Found Love Along the Bosphorous

  • Javid Parsa
  • Publish Date: Feb 23 2017 9:02PM
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  • Updated Date: Feb 23 2017 9:02PM
Found Love Along the Bosphorous

Probably the most important thing I want to talk about is the people of Turkey. They are the most warm and hospitable people I have ever come across

 

How often does it happen that you visit an entirely new place with a business at hand, and come back with a heart full of love. That was Turkey to me.

To have found the love for myself and for Kashmiris in general, to have found an understanding for the conflict and for our pain, this trip was an awakening, a realisation of something very new.

I was in Istanbul to attend a Leadership Training Programme, and my schedule allowed me around three days off to look around. But such was the beauty of the place and the people that I ended up staying a week longer.

Istanbul is home to delicious food, breath-taking architecture and some of the warmest, most hospitable people that I have ever met. Every shop you walk into or any lane you walk on, you will be greeted with a smile. The place reminded me of home in every way so much so that I can imagine myself living there.

Turkey had been on my bucket list since the longest time. It was the stories that I had heard and all the movies I had watched that I always dreamt of going there. The mystic dervishes, the blue mosque and a real life experience of The Museum of Innocence all seemed to attract me. I was besotted and over the years nurtured a dream to be in Türkiye. All this while I had little idea about the people and general ideas around. All I really cared about were the places, the food, all the things I could see and click pictures with. One trip around the place and all of it took a backseat. It was its people that left an indelible mark on my heart.

 

Istanbul was the only city I spent my time in, but because it was a long time around, I ended up gathering a lot of knowledge looking around and meeting as many people as possible.

First up I visited the Sultan Ahmet Mosque popularly known as the Blue Mosque. Ethereal, with its beauty no picture can justify, the blue mosque was larger than life. I deliberately booked a hotel with its rooms overlooking the mosque, so that every morning when I would wake up, I would look at it and know that I was living my dream.

Next was the visit to the beautiful Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and the wondrous Istanbul Museum of Modern Art. Nothing matches the experience of having witnessed marvels around these places.

Then came the much awaited trip to The Museum Of Innocence, the companion to Orhan Pamuk’s book by the same name. Nothing better than seeing objects from a book you have read, come to life. The museum is pure genius!

After a trip there, came the climb up the Galata Tower over-looking the city. You have to be there to witness the beauty of the view. The dotted houses, the silent streets and the mighty Bosphorous all weaving the prettiest picture together.

This tempted me to take a ferry ride on the waters of Bosphorous. Feeding the birds and just looking around the beauty of the city was overwhelming. Shopping at the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Spice Bazaar is something you will remember for all the varieties of things up for sale. One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world and with around three thousand shops they have everything from Turkish delights, spices, ceramics, leather goods, carpets to souvenirs and clothes. The sheer size of the markets and all the colours and things around left me spellbound.

Food was the highlight of my trip. Kebabs, kofté, dürüm the list does not end. All this at pocket friendly prices. Turkey has one of the world’s greatest cuisines because of its diversity, long history, and the legacy left behind by an imperial kitchen. 

What really helps you around is that Istanbul is not a very expensive city. Everything from hotels, public transport and food is all very reasonably priced. It is travellers’ heaven.

Probably the most important thing I want to talk about is the people of Turkey.

They are the most warm and hospitable people I have ever come across. 

Smiles always greeted me, people always stopped to direct me along routes, those who did not understand English pulled out their phones to access the translator and there were also those who looked up Maps on their phones to show me the way. They always stopped to help, explaining every little detail.

Istanbul felt like home. There were faces that looked familiar, there was the spirit of moving along stronger after any calamity that hit. I was in the city when the barbaric shooting took place at a nightclub on new year’s eve. That night the city was silent, grief in the air. The next day people still showed up at work, on roads, clearly depicting courage and giving a message that nothing would scare them or pull them down. For a place that witnessed many acts of violence in the recent times, people showing up outside was a real act of courage.

 

Looking around at how people understood the situation and dealt with it, I couldn’t help but think of people back in Kashmir, all the similarities in the attitudes between people miles apart.

I think this is what grief does to you. When you see your people die and your place caught in the tangles of conflict and violence, you choose to not give in. You strive to march forward stronger.

That said, what really amazed me was the amount of knowledge they have about Kashmir and the concern they have for the conflict stricken people of Kashmir. When I talk of this, I do not mean a couple of aware and learned women and men, I mean many people.

Every-time I told a new person I met, that I was a Kashmiri, they would flood me with their knowledge about Kashmir. It was not just about the mountains and the snow or the Dal and the shikaras, they knew of Kunan Poshpora and the massacres and of our conflict and of azaadi.

They would sit down and talk to me about my experiences and tell me theirs.

Respectfully lending a ear to all the stories I told, some patted my back and some embraced me in a hug, telling me things would be fine. The place was not strange to me anymore. It felt like I belonged there. I was among people who chose to listen to me and who understood me. They were people who would teach me from their own experiences. Just like people back home would!

In their talks I witnessed solidarity. There was feeling of knowing, of understanding, like one of my Turkish friends Furkan wrote in a message he sent me the day I left:

“There is something about Kashmir that I cannot explain. It’s like an ancestral calling. You guys are like relatives from a thousand years ago.”

And that was how in a matter of days I discovered something I never thought of finding in the place of my dreams, I found love along the Bosphorus!

 

CEO Parsa Foods and Beverages Private Limited / Owner cum Managing Director Kathi Junction, Sarah City Center, Srinagar. Can be mailed at javidparsa@ymail.com