Monday, October 10, 2011

zubaan-e-yaar-man turki, ho man turki nami daanam nami daanam, namidaanam, nami daanam oy

teri talaash mujh ko laayee kahaaN kahaaN se
sun le meraa fasaanaa ab to meri zubaaN se
main ne vahin vahin par sajde kiye hain tujhko
zulfoN ko tu uDaati guzri jahaaN jahaaN se
iraan ham ne dekhaa, dekhaa hai cheen ham ne
lekin kahin na dekhaa tujh saa haseen ham ne
koi bhi jab na payaa tere muqable kaa
awaaz tujh ko di hai o naazneen ham ne
o yaar zulfoN vaale dildaar zulfoN vaale
zulfon ne mujhko mara
zubaan-e-yaar-man turki, ho man turki nami daanam nami daanam, nami daanam, nami daanam oy

Yes that has been Istanbul and me for a while (thankyou Rafi, Asha and this incredible song from Ek Musafir Ek Hasina for providing me with the soundtrack to my Turki sojourn)

So what do I tell you about a city with winding alleys, an incredible skyline where azure slips into sienna melting into the red of bricks playing with the lapis of the water, and where history stands a sentinel to the Bosporus and Marmara Sea?

I had words so many words teeming in my mind as I wandered the streets but now that I look back, I am but dumbstruck by the beauty of those days, was that a dream? When can I go back again? My mother had once declared that when she grows old (real old she clarified, compared to Im guessing getting older that we all are) all she wants to do is live near Rumi's shrine and knit
her years away, (yes knit, so I can conclude even in old age sharafat ka daaman nahi chorhengey, and we will not do something as bohemian as dance or whirl tauba tauba) and I had retorted that the Toddler (and his mum) are needing a winter coat tau bibi knit hi karna hai tau **cough** cough** we could arrange for that to be done without anyone getting on a flight.

But I understand now the intoxication that is Turkey, and can perfectly understand people who abandon their families and this world, to take to the robes and prayer beads (and knitting needles for some) in a corner of a shrine.

Or drink coffee and Turkish halwa in a cafe all your life if you choose the Turkish Escape Fun Package Experience. Yes, something tells me I am signing up for that. I hear the Turkish also have a booming Turkish wine l industry so you can also make your coffee Irish err Turkish. OK so product endorsement  done with, what is there for those of you who want to get drunk on the visual beauty of the country. Exhibit A:

And as we walk in the Old City we pass a building that after its many incarnations is now a "technical school" overlooking a vista like this, that encouraged Gman into telling the Toddler Building ko gira ke 5 star hotel bana deyna chahiye, I hurry them both out.

There is a millennia of history on every corner, remnants of the Greek, the Roman, the Islamic civilization and when modern Europe met Asia, but then I'm sure every guide book tells you the same. It was very interesting to note a group of German tourists gathered excitedly around the German fountainwaqi me sari khudai ek taraf Wilhelm II ka gift ek taraf

Like many before us we queued in front of the Topkapi Palace in the Old City and the Dolmabahce across the bridge later. The Topkapi is a treasure trove for Islamic historias and frankly for any Muslim who isnt prone to attacking relics like the good Wahabi is. And just as I was with dinosaurs, ( I have always believed in them--they were in Jurassic Park weren't they, how can one doubt them,) it was only when I saw a dinosaur skeleton for the first time that I said to myself Woah! So there were dinosaurs! And so when I was standing in front of The Staff of Hazrat Musa  for just a second I thought to myself "There is! There is!" and later I walked into the chamber holding the Sacred Relics associated with the Holy Prophet, and thought of all the people who struggle and scrimp and save so they can view them, and here I was tagging along as attachment file and feasting my eyes on all of this, well lets just say I felt incredibly, incredibly blessed and promised myself to be good from now on when it comes to Gman and not make too much fun of him, and other noble intentions of that kind.

Now the only problem with places like Topkapi, other than no photography rule in spaces where you want to declare, Ive been! Ive been ! and here is a photograph of me to prove it! is the no wheels allowed in certain display,which for us means you cannot take strollers in. So say if your child is sleeping , and if you are as all parents do, also using his stroller to lug your backpack and the odds and ends and camera bag for the day, and you want to, lets say, have your husband accompany you as you are viewing the Crown Jewels and  sighing meaningfully near a display, WELL THAT AINT HAPPENING. So one member of the party has to stay outside guarding the stroller while the other pushes and shoves and stands in front of the, frankly you cant call them jewels, lets say the shining, multifaceted, glowing, bowling balls that must have been dropped by the gods on earth. And the jewellery, what jewellery! I have to tell you after this, if you were to think back of the Nizam of Hyderabad's cache or that of the Jaipur khandaan, all you can muster is something very polite like Hmmm, Nawab sahib ne beti ko alhamdolillah kafi munasib sa zevar diya tha

Jodha ne bahut maqool sa set pehna tha shadi par, they arent that big in their family I hear on giving or taking

that was quite an adorable bauble Victoria gave her daughter then, sniff!

Yup, the Turkish put the Jay in the Jewellery (turns green!)

The Treasury also has the bejewelled thrones, one "gifted" *cough* cough* (must do something about this throat of mine) by Nadir Shah when he was *cough cough cough* out in Delhi. And a fine Mughal throne it is, which makes one wonder about conquerors, and spoils of war, and wild wild house parties. And I wonder when the Begum walked into the room once Nadir Had Left The Building, did she sigh a little and wring her hands @#$$ sofa bhi le gaye kiya? Well that sofa and many a fine sample of jewels, gold, and precious stones are there to be seen. And once again the jewels, and the necklaces, and the ropes of pearls, and the diamond coffee cup holders, and the gold chains and the pendants the size of a new born child. So when they say the Padsha sat on the throne for a hundred years, of course he sat for a hundred years! it would take him twenty five years just to move his neck to the left with fifty kilos of jewels strung around it.

The hamam in the Dolmabahce Palace looks out to the blue sea, and there are pretty gardens, and Gman had loads of funny observations about the inside which I am now forgetting, and the Toddler was very excited about wearing plastic bags over his shoes, and we decided we should ask guests in our house to do the same too, for we love our carpets too. We had to queue up for an hour for tickets, and I wish someone appreciated the line "Hum jahan par kharey ho jatey hain line wahi se shroo hoti hai" no appreciation for the fine arts and culture I say.

Dolmabahce palace
shower caps over shoes, whats not to like?
We also took a day trip to the Prince's Islands, where the sahibzadas and nawabzadas and Second Cousin thrice removed were exiled when they became a bit unruly in olden days, and where the rich built vacation villas, and the Greeks had their monastery and Trotsky lived for a while too. And no vehicular traffic is allowed and one can pedal and take horse carriages everywhere. We did all that, and then sat in a window seat and looked out at this as we ate our lunch. So what does one have to do to be exiled here?
And the Toddler got to steer the ferry (or so he thinks) on the way back!

People had warned us that Istanbul would not be as child friendly as the rest of our holiday sites have been but as we stayed in a serviced apartment in the old part of the city, and ventured out once or twice to the cit-eh as you young folks would say, we did quite fine. And when we did , we saw this in Taksim Square, and well a cit-eh that loves its cats would do quite fine with me, thankyou.
So after travelling the Old and the Very Old, we embarked on Orhan's Istanbul. Yes, yes, the Toddler was quite excited about this bit, for he has been looking at the photographs in Pamuk's Istanbul all these months, and one day he started pointing them out as A-haan Pamuk, Brudder Pamuk, Uncle Pamuk and Aunty Pamuk. And we were all curious about his attachment to the Family Pamuk, and hoped he would meet him until I thought if we were as lucky as to run into him , it would make for a very disappointed 32 month old, for he would expect a six year old Pamuk and who pray tell me is this gentleman, he would ask? However, asking the locals for Orhan got me the kind of reactions as if I were to ask you about Chetan Bhagat (other than the Thinking Woman of course).
But I did go to Cihangir (pronounced Jehangir, oye!), and I did sit in the Savoy Patisserie on  Caddesi and sipped a cup of coffee and ate an eclair or two or three, but very delicately. Exhibit B:
So one doesnt know whether to sip from this or just stare at it for a long, long time

And walked along the streets and took these pics.

Tombs in Eyup

Speaking of Pamuk, if he derides a place as " a sort of Turkish Eastern Muslim Disneyland planted on the edge of the city" well you listen to the man OK? and so our afternoon in Eyup was not that nice. Yes, there was the tomb of Hazrat Abu Ayub al-Ansari, and many other   notables from the Turkish royal family and spiritual guides who are buried there but the whole place had the ambiance of being in Mall Road in Murree during the season.

And there was Hagia Sophia --which as The Toddler being all museum-ed out and in a particularly mischievous mood, thought was Mickey Mouse ClubHouse as told by his father! So while all of us oohed and aahed at the mosaics and the angels, some who had their faces sealed by certain puritans, and the giant medallions bearing the names of Allah, the Prophet, and the Caliphs and Grandsons Two (after *cough* cough* change of management) and Mary and Christ and John the Baptist and the dome and the Marble Door from when it was under Greek management, The Toddler went Oh Toodle Oh Toodle from hall to hall and I am sure all the tourists thought it was some Hellenic chant and looked respectfully)
Jesus from the Deesis mosaic

The Building now sadly dubbed as Mickey Mouse ClubHouse
Holy Mary and Child
Virgin and Child flanked by Justinian I and Constantine I

Set In Stone!

And there are remains of the basilica and urns and baths and edicts just like this which for all I know might mean Chariots Parked Here Will Be Taken Away or Yahan Par Peshaab Karna Mana Hai but it looks mighty impressive when it is written in stone, no? Hence the phrase Set In Stone duh?!!

And the Blue Mosque though from the Imitation is Best Form of Flattery school of architecture was still quite a pretty blue jewel in the Sultanahmet crown,
though it irritated me no end to see some British women posing for photographs, covering their faces with the blue stoles until only their eyes showed, while of course all us "Oppressed Oriental" women stood around besharam. I think the White Man rather than freeing us Brown Women from the tyranny of the Brown Man should just concentrate on rescuing his woman from a far greater tyranny of romanticism.

Though deriding Romantics of another kind, you still have to allow the desi in me to succumb to the romance of the minaret, the moon and the dome, sigh!

So before I sign off some parting notes! yes it was only when I arrived in Istanbul that I understood the Turkish and Persian penchant for a goblet, a platter of fruit within easy reach and reclining on a  carpet spread out under a grape vine with . Hain?  I would ask myself all this while, what was it with their fondness for fruit ; but after a day or two of walking around the city and building up a thirst which only a plate of cut watermelon could extinguish, yes I could now understand what they were going on about, as  many a day I would gorge on just fruit and tea. 

And though I have yet to experience the Turkish state of huzn (melancholy) , I can appreciate the husn beauty of the city enough to while weeks just staring into a cup of tea, a plate of peaches, that lovely bread and oh window displays after window displays of the sweets and spices.

They sell fish sandwiches off these under the Galata Bridge
P.S. And guess what did we run into in the Spice Market, yes a photograph of Ram Kapoor displayed in a shop front (though he signs his photographs as Walia)


  1. Must book flight to turkey.

    Sigh, you should write for a travel magazine.lovely pictures.

    Did the toddler not have tantrums?
    He sounds so well behaved.

  2. my dream trip :) 3 days is so not going to be enough :)

  3. Looks like you and your family had a fantastic time! Turkey sounds so charming indeed :-)

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  4. you put in turkish halwa and i stopped reading at that and then those photos... naaaaaaaaaaaaice. what did you buy for A?

    i loved the turkish idea of melancholy -- they have a word for that? elaborate pls...:-)

  5. @MiM: Pliss to read Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul about more on this. Though I think they protesteth much

  6. Indeed, Turkey is a fascinating place to visit. Its rich culture is rooted in ancient Greek, modern Western and Islamic traditions.


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