A trip on the Metro this week showed me that times are changing.
Society in Istanbul is increasingly choosing to reserve judgement, embrace diversity and personal differences. I make a conscious effort to regularly take public transport in Istanbul and particularly when I travel abroad. As painful as it can sometimes be, it can be most revealing of social behaviour.
There was once a time in Istanbul when mentally or physically disabled people were kept behind closed doors. This was the case partly, for lack of appropriate infrastructure, and partly to avoid public judgement and shame. However today you can often see them independently going about their own way in public.
This week I watched a carriage full of people from all walks of life behave with maturity and compassion around two such citizens. Seeing this delighted me. It struck me that things have moved on quite substantially. Not one person bat an eyelid, no one stared, whispered under their breadth or fidgeted with discomfort. We were all part of the same social fabric, surrendering our judgements, embracing and respecting our differences, as we went on with our own daily lives. As I continued to look around the carriage, I saw youngsters with piercings, pink coloured hair side by side among young ‘suited’ professionals.
It was the first time I felt lost in Istanbul, you the kind of sensation one experiences in London. Lost in a sea of individuality. The sense of loss that brings with it a sense of liberated freedom. That’s a sweet feeling and one I have been seeking in Istanbul for a very long time.