As much as this is a time for such pomp and glory, the typical Indian wedding is not bereft of its own problems.
A glimpse of many years ago and the experience, which even today is so vivid in Maya’s mind can become some of the realities of an Indian wedding.
Sunil’s family (Maya’s future husband) were his parents ( a retired father and a housewife mother) and three children of which the oldest was the guy, Maya met and consented to marry when the question was popped.
Maya had a past that Sunil was aware of and constantly reminded her that it didn’t bother him and was of no relevance to his family as he was the one marrying her and not them. Little did Maya know that this statement was far from the truth, a reality that hit her quite quickly afterwards.
Maya had met the family and was assured that the family were happy to accept her as the new member. She was asked an opinion and since her future husband (with the few flaws that she saw) was someone she could talk to, could laugh with and someone who she connected with, consent was a quick nod of her head.
The badgering started soon after. There was no time when Maya wasn’t asked if a date had been fixed, why would she delay the wedding, we want this finalised etc. No phone call if any went without this question, to the point that a month was thrown at them to detract them. No sooner than they were 6 months away from that month, the questions started again. The constant irritant in Maya’s life which she couldn’t get away from.
The mother wears the pants in this house and she is the one who is control – in control of the lives of all. The Father carries on and throws his tantrums ever so often, in an attempt to establish his presence. Sarcasm is second skin and can be quite scathing in his remarks.
The insight into Maya’s in laws is to give you a glimpse of the demands that were made for a wedding date. So much that Sunil succumbed to the pressure and agreed to their requirements forgetting the legal side and the complications of the Hindu Marriage Act.
Common sense is not so common they say and it escaped Maya’s dictionary in a moment of weakness when she said December 2007.
From July, she was constantly asked if the date was fixed and if her family would arrange for the wedding. As you may guessed for reasons that are best known to Maya and Sunil, they were not ready for a Dec 2007 wedding, but there was no backing out. Maya was completely trapped, long chats yielded no results and finally quite ashamed of herself, she went with the plan.
Living away from her family, Maya had created a make believe world of work/ friends and colleagues who were the most integral part of the life she led. She was not encumbered by the rituals and customs of a typical Indian girl, she lived life on her own terms. The only solace in all this was her life would continue in this way once she puts the wedding behind her and she returns to her world.
Maya visited her parents, took their blessings without informing them and then packed her bags with expensive sarees and jewellery for a wedding sans her creators.
Through the short flight from home to the city where the wedding was planned, she was battling demons. Am I doing the right thing. Is the pressure warranted? Will this be back to bite ? If they don’t support me, will they understand at all? Was it too late? While these questions tossed around her mind, tears welling in her eyes, she heard the landing announcement and the touchdown was the fastest ever experienced. 5 mins later Maya was walking out of the airport and he heart skipped a beat….there in front of her stood Sunil. She had tears in her eyes as he hugged her and deep in her heart she knew that she wanted to be with him but at what cost? Life was a tangled mess of emotions, relations and everything other than Maya and Sunil.
The ride to his brother’s apartment was a good 1hour away. The conversation was limited yet, only they knew the emotional roller coaster they were on. Drama was high, expectations and needs were the order of the day. Sunil wanted the best for Maya, his life, he knew he needed to give her time, but….things had gone beyond his control . He wanted Maya to remember this day, a new beginning for her and cherish the moments, but this was not to be.
Some of the requirements were justified, understand that a wedding is the time for pomp and show of a family…..the list was endless. Sarees and gifts for all the aunties (this could mean relatives, friends and even ladies that they had never heard off), the elaborate decorations and arrangements that the family wanted, even if this was meant to be a simple no frills affair….the extravagant lunch and dinner menus for a few thousand invitees (the joke was not to have a wedding on a Sunday) and before you realise it, the savings of the past few years has evaporated, not while building your future, but while pleasing the family so that they can revel in pride of a wedding that is talked about, until the next one!
The honk of the taxi as they reached their destination, brought Maya back to reality, she was getting married the next day. The bags were deposited in foyer of the house, there seemed to be a million faces in there and the frenzy of activities bowled her over. The sudden cries of “the bride is here ” reverberated around the house and everyone stopped to look. Maya blushed, and demurely folded her hands in the typical Indian style of reverence – the namaste!
She was soon whisked away by the numerous cousins and friends to partake in the activities around the house. Always smiling, always full of life, she easily drifted in, while her eyes kept darting around to catch a glimpse of Sunil. Her heart longing for a few moments alone with him, the last few stolen moments with him before the mele.
Soon wedding dresses were on display, the numerous outfits that had to be changed and the young fashion conscious girls were matching the jewellery that Maya had gathered over these years in anticipation of this day. Gold and diamonds glittered and the the women folk were dazzled by the ornate pieces of jewellery. The grannies wanted all the jewellery to be worn in a display of wealth, while the younger gen had other plans for Maya di.The henna design was the only agreement as tradition overpowered even the most modern…!
As the evening set in, the doors of the house were left open for the constant stream of visitors…there didn’t seem to be a single room where there were no strangers! Along with cool December breeze wafted in, the aroma, a heady mix of the scent of flowers, the incense sticks and the scent of cooking – cardamom and the other spices!
Maya had her hands covered in henna designs, the soft breeze was fluttering wisps of her hair on her face. The colour of the henna was staining her palms to a bright red. The glow from the oil lamps that bedecked the corridors and the rooms, flickered and cast their dancing forms in shadows.
The heavy silk brocade sarees that the older women wore; the rustle of the silk and georgette ghaghras that the young girls floated in; the sparkle of gold; the string of jasmine that adorned the hair. The atmosphere was festive and people rushed about with their last minute chores. – be it shouting orders to the caterers,more errands to run and making arrangements for the rituals in the morning.
The constant flow of guests arriving at the airport, the train station and even in their own cars didn’t seem to stop. Hotels/ friend’s place and even with other relatives seemed to be options for the night before, stay.
Maya was being ushered into a room to catch up some sleep so that she could look her best on the big day. The hustle and bustle didn’t seem to ebb. The food, drinks, laughter and music continued into the wee hours. An Indian wedding could span into 3 or 5 day ceremonies depending upon the family. Maya and Sunil wanted a low key wedding but were roped into an ostentatious 2 day affair. The Sangeet and the henna ceremony had been rolled into one on their insistence.
The mandap for the traditional Hindu rituals had been set up and was decked in auspicious marigold and sweet smelling jasmine, in the middle of the garden. The golden gauze curtains fluttered in the pleasant morning breeze as the silver and bronze lamps and vessels glinted in the morning sun.The layout was stunning and the atmosphere created by the chants of the pundits was divine. There was peace and calm amongst the chaos of the wedding and the mandap felt like the sanctum sanctoram of a temple.
Elsewhere, there were frenzied activities as the Hindu weddings are performed at auspicious time determined by the stars and the astrological predictions – time was of essence.
Maya was draped in her heavy brocade sari and the jewellery laid out would require another hour to dorn. She had no make up on with the exception of of black kohl that brought a glint to her large brown eyes and a hint of colour on her lips. The sari complimented her skin tone and made Maya look ravishing. Her hair was braided and tied up and Maya looked very much the demure Indian bride.
She had a smile on her lips and tears in her eyes as she went about the morning in a trance. Deep down, her heart was heavy, her soul was not with her and the only person who understood this was Sunil. All the messages since the night before professed his love for her and how they would overcome all the challenges ahead. Sunil promised Maya everything that life could ever give. They had sat in different corners of the house texting each other with an outpouring of emotions.
The chants continued and the air was filled with the aroma of camphor, burning ghee and incenses. The rituals were in full swing and Maya was soon called to take her place on the mandap. Sunil would be there first, seated and participating in the prayers.
All eyes were on Maya as she gracefully walked up to the mandap flanked by the young girls of the family. Sunil’s best mate and his wife gave away the girl in a ceremony called the kanyadhan, at the start of the wedding rituals.
The next twenty minutes passed in the blink of an eyelid as Maya went through the instructions given. She was praying for longevity in marriage at times, she was circling the fire to seek blessings and at other times she was following Sunil through the various steps of marriage…a union that was being solemnised in the presence of fire, signalling a new chapter in her life. The drum beats and the pipes signalled the union when the mangalsutra was tied and as Sunil applied the red vermillion on the parting of Maya’s hair, a tradition in an Indian Wedding. The shower of flowers, and blessed grains of rice, the wishes from all around and now it was time to seek the blessings of the elders.
Maya kept the smile on her lips as she sought blessings, touching the feet and many times it was a tight hug and whispered wishes. He was the only one she felt connected to in this crowd. A stream of people walked up to congratulate them, and the next two hours passed in a blur. Uncles and aunties took this time to narrate stories from Sunil’s childhood, while some others were passing invitations for a meal to the newly weds.
The video cameras whirred and moments were being captured on celluloid, while flash bulbs continued to blind Sunil and Maya. Friends, family and well wishers gathered for the pictures while the lunch buffet was opened up.
All the stress of the past two days had killed their appetite, however Maya and Sunil were being offered plates by all. Politely declining the offers, Maya and Sunil instead walked around the guest who were enjoying their lunch.
As in every Indian wedding, food was a plenty and the live stations included chat corners and South Indian snacks. One couldn’t miss the non veg section with its aromatic biryanis, chicken and meat delicacies, while the vegetarian section saw a medley of rich cream laden curries and breads. The desert corner was another dreamland – every Indian desert one could think off was spread out for those with a sweet tooth, kulfi, rasmalai, jalebi, gulab jamuns and the list was endless.
By mid afternoon, as guests started leaving, some were off to find a corner in the house where they could catch a few winks, while the caterers slowed down the refills. It was back to family time again and all that Maya wanted was to get out of the wedding finery and slip into her comfortable clothes, unbraid her hair and let it fall loose.
This is moment that will remain etched in Maya’s memory for ages. The whole family was around relaxed as the house seemed to return to normal, when out of the blue her father in law made a comment that landed like a ton of bricks. With no warning, with no premonition, he simply stated that he would insist that his second son gets married with a dowry – an Indian practice where the brides family has to meet demands from the groom and his family for cash, gifts and even houses.
Maya was not just shocked, she was taken aback with this statement as she knows the lengths that she has gone to for this wedding. Between her and Sunil, there were many a heart to heart discussion on the economic differences in the two families and all that Maya wanted was to share her life and every moment with Sunil. These materialistic conversations were not important to her, but now she knew the impact. She had looked towards Sunil helplessly, but Sunil chose to ignore….and his only comment was that this was a joke! An expensive joke for Maya as her world came crashing down hours after the fan fare that she had planned to keep her in laws happy. She hoped that the life she had chosen would not be a joke on her in the years ahead!
Growing up as an innocent young girl, cradled in all the luxuries one could expect in late the Eighties, never was I told not to look at life through rose tinted glasses. The toughest lessons of life then, were ensuring that exams were not a hurdle too high, small disappointments like an argument with a bestie was a speck in what was to lie ahead, but who knew that back then?
The growing up years flew by and before you know it, the flings in college were a thing of the past…no longer did breakfast, lunch and dinner mean the college canteen and slowly but steadily, the memorable youth festival days and the competitive intercollegiate fests were a distant memory.
Life takes another twist with responsibility, work and juggling a house, until the romantic side of me surfaced again…this time for my beloved. It was back in a college setting that I found my soul mate..! Competitive spirits always high also meant that I participated in the lectures, debated concepts, shared real life work experiences and topped the class in the MBA project and viva. In the same class was a quiet but rather endearing person, who had the attention of all when he spoke, was the professor’s favourite student and a walking talking encyclopedia. In the 2.5 years of studies, somewhere along, I gave him my heart, my soul and myself.
As always the friendship blossomed into romance and after a few hurdles that are at best forgotten, we embarked upon another journey called married life.
Life was never meant to be easy, small little issues meant trust was the hardest part of the adjustment….but like every other couple after a few fights, lots of tears and wondering if we’re better off without one another, we discovered our rhythm and settled into life cocooned in bliss and happiness.
Never was it guaranteed to be a bed of roses, never was I promised the heaven and earth. Even with out kids in the foray after 7 years of marriage, the talk amongst our closest was that we were honeymooning. Life was indeed good and contentment was everywhere.. It was just the perfect life of DINKS for any one to see – holidays galore, hobbies and of course our life was brimming with love and admiration for each other.
Either the effect of evil eyes like they say, or was this to be short lived happiness, I can’t say…but there was enough hurt for me to feel hollow and empty. A bit of self pity set in, the evergreen question “why me” crossed my lips a hundred thousand times and the enthusiasm with which I greeted each day seemed to vanish out of the blue. The colours of the rainbow turned dark and all that I could see was threatening storm clouds….my life jacket was snatched away from me and I was being tossed around in the choppy seas. The vibrant colors I noticed hours ago changed and the soft wisps of clouds that always floated in my life disappeared, while the emptiness within me became overwhelming.
His one wrong step into the world of deception, crushed me. I had lived for him, fulfilling every wish of his, supporting him in a multitude of roles. I switched from mother to nurse to sister to wife and dosed the 7 years of our life with an ample sprinkling of being the girlfriend, the make believe mistress and many more avatars!
After all of this, one wrong move, chats with a (friend) on social media turned my world upside down as I hadn’t seen this coming – an affair in the offing? Wanting a mobile number so that he could speak to her sometime and then stating that he needed to meet her, complete with expectations and seeking confirmation that she wanted the same.
Was I cocooned in my own world, was I so content in my relationship or was it the plain fact that men will be men? Whatever the case may be, as usual he swore that he loved me and that he had just strayed without the intention. To believe or not to believe, the precious glass heart this romantic girl carried had fallen and shattered before her eyes. Will he be able to fix it for the little girl? Will he keep his promise he made during the wedding wows he took with this girl who hung to him for support and security, with only admiration in her eyes for him. Did he deserve the pedestal she had placed him on for all these years? He sure does know what this means when he is surrounded by his loved ones and she embarks a journey for him, with him and by him? Will he slowly but steadily rebuild and fix the broken bits?
Where ever this leads us, together or on our own separate journeys, I feel hollow in me. The very essence of my womanhood seems to have been rudely plucked away by the one I trusted my life with, my happiness with and the one I chose to give my heart to. Is this love, is this commitment and is this until death do us apart, I ask as emptiness engulfs me.
Life has a way of throwing little episodes that could seem straight out of an action movie or a horror story at times, but such is our resilience we continue onwards and upwards!
As many of us experiencing expat life in the Middle East will know, along with the NRI tag, which assures you of a life in comfort, where luxuries become basic necessities, there are many a things that the Indian diaspora long for that reminds them of home.
After a lovely week of holidays in the new home in India, it was time to return to the hearth, and what better way than with mom and dad accompanying her and son?
When the work pressure mounts, when the daily routine seems to suffocate, when she runs out of ideas for the lunch box, mom and dad’s presence is such a welcome respite.
When she leaves early each morning to work, mom and dad see her off, wishing her well in the day ahead, while the grandson is bid goodbye as he alights the school bus soon after. Grandma then scurries around to ensure the favourite lunch is on the table when the family returns, while guitar classes, basket ball practise and all the rest of the evening chores are granddad’s that he goes about with pride.
Thus happy days rolled into weeks and it wasn’t long before she noticed mom’s pace had reduced. There were longer naps in the mornings unlike the usual and although mom reassured that she was fine, the darling daughter knew better. A few probes, a few questions and some heart to heart conversations later, she realised that mom had not brought her daily dosage of medications.
As the years tell on you, as one becomes dependent on the miracles called pills, this is when you miss the comfort of the family doctor, the neighbourhood chemist who remembers your prescription and will even call to check if you have a stock of the medicines required.
Panic struck and she knows what the medication means to mom. Frantic calls to the family doctor and the news is not so great. Mom is on a double daily dosage , so the earlier she gets the pills the better. Mom and dad continued to chide themselves on how they could forget to pack the medicines, while son decided that there would be no teenage tantrums, he would be mommy’s best boy.
As if work was any easier that day, deadlines loomed and were like a noose around her neck, she could only think medicines. She was on roller skates through the motions of work, meetings and all the while her mind million light years ahead.
A quick check on anyone travelling from Bombay, phone calls to a zillion couriers (darn their protocols) and all the while wondering how she could arrange the medications. Her mind was racing and by mid afternoon, when there seemed no light at the end of tunnel, when all hopes were being dashed, she decided to send dad home to India to pick up the medicines.
I have always envied the airline boys and girls who traverse the world at the drop of hat, but today, I’m so happy she was able to find dad a seat on the flight.
She was in a stupor through the rest of the day. All she could think was the chores that awaited her after work. The to do list at work suddenly seemed like an encyclopaedia of what’s what, but that was for another day, she had enough at home this evening to think through the day at work.
While she whizzed through her list, mom and dad watched sheepishly. Each thinking their daughter didn’t need this now. Son took on the mantle of man in charge in his own way, every one rallied around to ease the atmosphere at home. This was one trip that didn’t need much of packing. All that dad was carrying was an overnight case with a few basics.
Before long, it was time to head to the airport which was 15 mins away (this can only happen in Dubai), however today was a weekend and it could turn out any other way. The week end brings the town alive and quite often, you could spend the evening in the car, her only prayer was that this is not her destiny today.
As she drove, there was unusually light traffic and she thanked her lucky stars. Rubbernecking she caught a glimpse oh the other side. The traffic was standstill on the opposite side, the red tail lights snaking for as far as she could see. At the ease with which she got to the airport, the first smile of the day creased her lips.
With a skip in her steps they proceeded to what is long trek across the terminal towards the checkin desks, dodging oversized bags , passengers who were late and running like they were out to catch a moving bus.
As she approached the self checkin kiosks, “dad, can I have your passport please”, she said. A moment of silence ensued. Each one looking at the other, I thought it was with you, said dad. The whole airport whirred around her as she tried to catch her breath, her world was in slow motion, while everyone else seemed oblivious to her predicament. She took a deep long breath, it felt like a bad dream that she had to wake up from. Pinch me/ slap me and tell me I’m dreaming her brain screamed. Her face was devoid of any expression, she hadn’t grasped the gravity of this.
Snap out of this she did, and glanced at her watch. She had an hour to checkin closing. She could do this but her heart skipped a beat when she thought of the traffic to get home. Barking orders she headed to the car. Mom and dad had no idea why this day was such, what had come of their little universe? In the meanwhile she was driving like a woman possessed, the car seemed to grow wings as she stepped on the gas pedal at every opportunity. Her only aim that night was to make it back to the airport on time.
I doubt if her car came to full stop when she got to the parking lot, she had jumped out and in all these years of living here, never once had she attempted what she did today. Not waiting for the lifts, two steps at time, she was raising up the stairs to her floor. The key turned in the lock and she barely flicked on the light switches, her eyes scanning the dining table. There sat the passport in its holder, like nothing ever happened. If she let herself, she would have collapsed in a heap, but she couldn’t , next was the race to head back. Stairs again as they seems to raise up to her whilst in descent.
She has no idea how she did it, she seemed to fly past signals and before she knew it she was at the airport. While she ran waving the passport madly, she found three glum faces staring at her. Mom was close to tears, dad was stoic, while son was simply staring past her. She was a few minutes late. The gates were closed and as it was a full flight, there was no point in cajoling the checkin agent for any favours.
Disappointed alright, but if this was gods will, so be it was her approach. She ensured that the tickets were reconfirmed for the flight next morning- 0430 am on Friday. The drive back home was silent. One cant describe each of their thoughts. She wondered why she hadn’t made sure before she left home. Dad and mom were in their own world bleeding in their hearts to see their beloved daughter stressed.
It was just past 11pm Thursday night and they knew they had to rise early. The alarms were set and as she said her prayers, she hoped for the best the next day. Exhausted as she was, she fell asleep immediately. It has been no less a roller coasters for the others at home, and soon, all were in deep slumber.
It felt like a few seconds into her sleep, she was woken up to a commotion. Loud voices, banging on the door and it felt like an army had invaded her peace. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. She couldn’t believer what she saw, this just seemed so unreal. It couldn’t be happening, but she knew it was. The alarm had been set, but the clock face showed the hands at 0330 am. There was no need to rush knowing fully well, that dad couldn’t have made it on time to the airport for the 0430 flight.
She opened the door of her room, leaned against the door frame, teary eyed but a smile on her lips, while her waist length hair fell in curls around her pretty face. Dad, mom and son were shocked to see the cool calm and composed persona. What else’s can we do she asked, as she put the kettle on to get the coffee going. It was too early for breakfast, but never too early to ask what each wanted!
A few discreet phone calls, the matter was settled, dad would take the 1130 flight that morning. The delay only meant that mom would now get her pills much later. A few mental calculations, the expected time of arrival, the distance to home giving dad very little time in Bombay. This was a blessing in disguise as this meant dad didn’t have to bother much about the house.
She could clearly see that the events of the past 36 hours were definitively taking a toll on dad. Mom looked more frail and fragile this morning than last night, she must get her pills and quickly.
As she went back into her room and sank into her comforting bed, she longed for a strong pair of hands to hug her tight and assure her everything would be ok. In a moment of weakness, she yearned for a companion who would be there to face these hurdles that life threw on her path.
She was strong, brave and the rock of Gibraltar for dad, mom and son, but she could do with one too. As hope glistened through her tears, the sun shone brightly, and she lazed to catch a few more winks of sleep.
Soon after , all the breakfast dishes were done and it was time to head to the airport. This time around, dad, mom and son asked her where the passport was! If only this had been the case last evening she thought as she drove leisurely to the airport, with the tumultuous events of the past replaying in her subconscious mind.
She let out a sigh of relief when she got the call from Dad, that he was onboard the aircraft and Bombay bound. A few last minute phone calls to family and friends in Bombay who had kindly arranged to buy the medication and have it ready for collection. Details of the arrival in Bombay had her fretting about the office hour rush traffic in Bombay (Dubai could be dwarfed in comparison).
Constant phone calls and updates were the order of the day in Dubai. All those who mattered had come to know of the episodes of the past two days. Meanwhile in Bombay, the medicine rally had been very effective and dad had picked up the medicines for his beloved. With no time to spare, no shopping for grandson, with a heavy heart he was homeward bound!
The hustle and bustle of Bombay, a city that ever sleeps, did very little to soothe his frayed nerves. There was a wee bit more drama that dad had to endure. The flights out of Bombay, are always a touch n go situation. He was prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best.
As the minutes ticked on, the restlessness at the checkin counter was obvious. Soon, dad was told to checkin his luggage and collect his boarding pass. This was a moment that will forever be etched in her memory after the octane high velocity over the week end.
Dad settled into his business class seat, and as the aircraft taxied out onto the runway, dad closed his eyes and said a silent prayer to thank The Lord for all the blessings he has had in his life – his lady love, the years of marriage made stronger by the trials and tribulations not only in their life, but in the lives of their progeny, the grandchildren they are now proud off and the many small things that make life worthwhile.
It’s another week end and of late these seem to be slipping away at break neck speed….it’s just a week to Valentines (the much hyped commercial dramas remind you of the same), whereas I still remember the first week end of 2014, but come to think of it, it’s already the second weekend of the second month. Am I attempting to grasp on to every single minute that seems to be flitting away?
With tour Dubai in full swing, roads closed, the plans for an early morning ride on the bike was shelved.
Camping plans were made instead, the supermarket trolley was full of goodies for the evening. Fresh cuts of meat, cheese, bread, crackers and anything that can keep a bunch of hungry people happy. A batch of baking, a few experiments for quick food and before I knew it, it was time to hit the road.
With a 30 min delay and Raj hurrying me, we finally were ready to go! Car was loaded, tents-check, sleeping bags-check, food-check, entertainment check and finally, we hit the road!
Navigation is not the easiest and we learn this the hard way! With the 30 minutes delay, we were already lagging behind when we are informed that the meet up venue had changed. This inadvertently means, change in direction and in turn, a further delay….all this while, Raj was on auto pilot as he drove along. I suddenly realised that we were on the road that takes us to work every day…..A quick stock take and this now means an additional 15 mins on the road, a detour of approx 30 odd kilometres.
The stalwarts of dune bashing, unlike us newbies into this thrilling sport, are still way behind and with a few calls to one another for direction, fueling pit stops and many many other things, finally we reach the meeting point.
Those waiting for us had already started gobbling chapati sandwiches while sipping steaming hot cups of tea. A stretch break while we waited for all 7 cars to form the convoy into the dessert.
Tyre pressure, fluids, mechanical details (all check boxes ticked by men), we were soon ready to make our way into the red sand dunes, for an evening of pure adrenalin rush. The heart in mouth situations were many, I could hear my camping gear rattling around at the back of the vehicle and my thoughts were around the icing on the cake I had baked and the fruit trifle sitting in the freezer box.
The adage time flies when you are doing something that interests you is so true….as not long into the dune bashing the sky turned a myriad of colours – the red orange glow of the setting sun was upon us. Signals from the troops and we had to quickly start the descent from the dunes to hunt for the camping site for tonight. None of us were keen to set tents up in the dark….the thought of the underworld creatures beneath the soft smooth sand that slips past our toes whilst barefoot was bliss, but no thanks to company whilst in la la land.
While the men debated the best spot to set up camp, wind directions and how to position the cars, the rest of us were enjoying the nip that was setting in. The air was crisp and clear, with a rare exception of some dust when the wind caught up momentum. The guys brought out the remote operated dune buggies and some of us bum slid down the dune and then huffed and puffed on our way up.
This called for the thirst quenchers, the nibbles and soon there was so much food that we wondered if we would have space for all the meat/vegetables and of course the deserts.
As we collapsed in exhaustion, we were still giggling about our antics and for a change no one bothered about sand in our clothes, in our hair and even on our eye lashes.
We didn’t have the luxury of time, the crackling as the wood caught fire had us hurrying to our next set of chores. Before darkness set in, the chairs had been placed around the camp fire, in the barbeque pits the coal was catching fire and the skewers of meat and vegetables were ready…out came the cheese, the breads, and all the food that could feed an army.
While the aroma of the barbeque filled the air, the hungry started gathering closer together, waiting for the plate of food to be offered around. A few vegetarians like me were longing for the baked potatoes and grilled zucchini. Soon plates of pork chops, grilled tandoori chicken, toasted pita bread, cheese, hummus, and vegetables were being passed around. Believe me when I say the plates returned empty quite quickly. All of us were wolfing down the food – was it hunger, was it the outdoors that increased appetites, or was it just pure good food? No one bothered to answer me!
Soon the hunger pangs died, the embers in the barbeque turned ash and the unanimous decision was to save the deserts for a little later. With the chill setting in, the pitch black darkness of the dessert against the flames of the bonfire, it was time for the guitar and the songs. The cacophony of off key singing had many of us in splits, while there was still a few rock stars amongst us, who carried on. The kids had settled into a huddle in a tent playing with their tablets. They didn’t have the patience to see the adults turn into kids themselves.
With the energy ebbing and while some prefer a quite evening in solitude, we moved into the most spooky part of the evening. As the glow of the flames died, a calmness descended on the crowd with stories of the supernatural. As if on que, someone decided to get more wood into the bonfire, so that the fire burned brighter and the flames licked the wood chunks, the stories continued and then no one was willing to even move a few yards to get the deserts.
A few moments of silence, each to his own thought, before the kids clamoured for attention. The mention of iced chocolate cake had them running for the container. There was spring in their steps and no fear of the unnatural in their minds, so we gathered courage from them. The desert disappeared in minutes, with the last morsel of the trifle polished and the icing of the chocolate cake licked clean.
Soon some of us wandered into the night, getting ready to wind down, while others sat next to bonfire or what used to be. A few snores, some suppressed chuckles, while others called it a night. The kettle was still happily whistling away, the only noise for miles to be.
With most of campers in their tents, I sat staring into the embers of the bonfire. Raj was making sure that our tent was warm enough with bedding on the floor and the sleeping bags soft and inviting.
When I heard a shuffle of feet, an eerie feeling gripped me, I froze, I could see the light bobbing up an down a few feet away in our tent, in the otherwise dark stillness of the night , but I could not scream…I was hoping Raj would be by my side. The shuffling feet called out to me, that’s when I realised it was one of us looking for a late night drink. A sense of relief washed over me and I could feel the colour rush back to my face! A feeble smile crossed my lips, while I threw my head back and decided to marvel at nature.
The black expanse of the sky, with a million stars sparkling like diamonds, it seemed to transport me to a fantasy world where the darkness was not menacing. The stars seemed to have a story to tell, they seemed to wink at me and assure me they were my angels guarding over me tonight. The various constellations seemed to send me optimistic messages, whilst I yearn to know more. Are you the angels my mom mentioned in her bed time stories to me, are you the little sparkles that build the fantasies of many a travellers of yore? Are you, are you, are you…….?
A soft caress of lips and warm breath on my forehead, woke me out of my stupor. Raj was leaning over me, wondering if I had fallen asleep. I cajoled him to sit by my side for a few minutes. As I snuggled next to him, his arms around me, I knew I was the luckiest woman in this world. He held me tight as I smiled and looked up at him. There was love and pride in his eyes as he stroked my hair – a silent moment that expressed a multitude of feelings, sending vibes that we both recognized – love, respect, a friend and confidante.
As the dew fell and a slight dampness engulfed us, Raj hurried me into the tent, while the camp slept peacefully, with a promise to wake up early and witness the sun rise from the dunes above.
Our week end routine is to often go riding on Raj’s cruiser bike – his prized possession – a 2010, Harley Davidson Softail Heritage…..I could write pages and pages as to how this mean machine takes a place of pride in Raj’s life, the hours spent shining the chrome and ensuring the leather is still soft and supple and the list goes on…
The rides on Fridays could be as part of the HOG Dubai chapter, sometimes just a few bikes (friends and colleagues) and at other times, just the two of us – Raj riding and me as his pillion..
Its during one of these solo rides recently, that a thought crossed my mind….dawn was just breaking out and Raj and I had covered half the intended distance of the day’s ride. The mist was just clearing and the open roads were long and winding in front of us. The sun rays seemed to shine from far beyond and they sparkled brightly on the lonely stretch.
In the dawn colours, the purple hajjar mountains (Oman on the other side) looked sinister and almost like forbidden territory. The rugged mountains didn’t look like a terrain I would want to be in, however the majestic mountains seemed to say that they were my protector, standing tall against the wind, against unknown that lay on the other side. The barren mountains looked treacherous with no vegetation, no sight of water and yet forbidding.
On this ride, while Raj concentrated on the road ahead and the destination, as pillion, enjoying the ride and the rush of the wind on my face, my thoughts wandered to the very many I have heard of who had dared to seek the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (across these mountain ranges)!
As the sun came out stronger and the dial on my wrist showed a decent hour of the morning, I happened to take a closer look at the mountain ranges ahead….the purple seemed to turn yellow and barren brown as we approached, the rock face seemed to be just stones and loose rocks and the very thought of losing a foothold on this steep slope sent shivers down my spine.
My thoughts drifted towards the Pathans, who attempt the crossing only with dreams to provide for their near and dear ones. These desperate souls, who then aspire to earn living, herding livestock or in the farmhouses of the rich and famous or as helps to make a few bucks that they can then build the dreams of their loved ones.
The dangers of the crossing are well known, the illegal status is a risk they take, only to live in anticipation of a life beyond…
The flowing clothes of the Pathan, light coloured to help with the heat and yet dirty enough to camouflage in the mountains, fluttering in the breeze, the turban on his head, the only protection against the harsh scorching sun that beats down on him, a pair of slippers that has seen many a better days, worn down to the last stitch holding it together…dodging any suspicious activity, lying low waiting for the right time to make the move…The day was for resting in the crevices of the mountains, against the heat and sometimes taking that last morsel of food, in the hope that there will be a hot meal waiting for him on the other side. All this while, any movement within ear shot sends the heart racing, is it a wild fox or is it the gallop of the horses bearing the border guards – which could mean a fateful end to their quest for a life beyond…
They move in packs at times and other times, on their own to make that last ditch effort to cross borders – no passports, no identity papers, no visas and border control, its pure necessity and need that drives these few to take the risks they do. Risks at the cost of deportation or just languishing behind bars for the the rest of their lives in a far off country….none of these thoughts plague the ones attempting this journey…..in the middle of the scorching day, a few drops of water from a mountain spring to quench thirst and then a little slumber, while waiting for the dark, the only friend in this long and arduous path to financial freedom…
I’m home, I n the comfort of my surrounding and as dusk sets in, my thoughts wander back to the lonely Pathan, his eyes bright and his weary legs wobbly as he waits for the stars and the moon to shine bright. In darkness of the night, with the stars his GPS and the moonlight his guide through the tough terrain, he begins is voyage, clambering over the rocks as surefooted as a mountain goat, holding on to dear life and sometimes traversing a path no man has been on, all this, not knowing if it’s another night of walking or if there are many more, but in the hope that when he nears a settlement, a little town, a mate from some far flung village back home, will help him blend in and provide him the much needed shelter and work to get him back on his feet again…
As my eyelids drooped, heavy with sleep, I happened to glance at the time on my iPad- 01:20 am. I had been surfing since 21:30, researching some holiday options. I could hear the gentle comforting snore next to me as Raj was in blissful slumber. A week of budget stress had taken its toll and Raj had fallen asleep by 2100hrs (should i also say that is his preferred bedtime). As much as my mind was on 100km speed, my eyes resisted and decided that I should curl up under the duvet.
I hardly caught a few winks of sleep, when the duvet moved as Raj stepped out of bed, I stirred, curled up and dived deep under the duvet, with his pillows also propped up against me. Pls don’t disturb me, I haven’t slept enough, I moaned.
Do you want go for a long drive to see the sunrise coaxed Raj, as I pulled the curtains apart, expecting to see the crack of dawn! It was pitch black outside with the full moon shining bright. Half sleepy, I reached out to check the time on the clock on the nightstand.
Half hearted,I gave in and in no time, I was ready for the week end….as Raj started the ignition of the car, the display burst to life and it was 0530 am and 13celsius.
Enthusiastic Raj was jabbering away his route plan, details, sunrise was expected at 07:03 Friday morning, while I’m thinking what a waste to the one day that I can have a lie in…. Not to dampen his sprits, I join in the discussion and comment on the neighbourhood sleeping silently, while the only sound is purring of the car engine. Envious of all the other bedroom windows that were dark, we slowly pull out of our community.
We hit the highway, with the radio blasting soulful numbers, Raj humming along and a silent me….but not for long! Soon I see we are not the only ones on the highway, cycling enthusiasts are already gearing up for their long arduous exercise regime! Now I don’t feel so bad, I’m waken up from my slumber thinking I would have wasted this sight.
The mist is still hanging low, the eerie glow of the moon visible, while the horizon turns to a glowing pink, the first signs of the impending sun rise. I’m getting excited and asking Raj to get to desert quickly, so as not to miss this magic…. The temp dips in the lonely stretch of road, the cycle track is a busy place with some lone rangers and a few groups……the window is rolled down and the camera clicks away at a crazy speed. Raj asks me if I’m ok and to slow down on the pictures I’m taking. I’m amazed at the number of people out and about and can’t stop. The wind is on my face, tears streaming down my eyes, open mouthed, I watch the sky change colours and the red ball of fire signal a new beginning.
Silhouettes of cyclists against the rising sun, and then all of sudden, like magic out of nowhere, in my focus lens appear three hot air balloons….the tourists/residents out for a hot air balloon adventure before sunrise!
I’m wonder struck and ask myself, is the lie I craved so much really worth it? It dawned on me, as we continued driving in silence just capturing this surreal surrounding and the closeness I felt to nature. Philosophical thoughts aside, I thanked Raj for getting me out of the bed this morning!
I was still awestruck with a buzzing active life I saw just a few miles away from the city and one that I thought functioned similar to mine…I hear clipping of hooves, horses!!! Yes, in front of us as we pass the stables, the mighty Arabian studs getting their fair share of exercise….the thunderous gallop, was of 20 beauties, their skin shining, their mane flying in the wind and nostrils all flared. I jump out of the car for more pictures promising the jockeys, I would put the picture up on Facebook!
A few more miles down, marvelling at all that I had seen, the flatland, the intercepting dunes with their ridges, the glow of the sand in the dawn colours and then in stark contrast, I get to the camel tracks. The horses in their splendour were a different sight to behold, in comparison to the camels…..pictures again and even the camel jockey sits up straight to give me a picture of his prized possession. The camels also look at the camera and carry on their way, breaking into a steady gallop!
Life begins here before the crack of dawn and just then, I’m rudely shaken out of my thoughts as I hear the screech of tires, the ballon adventure company buses racing to setup their breakfast stations near the landing strip – they must be saying there is so much work to do, to feed all the hungry hot air ballon passengers.
It’s only getting to 0730 but all the thought of breakfast, has made me hungry. Raj agrees that a cup of tea will be nice. Bab Al Shams is just a few miles away, Raj reminds me, and I’m not for a sit down posh brekkie…..this morning was not for that. As we drive, the aroma of paratha and cooking wafts through…..we both turnaround to each other with a mischievous smile on our lips and a glint in our eyes…that’s settled now…..so a little shack on the way side is our stop for breakfast!
The sun is out, the temp still shows the early two digits, the delicious egg and paratha has our souls satisfied, it’s now time for the drive back – same route or the Al Ain highway is the question????
Another journey……another snippet of travels, adventure and of course lots of shopping!
The holidays were announced and as usual, in those days….the private sector and public sector had different days off….to top it off, Raj working in Abu Dhabi had extra holidays always, in comparison to me. This had always been a hot contentious topic for us for 2 full years:(
Grudgingly, I left to work that morning, while Raj was pottering around the house on his extra day off….he had made his plans, a cup of tea, the newspaper, followed by a session in the gym…..
It was 11am, when he called to ask what my plans were…..and guess what they were!
Panic struck, Raj had 30 mins to pack our bags and get to the airport…..we were taking an afternoon flight to Istanbul. Thousand questions sprang in Raj’s mind, while I didn’t have the time to answer them…so all that was to be was I would wear what he packed (please don’t leave this to any imagination) and I had to look out for the tickets and the hotel!
It’s so easy to remember the check in agent’s frustrations, when I arrived at the checkin desk as I had so little time to get to the gates…..a slight worry about receiving my bags in Istanbul plagued me, but other million things raced in my mind.
Running through the terminal that day, I got my first hand experience of sprinting against the sea of humans in the concourse. Any airport staff can vouch for this increase in traffic just before the holidays….
Gates close 35mins before departure, and we just made it to the aircraft door, found our seats and as I plonked down to catch my breath, my fingers were dialling a friend’s number…..help…please book a room for three nights in the hotel using the booking.com portal! Thinking back at this today, I wonder how this was done!
The 4:15 hours flight, was uneventful and little did I know what was in store for me at touch down.
Visa on arrival is provided to Indian nationals who have an existing Schengen visa or a valid but used multiple entry visa to the US. As you may have already guessed, Raj n I were of the latter and now starts the ordeal.
With a few instances of being misguided to different queues, finally managed to speak to friendly looking customs/immigration official who directed us to another section of the airport. As we waited for their coffee and chat break to finish, I realised there were some more familiar faces from the same flight joining us….
What we heard next almost swept the ground from under my feet…oh where is your Schengen visa Raj and I were asked – we don’t have one , but the Turkish consulate had informed us that the US visa would suffice and we could get a visa on arrival!
Thankfully we were not the only ones saying this, so we’re many others as the queue behind us got longer! With tears welling up in my eyes, I was only thankful for the fact that Raj and I were together. A gentleman we befriend in this ordeal, explained that his wife and son had a visa issued, but since he had the US visa, his passport was returned….imagine that – with two members of the family in a separate queue and the immigration officials feigning ignorance of the rule applied at our departure destination…..a sure shot spoiler for a week end break that may have been planned with so much anticipation.
Many conversations, some angry, some close to pleading, until better sense prevailed and a group of 12 passengers were assisted by one of the officer on a senior’s command.
Finally after a wait that seemed eternity, where I had lost sight of my passport, our names were called, passport and receipt for the visa cost handed over and shown the way to baggage claim.
With all the delay we had experienced the bags were waiting for their rightful owners…..grabbed them and made our way to the exit. It was a taxi to the hotel and in no time we passed the aqueduct in Instanbul, on our way to old quarter of the city. Our hotel was in the Sulthanamet area. Having lost precious hours in the airport, the night had already set in and the city was bathed in glorious moon light.
Checking in at the hotel was a breeze, guess it helps to be late at times…we agreed as we kicked off our shoes and looked around the room. We had a lovely room with a balcony, where I could have spent the rest of my holiday…..the room was tastefully decorated, with lovely pictures and the bathroom was spic and span and included a jacuzzi.
Having looked around and agreed that this was above acceptable, particularly since you will recall the way this hotel was booked, we agreed it was time for some walking around, we were on holiday!!
The guys at the reception desk were very helpful giving us tips of getting to places. It’s then we realized that we could walk all the way to the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sofia. The grand bazaar was a stone’s throw away from the hotel. All this excited me as I could already see that this was going to be a lovely walking holiday for long week end.
That was settled, and we were now asking about a quick stop for a bite, directions were given to the most happening place – the Galata bridge area for some mouth watering sea food. The walk to the Galata bridge, passing by all the shops and the shop keepers calling out to us to check their wares….I was transported into the magical world of bazaars, colorful Turkish lights that threw a million sparkles, intricately designed ceramic ware and of course charm of hawkers with their Turkish ice creams, delectable sweets and the baklavas! The aroma of the Turkish doner kebabs wafted through, mixed with the heady combination of the spices from the nearby spice market.
Given that it was getting past dinner time, Raj hurried me on to the destination…..while the beautifully lit new mosque, captured my imagination. I promised myself to pass by the same route, so that I could etch this memory in my mind and also capture this on film. Once I crossed the road, the view of the lit mosque followed by the gentle lapping sound of the water, as it hit the breakwaters of the bridge, was calming.
We managed to be coaxed by the first friendly waiter to try his restaurant and I must say his recommendations from the menu were delicious. While we waited for the grilled fish and all the accompaniments that he had suggested, the cool breeze from the water soothed us as we watched the world go by…the sheesha smoke from the next table was heady and sometimes stifling. The food was soon at the table and disappeared in a matter of minutes as we dug into the hot delicious fare.
An hour later, we decided to take a leisurely walk towards the old town area, little realizing that this would be route that we walk for the next 3 days. Passing little shops, walking over the tram line, and sometimes following the crowd, while often Raj and I formed the crowd…Friendly shop owners and passers by smiled and called out to us, and the tree laden path around the university had a smattering of students, having their fun but never in a moment did the place feel unsafe or dangerous.
Tired after a days work, the flight, the nerve wracking episode at the airport, the sights and sounds I had already immersed myself in, we decided to walk back to the hotel to call it a night. That night was a classic example of being physically exhausted ( if I didn’t mention earlier the walk back to the hotel is an uphill climb) but mentally I was making plans for the next few days in this vibrant city with its old world charm.
I was up with larks the next day and raring to go. While Raj stirred in bed, I was in the balcony watching the sun rise on the horizon. The next couple of hours flew by as we prepared for a day on foot.
The tourist attractions of Beyazit and Sultanamet was all neatly laid out. Map in hand, we set out for the day, to be awed by the enormity of this city, and to marvel at the past glory of the Ottoman Empire. The fascinating inlaid work in the mosques, the architecture, the lavish gardens, all transported us back in time, when this bustling city bridged Europe and Asia as Constantinople. Photo ops never ceased and each picture showed a different aspect, diverse from each interpretation revelling in different moods.
The grand bazaar – with its maze of little shops, friendly shopkeepers who invite you to a cup of coffee/tea and for a chat while they display their wares, hoping for a deal. In the two visits to the grand bazaar, I’m uncertain how we got lost, how we passed by the same shops a zillion times and why we were never able to keep to our time in this place. It amazed me as how they would find exactly what you were looking for in their shops. Tea invites were just a part of their hospitality…..no strings attached. They would happily share their stories and loved to display their knowledge of the very famous Indian Bollywood film industry. They call out the names of actors and actresses or better still, they would establish that we were Indians before a”namaste India” Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan were discussed.
All this while secretly my shopping list was being drawn up and this was my secret alone. I has to wait for the right time to include Raj into this conspiracy. I had to be sure of all that I wanted – souvenirs for the team, for friends and then those precious little knick knacks for the house. My eyes roved at top speed, in each shop zeroing in on items of interest, then a close look for the quality of workmanship, the colors and then in my mind’s eye, I would picture them at home.
By the evening our feet were killing us, blisters had formed, yet the enthusiasm to walk, live and breath Istanbul was still alive. It had been doner kebabs rolls for lunch and dinner, rolls that were filled with the most succulent grilled chicken ever. The wrap was filling and top it with fresh fruit juice with crushed ice and there was nothing more we wanted. Nuts and chocolates that we carried from home, gave us the much needed energy for the long haul, however the delicious maras tukra and the ever spongy, sticky Turkish delights kept us on our feet.
It was a straight 12 hour since we had stepped out of the hotel, only sitting in the shaded gardens of the Topkapi palace in the middle of the afternoon. As much as we saw the city in the day time, at night there was a different charm to this place. The Turkish coffee vendors dressed in all their splendor, the inviting call of the ice cream vendors and of course all the activity at the eateries on the side walks transforms the place into a buzzing hive. We felt like we had walked every inch of the old town, every street corner had a story to tell, each of which bought a smile.
I only dreaded the climb up the incline back to the hotel, however the thought of warm shower and seeing all the photos of the day, kept me going!
A sunset heralds another sun rise, another day in this city!
The next day was for the sights beyond the old quarter…..to step out further and explore another side of this town, a cruise on the Bosphorus, to saunter along Takshim square and to feel a part of the revolutions that had taken place.
As I nod of to sleep, I believe in the chances that life throws at us and feel blessed that I’m able to traverse the globe and enrich by living these experiences.
The short bus ride into the other part of town, the heart of the commercial district….now comes the glitzy stores and the brands from across the globe make their presence felt. What a stark contrast to the sights and sounds of yesterday, I muse.
We pass by the housing districts, the seat of the government and other rather imposing public houses, which have many a tales themselves.
As the mid morning sun beat upon us, the cruise boats were already teaming with passengers. Our agent herded us both on to the right ship and wished us a good afternoon. Grabbing the best seats we could possibly find, we promised ourselves that we would be wandering the deck for pictures rather than be seated. The whistles sounded and the gangway plank was removed, with a final short hoot, we were on our way…..the salty spray from the Strait of Bosphorus on our face. The crowds moved along as the ship passed by the sights on the waterfront and soon the Bosphorus bridge was straight ahead of us. We marveled at the engineering feat and the bridge of cultures. The time flew by and the memory card on the DSLR seemed to fill up so quickly.
As dusk set in, we found ourselves at Takshim square…it was the week end in Instanbul, need I say any more??? The crowds at the square seems to take you with it….one couldn’t resist the sea of humanity around. All that I was worried of was getting separated as I hung on to Raj for dear life. If personal space is something precious to you, one will value it far more after a visit to Takshim Square on the week end… We agreed this was Rigga street ten times more crowded than we ever remembered it to be. Pictures with camera held high above our head was like a shot out of a sci -fi movie.
The respite from this rush was an open air craft bazaar. I could easily spend hours here marveling at the large brass coffee pots, straight out of a middle eastern fairy tale, the ceramics and the Turkish lamps that seemed to wink and beckon me.
I finally confided to Raj and shared my shopping list, I was in my penultimate day of my holiday, so what better moment than now?
Although he was flabbergasted at my list, as always the kind soul, just smiled at me and agreed. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had crossed his mind even for a split second that I expected most of my shopping to be hand carried this time – all fragile items. Shopping done, the creative bazaar ransacked, we were ready to head back to the hotel in public transport, a city bus. Eminouno was our stop and the bus had the driver and a man seated on the right side who collected money and issued tickets. On the bus we met with many a stare as it’s not often an alien tourist is on the bus which is overflowing with locals in their week end rush. I must say that the ticket collector and the driver were very helpful, even if language was indeed a barrier. They signaled to us when we got to Eminouno and even helped with directions to get us on our way – the miracles of sign language.
So as you can imagine, the last day of my stay in Istanbul was interspersed with some sightseeing (Hagia Sophia) and more shopping, bargaining and haggling with the friendly shop keepers. A deal for me without breaking my bank and a good enough deal for them to close the sale (profit based on the bargaining skills). We went back to some of the side streets we had roamed earlier, to check and make decisions, took pictures to compare the products and designs and in all the fun I was having Raj was not so sure.
My shopping was done and packed – a beautiful set of lights (9 lights to be precise) that would adorn the landing at home…..a similar single lamp for my friend and ceramic coasters for another, along with shawls for the rest of the team. I was completely in love with all my shopping, until I saw some hand painted tiles that showed intricate workmanship and an artists skills at drawing out the best from imagination. I couldn’t resist these, but…..
The day dawned and as I opened the curtains and stepped out into the balcony, dark clouds welcomed me…..the sun rays wanted to pierce through the dark curtains and there seemed to be tussle of might between the two.
I knew I didn’t have too much time to waste, before my 1500 return flight, so I had to move fast. All packed and ready to check out, Raj agreed to a last minute run to check the tiles, and we did…! Half way through, the downpour caught us unaware and soon we were running for shelter, into a mosque. The number of people clambering in there for shelter was unbelievable. A vendor appeared soon with umbrellas, making a few quick bucks due to the rain. We were his customers too, as we rushed to the shop where I had seen the tiles.
I saw what I liked, picked them up and then my eyes fell on another piece that blew me away. I was so enchanted with the second piece and wanted both sets of tiles, only to realise that we didn’t have enough money on us. Credit cards was not an option as the artisan only had a workshop and preferred to deal with hard cash. Upset, we decided to only choose one and leave as we didn’t have time, when he made a suggestion. We were amazed at his trust in us and agreed immediately. He was sending his young son with us to the hotel to collect the balance as he wanted us to have both the pieces that I liked. I was dumbstruck, by couldn’t have been more happier. The walk to our hotel was a pleasant one as I had my prized possessions neatly wrapped in my arms and a young Turkish boy to speak to about his life, his school and his passion. My eyes widened as I heard his wish for his family and himself, yet very shyly he shared his own dreams….engrossed in conversation, I never knew when we reached and before we could say bye, he had collected the money and run as fast his little legs could carry him….I did wonder if he reached his father’s shop safe, if he had been caught in the intermittent rains that afternoon and if he had safely handed over the money to his father.
As these thoughts raced through, I was in a taxi, on my way to the airport and all I could think off was the artisan and his son…..from amongst all the sights and sounds of Istanbul!