They are the people who not only carry the goods and richness of the Grand Bazaar, but also the grief and burden of this mysterious system. They are the porters of the Grand Bazaar. .. Tons of goods, fumitures, carpets, leathers, various souvenirs, money chests, cabinets; all these things have been carried to the Grand Bazaar by honest and great labor. From them I teamed how much care and knowledge carrying goods requires, as well as teaming that the backpad and rope are not just accessories but the musts of porterage. “Some carry five hundred kilos of things, some only give hand to the person who canies the fardel, some just hold the rope, but each of these is a task that requires talent.” Kemal Elmacı, also known as İzmirli Kemal, has spent at least fifty five years of his seventy seven years old life as a porter. He had raised two sons, saw them gett.ing married, and took good care of his wife. He has never had social security. His life is full of interesting, diffıcult and tragicomic incidences that can make a novel. Fourteen to fifteen porters used to wait in the street by Çemberlitaş, Vezirhan, where they settled in, for the people who would need them. There was not any wheelbarrows back then !ike there is now. At the time when there were many carriages in İstanbul, İzmirli Kemal also had one and even had a ticense for riding it. The porters in this street were the last representatives of a tradition. Their customs and rules descending from Ottoman period were stili continuing. Before, they all had a steward and a guild which they were affiliated with. Porterage was an occupation which required a long training period and knowledge. They had a group anda group leader. Here, at this side street of Vezirhan, these porters used to dotheir jobs following the traditions they had inherited from the past.
W e knew that they used to be a group of foıty nine people whose number was gradually decreasing. “This job does not forgive verdancy or clumsiness. Many young people were ıuined; they passed away beneath the fardels. When I was carrying a fardel I used to place my right hand on my friend’s shoulder to add his strength to mine. I entrusted my life to my friend. His strength helped me came out alive beneath the fardeL If the person who holds the rope cınnot maintain the lıılance, the result again would be a disaster.” The people, whom he used to work with and eam his bread with, had passed away one by one. They had carried thousands of kilograms of stuff, however, when the burden of life became heavier, they passed away. He was the only one left behind them. Even his clothing style was different from other people. He used to wear speacially made trousers. I haven’t seen anybody else wearing a pair of trousers in that style. Upper part was slightly wide, the cuffs were tight and had buttons. His shoes were always spick-and-span. I don’t remember seeing him with unpolished shoes. He always had his checkered shirt, a handkerchief on his neck, and a woolen cap on his head. No matter if it was summer or winter, he always had his leather vest on. He would come early in the moming, drink his fırst cup of tea and wait for his share. It was a very unusual to see him after five in the evening. He was neither unfair towards other people, nor Jet others be unfair to him. Lately, when especially the young tradesmen complained about his asking too much money for carrying goods, he would angrily say: “Carry this fardel for ten steps further if you can!” He was old, he was sick but that comer belonged to him. He couldn’t leave it. It was the meaning of his life, along with his motorcycle that he fell in love with later on. İzmirli Kemal grew up in an orphanage in Çoıum. Later on, He went to Konya for a short period of time and then to İzmir for his military service. He was given the name İzmirli Kemal in İstanbul where he came by boat. He was pretty handsome. It was apparent that he was even more handsome when he was young. He had blonde hair and blue eyes. His features were sharp and strong. There was no fat in his body which kept working constantly. He was strong. As he was taking care of horses in İstanbul, he met Aunt Güllü, fell in love with her.
Without any hesitation he shared the seetion in the bam that he used as his home with her. He tried to make this place as horney as possible with his old fumiture. Aunt Güllü had to leave his son whom she had from her previous marriage to an orphanage. İzmirli Kemal could not bear his wife’s grief kidnapped the baby and brought him to his wife. He considered himself as the baby’s father, took good care of him. Later, when he had his own son, he never discriminated his wife’s son from his own.
He was cheerful, spreading positive energy around. When I was a little kid he used to entertain us all by playing funny songs with a tray or a !id. It was before 1980. Hemade his long-lasting dream come true and started to ride a motorcycle before he reached his fifties. He had an accident with his motorcycle which he used to dean everyday and tie with thick chains to the window grates. The man, who bit him with his luxurious car, had turned out to be a conscientious one. He had his broken leg treated. He paid for the hospital expenses and gave him money for a while. However, his leg has never happened to be as healthy as before. He could not work anymore, he was suffering. He needed to eam money. He started to seli guns for a rich man in that area. He was getting some commission for each gun he sold. One day, as he realized that the men he was selling the guns to were indeed cops, it already was too Iate. Newspapers were writing about him. “The porter who sells guns in Cemberlitas is arrested.”
Most of the people who were then arrested with him, were later released, he was the only one who was kept imprisoned. I remember him having spent a few years in prison. When he was released he went back to his street and his backpad. He continued portering. In 2001, a newspaper, Zaman, featured his stoıy. They took his pictures in the Grand Bazaar with a fardel on his back. “He is seventy one but he stili carries fardels. He does not have any social secuıity,” wrote them in the heading.
All his friends were dead. Kemal Elmacı, who was the only represen- tative of porters and who came from the guild traditions, passed away in February 2003. For years, he had carried the burden and grief of the Grand Bazaar. The same newspaper featured his death as well: “The only things left from the last porter are his backpad and rope.” Those belongings were inherited to me. In my shop in Cebeci Inn, which is !ike a smail museum, his backpad and rope are placed on the wall, right underneatlı the newspaper elip about him.