Turkish delights

After a year of running into each other in the stairway, exchanging smiles in the laundry room, and mumbling pleasantries while lugging groceries, the Turkish man who lives across the corridor extended a dinner invitation. Not a problem at all, it will be fun, he insisted.

I found myself outside their door on the day of. Just wanted to make sure, I told him. Where are we going?

His wife’s head appeared, with one eye turned towards the stove.

“You are going to have Turkish food here! Don’t bring anything, we already started cooking!”

She seemed enthusiastic. It was possible her husband’s random friendly overture for the month hadn’t irritated her. Maybe she even liked to cook.

“Think they might have baba ghanoush?” my roommate asked me, interrupting my visions of a beautifully appointed dining table and endless cups of tea.

I spent some time making a fried snack to take with me, because I felt guilty they had to cook for us while fasting.

We had a thin rice and yogurt soup as our first course, followed by small savoury pastry pockets that hid feta and red peppers beneath a sprinkling of sesame seeds. We were then served a mildly flavoured rice dish with chickpeas and pine nuts, and oven roasted eggplant stuffed with beef mince. We played cards and drank too much tea.

We spoke of food, home, immigration, the American president. We spoke of paperwork, waiting, what we have lost by coming here, and what they gained. We exercised our individual and collective freedom of speech.

I learnt that they couldn’t go back, for fear of being imprisoned. Many of our friends are in jail, they told us, almost casually. They took great effort to explain their country’s situation, and were surprised we knew about the coup.

“You know about this?”

Their surprise was a bit moving.

I always imagined I had left behind prisonsโ€”a claustrophobic world that closed in on me with its ideas and words and actions. I liked to think I fought for what I have now, and somewhere in my head, I started giving myself more credit than I deserved. I left behind arranged marriages and caste (I was wrong), I discarded rules that said what I could do and how I could be, relatives who disguised their unhappiness with petty acts of cruelty, I cursed at prophecies that predicted terrible futures. I maintained that I broke free.

And then I met someone who fled home, who really did break free, who could probably never go back, whose prisons are real, made of brick, with walls that cannot be scaled.

We also learnt each other’s names.

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Crowd favourite this week! Thank you for the votes.

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16 thoughts on “Turkish delights

  1. Lovely! You made me hungry. ๐Ÿ™‚
    This made me think of a brief visit I had to Istanbul, chatting with our tour guide. She told us that kids went to school together until about junior high age. Then they would choose between a secular school or a religious one. The religious majority was pushing for kids choosing earlier, about fourth grade, which I’m sure meant their parents were choosing. For me that was writing on the wall of their society changing. So sad. But I see immigration as such an opportunity for us to add more flavors and textures to our culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That final line was utterly fantastic! I loved hearing of your dinner and the stories you discussed. I feel like food is the bridge into other’s cultures, and I envy you for both the authentic meal and the not so casual conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This definitely made me hungry!

    I love how your understanding of perspective unfolds here. We are always very lucky when we’re able to engage and spend time with folks who widen our understanding of our own lives!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ah! This was lovely. So understated and powerful in that. You did a great job of showing us the community that comes of sharing food and stories. I really appreciated your reflections on your own reasons for leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this piece. Thank you so much for sharing. I especially loved how you wrote about the food (I could almost taste it). I could see how the food was the entry point to shared experiences and that these were such immediate and genuine connections they came even before you learned each otherโ€™s names (metaphorically or not). You painted a clear, moving picture of commonality as well as making distinctions about experiences of both you and your hosts that differ. Brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nice as always. I am actually not so good with expressing the feelings in english, so is the generic compliment.

    Btw, if you don’t think i am imposing tamil on you, i request(sounds heavy ๐Ÿ™‚ ) you to go through this short story called “kulir” in http://vishalrajawrites.blogspot.com under the tag “sirukathai.” I would like to know what you think of it, just to know different views of perceiving and absorbing literature.

    The tamil literature scene and dialogues they are having are quite interesting. i feel we are making a mistake in ignoring and not engaging with them. You might check some of the recent posts on jeyamohan’s blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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