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Shopping and sweet nothings in Istanbul’s Grand Bazar

Sunday, June 06, 2010 12:36:39 PM, Ranjana Narayan, IANS

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Istanbul: “Hey, Miss India, you’ve taken my heart!”… “You can take my heart and my soul too, it is all yours” - Turkish men, especially the shopkeepers, sure know how to flatter women customers.

In Istanbul’s dazzling maze of around 4,000 shops at Grand Bazar, flattering endearments by shopkeepers chase you as you trip through the lanes and by-lanes, dumbfounded by the display of artefacts and knick-knacks.

Haggling is a pre-requisite at Grand Bazar, this visiting IANS correspondent is warned by a tour guide as the vehicle pulls up outside one of the four main gates of the bazaar, located right next to a hammam.

Attractive silver jewellery inlaid with turquoise and other gems catches your eye at one of the hundreds of shops. “How much?” you ask, pointing to a thin chain with a pendant.

“60 Lira,” the young shopkeeper replies. And while your mind is quickly calculating - 60 x 30 (Rs.30 is worth one Lira - that is the exchange rate), you can’t help noticing the young man appreciating your long skirt with Indian motifs and noticing your kohl-lined eyes.

“What happened?” he asks, as you politely walk away. “Too much, the price is too much,” you say. “You from India?” he asks, and you nod.

“Turkey, India friends,” he says clasping his hands together. “You say how much, and I will come down (meaning he will lower his price). But you have already decided against it. “Omigosh, Rs.1,800 for that thin necklace, I can get better ones in Delhi,” you think while shaking your head, showing you are not interested.

“Miss India, wait…wait, take my heart, but don’t go. Let’s talk, I come down 5 Lira, Ok, Ok? , he says.

“No, No,” you say, your mind is already made up. It is far too expensive.

“Ok, I come down 10 Lira,” he calls after you. But, you’ve already made your escape into another lane. In India, such sweet nothings would be frowned upon.

Another shop displays wall hangings of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. But Turkish men are gallant by nature and such flattery is accepted.

“Ah, just the thing I was looking for,” you think, stopping at a shop selling souvenirs. There is a whole long list of knick-knacks you have to buy for folks back home.

“How much?” you ask, pointing to a medium-sized wall hanging of the Blue Mosque with a big ‘nazar boncugu’, or Turkish evil eye, hanging below. “20 Lira,” the shopkeeper replies promptly.

“Too much”, you say and prepare to walk away.

“Wait, madam,” he calls, just as you knew he would. “Well then, how much?” you ask, and he replies, “17 Lira, madam”. “I’ll give 10 Lira,” you say, and he agrees after a while of futile arguing.

“Wow, what a bargain,” you are just complimenting yourself, walking away with two of them neatly packed in a plastic packet, when you espy similar wall hangings at another shop in the next lane.

Just for curiosity, you go up and ask, “How much?” and the answer stumps you - “10 Lira, madam. But I am willing to come down if you want to buy!”

Another shop selling pretty Turkish pottery catches one’s eye. A yellow bowl with blue designs is especially eye-catching. Asked the price, the young man, in his early 20s, says 90 Lira.

Seeing you walk away, he says immediately, “How much will you give?” “Not more than 30 Lira,” you venture brazenly.

He laughingly says, “Take my heart, my soul, take me instead..” and as you embarrassedly walk away, he says, businesslike, “See I can give you something else for that money.” Seeing you walk away, he breaks into song.

By the time you are done shopping in Istanbul, you begin to accept and even expect the sweet nothings as a part of speech.

Grand Bazar has rows and rows of shops selling things ranging from hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops. And its men are sure to make you smile!




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