Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Toros was beyond despair. His beloved ferry was sinking before his eyes. His family had run the ferry for over a hundred years and this was the 5th iteration of the large boats that plied the Turkish Straits. His ferry had carried kings and queens and now it was being scuttled before his eyes by the thugs from the army. He was told that it was to keep it out of the hands of the cursed Ruskies in whose hands they feared it would be used to bring death to all from across the Bosporus.
Why would he have let that happen? He would have taken his ferry away from the fighting. Did they really think he was that stupid or was a spy for the Ruskies up north, their ancient enemy the Cossack? We will fight them for every inch and they would never have gotten on foot on my beautiful ferry he fumed inside.
What was he going to tell the family? Should he have fought an unwinnable fight with these 18 year olds and their pig of an officer? All that would happen would be a knife in his belly if he had tried to physically stand up to them. He had seen their kind before. All swagger and bravado when facing an old man but just wait until they faced an 18-year-old Ruskies driving a tank, then we’d see how brave they were. He could hear shouts all along the waterfront as barge and ferry were scuttled. The weeping and wailing was deafening as it bounced off a passing freighter, which made them even weep louder and curse the soldiers harder. How were the fishermen going to fish? How were the ferryman going to feed their families? The whole waterfront was shut down and how in Allah's name were the Cossacks going to get across in the first place. There were no boats on the far side and he could see nothing or imagine anything that they could use to get across.
His families ferry and heritage, bumped against the rocks in the causeway as it drifts down to the bottom, one last large jolt causes the clapper of the bell to hit the side of the rim and to ring one last time. It so happens that this was the one millionth time exactly, that the bell had rung, and its last. This particular bell was made from the canons of Constantinople. The irony was that these cannons were originally made from the Christian bells of this same city. The bells were melted down, some more chemicals and the zinc and copper levels adjusted and poured into the cannons that manned the walls for centuries. As brass cannons were replaced the metal was remolded and used in Ottoman Tombak and bells.
This form of brass called tombak is easy and soft to work by hand: hand tools can easily punch, cut, enamel, repousse, engrave, gilt or etch it. It has a higher sheen than most brasses or copper, and does not easily tarnish. Some of the greatest works of art to come out of the Ottoman Empire were made from tombak. It is a beautiful medium to work with and to create some of the most beautiful, intricate and prized works of art man has ever imagined much less created.
Another use is just as creative yet very destructive to individuals, the full metal jacket. Gilding metal is a type of tombak which is one of the most common jacketing materials for jacketed hollow point bullets which the Hague Convention of 1899 prohibited using. These are the kind of bullets that easily flattened and expanded in the body. That rip a person’s insides to shreds once they penetrate the skin. Expanding to triple the size they enter as. A monstrous invention on the par of shrapnel and napalm.
As with most inventions of man, Tombak can be used to create things of great beauty and to kill and maim.
In less than a week Toros and all he knew would be dead, burned or blown to bits. His wife, 3 children, mother, 2 sisters and 13 cousin’s aunts and uncles. His ferry would not even be a footnote in history even after serving kings, queens, the rich and the poor. Not a picture or even a clear memory would remain of his movable floating bridge between east and west. Luckily, he would be the first to die and none of this would enter his mortal life and spiritual memory. He would not take to the grave all the tragedies that were about to be endured by his family. We don’t even know Toros or his boats given name.
All Toros knew is that his ferry was sinking and so was his livelihood and his families future, the feared and hated Russki were a few hundred meters away and about to attack. His wonderful ship's bell rang one last time before it was swallowed up by the waters of the Bosporus. One last clear tolling of his beloved bell.
“Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. . . . from Meditation 17 by John Donne”