I stayed in Istanbul, Turkey for four days last week. And came back with memories that will last a life-time.

Istanbul by night
Glorious corn for the freezing evenings
Ali, one of my Turkish brothers!

It was an official trip. But thankfully, the first two days were free for us to explore the city before we plunged into the nitty-gritty’s of what we were there for.

I knew nothing of Istanbul. Except for the fact that it is situated on two continents. It’s better, sometimes to do no research at all… you learn to enjoy a new city at your pace and move on from one experience to another without any pre-conceived notions.

Within a few hours of landing, I literally got a taste of things to come. At the hotel restaurant for lunch, a Turkish chef came up to me and politely enquired if I was Indian. He informed me that he had worked for a few months in Bombay and loved the place. For my ‘Indianness’ I got some vegetarian extras.

Like every other place in the world, I thought Turkey too would have Indians. A few Mallus maybe (no offence meant. Mallus are everywhere :-)). But all I found were genuine Indophiles. And lots of love and affection from the Turks for being Indian.

On our rounds of the city, at almost every bazaar or bylane, I encountered a ‘Are you Indian?’ followed by ‘beautiful country’. Sometimes, like at the Spice Bazaar, an enterprising vendor would grin broadly at me and make a statement, “Namaste. Indian. Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai!” At a café at the old Sultanahmet area, an old man broke into Raj Kapoor’s immortal ‘Awaara Hoon!’ One night, a policeman stopped me in the middle of the road. I frantically began searching for the passport in my bag when I heard the reassuring ‘Are you Indian’ once again. He said, “Wonderful place. I stayed in Benaras for a month!” Then there was Tezel Akbay, the lovely lady who helped us get onto a tram and guided us to our destination! The lack of a common language did not stop us at all… We had found a friend!

Tezel Akbay

The warmth was genuine. Nothing put-on about it! I was always welcomed with Turkish chai. And lots of love. Even if the ‘sister’ calling did get a little jarring at times!  Especially when it came from good-looking Turks 🙂 But what was endearing was people really wanted us to enjoy their city. And it didn’t come along with plugging insanely priced carpets or jewellery. “Have a look, and if you like, you can take back the memories with you,” was the constant refrain!

Arfan at the Grand Bazaar

I am definitely going back to Istanbul. For one, it has now become my brother-land 🙂 And because, I believe a city is as good as its people.

And, also… as Napoleon Bonaparte rightly said, “If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

Duniya Gol Hai!

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15 thoughts on “Merhaba. Namaste. Duniya Gol Hai (or the world is round!)

  1. rekha, your blog took me on a trip to istanbul. i have put it on my to see places list. and oh yes i know you werent exaggerating about the good looking guys. a great lure for aging women like me, i tell u 😉

  2. Wow…you make me WANT to go to Istanbul. The only reason I travel is to meet different kinds of people – and your post makes me want to visit this city!

  3. beautiful….. u have inspired me to make a trip to istanbul. may be info on gud looking turkish women may be little inspiring for us. 🙂

  4. Good one. Sure you visited the blue mosque. And I am told that the shop-keepers there could sell anything to anyone… very enterprising. Can even sell a fridge to a Igloo!

    Narayanan

  5. Travelling to and carrying back beautiful memories of the place has always been a part of our Travel Itinerary!!(twice a year). …….Be it in India or any other land.
    Istanbul is one among them and I intend going again .Reading your blog transported me to all those sites.

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