Istanbul

My father passed away this January (2017) and his death affected me at a very deep level. I idolized him growing up and subconsciously, I have always tried to channel his ‘joie de vivre’. He inspired me like no one ever has. His love for life transcended the material and physical nature of this ‘duniya’. He cherished moments and really appreciated the minute things in life- things that you read about in self-help books. He found pure joy in just being, in enjoying the ‘here and the now’, and sometimes I think he was a hidden sufi in a bureaucrat’s body.

Pappa had a love for travel and from when he was a young man in his early 20s, he managed to find ways to explore and be adventurous (on a budget). I did a series of video interviews with him just a few months before he passed away. He told me about a boys’ road trip that took him from Pakistan through to Turkey. He had gotten a scholarship to study at the American University in Beirut, and with the stipend he earned, he, along with some friends, rented an old, beat up car, and took the trip of a lifetime.

He went on to describe his journey on the Orient Express, from Istanbul to Paris. He remembered everything so vividly, it seemed like it was only recently that he had taken that trip.

Here was a man who had told me stories from Sindbad’s adventures and 1001 Nights at bedtime- stories that captivated my imagination, stories that I try and tell my daughter now. His descriptions of his travels were fantastic and exotic. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and live like him and be him.

In April of 2017, nearly three months after his passing, I took a holiday with my husband and daughter and went to Istanbul. I fell instantly in love with the city. It was an emotional trip and there were moments, when I thought I should have waited to go on holiday. Not a day passed by, when something or the other would remind me of my father and I would start to cry. My father worked in Ports and Shipping in Pakistan, and he often travelled to different countries to look at ships and initiate purchasing. The length of the Bosphorus is speckled with ships of all sizes. I imagined my father everywhere. But that wasn’t the only thing-  I saw posters of the Orient-express in a tiny shop in Ortakoy and started bawling; I saw a 80+ year old man, wearing a coat and a tie, handing out political fliers, and I almost hugged him because he reminded me of my father in his formal suits. But above everything, it was as if Istanbul was an embodiment of my father’s spirit.

He wanted me to travel and see the world. We would deconstruct my experiences of new cities and share our joy over how wonderful the world truly is. I miss him deeply, and there is a void that will always remain, but in my saddest moments, I think about him smiling, telling me to live and rejoice in living and make the most of life.

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