Turkey – marriage of the East with the West

Time and again, I have often felt the need to disconnect and once again when this thought besought me, I took off – this time, smitten by the ruins of the Ottoman and Byzantian Empire, I visited Turkey to experience the unique blend of its diverse Greco-Roman & Islamic culture with the offshoots of the Western world. Turkey is the crossroad, the meeting point of two continents, Asia and Europe. It is a truly cosmopolitan place, an age-old crossroads where European charm is forever having a love affair with Oriental mystique. It is a gateway between the new and the old, a unique blend of modern and traditional.

I visited Cappadocia and Istanbul – two very diverse places with absolutely different offerings – one is peaceful and serene, the other vibrant and alive.

Cappadocia’s landscape is unlike any other place and arouses images of fairy chimneys, geological wonders, the tranquil valleys and skyful of colourful hot air balloons.

Istanbul connects the two continents, the Old City and Galata districts from the European side which are connected to the Asian side by several bridges. Istanbul is surrounded by beautiful sparkling water, the Sea of Marmara or Bosphorus – adding a gorgeous dimension to it.

Turkey boasts of several historical monuments and gastronomical delight. A mecca for shoppers, it mesmerises the mind and captures the heart. The vibrant colours of the city, its rich art – soulful music and dance – allures one and all, offering something for everyone in its mystical ways.

The Historical heritage 

Ayasofya or Hagia Sophia Mosque, view of its interior

hagia sofia mosquehagia sofya inside

Sultanahmet Camii or Sultan Ahmed Mosque also called the Blue Mosque, one of its arcs

sultanahmet or blue mosquesultanahmat mosque from inside

Inside Sultan Ahmed and Hagia Sophia

inside sultanahmatthe work

Rüstempaşa Camii or Rüstem Pasha Mosque, its exquisite interiors made with Iznik tiles

RustemPashainside RustemPasha

Interiors of Rustem Pasha and the well lit Hagia Sophia

inside rustempasha mosquehagia sofya inside!

Galata Kulesi or Galata Tower and Yerebatan Sarayı (Sunken Palace) or Basilica Cistern  

galata towerbasilica cistern

Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı) or Topkapi Palace, a fountain inside the palace

topkapi palaceinside topkapi

Minaret at Hippodrome and at the Blue Mosque

tower at hippodromeminaret of blue mosque

Frescoes (Paintings) in churches carved in Ihlara Valley (Ihlara Vadisi), the remains of saint at the Goreme Open Air Museum

church paintingsremains of ottoman king

Panoramic and Spectacular landscapes

Bosphorus

bosphorus!bosphorus Bosphorus in the evening and by the night

by the bosphorusbosphorus!!

Churches and Chimneys churches in the rose valley

the caves and churcheschurch at rose valley

Fairy chimneys

chimneyschimney

The valleys at Cappadocia and Asian side of Bosphorus

rose valleythe asian side  

The Flavours!!!!

The Beverages  

Çay (Turkish tea) and  Kahve (Turkish coffee)

çay - turkish teakahve - turkish coffee

Cherry juice and Orange juice

cherry juiceorange juice

The Main Course

Testi Kebabi – Pottery kepab and vegetables. Cooked in clay pots and served with an assortment of naan, rice, salad and lemon

Testi Kebabi - clay potclay pot

Testi Kebabi - Pottery kepab and vegetablesserved with Testi Kebabi

The Desserts

Lokums (Turkish Delights)

Lokum - Turkish delightslokums - turkish delights

and Baklavas

turkish baklavasBaklavas

Pistachio Aşure (sweet rice pudding), Flavoured Aşure

Pistachio Aşureflavoured Aşure

Dondurma (Turkish Ice cream)

dondurmadondurma - turkish ice cream

The Street Food

Turkish Bagels and  Roasted Nuts

Turkish Bagelsroasted nuts

The vivacious colours of shopping

Mısır Çarşısı or Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar) and Grand Bazaar or Büyük Çarşı

spice bazaargrand bazaar

Spices and the aromas

spices at spice bazaarspice at spice bazaar

Tea for all reasons and cures

turkish teasassorted teas Some for healing and some for ‘love’

the blends and brewslove teas

Delectable Turkish delights in some exotic flavours too

baklavas and glazed fruitsturkish viagra

Mementos to ward the evil eyes off

mementos, magnetsnazar degmes

Hand painted porcelain wares – to embellish the walls

paints in porcelain !!!porcelain hangings

some to make eating more fun

paints in porcelain !paints in porcelain

To adorn the feet – for the young and younger ones

the tradional bootslocal shoes

The lanterns to light up in many hues

the lantern trailthe lamps

Tinted candle-holders

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????candle holders

Turkish carpets and rugs

hand woven carpetskaleen - turkish carpets

Rare stones and gems to indulge

the gemsthe jewellery

And some fresh blooms too

the blooms!the blooms

Even the streets are strewn in multiple hues – some real, some not

colourful buildings at sultanahmetthe blooms!!!!

The fun,frolics and adventure

Hot air balloon ride

hot air balloon ridehot air balloon ride!hot air balloon ride!!hot air balloon ride!!!

Making pots with porcelain and fishing on the street

designing potspeople fishing

Feeding the pigeons and dancing away at Club Reina

pigeon feeding at taksimclub reina

These are just some of the innumerable things I saw. Turkey has so much to experience and absorb that one trip will be doing disservice to self.

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Just unmarried, not dead!

enough

My parents, my family, my well-wishers, my friends
Today I want to ensure our love lost ends.

The reason why we have gone apart
Is the hurt caused even though we had each other’s best at heart.

You want me to marry and settle as per convention
To follow norms and all our tradition.

Do not get angry or treat me with pity
Am happy and content and don’t need any sympathy.

I will get married some day
To a man who makes me happy and who’s been worth the wait.

I too have a desire to be with a spouse
Someone to share my life with, my love and even a house.

He will be someone who likes me for who I am
Someone who truly deserves to be my man.

I understand your anxiety, your concern, your fears
Of the time passing by and the forever growing years.

But just because am growing old
Do not thrust any man in my life to behold.

I am your girl who has done you proud
Fought the odds and stood apart from the crowd.

You have always taught me to be capable enough
To not let the world take me for granted or treat me rough.

Even when I falter and my faith in self is put to test
You’ve stood by me and assured me that I should seek only the best.

Today I want to remind you that am still the same girl and not some woman arrogant
Full of dreams  and hopes and not someone who demands more than her entitlement.

Don’t take my hesitance, when meeting these men, as my overconfidence
It’s just that the men, I’ve met, and me, have not found each other to our acceptance.

Am not demanding as everyone has tainted me to be
Am just looking for some connection and a man who can be a companion to me.

Even though, after a decade or more of meeting suitors I’ve not got hitched
It’s nothing that I said or asked but it’s their attention that I missed.

Often I have thought to rid you from the pressures of society
To end your pain by marrying the man you bring to me.

But if the man chooses to not choose me
I pray you believe that it wasn’t meant to be.

It was His will as you say
To hold my life from going astray.

Even to my friends I want to confess
Every word of advice you give me has saved me from mess.

You’ve taken me and everything in my life as your own
For always holding on to me and never let me feel alone.

You know me better than anyone, infact know me inside out
Therefore it amazes me, when my intent to marry, you doubt.

I know my anxiety, my difficult behaviour and nervousness
Each and everytime, whenever there is a new prospect.

You want me to be myself and not worried
Yet you rush my decision and get me hurried.

Don’t label my virtues as my vices
You know, for me, a true heart is all that suffices.

He is not the last man and there will be many
All I ask is for one who is like you all – sweet, candid and funny.

Marriage is the union of two souls, am told
Not any alliance based on compromises untold.

Then give me a fair chance to seek my man
And not bind me by rules, conditions or time span.

Please remember things happen as decreed and as per God’s will
I will get the one who is meant to be, just be patient still.

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And death became her

Away

My closest friend committed suicide when we were barely 20. I often visit her; visit us; living the moments that we spent together and creating the moments that we may have lived in our older age.

A decade has passed and time and again, I find me asking the same questions –

Why did she ever have to resort to suicide?
Why didn’t she speak to any of us?
What was her pain?
What was so strong in her life that disturbed her as much that all our love could not compensate?
Was it really the pain that took her away or was it some anger?
Would she have toiled in letting go of that last breath or was she relieved when she succumbed to death?
Did she even realise what she was doing?

I have gone over these thoughts innumerable times and yet I have no clues why did she do this? The worse, there never will be any answer whatsoever.

There are days, even now, when am so angered at her decision of taking her life; and as she took hers, she took away a part of ours too. She left us with a broken soul in the forever company of anguish, sadness, anger and helplessness.

On other days when I feel her vulnerability, I realise that perhaps her pain was unbearable and she was tormented so much that this is the only way she saw a release. It couldn’t have been easy for her. She must have ached, perhaps even loathed herself, in leaving her mother and father behind as she did. It was her way to deal with her predicament – she chose a ruthless permanent way out from her transient impermanent problem.

However much I empathise with her, she shouldn’t have had ended her life. The least she could have done was pick up the phone and spoken to us – we were her closest friends. She shouldn’t have been so cold blooded about the act. Had she thought this over or perhaps even postponed it a little, she would be here with us – talking to us about the lack of/presence of a man in her life, or how monstrous her boss is, or the places she would like to travel or even go shopping with us to pick up ribbons for the twin daughters she always wanted.

She was a vivacious girl. Under her innocent face, was this devil prankster. Looking at her no one could imagine if she was capable of any mischief but she was a live wire. She wanted to live for her parents, for her dreams, for her love. She wanted to run corporate, raise kids, and be her parents’ aid in their old age. If her reasons for living were so strong, were her reasons for dying stronger? Or did she stop living before she actually did die? Was the hatred or anger stronger than the love which so many of us have for her?

Her reasons were her own and they have dissipated with her. Even if there was a reason, it will not be able to offer any comfort. She abruptly pulled the strings, denying us our very right to know if she even knew what she was doing. She took away everything of hers like she never even existed. She left us all infuriated and full of guilt – guilt of not being able to forgive her or forgive ourselves.

Despite all this, I know she deserves forgiveness and acceptance of her decision. Am not sure if I’ve let gone of her treacherous act but I think I’ve forgiven her.

Today, as I embrace her, I feel her reciting Canon Henry Scott Holland’s words

Death is nothing at all
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you have always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Pray, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was, let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant, it is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

 

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Addicted to friends

F.R.I.E.N.D.S

 

I admit, I am addicted;
insanely attached and habituated.

Am obsessed, I shamelessly confess,
needing them at every step of my life’s progress.

They are my friends or my soul they seem to be;
adding colours to my life, making it more meaningful and pretty.

My friends are my pillars of strength, my valour, my encouragement;
the ones I cry with, share my joys with and resentments.

Through heartaches and failures, we’ve grown together;
even though older, we’re not much wiser.

I have to tell them everything with as much drama as possible,
sharing every detail, recreating the scene and narrating with zeal.

Just telling them about the smallest of things,
brings in a new flavour, adds a zing.

We do not spend the same amount of time like before,
do not even see each other for years but pick up like life never took off.

Many a times, still today, a snatch of an old song, or the passing visual of a memory faint
Sometimes, I hear the sound of a gaggle of laughter and can almost touch them again.

Making each minute and every moment special,
their contribution to my life is irreplaceable.

They are the ones who have made me the person I am,
keeping faith in my abilities, telling me I can.

They show me the person I want to be,
they raise me to the person I can be.

These people are my definition of happiness;
they are the ones who own me.

They are my forever, my constant
my pride, my check, my confidence.

These people, who I call my friends,
complete me, complete my universe.

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The stork cometh

stork

Just one of those days when I was working till late at night, on a presentation, and I get this messenger alert from a very close friend. Ofcourse, it is a welcomed distraction.

We are generally chit-chatting and not even two minutes into the chat, my friend announces –“I AM PREGNANT.”

For a split second, I did not think I really noticed what she wrote but then it started to surface. These words, written in BOLD script stood there, just there and I felt my hands too cold, my fingers felt numb to type anything – I was just frozen.

My friend waited anxiously on the other side of the chat, probably even twiddling her thumbs, waiting for an equal, if not more, chirpy response like – I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND or atleast a simple ‘Congratulations!’ but all she got was ‘REALLY???? HOW COME?

If she didn’t know me better, she would have accused me for being a bitch or so cold but she knows me well and she knew I’d take a few more minutes to collect my thoughts and will turn around.

As expected, she did wait for me and I did wish her with all my heart but I know there was something different in here. (I wasn’t sure how excited I was actually, but I still put on a brave face saying I was excited but I knew I was uneasy.)

Her excitement was obvious and beautiful — but I was shocked by the way I felt. Beneath my happiness I knew I was feeling weird. It’s just made me realise that its people like me who should be ashamed of the ugly way we respond to what is such a happy news.

This is not the first time someone’s made a baby announcement; I have my cousins, my sisters, other friends who have had babies or are about to have them. But why did I feel so awkward, so weird this time? I knew I was happy but why the nervousness?

I thought it over and over again – was it because I wondered she was my friend since decades and we’ve been inseparable? If that was the case, when she got married, I should have hated her husband for having to share my time with him but on the contrary, I like him.

The devil’s advocate in me jeered saying it could be because am jealous. Jealous really, was I jealous? How can I be? I will be the baby’s godmother and then am jealous of my own god child? I was devastated – devastated of my behaviour, my reaction. Being jealous of an unborn child is preposterous!! No, not for heaven’s sake.

I kept on introspecting, kicking myself for feeling so. It dawned on me I wasn’t envious of the child, I am just worried. The more I thought, the more scared I got, what will happen if the child turns to me for help. Will I be able to guide him/her right? Will I be able to love him? What if I fail to be there when he needs me – my own anxieties got the worse of me.

It is my closest friend who will be having a baby now and that would mean that I will have to be a grown up too. Until now, the two of us have hardly done anything sensible (she got married but that’s not relevant) – we’ve lamented on our past, cried on happy memories, laughed till our sides ached, got drunk or attempted to get drunk, driven like maniacs – just about everything. We are still our daddy’s girls and now to think of being responsible for a little one – is jittery. Less for me but more for my friend (thank god the husband is sensible).

The other thing I realised which bothered me was that my relationship with my old and dear friend is about to change. This is what was making me scared. From now on, she will be a mother first before anything else. I accept I was petrified losing my friend, petrified she will change. My apprehensions that for the next four-five years, she will not have any time for me or my accomplishments or problems will not be worth her attention or she will now find new friends who are either parents already or about to be one.

But I know am not alone. I know she has similar anxieties. She’s frightened of losing her friends, losing her husband’s attention or even losing herself but she is much calmer and more accepting. (I just appear calm but underneath the calm exterior, am writhing.)

When I talk to her, her radiant self shows through – she is still the same – sweet and mischievous – the same girl I met on my first day of college and then I finally find assurance – an assurance within me that nothing has or will change between my friend and me – we will always grow till we grow old and die. We will now enter another phase in our journey as friends, raising the bar higher – she as a mother and me as her child’s aunt. My life will always be important to her just her priorities will change. (Dammit, they better change). This new tiny thing will be her universe and we all will adore it like nothing or no one else.

For me, the-yet-to-be-born already holds a special place in my heart even when it isn’t here. I hope and pray that as the Godmother, I can guide him, cherish him and love him because I know he will make our world prettier by just being there. You are still 200 plus days away from us but we know that the stork is on its way and we are waiting for our bundle of love, hope, blessings!!!

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Do you remember?

A gush of gentle breeze,
The sound of rustling leaves;
 
Smell of the first rain,
Embrace from your mother which eased the pain;
 
The ringing of the school bell,
Awaiting results, praying you’d do well;
 
 A lecture missed,
A stolen kiss;
 
The first day ever spent with your beloved,
Now when you look back, find your emotions flooded;
 
The joy of finding a ten rupee note in the pocket of your old jeans,
Faking being upset when your friends spilt the beans;
 
The never-ending talks, those midnight calls,
Holding on to the phone till morning crawled;
 
The last day of college, bidding adieu holding sobs,
The nervousness at the first day of that new job;
 
An encouraging pat, a meaningful chat,
The look of assurance and belief from your dad;
 
A warm smile from a stranger,
The thrill of narrowly escaping danger;
 
Walking past a shop hearing your favourite song play,
Holding on to a cup of hot tea on a rainy day;
 
 A short two-min call from your loved one,
After a cold day, a glimpse of the sun;
 
The feeling of warmth from someone you love,
The withering away of tensions from a child’s hug;
 
Realising life is not about that one big night or day,
It is these moments which take your breath away!
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Wakefulness

In the calm of the night when the world sleeps
I find myself restless as the mind leaps
 
I try asking, even probe to look within
But all I get back is nothing, much to my chagrin
 
What is it that possesses my thoughts
Have tried to reason it out but always lost
 
Do I feel the need to speak but find my throat hoarse
Often wonder should I not let it be as the words will find their own course
 
Have tossed and turned through umpteen nights
But have never figured what are my plights
 
People tell me I should let go of whatever I’m thinking
So as to ease my mind and leave it resting
 
It makes me wonder and abandons me to pondering
There’s nothing for me to deliberate which furthers the baffling
 
I can’t shake the feeling of helplessness
Which comes upon me with the ache of wakefulness 
 
But something the night offers which the day cant
‘Tis this weary silence that touches the heart
 
In the quietness that surrounds, to the subconscious it travels
Caresses my innermost senses, cajoling them to unravel
 
Whispering tales, some secrets or even sharing its pain
Let’s me feel that my hours awake did not completely go in vain
 
My mind has come to rest, feeling afresh and renewed
Suddenly it dawns on me that it’s time for another night to bid adieu!
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