Istanbul, Turkey

They say that happiness doubles when you share it. But as I sat there, chewing on roasted chestnuts – the ubiquitous roadside snack – the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia on either side of me, all the people I loved were out of reach. I had no phone, no Wi fi and no way of telling anyone how beautiful the chandeliers in the Hagia Sophia were. There were pagan symbols, mosaics of Mother Mary, St. John, Jesus Christ, and calligraphed names of Allah and Mohammed (pbuh) all under one roof; not one was destroyed to make place for another. It is said that when the Ottomans occupied Turkey, they did not raze the Hagia Sophia because of its architecture. Also, the paintings and mosaics were not removed. When the Muslims needed to pray, they were covered with curtains, and so on it went. In that little square where Istanbul got cooler to make way for the night, hundreds of people milled around and not one word escaped my lips to tell anyone what I felt. No one here knew me. However, I knew everything around me. I knew that Simit seller, and that I would almost never buy a sort-of doughnut bread sprinkled with sesame. I’m not a big fan of bread, you see.

I could have very well been inside a story that I would later on write at night, alone in a hotel room. But for some reason, I wasn’t. This was a dream. One that was dreamt too many times over, and lived only once. That day. So, I didn’t really go back and write pages after pages of what I saw. I just went on to the Topkapi Palace, sat on a rooftop cafe, drank apple tea and overlooked the meeting of three water bodies – the Bosphoros, Sea of Marmara, and the Golden Horn. I thought of how I’d seen real love that day – 40 years of togetherness and still blushing when that person called your name. I’d seen a miracle – the staff of Moses – and how I had never even conceived that it did exist somewhere; it had only been a story so far. I’d seen abundance – Chinar trees all over – and how they were everything I had described in my poems about the perfect life. I’d seen true genius – in the way the street artist wrote ‘amarllyis’ in Arabic calligraphy for me, in under 2 minutes because my bus was leaving. I saw prettiness – how little girls sold crowns of flowers for women to wear, and their men to buy it for them. I saw gift-wrapping – how the day ended in puddles of orange lights, wooden tables on the pavements, and small vases with a flower inside them.

At the exit of the Hagia Sophia, there is a column known as The Weeping Column. It is believed to be sacred, and it is said that if you can use your thumb as the pivot and make a full circle with the rest of your hand, your wish will come true. I took my chance. Funny thing is, our guide had told us the trick of how to make that full circle. However, I went for kicks, anyway. I put my thumb at the center, made a wish, and drew that imaginary circle, fully knowing that in this world dreams and wishes came true. In this world there was true love, miracles, abundance, genius, and sheer beauty. This world has everything you need and everything you want – all you’ve got to do is allow yourself, and make that circle.

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