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Published: January 9th 2013
My Turkish friends have noticed that I can’t stop smiling. “This is what happens to people in India,” they say. While I can’t argue the truth in their statement, I can contend that this is also what happens to people in Istanbul.
I love Istanbul for completely different reasons than I love India. Each place has its own special set of circumstances and conditions that make the corners of your mouth turn upward; the corners of your eyes crinkle. Each place has its own set of things and people that I miss when I’m not there. But, missing
no longer has the same meaning for me that it had at the beginning of this trip.
was tangled up with longing
. It meant that something or someone was lacking in my life; that I would be more complete if and when I had it. Now, missing
no longer signifies a shortage in my life, but rather reveals how full it is. I miss people (places and things) because I love them. Having more to miss means that I have more to love. And that love remains, even when it's separated from its source.
Besides, for every loss,
there’s a gain. Leaving India for Istanbul, I’ve traded in chappals for leg-warmers; parantha and pickle for bread and cheese; happy hounds for cuddly cats; the Himalayas for the Bosphorus. I’ve gained long afternoon shadows and lost early morning sunrises. I’ve gained crisp, cold air and lost cold, refreshing showers. With my hair and skin covered in multiple layers of winter clothing, I’ve gained a certain sense of fitting in, but lost the ability to communicate with a waggle of the head. In gaining clearly stated and duly followed rules of the road, I’ve lost the expectance and acceptance of the unexpected.
Istanbul is the perfect mid-way point between the East and the West; the perfect stop-over to reduce the blow of the re-entry culture shock that always manages to hit me so much harder on the way in than out. It has the orderly public transportation of the West, and the squat toilets of the East. It has clean markets filled with packaged goods, and skylines filled with minarets. It has mini-skirts that reveal shapely legs and burqas that cover devout heads.
Interestingly, I can remember exactly how to get everywhere I need to go, but I’ve
forgotten which way to look when crossing the street. I can remember how to say, “Are you ready? Let’s go.” in Turkish (Hazır mısın? Hadigidelim.
), but I keep forgetting which language I should be using. More often than not, I find myself saying “Thank you” in Hebrew (Toda
). And, of course, I keep waggling my head away.
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