The Story Behind the Door – Literally!
Who would have ever thought that you can turn an antique house into a restaurant? Well, that idea happened to cross Chalak’s mind, and he made his idea into a reality. They say that pictures tell a thousand words, but at Chalak’s Place, it’s not just the pictures that hide untold tales and memories – about everything he has on his walls reveal a world of their own. When costumers dine at Chalak’s, their attention often wonders off to the bicycle on the wall, the random mirrors here and there, the awkward hanging beige blazer, and the Louis Vuitton suitcase. Awkward – that would be one way to describe Chalak’s decorating taste, but let’s admit it, that awkwardness never ceases to keep us interested. And all still want to know what’s the deal with all of the weird and unique things he has around his restaurant; it’s about time Kak Chalak gives us some answers!
Chalak has two primary passions in life – food and interior designing; he says those are the only two things he knows about (but those of us who know him know that’s not true, he’s just being modest). Regarding those two very important aspects of his life, Chalak believes that food is not just about taste and interior design is not just about beauty. He believes in the story behind the dish and the personal connection with the bicycle on the wall. Ask him about mustard, and he will blow away with one heck of a history lesson. One of the items in his restaurant that Chalak is fond of is the door leading to the balcony on the second floor, and he was kind enough and quite enthusiastic to let Awat readers in on the story behind the door (that’s where the title comes from):
“I’ve been told that the door is 150-200 years old, it belonged to my father’s house in Kirkuk located on Imam Qasim Street, and to be exact the place was called Hasiraka. It is very old, of course we still have the house where it came from. Since my father passed away in 1983, we’ve put that house up for rent and it is now home to three families. One of the families has sick members so they live there for free and are not required to pay rent; I think they are a family of five and three of them are disabled, the eldest daughter takes care of the disabled children, their mother has passed away. The other two families have a lot of kids.
During my first trip back to Kurdistan in 2007, I wanted to first return to the place of my birth. I wanted to go back to my father’s house. I remember when I lived there as a kid, that door looked more like a huge gate to me but I returned home I was surprised to find it to be small and nothing more than a normal door. It had been fourteen years since I had seen that door. Because that door was made a long time ago and it is very heavy, it doesn’t completely close when it is shut; there is always a gap under and around it.
I wanted to preserve the door when I saw it. I told the residents living in the house that with their permission I would take the door and replace it with a new one because it doesn’t close properly and because I want to preserve it. They were happy about my suggestion and agreed to have it removed and replaced. Now I had two reasons for wanting to take the door, one as I said before was to keep it safe and another reason is because my siblings and I have agreed to not sell my father’s property, primarily his house and anything belonging to it. We will renovate, but we will not sell. That door is all I have that is passed on by my father.
There are a lot of people who come to Chalak’s Place, most of them are young, and I want them to see these things from back in the day, so that they may be fixed and renovated, but replaced. They are a part of our past, a part of who we are, and they shouldn’t be forgotten.”
There you go ladies and gentlemen, that is the story behind Chalak’s old and mysterious door. It is a remnant of his past, a part of his childhood, a connection to his father. And this door is also Chalak’s way of reminding us to cherish our past as well. Every shred of wood on Chalak’s door is full of memories and emotions. The door used to welcome Chalak and his family home, the same way Kak Chalak now welcomes us to his restaurant.By: Bery Majeed Sulaimani, Kurdistan