Come whoever you are. Just come as you are
Turkey is the sixth most popular tourist destination in the world. It is a delightful mix of East & West, modern & traditional, young & old. And nothing epitomizes this better than Istanbul on the Bosporus. A Eurasian city astride two continents. It is a place of frenetic activity & leisurely pace. One feels the vibrant energy & sense of joie de vivre everywhere. It’s many charms ever so beguiling. Turkey’s largest city. Let these pictures do the talking.
Foreign language students
English is spoken & understood in very few of the cities & towns of Turkey. To that extent communication does pose a problem. At Cannakale I asked a group of women for directions to the jetty. I knew it was in the general vicinity but did not want to waste time going around in circles. The women spoke no English whatsoever. ‘ Just a little ’ gestured one & then they animatedly broke into what seemed a torrent of gibberish. Except that it was Turkish, not gibberish. ‘Wait’, I yelled, halting them in the tracks. I just heard you say ‘ishaara’. I understand that. I am from Hindustan. I understand ‘ishaara’. There were smiles all around as they followed me on to the road pointing the way to the jetty. Using sign language or ishaara. ‘Shukran’, I said. Thank you, followed by a wave of the hand & ‘gule gule’. Goodbye!
Experts believe that the Indo European group of modern languages originated in Anatolia, Turkey. This would of course include English, Turkish & Hindustani. Mr. Burak Akcapar, who is presently the Turkish ambassador in New Delhi has said that Turki & Hindustani have at least 9000 words in common. You bet they do, as I discovered trying to make myself understood in No English – In – Turkland. This understanding came upon me very slowly, aheste aheste. But it made travel – sefer – so much easier especially when chatting up women (avrat /aurat). Only (sirf) women, in some heart to soul (ruh) talk. Travelling alone this was not only useful but immensely interesting. What do women who are complete strangers (ecnebi/ajnabi) discuss? Our thoughts & feelings & the injustice done to us, obviously. Common words with the deepest meanings. Yani,- that is to say – words such as
akil – akal intelligence,
asik ashique lover,
avare awara vagabond
This above all. Azaad. O, for a life of freedom!
The world – dunya – appeared to shrink despite the wide chasm of the seas – darya – separating our shores – sahil.
The Cay/ Chai Boy
There are a host of general words that the reader will easily comprehend. The most familiar being vatan, hamam, meydan, hisap (hisaab), faqir, insan, saf, zalim, seytan. If someone were to commit a gunah he would be taken to an adalet or to the polisi with a seykayet against him.
Many of the inns sarays are owned & managed by Kurds who are a politically disgruntled minority. Away from their families they come to the cities in search of work. A lot of them taxi drivers. One has to watch out & keep alert or else get completely rooked. It’s the same old story all over the world ‘dost‘ So look yourself in the mirror ‘aina’ before getting judgmental
The bazaars are laden with goods from all over. And the dukan has practically everything from kitap to sabun to seker, sugar or shakkar. The stalls are full of absolutely taze ananas, badem, nar, pomegranate or anar there are cay chai shops, chaiwallahs & hamams. Away from your vatan you are a misafir here, a guest. We love you yar.
The Dervish before his performance
I had dinner one evening at Café Mesale in Sultanahmet. I had to be there by 8pm in time for a performance by a whirling dervish. A drink was ordered. Yes, sarap or sharab is readily available in this Islamic republic. The dervish appeared with his tombstone like headgear & white shroud & whirled with open arms, his right hand directed to the sky ready to receive the creators blessing & the left turned solidly towards the earth. He whirled & pivoted from right to left stating the fundamental belief that the human condition is meant to revolve & circulate. Like blood for instance. It was mesmerizing.
The whirling Dervish
The food at the café had a variety of taste & traditional flavor. Baharat is the word for spices in Turkish because spices originally came from Bharat, India in Hindi. Even today the spice markets are full of exotic spices from Hindustan as the Turks would have it.
When cultural vocabulary of any language creates special words to denote a special connection, we can truly say that we have entered each other’s consciousness. The same as other Hindustani words like vilayat or misr, for England & Egypt respectively.
So what shall I have to eat ? I think I’ll settle for sade/ plain tava baked bread, taze sebze/ fresh vegetables, and pehnir/cottage cheese. Kebab, Pilaf, Kiyma & Kofte. Thank you.
Is it any wonder then that the chief architect of India’s wonder of the world, the Taj Mahal, is none other than a gentleman named Isa Efendi. And you know what ? He came from Istanbul