Sunday, December 4, 2011
Ismael, the hawker
Let me tell you the story of Ismael, the hawker. Ismael was born in a village near the Van region of Turkey. Van is in the eastern edge of Turkey and home to the gorgeous lake Van. Despite its beauty Van's claim to fame is due to another reason, albeit a tragic one. Van is notorious for earthquakes that levels its towns and cities. The region cannot boast of the wealth of the Istanbul and its people often have to make do with very little. It was in these trying conditions that Ismael was born into. Like most young men with big dreams, Ismael headed out west to Istanbul. The years passed but Ismael's dreams did not materialize. To be rich you must either be a crook or a king and sometimes both. His initial frustration gradually settled into tacit acceptance.
Today, Ismael roams the ferry stations of Istanbul hawking fare cards. Several thousands of people use the ferries everyday to cross the Strait of Bosphorus, traveling between Asia and Europe to get to work everyday. The busier ones amongst these worker bees are Ismael's customers. They don't have time to stand in line at the ticketing queues. Perhaps, I looked like one. Ismael approached me, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". I politely declined. He noticed the bag of mandarin oranges in my hands. He then coolly reached into my bag of oranges, took out an orange, looked at me, nodded his head and walked away shouting "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". I was more amused than flustered. Individuality and "minding-my-own-business" had so far been a critical part of my western education. Unfortunately, Ismael didn't think too much of it.
He hadn't gone very far. He was trying to sell his wares to a woman who looked quite overburdened. An infant in one hand and a bag of groceries in another. She could do with some help but couldn't afford Ismael's prices. Again, Ismael took matters into his own hands. He took her money, walked to the head of the ticketing queue and pleaded with the officer at the counter. He motioned animatedly in her direction and explained her plight. Eventually, he returned with a fare card for her. On he went shouting "Istanbulkarte..! Istanbulkarte..!". Ismael had carved out for himself a sense of justice and fairness. In his world, pilfering oranges and helping women in distress were both the right thing to do. I can just imagine, Ismael as a proud knight in the medevial ages, swinging his sword in glorious battle.