I re-read Sait Faik’s very short story Sinagrit Baba the other day. At first, I thought that, just like any other good work of literature, this fable told from the perspective of a seasoned fish, would reveal different things to the reader in different periods of their life. To me, the secret to such craftsmanship is a wisdom beyond finding an interesting topic or picking the right words. It is about knowing life and people with all their layers and chaos, having a different kind of insight that goes far beyond knowing literature well. Much like the insight that Oliver Sacks believes teenagers can gain from reading Jane Austin.
I don’t know what I got from this story when I read it years ago. But what hit me this time was the fact that the fisherman with all the esteemed values was a man who had never been challenged or tested in his life. It may be pure luck to live life as a brave, generous and proud person without ever having to face our own hypocrisy in unexpected situations. But the truth that Sait Faik is getting at in these 7 short paragraphs is that we are never really innocent of the sins that we weren’t tested about. We may not have lost our temper to the point of wanting to murder someone, been desperate enough to steal, lustful enough to cheat. How sincerely are these part of our collection of virtues? “It’s debatable” says Sait Faik. Perhaps, not even debatable. The virtues that we attribute to our innocence exist only in our minds. In reality, all experiences, whether we call them good or bad, right or wrong, are for us.