Bhosphorous Tale

To be in Turkey is a wonderful experience

The moment you step out of Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, you find huge garlanded portraits of Rejip Tayyib Erdogan, thanking Turks for their tremendous support in electing him the President of Turkey this year. Next to garlanded portraits, many Turkish flags are flying high on every shop, Taxi or high rise buildings pervasive across the Bhosphorous. 

 Without the currency of Turkish Lira, one can survive on other currencies which are considered "mistresses" in their own dialects because trade, tourism or travel, all being done in every currency from dollar to Riyal to Lira,  thus a little comfort to visitors. Although, the exchange of currencies can be a bit tricky if one is not fully confident about the latest exchange rate across the global market. Otherwise, you can end up  paying fortune for a five minute taxi ride which happened to me when I paid $35 for ten minutes ride. I could see mischief in driver’s blue eyes but couldn’t argue in Turkish.

One finds certainly in the dock if you do not speak or understand Turkish language which is a point of pride for every citizen and satisfies him with an inherent sense of identity but makes the life of the foreign visitor a bit difficult. No matter, how many times you try to make them aware of your helplessness of not understanding Turkish; they will keep on speaking long and long sentences that simply flies over the top of your head. However, my trick of sign language worked at times. When I made a sign of hunger, thirst, the Taxi would take me to Restaurant. Or the spot on the Turkish map, I would get taxi dropping me at the exact place. In one of the restaurants near Beshikatas, one of the waiters was luckily speaking English and to my question of why Turkish speak no English despite huge influx of foreign tourists, he said, " Turks have a strong pride of belonging to a great civilization and, language seems to have kept that spark alive with identity and culture, so they take it their basic duty to safeguard their language like they seem to safeguard the country by doing army training once they cross teenage". I couldn’t talk more because the other guy sitting close to him was making me cough due to his non-stop Sheesha smoking, one of the pleasures of Turks. 

My feeling proved right that one can live without food in a strange land but can definitely die without language. The language barrier seemed so serious and crude that I had to spend one whole day of my holiday learning basic words of Turkish for conversation. It helped in this land of Golden horn and speaking "Indirim" I could get discount in shopping. That was fun…………. 

Turkey has flourishing tourism; religious as well as archaeological. More than one million tourists visit Turkey daily in summer and each tourist spends 150 US dollar a day. According to local reports, more than 40 million visitors have seen Turkey in 2018 generating $30 billion income for the country. The language barrier seems putting off many tourists to visit, mostly from West European countries. Like in Paris, one has to juggle around to find English speaking shopkeeper to Hotelier to places of amusement, same is the case in Turkey. Everything is written and spoken in local language, due to which many visitors planning holidays in these countries have to learn basic sentences of the conversation or it will feel like being trapped in a dark tunnel. 

The country is blessed with remarkable religious history, the Bhosphorous has Islam on one side, Christianity on the other shore and little further the imprints of Judaism. And, the balance of keeping all intact and without confrontation has been the only quality of Turks  where all religions exist, meet and flourish.

Once on coast, either you find people sailing through Bhosphorous or mushroom growth of restaurants on or under the bridge or hundreds of men fishing from top of the bridge earning more than two hundred liras a day.  Delicacies like fresh fish can be fried from the restaurant ready in time with the rest of your order. Or, if you want to spend less but satisfy your hunger, the sesame bun which can be found everywhere can cost you as little as two liras. In case of group meal, a full plate of meat, chicken and fish with few uncooked vegetables is enough to satiate hunger of three people. Apart from food, rest of the things from grocery to living to rent or own the house is very costly which is affordable only by middle class. 

Tourism provides the major chunk of jobs to youth, who are paid well so that they can afford family of four and can plan for own housing. There is very little Corruption and considered a sin by many. The people are not too religious and few are practising Muslims because of the strong influence of Ataturk’s policy of anti-religion but last decade has seen rise in mosque goers and attendance at shrines and huge gatherings on roads to pray Jumma Namaz which was not allowed previously. Most of the mosques, that remained closed during Ataturk’s time, have been opened now and Erdogan has got repairing and refurbishing done with an invitation to people to come and pray. To the disliking of the West, Erdogan has also irked the liberal elite of Turkey who think "Ardogan is reviving Ottoman era in Turkey". Though, he has a strong Islamic belief but he has never revealed his intention of making Turkey an Islamic Nation due to the fact that his country is surrounded by eight other countries mostly under the influence of Western Europe which cannot afford to have strong Islamic country at its doorstep. 

Erdogan has got popularity throughout Islamic world and has at times played the role of big brother of small and occupied territories, yet, he has kept balance with US, Israel and Iran diplomatically.

Nearly every Turk I met I would ask them about Erdogan and the answer was almost always the same—–"Erdogan is good".