Ahmet Altan, born in 1950, is one of Turkey’s most important writers. In the purge following the failed coup in July 2016, Altan was sent to prison pending trial for giving “subliminal messages” in support of the coup. In February 2018 he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for attempting to overthrow the government. Fifty-one Nobel laureates have signed an open letter to President Erdogan calling for Altan’s release. Altan is the author of seven essay collections and ten novels.

In a translated version of his memoirs, the importance of freedom, not the freedom intellectuals talk about, but the freedom that people like us take for granted in leading our day to day lives, has been so beautifully depicted that it shook my heart. On his way to prison, following his arrest by security forces, Ahmet describes the following

It is said that the dead do not know that they are dead. According to Anatolian mythology, once the corpse is placed in the grave and covered with dirt and the funeral crowd has begun to disperse, the dead person also tries to get up and go home, only to realize when he hits his head on the coffin lid that he has died.

When the door closed, my head hit the coffin lid.

I could not open the door of that car and get out.

Never again would I be able to kiss the woman I love, embrace my kids, meet with my friends, walk the streets. I would not have my room to write in, my machine to write with, my library to reach for. I would not be able to listen to a violin concerto or go on a trip or browse in bookstores or buy bread from a bakery or gaze on the sea or an orange tree or smell the scent of flowers, the grass, the rain, the earth. I would not be able to go to a cinema. I would not be able to eat eggs with sausage or drink a glass of wine or go to a restaurant and order fish. I would not be able to watch the sunrise. I would not be able to call anyone on the phone. No one would be able to call me on the phone. I would not be able to open a door by myself. I would not wake up again in a room with curtains.

Our daily lives, which we choose to call as boring routine or rigmarole are so very important and crucial to our existence. There are many who having nothing worthwhile to do post requirement and they just go into their shells inviting troubles like dementia. They just become vegetables, burden on their families. We have to have a routine, hobbies, interests, in short a zest to live life or what we routinely call “routine”.

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