To read earlier parts click on the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8
WHATSAPP CALL TRANSCRIPT 0600 HOURS LOCAL TIME, ISTANBUL, TURKEY
Mother-in-law: Yes, beta.
W: Shopping missed. Boo hoo!
MIL: It’s ok, beta.
W: But, I have to shop! I haven’t done any shopping other than buy Turkish tea, several evil eyes of different sizes and shapes, Turkish sweets including delicious baklava and a scarf. Boo hoo! Hoo boo!
MIL: What else do you want?
W: More evil eyes, more sweets and more other stuff. Hoo?
MIL: What other stuff?
W: Err, stuff like, you know, shopping stuff, I mean, good stuff like the ones you get… Boo…
W: Like a lot of things… Out of the box, you know, I mean, like, you know, basically, you know, I mean.. Boho…
W: Ok. Boo.
MIL: Ok, bye. Have to go back to sleep. It is 4:00 AM here in India.
W: But… Bo…
*call disconnected because of bad wifi signal according to wife but I do not think it is true*
END OF TRANSMISSION
I cannot let this happen.
I checked several different websites and all of them said the same thing – the Grand Bazaar opened at 9:00 AM in the morning. We have a flight to catch at 1:20 PM from Ataturk International Airport (not the one we landed in). The distance was close to 17 kilometers, but thanks to our awesome hotel booking and the awesome Istanbul transport system, we could reach there in half an hour, hopping two trams. So, give or take 30 minutes, if we started at 10:30 AM, we would be prevented from out-businessing chestnut vendors with our vada pav sales after having to resort to living as immigrants.
That gave us an hour and a half, to roam the Grand Bazaar. It would be running tight, but nothing impossible that Shane Schofield has already evidenced from his daring exploits. We woke up early having already packed fully, cleared our bills at the hotel, shook hands with the delightful and extremely hospitable owner, and trudged to the tram station. One stop later we were waiting at one of the entrances to the Grand Bazaar, the one that we had already marked. There were just 5-6 people initially, but slowly the crowd grew. I was reviewing the photos of the days before. And as the clock neared nine, there was a good enough crowd around. Sharp on the dot, the massive, really old doors opened inward and the crowd hastily bustled in.
We joined in and were soon thrust into the deep tunnels of Grand Bazaar. It took us a couple of minutes for the place to sink in. I realized from my research the Bazaar was split into sections which were easily recognizable from the colors on the roof. Not that it made any difference. We had our task cut out; our family had been inventoried and we knew what to buy. Surprisingly, the shops were already open and most of them were either sitting outside drinking tea or dusting the items.
My wife was ecstatic to the core. She hopped here and there, checked out pieces of ceramics, haggling with the utmost ease – a skill that was honed from the umpteen dupattas she had bought from Linking Road, Bandra. I crawled around, sweating excessively from lugging 97.88% of our baggage and knocking the doors of a tired, dusty death.
In half an hour, my wife had come to three inevitable conclusions,
- The items had great variety
- Goods are more expensive than the ones outside
- The Grand Bazaar is a farce
The second was the one that disappointed her the most. It is so overrated that Raja Sen got a brain aneurysm when asked to rate it. The polite haggling apart, the Grand Bazaar is just another market in any other city back home in India. Nothing could be called a bargain and nothing was worth buying. The shopkeepers were earnest and sometimes rather intrusive, but it was all in good humour. Even then, we ended up buying a lot of small ceramic bowls and a t-shirt for my brother that might have said ‘My Brother Went To Turkey and All That He Got Was This T-shirt’.
It didn’t but was close enough.
On the other hand, architecturally speaking, it WAS impressive. And yes, that part of the story about the Bazaar is true; you can get lost very easily. We could not afford this to happen, we were on the clock and so I laid landmark crumbs all the way, following my wife’s rather erratic trail.
Pretty helpful they were, when we actually got lost.
Also, I have the memory capacity of a goldfish ghajini.
After inquiring around, somehow we got out and went back to the selfsame place where we had bought tea, the day before. And bought some more. My wife specifically wanted those Turkish tea glasses, quaint and lovely. We got a couple and I thought she was satisfied.
She was not.
At sharp 10:15 AM, we boarded the tram to the airport. While hopping trams at some random station, where we had to cross the road to get to the other line, my wife’s eye fell on a supermarket.
Let me tell you a small story. Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter. One fine day, when he was cutting wood, his axe fell into the river. The river goddess appeared from nowhere for no reason and handed over his axe. It was a golden axe. The woodcutter refused saying that this was not his axe. Idiot. The goddess dived again and came up with a silver axe. Again the woodcutter refused. Bigger idiot. The goddess tried again and got a bronze axe. The woodcutter was happy and said that this was his axe. The goddess was touched by his honesty and gave the other two axes to him as well, as reward for his foolishness. The woodcutter ran back home to tell his family of his good luck.
That is how my wife ran towards the supermarket.
I was left stranded with the luggage in the middle of the station, checking my watch and swearing. I had no other option. Over the sky walk, over the bridge of my marriage woes, down the other side where the supermarket was located, through the revolving doors, to the cutlery section, to the Turkish glasses, I strode, to find her flushed with happiness and victoriously grinning.
Perhaps, it was a good thing.
We reached the airport without much incident. Remember, I told you can surrender the Istanbul Kart and get the deposit of 5L back? Well, we did. When we handed over the card, it had exactly .08 L on it. Talk of being thrifty.
Just outside the entrance to the airport, we threw open our bags and packed in the glasses and ceramics with great care. We then dumped them in the check-in. Once the boarding procedures and visa formalities were completed, I breathed a sigh of relief and promptly went in search of a restaurant. I wanted one last thing before I stepped off Turkey.
We ordered, took our plates and sat down.
As we chewed into the delicious Kebab Kofte, dark Kuzu Güveç and rice, I looked at my wife. She smiled.
It all came rushing back – the ruins, the travertines, the mosques, the food, oh, the glorious, glorious food, the missed balloon ride, the caves, the villages, the treks, the beach, the museums, the food again, the subterranean funicular, the paintings, the murals, the tram and everything.
We clinked our glasses of Efes Pilsner, to our first trip and one of the best ones in our lives, so far.