Disclaimer: Once again, this is not going to be a travelogue where I will give an account of what I did and where I went. I detest such travelogues. Also, since the duration of my vacation was a little long, I don’t know if there will be one post for a day. For now, this. The pictures (which, again, I am not very good at). The tugging of the heart by a country so far away. And, an attempt of expressing that emotion.

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Istanbul, Turkey

As I sat on my seat and looked up at the ceiling of the Boeing I was in, I tried to imagine what the Wright Brothers were even thinking. How did they convince themselves that an aggregation of wood, and later, metal could fly in the sky? To conceptualize that a vehicle as large as that could fly, and consequently reach obscene values of altitudes demanded an applause in itself. Not only the airplane; all the wonders of the world, this life, its elements, its manifestations, the structures we made, and the stories we’ve written have come out of what humans have allowed themselves to believe. In enclosed tin boxes, alone, and somewhere in the sky, these thoughts came to me, unlike how sleep did.

It was this power of my imagination, of a city that I had read only in books, that had put me in that Boeing and took me 5800 kms away from home. (If that statistic is wrong, Boy is to blame. He told me.) It was this imagination that got crumpled under a neat, well-polished city that Istanbul was – a far cry from the jagged, weathered, and yet attractive city I had thought it to be. Istanbul, at first sight, was nothing that I had expected it to be. Absolutely nothing. Except for the Bosphorous and the lined fishing vessels on the shore of the Sea of Marmara, this city was a reclaimed dream. I think this is partly because of the microscopic vision that the books lent me. It is also partly because I tend to weave my own places mentioned in the stories – ones that I go to when I am lonely, happy, or afraid. I had imagined Istanbul to be a place the characters saw, a projection of their thoughts, a reality that didn’t need to be called out. However, when I visited Istanbul, I had to look at it from an outsider’s perspective – a place that was described to me and a reality that I was still grappling to come to terms with.

I had imagined Istanbul to be a city stuck in time, seeping with history worth 600 years, and so archaic that there was no way one couldn’t time travel when there. Sure, Istanbul still has the fortresses that gave Constantinople the security he wanted. Yes, it still has aqua ducts and Roman ruins scattered all over. And it does have Ottoman architecture stamped all over the sky line. However, it’s far from a city trapped by its past. Yes, history stands here and pays homage to those who built this great city, but it does not once apologise for moving ahead with time. It has everything one imagines a first world city to have – fantastic roads, a to-die-for public transport, futuristic bus stops, digital advertising, and the biggest fashion labels like a regularity. And so much for shunning head scarves in the rest of the world – the Turkish women wear it with elan and how! I am yet to see more fashionable and stunning women, who not only smell of Chanel, wear Armani, but are also fully covered.

What strikes me most about this city is that I don’t know who its people are. (I know this observation is based only on one day’s excursion, but bear with me.) Here, there are people of all nationalities, and its difficult to make out who is who. Case in point, after the Mumbai plane landed, the Tashkent and Munich planes landed too. The melange of nationalities on the airport was nothing short of a global village. I was amazed by how many pretty women are there in this world. And pretty men too. 😐 Not only the airport, when I walked around the city today, I noticed that people are so varied that there’s nothing such as “Turkish and the rest of the world”.

I think my mistake lies in the fact that I assumed, before I came, that Istanbul would be like Delhi. Maybe not the best comparison, but loosely like Delhi – where history stares at you and the city is warped in time. I couldn’t be more wrong. Although this is an able analogy, I don’t think I should compare the two. Here’s where my imagination has been sculpted away by reality. Here’s where my stories have gone back into the books. Here’s where I have to accept that what I read was beautiful, but what’s in front of me even more so.

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P.S.: Boy said I should be jumping on the bed with joy. My tired feet don’t allow me that luxury, so that activity is for another time.