And on the 12th day of Christmas: Meet Hacivad, the inimitable and learned Sufi leader of the puppet troupe

Here is Hacivad, in one storyline where he turns, partially, into a goat, much to the delight, I am sure of his love-hate compadre, Karagoz! (Thanks to the Asian Shadow Theatre Exhibition's Flikr Photostream for this image)

And here we are, on the 12th day before Christmas, so it is time to meet Hacivad Bey, the fearless and calm leader of the Karagöz puppets in day-to-day operations. In modern times, the puppets might refer to him as their Chief Operating Officer.

Always cool, calm and collected, Hacivad Bey is a devotee of the Mevlana Rumi and is fond of quoting Rumi’s poetry from memory. Rumi rolls with the punches, always takes a positive view on life (unless he is really, really pressed, in which case he is known to rumble on occasion, as nobody is perfect.  It is usually that Karagöz gets him worked up to this mental space).  The puppets all look to Hacivad Bey to be the voice of reason, the maker of consensus, the level-headed leader, and he does not disappoint.  You may recall that the puppets gave way to Hacivad Bey once confronted with the Sultan of Nutcrackers on Commercial Street in Provincetown – he was the natural leader one would gravitate to if a martian asking “take me to your leader” was met.

A delicious Çoban Salatası that Hacivad Bey "helped" to prepare by whispering in my ear as I chopped the sebze, peynir and squeezed the limon. (Image from my own collection)

True to his cool nature, Hacivad Bey likes nothing more than a cool-as-a-cucumber Çoban Salatası (cho-bahn sah-lah-tah-suh, shepherd’s salad made from white cheese, cukes, tomato and lemon juice, at least in our house that is how it is made), with extra chunks of garlic and pul biber (a.k.a. Aleppo pepper) for comfort’s sake.  He is a simple man in this way, appreciating the small things in life.

If we look at the traditional characterization of Hacivad Bey (sometimes his name, by the way, is spelled “Hacivat”) in comparison to Karagoz, Emin Senyer has a slightly different take on the character, saying “Hacivat is reflective character with a pointed turned-up beard. Each movement is well calculated and worked out before hand. Karagöz, on the contrary is impulsive and his character is shown by his speech and behaviour. Hacivat,s reasoning limits his actions. Even though while on the screen, he makes few gestures with hands, Karagöz is the more dynamic and energetic. Where Hacivat is always ready to accept the situation and maintain the status quo and establishment, Karagöz is always eager to try out new ideas and constantly misbehaves himself.”

Senyer goes on to say that: “Hacivat is always bound by the moral principles of the upper class and can easily adapt himself to these principles. He sometimes becomes instrumental in providing pleasure for the upper classes and is always worried that Karagöz’ tactlessness will spoil these pleasures. Karagöz, the traditional symbol of the -little man- , on the other hand, finds that his tactless behaviour generally upsets most intrigues. Hacivat also serves as a foil to each character, underlining their helplessness and distress. Most of these lesser characters depend upon the machination of Hacivat to provide either the needed money, job or house. He is loquacious, credulous and good natured. Usually Hacivat offers useful advice to others, aiding them in their schemes. Because of his knowledge of etiquette and language and his opportunism, he is a most desirable, like able character in the neighbourhood. He is not only the local headman but is looked upon as counsellor, especially by the neighbourhood spendthrift. When he partners Karagöz in various undertakings, he prefers merely to find the clients and share the profit. Conversely Karagöz is not respected. He is always insulted by the dandies, is a target for the anger of the opium addict a victim of the village idiot,s practical jokes and the threats of the neighbourhood drunkards.”

As I am sitting here, writing and reflecting on the traditional characterizations of Hacivad Bey, as compared to the reality in my head, the man himself is sitting and watching, in the lotus position at the front of my keyboard.

“Excuse me, m’lady,” he calls out, quietly but commandingly, “I think that you write too much about me – let my actions be me, me be my actions – but more importantly – let my character be described in the words of Rumi, although I am not perfect, it is what I aspire to.”

“Happy to hear, Hacivad Bey, how might the Mevlana characerize you?” I asked in a quiet voice, as others who don’t see puppets were around.

Standing as if to deliver a gift, Hacivad Bey broke into a serious but theatrical mode, saying “Be like the sun for grace and mercy. Be like the night to cover others’ faults. Be like running water for generosity. Be like death for rage and anger. Be like the Earth for modesty. Appear as you are. Be as you appear.”

And he did, and I did, and we remembered to always to do the best we could in this effort. And so ends the 12 days before Christmas and the introduction to the heavy-hitting major players in the Karagöz shadow puppet troupe that inhabits my head.

Tomorrow, we shall see what the puppet troupe is up to for Christmas eve…and I will have you know that it involves a lot of glitter.

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