We were sitting in the ferry having coffee, crossing over from Gallipoli to Çanakkale, when he interrupted us with a silly smile on his face.
“Are you from India?” He asked in Hindi. He was perhaps not even in his twenties and I didn’t like his way of making introductions.
“Yes.” It was a fair assumption as we look like Indians and are from India.
“How is India?” A stupid question.
“Fine.” We gave the obvious answer in a flat tone. It was meant to end the conversation. We were returning from visiting cemeteries in Gallipoli and not in a mood for small talk.
But I felt bad at my own rudeness and asked him, “Where are you from?”
“Oh really, we have been to Burma. From where in Burma are you from?”
“Oh! Did you come here to work?”
“Yes, I work in the cafe here.”
“And where is your family?”
“I have no family. They killed them all. My parents, my brothers, my cousins. I am alone in the world.”
It was as if he has punched us on the heart. Here he was, a causality of war right in front of us, and we were upset with him to interrupt us from our somber mood over the deaths a century ago.
I was surprised at how much the visit to Gallipoli had effected me. Perhaps it was the visit to the museum before the ANZAC landing site which showed the war stories from Turkey’s side.
It is not widely known that Turkey suffered much heavier casualties than the ANZACs.
We learned that the ANZAC landed at a wrong spot, where there was not enough ground to dig trenches. They were surrounded by high cliffs where Turkish soldiers were just a few meters away.
At some places, the Turkish and ANZAC trenches were just eight to ten meters apart and during the ceasefire, the soldiers would exchange cigarettes, chocolates, and beef with each other.
We read the letter the Turkish president Ataturk which he wrote to ANZAC mothers and which is displayed amidst the graveyards to remind everyone how futile the war is.
The Gallipoli soil is littered with the graves of soldiers from both sides. So much so, that the Turkish Government has declared the area a national park and forbidden any digging even for building roads in case they disturb a resting soldier.
All wars that cause innocent people’s death are futile whether they are civilians or soldiers. The Rahinga boy has been made orphan for a futile reason too.
We can only hope that one-day humanity its lesson and start living in harmony. If it can do that there are enough resources for everyone.