Turkey! (2)

Day 2.

Waking up to the call of azaan for fajr, (last count put Istanbul being home to 3,000 mosques, approximately) the realisation dawned that I was starting to lose my voice – the lump in the throat on the flight couldn’t be diagnosed as misplaced nerves anymore. Turkish Kreps and their fantastic version of paneer in my tummy, we went in search of a doctor using Google Translate to explain to the security guard that Google Maps was telling me there was a doctor inside. Five attempts later, he understood what we were trying to tell him, only to be turned away by the lady doctor because ‘foreign nationals’! Lesson 1 learnt!

Downing the throat soothers a pharmacist provided me, (cuz antibiotics require prescription, damn Turkey, OTCs are real here!) we set foot into the Grand Bazaar – via the local tram network, my fascination for which I’ll explain in future posts – the overwhelming desire to just sit and stare at people bustling, trying to sell their wares, the sea of beauty gushing about in waves, myriad nationalities under one roof created over 550 years ago, still serving the purpose of drawing awe and helping trade. Ceramicware with handpainted patterns, stunning pieces of silver, mirrors of all kinds and for all walls, the ostentatious display of Turkish delights and teas were spread around all over, with the narrow less bustling lanes ending into storerooms and open spaces for the shopkeepers to unwind and sip on Turkish tea! The shopkeepers correctly recognise Indians as hard bargainers, but walk around with a few packets in hand and a lovely smile – you might land discounts and even a couple of phone numbers.

Lunch was followed by a long walk on a group tour (two Americans, one Brit, a couple from Phillipines, Chile and four Spaniards!) around the Sultanahmet area, the tombs, Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet (also, Blue) mosque and the Topkapi Palace – I was glad for the sports shoes I had on, because any other choice of footwear would have been disastrous. Evening came and so did the fancy clothes and high heels because we were going to cruise on the Bosphorus, Europe on one side, Asia on the other, the jewels of Istanbul lit up, the bridges shining bright red and the biting cold wind, which couldn’t tame the squeals of delight or the snapping of mobile phone cameras! The three-hour cruise was worth the money with folk dances, belly dancing, 25 nationalities and sharing the table with a shy but lovely couple from Kazakhastan. I wonder if they felt the same about me, considering I was mostly grunting responses to my family, or silently trying to gulp down parts of the four-course dinner that had been laid out for us.

Oh yes, the throat was now worse.

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A sweetshop at Grand Bazaar – not sure if the sweets on display were more eye-catching or the chandelier!
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Ceramics and mirrors – the famed Turkish blue on display in full splendor.
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Istanbul is full of cats – and they’re so comfortable around human presence that don’t be surprised if a couple of them plop themselves into your lap of their own accord. Here’s my mother playing with a kitten.
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Crowds clicking Hagia Sophia in the backdrop – from basilica to mosque to museum over 1500 years.
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Atop the cruise, wind rushing through our hair – if the picture had audio, you could hear me cursing the wind through in between my chattering teeth.
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Moonlit Bosphorus clicked off the cruise, the Asian side of Istanbul by the riverbank.
Graciously Yours!

Turkey! (1)

Day 1.

Three months of persuasion, three months of planning and touchdown into Turkey a week after Prez Erdogan declared support for Pakistan was putting me through the jitters because to assume Indian passports would be unaffected would be naivety! A six-hour Indigo flight while revising our itinerary, recalling all the phrases in Turkish that I’d managed to cram in my head in the last one week, checking up on what else my parents wanted to see, re-checking our documents for the third time and pushing away that lump in my throat, we finally landed in Istanbul.

And I was prepared for everything but the wave of white skin that hit me! My sister and I stole glances at each other first and then openly started giggling because the grass doesn’t always look greener on the other side – sometimes it actually is greener! Before I sound more racist than I just did, we don’t have preferences in skin colour – we felt like we’d walked into a Hollywood film and that takes some time getting used to. When the time came to show off my Turkish skills to my family, I fumbled and forgot all of it, ending up using sign language to ask our chauffeur how long it’ll take to the hotel. The drive to the hotel was mesmerising, to say the least, new Istanbul’s tunnels, apartment blocks and wide roads giving way, across the Bosphorus, to the bustle of the Asian side with its’ street graffiti and event and movie posters! For an Indian, spending an average 90 minutes of the day travelling, the streets of Istanbul were bliss to the ears, the entire city seemingly a no-honking zone.

Like most wives in India, my mother was keeping the famed karwa chauth fast too and it was a delight watching her break her fast in the hotel room with a Turkish vegetable casserole, mushrooms carefully removed and eaten by me, and bread! While she rested, my father, sister and I decided to roam the alleys near Sultanahmet, cobbled hilly roads, deserted and dark, no directions to follow, no people to ask until we traced our steps back and settled for the cozy little pizza place we’d walked past earlier. Fatigue was dawning upon us all, our first night in a strange place where we didn’t know the religion, the language, the culture but the excitement of the exploration kept all fears at bay!

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The first glimpse of Istanbul – a pretty sight, the open air parking and lined cars.
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Enroute the hotel we were put up at, driving by the Bosphorus, one of the many mosques of Istanbul in the backdrop, seagulls all over the sky. 
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Being introduced to a few famous Turkish pottery pieces – the wine jug, glasses, bowls and the coat! At the lobby of the hotel we were put up at.
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Mother breaking her fast.
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The cobbled streets lit at night, cold breeze caressing our cheeks and the silence of the city peaceful and inviting.
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Rounding up our meal with a Turkish tea, courtesy of our host at Ozzie’s Pizza!

Graciously Yours!

 

The Phoenix.

What started with me drowning in the depths of the eyes of Patrick Verona, the ‘juvie’ bad boy with his manly charm and brown curls never really ended, even though it’s been almost 12 years since those eyes lost the light of life.

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By the time I saw the Dark Knight, little did I know Heath Ledger was already dead or that he was the same 19-year-old who had stolen my heart in ’10 things I hate about you’. When I did put two and two together, it was too late to share the grief of his loss – people had numbed to his death by then while I was suddenly dealing with fresh punches to the gut, re-watching his films, reading the news pieces of his death with a face to it now, a face I recognise, a laugh I can’t seem to forget, and that wide smile that just melts me into a sloppy mess on a hot day.

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I sat to watch the Joker today, recreated by Joaquin Phoenix and team – still in two minds as the opening shots rolled in. I didn’t want to betray Heath’s memory but I wanted to know what the hype was about. As the scenes played, there were places when I imagined Heath in place of Joaquin or how Heath would have handled the scene or how different the body language would have been. Obviously, all of this is just mere conjecture of Heath’s image in my mind but isn’t that what fans do – juxtapose our idea of a celebrity onto their persona?

By the time the film ended, I had forgotten about both Heath and Joaquin – the character had taken over my senses, making me jump in my seat, spout expletives, rub off the goosebumps lining my arms. That itself speaks volumes about the absolutely stunning work the team has done! Maybe the film wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

But. Is Heath Ledger the Phoenix or is Joaquin Phoenix the one?

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Call it what you may – my fondness for Heath, or my first taste of blood being the Joker from Dark Knight, or a soft spot for the dead, or the relentless anarchist Heath’s character was, or simply blind fanaticism – but I’d still turn to the Dark Knight to watch my share of creep. Maybe Joaquin’s Joker seems too real, too close, too human? Or maybe Heath’s Joker explains the mania all of us have but are afraid to explore?

Never mind what I feel, the Joker is here to stay and go down in the rolls of history once again, for sure.

Graciously Yours!

And it begins?

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So far, whenever I have submitted my writings to a magazine, contest, literary agents or even publishing houses, all I received were rejections. Hence, when the submission to Spark Magazine was a go, I was too stunned to even react! It is only now after three rounds of edits, publication date having passed 48 hours and having refreshed their webpage for the September issue multiple times to confirm that it really happened, has the feeling sunk in that I have been published by a magazine! ❤ Thank you to the team at Spark! ❤

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Yayyyy! You see that? Now read it here!

I hope the run continues for a long, long time now and that every publish of mine, little or big, gets me as excited and makes me work as hard, like this one. There is no success sweeter than the one that requires the sweat rolling, not literally, of course!

Graciously Yours!

P.S.: Waiting for your feedback!

 

Wrinkles.

As my breathing turned laborious with every tick of the smallest hand on the clock, the touch of the metal felt colder against my burning toes. I had wound up in a hospital bed after 87 rounds around the Sun, give or take a few, depending upon my father’s memory. I tried to move my feet away from the bedstand but it required too much energy, much more than I could expend. Tears rolled down my face, tickling my hot face, nestling in my week-old stubble, but there was none to wipe them. My hands lay by my side, feeble and wrinkled. I reminisced the touch of wrinkled hands on my skin over the years – the grandmother who nursed my fevers, the mother who taught me to cross the roads, who I later accompanied to hospices, the wife who died in her sleep while she held my hand. That touch of wrinkled skin is what I longed for again, as I lay breathing my last, my skin on ice and fire at the same time.

Graciously Yours!

Bloodied wings.

“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. … There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!” ~ Nietzsche.

 

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Out my grilled windows of opportunity, I eyed the wings hung out to dry, shining, gleaming with drops of perspiration, bejeweled with courage, preened carefully by a woman’s struggles, cast aside after a woman’s untimely and dismal departure – not that all death is dismal, some is disappointingly delayed – a woman I knew, admired. I’d hoped the wings would be bequeathed to me, be mine much like the life lessons she’d bestowed upon me, mine to wear and strut about. As I strutted in my thoughts, women eyeing me green, the same women were approaching the precious, greed gleaming in their eyes, their walk cautious, stealthy. But as soon as they touched the wings, it’s magnificence turned into hues of red, blood dripping onto the ground beneath and screams of anguish, pain and disappointment ranting through the air, of the women who’d dared to adorn the fruits of a path they had never walked upon.

If the battle isn’t yours, don’t crave the glory,” she’d said.

Graciously Yours!

Skin.

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My skin doesn’t define my abilities, add to my flaws, state my history, limit my opportunities or validate my behaviour. Neither should yours.

Firm or lined, or just sallow, that weird shade of yellow,

Bruised from the workouts or battered and broken from your handouts,

Patchy, shaded, hairy or tanned enough to never detan,

Red, brown, black, pimpled, acned, wrinkled, or just glowing from the baby inside.

Looking them down,

All my life I’ve lived proud,

In a skin which refused to take on hues,

My whiteness making me privileged,

Until a fellow white decided,

To wield the gun out.

The windfall rise that I’d seen,

Because of my skin led,

To my fall too.

And at the end, I know how it felt,

To be called out for your skin too.

Graciously Yours!

P.S.: In support of all people who’ve been hurt in ways unimaginable and inhuman because of the amount of melanin their tissues contain – something so small and insignificant to the potential a human mind can yield that you really end up questioning if we are indeed a higher race!

(Not) Another Size Zero Story.

And there it is! How I began my journey towards fitness and why I hope it continues well for me. Juggernaut Writing Platform provided me the opportunity to open up about it and I hope you will all give it a read.

Oh yes, that is me on the cover picture below, just in case you were wondering. And even if you weren’t!

Presenting to you :

https://www.juggernaut.in/books/ca87893193bd4f2c – click on link to read.

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Download the app, sign up to read the entire story! A short 10 min read. ❤

Your views and reviews will be greatly helpful. Also, fitness and diet tips are welcome!

Graciously Yours!

 

No, she said.

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Demure, quiet, she kept to herself as she walked down the road of life.

Wary, alert, carefully she kept her distance from people.

She hurried if she felt people approaching.

She hastened her steps when men asked her questions, quickening her pace, mouthing the same word over and over again, “No.”

She walked on too fast and too long, alone, the voices in her head keeping her company.

She stopped for breath, the voices ebbing, feeling lonely, struggling to breathe easy.

She wondered why she didn’t hesitate before saying, “No”, why she thought later but answered before.

She questioned herself for the first time. All the men she’d said “No” reappeared beside her, imploringly staring at her, waiting for her to say something. They demanded answers to the question she was asking her own self.

“No,” she said. Her mind kept repeating “No” until her legs took her far away. The voices came back stronger than ever.

“Don’t let men touch you.”

“Never talk to strangers.”

“Men cannot be trusted.”

“He won’t want to marry you.”

“Don’t heed to your body.”

“He doesn’t care.”

“..not..”

“Never..”

“Don’t..”

“..no..”

That is why she said, “No.” Because that is all she’d been taught!

Graciously Yours!

 

Calcutta Calling!

Oh, Calcutta. You beauty.

The moment I stepped out of the airplane, the air came down on me warm and heavy! My body knew it was in Calcutta before my brain could even decode the neural transmissions. I can feel dampness in my breath. My hair feels sticky all over. And my jeans feel like they’ve shrunk two sizes. Time to tie my hair in a bun. Calcutta, here I come!

As I walk down the too familiar lanes of the neighbourhood I was brought up in, I see known faces, known shops, the same muri seller, fruit vendor, cobbler, security guards and even beggars. I smile at them, some smile back, some don’t. Some remember me, throw a greeting, others don’t, wondering if the heat is playing with their mind. Even the graffiti on the wall seems the same! A wave of nostalgia washes over me again, yet again. I say yet again because every six months that I head back to town, I realise how little it has changed and how the comfort of knowing the place makes me feel happy and sheltered.

The more I look around, draw comparatives, recall memories of times spent in the nooks and crannies of the city, the more I realise nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed and yet something has. The city has moved on without me yet it remains the same. I can smell the sweat, hear the shouts of the boudi in the bus, see the kids taking a shower under water tanker tap, feel the camaraderie only this city exudes. And yet I too have changed. The nostalgia washes over as waves but I know that I will swim through these too. Home still feels home but I don’t rush to read through my scrapbooks or run my hand over the trophies I’d won.

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Maybe, like the city, I too, am growing. Older and wiser, each day.

Graciously Yours!

Raw emotions. Inked.

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