Quiet please, I'm thinking.
As one moseys around any city one sees many interesting, weird and sometimes upsetting sights. On Istiklal Avenue there are ice cream vendors whose trick it is to play with the portion placed in your cone; it’s there, it’s gone, it’s back – that kind of thing. Quite amusing unless you’re parched or starving and in dire need of sugar. On the Bosphorus, which can be seen from any semi-elevated part of the city and constitutes Istanbul’s heart, there is no end of impressive and inspiring vessels, coming in all shapes and sizes as they do. What’s hard to cope with from time to time is the hardship one witnesses so often, though it’s only fair to say that all may not be as it seems.
En route to my place of work is a pedestrian bridge connecting one side of the main Metrobus route to the platform for the Metrobus, the other side of the road and the Metro if necessary. Most days there is a little old chap selling packets of tissues for half a lira at the base of the staircase, these come in handy when pouring with sweat. He seems happy enough plying his ‘trade’ however off-putting his lack of legs may be. Further on there are additional traders selling cigarettes, perfumes, phone cases and all sorts, all of whom seem fairly content eking out their respective livings. After a little while one stops paying much attention to this relentless offering of knickknacks.
And then there are the (I don’t like to use the term but the alternatives aren’t much better) panhandlers. Every city and country has them poverty being universal and non-discriminatory, an equal opportunities employer if you will. For me it’s never easy to pass by and not give something, an unsustainable investment if ever there was one and not one ever likely to achieve much. Whenever I don’t give it’s not because I think their plight a product of their own design, nor do I consider them all drug users, alcoholics or deadbeats. I suppose the sheer weight of numbers is the real deciding factor. How much money would one really need to even make the slightest difference?
Last week I passed a woman on my pedestrian crossing, she had a child in her lap and he was obviously sick. I don’t know what the illness was but polio popped into my mind. He had what seemed to be clubfoot, an arm that I highly doubt he could do much with and he lay back in his mother’s lap, staring into the sky with big empty eyes and a confused expression. He couldn’t have been more than six years old, if that. It was another scorching Turkish day with a deep blue sky and only the occasional cloud. I found myself hoping that whatever he was looking at or thinking about was soothing.
Life is cruel.