Sweet sounds of chai, kitap and sekar in Turkish (IANS Travel)

June 14th, 2010 - 10:12 am ICT by IANS  

By Ranjana Narayan
Istanbul, June 14 (IANS) You can browse though books at the numerous ‘kitap’ shops in Turkey, choose to pay for your purchase in ’sikkas’, and after you have finished your ‘hisap kitap’, step into one of the many open air restaurants for a cup of ‘chai’.

The many words that the Turkish language shares with Urdu - itself derived from a Turkish word - make Indian tourists feel at home in Turkey.

It was her name, Derya Kutukcu, that first seemed so familiar. This visiting IANS correspondent asked the tour guide, “Tell us Darya (we pronounced it the Indian way), does your name mean river?” “Yes, it does,” she replied.

And after that initiation, more similarities between Urdu and the Turkish language cropped up, much to everyone’s delight.

The red watermelon is called ‘kharbooza’, just like in India, and big slices of it are heaped on to plates at eateries. When tea is ordered, the chai is brought in pretty urn-shaped transparent cups without a handle and placed on an equally pretty saucer.

Incidentally, you can choose between Turkish chai, which is minus the milk, or apple tea, or other flavoured chai - the taste grows on you. And if you want some extra sugar, just ask for some ’seker’, or ’shakkar’ as Indians would call it.

After the chai, you can do the ‘hisap-kitap’, or settle your accounts.

For vegetarians, food is not a problem in Turkey. Apart from the numerous dishes they spin out of the egg plant, they also have dips made of ‘peyneer’, or cottage cheese. It’s called ‘paneer’ in India!

Also, don’t be surprised if you get fried egg plant slivers on your ‘pilav’, or pulao. The humble aubergine is quite a favourite in Turkey as well as all around the Mediterranean.

And while in Turkey, don’t forget to visit a ‘meyhane’, or tavern - just like ‘maikhana’ in Urdu. They are happening places, full of the choicest food, music, dancing and singing, and of course, drinking.

There are more similarities. At Cappadocia, in central Turkey, Nevsehir is a prominent town where tourists are headed to in order to see the underground palaces and nature’s wonders. Nevsehir means ‘new town’. You can visit the famed Uchisar palace - a maze of rooms carved into a mountain. ‘Uchi’ means high - the same as in Urdu.

Though 98 percent of the Turkish population is Muslim and there are many beautiful mosques with the ‘azaan’ chanted melodiously by clerics played through mikes, Friday is not the weekly holiday. Being a secular country, Turkey has made Sunday the weekly holiday.

And after almost a week or ‘hafta’ spent absorbing the wonderful sights in Turkey, tourists fly back home in a ‘hava alanu’, or aeroplane. ‘Hava’ is air in Urdu and Turkish.

During the rule of the Ottoman sultans (c.13th century to 1922), the Turkish language was written in the Arabic script and used a lot of Arabic and Persian words.

However, the first president and father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, started the “new language” movement in 1928 to remove foreign words as part of his mission to give the country its own identity. The reforms saw the Arabic alphabet replaced by the Latin one and many of the Arabic/Persian words substituted by those coined from Turkic roots or those unused for centuries.

However, many familiar words still remain - those which have persisted in usage or are derived from the Turkic group of languages - to the utter delight of Indian tourists!

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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