(Written March 2004)
T began rummaging around in her bag almost immediately, assuming that this was a once in a life time opportunity. She found her camera and began taking some quick snaps.
I stood, transfixed, drinking in the vista before us, a large body of water, narrow and long, teaming with activity as the sleek, high speed ferries carrying their load of hundreds of passengers piled their prescribed routes across and up and down the water way; then there were the independent, privately owned ferries, of a smaller size, not as fast and carrying fewer people as the city run ferries, but much more plentiful, streaming back and forth; interspersed were the high speed ferry, few of them, each carrying hundred plus passengers speeding past all other forms of public transport, their twin hulls skimming across the surface of the water; dotted here and there were fleets, more like flocks, of fishing boats, one-man operations, fishing in a group huddle, evidently where a school of fish were; finally sailing through this moving mosaic of water borne transport, the large, larger and massive ocean going ships which would enter, negotiate and traverse this motley array of vessels. Such is a typical moment in time on the Bosphorus – that international strait connecting the Black Sea with the Marmara Sea and dividing the mega-city of İstanbul into two unequal halves, one side in Europe and the other in Asia.
The water sparkles in the sunshine, a deep, almost inky hue. The surface is basically calm, but the dark colour and calm surface are deceptive, there are hidden depths, hidden dangers and hidden forces. All looks placid on the surface – but all is not as it first appears.
My eyes are drawn to a private ferry on the Üsküdâr – Beşiktaş run, travelling directly across the Bosphorus. The boat is pointed straight across the strait, the engine giving its all to cross in the shortest possible time. And yet, although the ferry is aimed directly across the strait, it is drifting down towards my left. By the time he has reached the opposite shore, he is pointing up the strait making up for lost ground. He attains his goal although not according to his intended plan. There are no straight lines when you try to cross this body of water.
Over the past month I have felt a bit like the ferry. I see where I am going, I am pointed in the right direction. I am doing all in my power to reach my goal, and yet I seem to be drifting sideways driven by unseen forces.
We found a flat we very much liked. Then, we couldn’t afford the flat. But, a way was found.
However, before the exchange, the exchange rate dropped – we no longer had sufficient funds to purchase the flat. And then the rate rebounded, briefly – very briefly, we exchanged our funds and the rate dropped and remained for the best part of ten years after that point in time.
We ‘bought’ the flat, completed the torturous process that lasted well over a month since the agreement was made. We had problems gaining the requisite military approval. And then that was sorted.
Then, before we could complete, the seller was taken ill – actually not ill at all but reportedly ill, trying to get out of the deal as he felt he had sold too low. And then that was sorted.
Then I needed to get a residence permit to complete some of the utilities. And that was delayed. And then that was sorted.
Finally, the flat was purchased.
Like the ferry, we have arrived at our destination, but with slippage and constantly contending with unseen forces.
Back to my view of the Bosphorus and my attention is drawn to the flock of fishing boats – seemingly stationary in the water. The men, standing pulling lines or fiddling with some fishing tackle in the midst of all the traffic, sometimes far, sometimes near to my viewing position. I am taken by these little boats, stationary in the water, “How is this possible, when the much larger ferries are being drawn irresistibly down the strait, that these little boats remain in the same position?”.
And then I see.
The ‘stationary’ fishing boats, the whole school of them, are actually slowly travelling up the strait – at the exact rate of the downward current, and hence remain in the same place. To be in one place, they travel forward; to be able to do their job they have found a way to deal with the challenge until it is second nature; looking like the most natural of things.
All of us face hidden forces affecting our lives, dreams and desires. These are reminiscent of these underwater challenges, these currents and we, by God’s grace, find ways of dealing with, coping and overcoming them. Nothing unusual in that, it is common to us all – the key is to emulate the fishermen, find the solution and get on with the job.