The Turkish wedding fiasco

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The timer on my phone rings. That is the one hour mark I had set. I stand and stare at the narrow  mirror in my hotel room. I am pretty satisfied with what I see. I look pretty decent for someone who has never draped a saree by herself. Not that anyone in Turkey will mind how I have draped my saree.

In 10 minutes a cab arrives at the hotel to take me to the wedding venue. Oh, did I mention I am in Izmir, Turkey for my friend Gonca’s wedding?

I met Gonca when I was doing my M.S at Georgia Tech. She lived on the same floor, down the hall. We had common classes, hung out a bit and became friends.  In 2013 January she and Solen made a trip to India for my wedding and last month it was my turn to reciprocate the gesture.

Gonca had sent me detailed google map directions  for my trip – directions from the airport shuttle to my hotel, directions from my hotel to the shuttle, directions to the wedding venue, directions to the closest landmark near the venue. She was detailed that way and I had done my part and taken a printout of each one of them.

Earlier in the day I  handed over the directions to the venue to the receptionist at my hotel who after an animated discussion with the bell boy said I needn’t worry about a thing. He said by 6 pm he would have a cab take me to the venue.True to his word he was.

The venue turns out to be beautiful. It is a stadium which I assume is used for functions now and then and it is by the seafront  and has a lovely view of the city on the other side.  There are caterers dressed in all black with crisp white aprons scurrying around. Funny! I see only the caterers, no guests. Gonca had mentioned that there were rooms at the venue for the guests to freshen up. Just when it dawns on me that I may have landed up at the wrong venue the cabbie revs his engine and zooms away.

I am not too worried at this point. So I walk up to a bunch of young guys  standing around a large white and pink floral arrangement at the entrance and ask them if this is the  wedding of Gonca karakus and Solen Soya? I am not prepared for what happens next!

They don’t speak English. They seem amused at my Saree. My queries are returned by really cute smile ( not really helpful at this time) and an occasional ‘yes’. Unfortunately the printouts with the venue details and directions are with the cab guy. So I try a different tactic.

“I am Lisa, from India. Go to Nikar ( at this time I show them my wedding ring) of Gonca Karakus”.

This seems positive, one of the guys seem to understand my predicament.

” Ohhhh :, he says, yes fully understanding my plight , ” BOLLYWOOD!”.

I spend 20 minutes with them until I am rescued by their supervisor who understands English.

He explains to me that I am at the wrong venue ( you don’t say!) this is not a wedding function but a felicitation ceremony of sorts but not to worry the wedding is just down the road.

He is sweet enough to walk me to the wedding.  I have to say this just bolsters my argument as to why Turkey is my favorite country in the whole world.

The wedding is a short walk away. He leaves me at the entrance to the venue. I know this must be a wedding venue.  The women are dressed in gorgeous gowns and the men look dapper in their suits. I feel relieved. I am ushered in by a lady in a black suit and a name tag. The venue is a old house facing the sea with a lawn area at the centre of which is a decorated wedding pavilion.  I notice people looking at me. Initially I had contemplated on not  draping a saree but had eventually thought it would be adventurous.

It was a pleasant evening and gentle breeze was blowing from the Agean Sea. Only when the waiter came around with short eats did I realise how hungry I was. Half way through my tart the music starts  and the bride and groom walks  in. What a beautiful couple and they look so happy . The only problem is that they are not Gonca and Solen. I am at the wrong venue again!

The looks I got may not really be for the exotic way I am dressed. I am a wedding crasher!  I bolt out of there without second thoughts. Of all the crazy things I have done (and there is a long list ) this one takes the cake.

I am standing by the road wondering if I should go back to the  hotel and start from there again when a cab drives up. On second thoughts I decide to go wedding hunting. I get into the cab and explain to the driver in a state of panic

“Nikar( the Turkish word for Wedding), then next nikar till Karakus nikar”.

The nice cab driver takes me to the next wedding venue which has a sign outside welcoming the guests. It is not Gonca’s wedding. So he takes me to the next wedding. I see someone who look like Gonca’s mom. I have never met her but only seen her pictures on facebook. This time I make sure I take a good look at the bride and groom to ensure that I am not crashing another wedding.

After a hour or so of crashing and hunting for the Karakus wedding I arrive in time to partake in the celebration while Gonca and Solen say ‘I do’ to each other.

A scrub at a Turkish hamam

I am not alright with nudity. To start with I do not have a flattering figure and next it is shunned in my culture. My mother would have a fit! Yet a scrub at the old Turkish hamam of cerbiltas was on the cards. A pamphlet we had picked up from the tourist office at Sultanhmet claimed it was an experience “Not to be missed”. The back side of the folded pamphlet announced that here we would get a disposable briefs and a bath mitt. The glossy paper and the catchy font made is seem like a luxury. And the tourists that we were fell for it immediately.

I was told by a Turkish friend that traditionally mother in laws invited the daughter in law to be to the hamam. There under the pretext of a good scrub the mother would check out the bride to be, ensure that she was well endowed and would make her son happy and bless her household with many sons.

After paying for our scrubs, the lady at the counter handed us our disposable briefs and bath mitts. Without the glossy paper and catchy font the briefs and mitts failed to evoke a sense of luxury.

We changed out of our clothes and wrapped ourselves in a rather large towel which the hamam provided and consciously walked into the scrub room.

The scrub room was a semi dark room ( what a relief!) with a marble slab in the middle surrounded with water taps and fountains. Underneath the slab of marble there was hot water being circulated. There were women in different states of nudeness everywhere. Some of them lay back on the slab relaxing. Some of them were enjoying a good scrub by middle aged well endowed semi nude women with black lingerie. While others were enjoying a swim in the pool at the far corner adjacent to the jacuzzi.

We choose to follow the women relaxing on the slab. We lay back with the towel over us. I strategically tilted and tightened my body to fit under the towel. Just when I managed succeeded in my efforts, one of the scrubbing women came over, yanked off my towel and poured a large mug of water over me. My scrub had officially begun.

She scrubbed so hard that the layer of tan on my skin peeled right off. I began to relax and enjoy the scrub.

When she reached my stomach, she gently tapped my bulging tummy and winked and asked “Baby?”. My face reddened.  Gosh I didn’t think all that eating was actually showing; I mean my jeans still fit!