Musings from Ataturk Airport (September 28, 2017)

I seem to find myself in the city of Istanbul during crossroads of my life where I have just finished one phase, and am embarking on another – times heralding a changes of some note, such as uprooting myself from one city to another, and leaving behind the security of a stable law firm salary.

In May 2012, I quit my first job with a law firm in Bombay to move back to Delhi to work there. I took a five week break to travel on my own in Turkey and then to London. Istanbul formed the starting point of my wanderings, and was also the city from which I would embark on a more adventurous exploration of the “interiors of Turkey”.

In September 2017, I find myself at the brink of an entirely different adventure – to quit another job in a law firm (one in Delhi, this time) and seek higher studies at a relatively advanced age, entailing my first entry into Continental Europe (barring the tiny sliver of Istanbul, which technically qualifies as the aforesaid first entry).

On board my flight to Istanbul, I note with some amusement that I am taking the same flight I took five years ago: Turkish Airlines flight TK-717, except it used to depart at 6:05 a.m. in 2012, while the 2017 iteration takes off ten minutes later, at 6:15 a.m. I note also that my hand baggage is the same one that I carried five years ago. It is possibly heavier now, burdened as it is by the strain of an Indian student moving to study in colder latitudes, but there is symbolism in the fact that it still bears the thick red cardboard tag of Turkish Airlines (for some reason, I liked it too much to remove it all these years).

It is a strange thing but sometimes memories get embedded in smells. I realize this as I step out of Turkish Airlines flight TK-717 into the crisp 20 degree celsius air, and I am taken back to my hostel from five years ago, and to the street it was located on – the bustling Istiklal Caddesi. I can only describe this smell as a delightful amalgam of delicious Turkish food and a fabric softener that smells fresh and comforting at the same time. Somehow this strange combination does not seem unpalatable in the least.

My layover in Istanbul is a shade under five hours, not offering enough time to get out of the airport and experience first-hand how much this city has changed in the past sixty four months. But an excellent lounge at the airport provides me with a slice of Istanbul at the reasonable/unreasonable price of 30 Euros. Apart from the excellent shower and spotless bathroom facilities (for both of which I would give due credit to the Turkish sense of hospitality and hygiene), I had the chance to experience some of the incredible food and beverages of Istanbul without leaving the airport. Köfte, peynir, mozzarella balls, varied beans and salads. Beer and more beer. Çay. It felt good to be transported back to the few days in 2012 when I had these at my disposal in abundance.

May 2012 and September 2017, in my life, form important junctures – to open myself to new life experiences, and letting go a bit, including of conventional ideas of job security and a steady salary. Istanbul was a great place to start both journeys. To that I say: Şerefe!