aleykum,” I saluted, smiling from ear to ear.

“A Muslim in a tavern! Shame on you!” the man roared. “Don’t you know wine is the handiwork of Sheitan?”

I opened my mouth to answer, but before I could make a sound, something sharp whizzed by my head. I realized in sheer horror that it was a stone. If I hadn’t ducked at the last second, it would have cracked my skull. Instead it had shot through the open window, landing on the table of the Persian merchant sitting behind me. Too tipsy to comprehend what had happened, the merchant held the stone in his hand, examining it as if it were an obscure message from the skies.

“Suleiman, close that window and go back to your table!” Hristos bellowed, his voice hoarse with worry.

“Did you see what happened?” I said as I staggered back toward my table. “Someone hurled a stone at me. They could have killed me!”

Hristos raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, but what were you expecting? Don’t you know there are people who don’t want to see a Muslim in a tavern? And here you are displaying yourself, reeking of alcohol, your nose glowing like a red lantern.” “S-so what?” I stuttered. “Am I not a human being?”

Hristos patted me on the shoulder as if to say, Don’t be so touchy.

“You know, this is exactly why I abhor religion. All sorts of them! Religious people are so confident of having God by their side that they think they are superior to everyone else,” I said.

Hristos did not respond. He was a religious man, but also a skilled tavern owner who knew how to soothe an incensed customer. He brought me another carafe of red wine and watched me as I guzzled it. Outside, a wild wind blew, slamming shut the windows and scattering dry leaves left and right. For a moment we stood still, listening carefully, as if there were a melody to be heard.

“I don’t understand why wine was forbidden in this world but promised in heaven,” I said. “If it’s as bad as they claim, why would they serve it in paradise?” “Questions, questions …” Hristos murmured as he threw his hands up. “You are always full of questions. Do you have to question everything?” “Of course I do. That’s why we were given a brain, don’t you think?”

“Suleiman, I have known you for a long time. You are not just any customer to me. You are my friend. And I worry about you.”

“I’ll be fine—” I said, but Hristos interrupted me.

“You are a good man, but your tongue is as sharp as a dagger. That’s what worries me. There are all sorts of people in Konya. And it’s no secret that some of them don’t think highly of a Muslim who has taken to drink. You need to learn to be careful in public. Hide your ways, and watch what you say.” I grinned. “May we top off this speech with a poem from Khayyám?”

Hristos heaved a sigh, but the Persian merchant who had overheard me exclaimed cheerfully, “Yes, we want a poem from Khayyám.”

Other customers joined in, giving me a big round of applause. Motivated and slightly provoked, I jumped onto a table and began to recite:

“Did God set grapes a-growing, do you think,

And at the same time make it a sin to drink?”

The Persian merchant yelled, “Of course not! That wouldn’t make any sense!”

“Give thanks to Him who foreordained it thus—

Surely He loves to hear the glasses clink!”

If there was one thing these many years of drinking had taught me, it was that different people drank differently. I knew people who drank gallons every night, and all they did was get merry, sing songs, and then doze off. But then there were others who turned into monsters with a few drops. If the same drink made some merry and tipsy and others wicked and aggressive, shouldn’t we hold the drinkers responsible instead of the drink?

“Drink! for you know not whence you came, nor why;

Drink! for you know not why you go, nor where.”

Another round of applause followed. Even Hristos joined the excitement. In the Jewish quarter of Konya, in a tavern owned by a Christian, we, a mixed bunch of wine lovers of all faiths, raised our glasses and toasted together, hard though it was to believe, to a God who could love and forgive us even when we ourselves clearly failed to do so.

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