Gilded Serpent presents...
I came to Turkey
by Kayla Summers
thing happened on my way to India!
began in LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). I had received
a $750.00 voucher to go anywhere I wanted.
had gotten one for my boyfriend too, but he decided
on a solo trip to Amsterdam with his... I was broken
hearted. Truly, I was a wreck, and I thought that perhaps
a month in an Ashram, nursing my broken heart would
be more beneficial than months of therapy-- and cheaper
became my destination. However, the voucher would not cover
that journey by air. Friends suggested an overland trip just
get into London and then I could take a bus or a train. It
would take forever, but I had plenty of time!
My friends had traveled the route, many times over, some twenty-odd years ago.
Without further investigation, I drove to LAX. As I was handing over the voucher,
requesting a trip to London, I hesitated. Looking for a way to cut a week or
so of bus /train travel from my trip, I asked, “Don’t you have
any flight closer to India than London?”
“Well, we do have a special fare for Istanbul.”
“Istanbul it is”, I answered cavalierly, handing over the voucher.
I would leave in a week.
no further research and did not know anything about Turkey.
I knew nothing! After all, I reasoned, I was just landing
there and taking a train to India; what’s to know?
I was short on funds, my “accountant”allowed
me $600.00, and I was off! I landed first in Amsterdam, and
began doing the natural things anyone from Berkeley would
do in the five-hour layover, and then I arrived in Istanbul,
at midnight. I saw a poster on the wall listing various hotels,
mostly Hilton and such, which would put me into financial
crisis in moments! Listed in the middle of all these hotels
there was, “‘Otel Flamingo”, which had
a small room for a mere eight dollars per night. I called,
reserved a room, and after a harrowing cab ride, arrived.
The concierge, a kind man who spoke (perhaps?) six words
in English, greeted me. He showed me a few rooms, and let
me sleep for two days. When I got up, I tried to pay. The
concierge suggested that I go for a walk, instead.
onto the tourist trail, in Sultana I was shown the mosques,
and their beauty stunned me. I sat inside one for a half
hour, marveling at the complexities of the design, and the
serenity of the building. I returned easily to the hotel,
(a marvel in itself). The concierge acknowledged me, but
before he accepted my money, he indicated that I had to see
the owner. I was led into a room that was partitioned with
panels of latticed dark wood. There, on a big red velvet
chair, sat an older gentleman, wearing a pillbox shaped hat.
He wore strange (to my eyes) clothing, and he was smoking
a water pipe. After a few moments of silence, he asked if
I was well rested and comfortable where I was. I answered, "Very.
I love the mosques!" A few moments of silence passed,
and after a couple of puffs on the hookah, he said “M-m-m-hum”,
in the affirmative. The concierge then indicated that I go
back out. I was allowed to pay and stay.
one might say that that was that. But remember, I was still
on my way to India! The next day, I went to the travel agency,
requesting train and bus information, for the next leg of
was silent for a moment, then quietly, as if reminding
me, “But you’re American!”I didn’t
understand the relevance of her comment until she showed
me the map;
have to go through Iran and Iraq, with which my country had
been at sorts for some time. She suggested I go to the American
Embassy, reasoning that perhaps they would grant me a pass,
which, I was assured; they would not for my own good. I could
take a flight to India, but I would land in Bombay (now Mumbai).
The plan would wipe out my money, leave weeks of train travel,
and I would have only about three days at the ashram.
and anguish are the feelings that come to mind. Remember…my “broken
heart”, lacking much will to live...
her if there was, perhaps, an ashram or yoga center, located
in Istanbul. She looked at me in a really funny way as we
sipped “cay”(pronounced “chi”with
a long ‘I’). Delivering to me my next realization,
she said, “This is a Muslim country.”
I’m like, “So, what?”
“We don’t do…have that sort of thing here.”
Then I saw an Indian restaurant, (this part is truly my own arrogance). I said
to myself, “Where there is an Indian restaurant, there is an Indian;
where there is an Indian, there is an ashram”. So I strode across the
street to the restaurant, and I told the bus boys to take me to “their
Indian”. They escorted me to the back kitchen where, sure enough, there
was a little guy, cranking out chapattis. I told him that I couldn’t
make it to India, but that I definitely needed an ashram! I needed a refuge.
Hesitantly he said, “I’m Pakistani (read Muslim). Anyway, I’ve
only been here for four days. But there is no such thing here; this is a Muslim
country. I apologized profusely, claiming that it was just a chance...
that, he turned to the bus boys gathered around us,
and said, “Give her the card.”
one another for a second or two, as young boys do, and finally
produced a yellow business card with a tartaric design on
it. He said, “Maybe he can help you. Anyway, he speaks
better English than I do.”I’m giving you the
In my dogged
pursuit of the ashram, I had received yet another card, this
time, with a phone number, and the word “Dada”.
I can’t tell you how weird it is for me to call a complete
stranger, asking for “Daddy”! I tried a few times,
without success, finally having the concierge dial, which
did the trick. A man answered, and I went through the recitation
of my need for an ashram, and my inability to get to India,
and the many cards leading me to him. There was a pause.
“How did you get my number?”he asked.
I repeated my story, now believing this was some joke. Feeling entirely humiliated,
I said, “Look, you know why I’m here!”
He sighed, “Yes, I know; wait for me. I’ll call you back in a half
hour.”I waited, and he did call back and said, “We have, someplace
to put you, but I’m very busy.”
I said that I could wait, ‘til whenever he was through. But he said, “No,
you must come now!”Then he gave me directions to the Asian side of Istanbul
to a shop called “Liilas”that was located on Bagdat Caddessi, in
Goeztepe. I arrived there, sweating and disheveled. The saleswoman looked at
me as if I had fallen out of the sky. When I asked for “Dada”,
she remained blank and undaunted. Exhausted, I repeated very firmly in English
(none of which she understood) that I was waiting here for Dada, and I sat
down. Five minutes later, an Indian man, arrived, who, as it turned out, is
the co-owner of the shop.
He said, “Come with me.”
I reached for my bag, and he said, “Don’t take that; take only
what you need for the night...”
bring my passport, and left the rest behind. As one must
do to begin any spiritual trip, first, I had to drop the
baggage. He lead me up the street and into an apartment stuffed
with exports from India, huge carved wardrobes, silks, and
saris spilling out of them, boxes and crates, crammed with
baubles and silver... It was all dusty; clearly, no one lived
there... He led me to the back of the apartment to a large
room, which was completely devoid of furniture. It was clean,
with white walls, a “Rashneesh orange”carpet,
and an altar. That was all that was there. He said, “We
will meditate.”We meditated for twenty minutes or so
then he looked at my passport, and noted that, indeed, I
had a visa to India, proving the intent of my journey. Then
he asked me why I was here. I gave, him the quick and dirty
story of the heartbreak, ending with: “…that
I will take complete responsibility for what happened, but
I don’t know how to go on. I just cannot remember how
to live or why to live.”He brushed a tear from his
forgive me! Here I was: alone, damned near broke, feeling
devastated to the core, without a friend or home, and
you know what I thought right then? I thought, “Sucker!”
I hadn’t told him anything that he hadn’t heard
before: here is a too proud, older woman, getting duped and
dumped. And here he is, wiping away a tear because of my
pitiful story, and all I could think was, “What a Sucker!”
facing each other, for a few minutes, and then he took a
deep breath. I stared at him. The wall behind him grew brighter
and brighter. His head began growing large, like a pumpkin
with its features, and it slowly began rising off of his
neck. As if in response to my stupid thought!
“Sucker this, Kid!”
grandmother was a “medium”(complete with crystal
ball). She did have a gift, and made a thriving business
of it. (However, she also had children rattling the table
during some of her “séances”; okay?) So,
I was looking for the tricks, and there were none. I continued
to stare, I looked away in shame, and when I looked back
again, there he was, just a little man from Bengal (normal
head on normal neck). He asked me, if I found this room suitable
for my stay. I replied, “Yes.”I spent each night
in that room. To be honest, on the first night I searched
the room for a “trip switch”or “wire”just
to be sure, but I found none.
are few people more cynical than I, but I maintain
that I saw what I saw. Dada will not confirm or deny
the incident; he just laughs.
spent the days, making new friends, learning more yoga, studying
a tartaric method, replenishing my soul and heart, trying
to speak Turkish, and ultimately, falling in love with the
country and its remarkable people. In short, I learned how
to live again.
month ended, I sat in that room with Dada’s business
partner and devotee of the yogi philosophy, a Turkish woman
named Kalianna, reviewing and marveling at the strange circumstances
that had brought me here…We laughed. Then she commented, “You
know, Kayla, this room was not always like this (pristine)
it was like the rest of the house, [filled to the ceiling
with imports]. One day, shortly before you came here, Dada
and I were standing here, and he said, ‘Kalianna, this
room, must change! …Now!’Well, that meant I had
to do it, and within a week, I had it ‘cleared out’,
painted, carpeted, etc. It was a lot of work!”
know why, but I asked Kalianna, “Do you remember what
day it was?”
She answered, “Yes. I have it written on my calendar.”Interestingly,
it was the same day that I had handed over the voucher, thereby changing my
original plan, to request my alternate destination: Istanbul.
the story of how I chose Istanbul, …or how Istanbul
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