Sunday, April 12, 2015
April 24, 2015 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I have been grappling for awhile on how to focus a series of blog pieces on this anniversary and commemoration. Procrastination and not having a clear focus has made for this late entry. While it is impossible to write on the Armenian Genocide without writing about the Turks, I am more interested in the Armenians and how we are acting, reacting, and coming out of this year’s commemorative activities. Regardless of what Turkey does or does not do, I am interested in my people, the Armenians. Will we have gained some closure? Will we, while never forgetting and continuing to pursue reparations, as a people become more unified and move on to other political and cultural agenda items e.g. strengthening the Republic of Armenia and our diasporan communities.
I am not entirely sure where this will take me, but I am thinking about a collecting these short essays combined with my blog posts to date on the Armenian Genocide and publishing a book. We shall see.
I have decided to call these series of posts and the book that may follow Chidem Inch. I probably should write in the Turkish alphabet. It would be Çidem İnç. For now, I prefer the American-Armenian phonetic spelling. I may well alternate between the two spellings.
Chidem inch is slang. It is not even a slang I heard my grandparents use as a kid. I learned of it from a family friend and distant cousin, John Sharoian. John is a few years younger than me. We grew up in the St. Sarkis Armenian Church Community in Detroit. Our families were close and we were often visiting and socializing. His maternal grandmother lived with them. She was a marvelous lady, Antaram Tarpinian, whom we called Kergeen. Kergeen means “wife of ones maternal uncle.” Kergeen was the wife of my grandfather Levon’s first cousin. My mother called him Keri. She was therefore Kergeen to everyone in our family.
Whenever I see John, which is not enough, conversation often drifts to his grandmother. She was a colorful woman who hailed from Yerzinga (Erzinçan in the Turkey of today). She looked like an American Indian to me all my life. That is, as my Aunt Suzie would say, she looked Mongolian. I always liked her look. I remember her Armenian line dancing. She never looked so proud, so tall, or so stately and she was most definitely on the shorter side of five feet. During the genocide, per my mother and aunt, she was forced into a brothel. No details were ever given, but knowing and loving the lady as I did, I felt awful when I first heard of this. I loved and admired her more though. She never talked of it and she was nothing but a positive life force from my perspective.
In one of these conversations with John, I believe in 2013, with John, he told me she would use the phrase “chidem inch” all the time. It is a contraction and bastardization of two other phrases “inch kidem – what do I know” or “chem kider – I don’t know.” From the moment he told me this, I have been fascinated with this phrase. I repeat it to myself all the time. It is a bit of old Armenia he resurrected and gave to me as a gift. Chidem Inch. What do I know? Indeed, what do I know? What a lovely title for whatever this bloggy book thing becomes.