A recipe written on a clear glass samovar of “Ottoman Sherbet” remains with me long after the trip photos have been downloaded, enjoyed and forgotten; the place is the tree-lined alley in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, between the mosque and the Grand Bazaar, at an artisan fair, a “mela” (as in “milieu”) or “coming together” in Urdu. Small flowers and fruits float with crushed ice, wafting behind the words. Transfixed like the letters on the urn, I say the names out loud in Turkish and English several times, recalling their linguistic cousins in Urdu, Persian and Arabic. Later, I collect the missing names from friends and complete the list. Variations of sounds as well as place-tags such as “Tamr Hindi”, Arabic for “the date of India,” “Thooth Firangi” (strawberry), Persian for “Frankish/foreign berry,” “Daar Cheeni” (cinnamon) or the “Chinese tree-bark” symphonise history with the music of everyday names, evoking the times of the Silk Roads— centuries of commerce and civilisational confluence, clash and eventual commingling. The ancient Qissa Khawani Bazaar or “the Market of the Storytellers,” is the first fragment of the lengthy history of the Silk Roads I learn about— Peshawar, a gateway to India, an outpost of the famous trading route, remains the small city of my childhood with half the heart of a trader, the other half split into storyteller and warrior— due, perhaps to its geography and imperial past, a fierce restlessness in its air. My last home, a few miles away from the Khyber Pass, overlooks the Hindu Kush Mountains through which Alexander the Great entered India. At age nine, I visit the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul for the first time, en route to America and England. The gorgeous copperware and carpets remind me of Peshawar and the heaps of hazelnuts and chocolates and the itinerant cats of Istanbul are vaguely Western At age nine, I visit the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul for the first time, en route to America and England. The gorgeous copperware and carpets remind me of Peshawar, and the heaps of hazelnuts and chocolates and the itinerant cats of Istanbul are vaguely Western. I have the correct impression I’m at a crossroads, though I have no clue of its historical significance yet. And now, here again, as I sip the sherbet and take in the names of various fruits, roots, herbs and flowers grown and known first in ancient China, India, Persia, the Mediterranean, or Central Asia, passed on over the centuries across the networks of trade routes stretching from China to Europe, combined in an imperial drink, I also take in the singular flavour of hybridity leading to the synesthesia underlying language. Isn’t “Anar,” the jewelled fruit of miniature painting and proverbs, a startling red with “nar,” the Arabic word for fire in it, and “Anar kali,” the fruit’s bud in Urdu, a cultural motif signifying beauty? And “ruman,” Arabic for pomegranate, also the word for “romance’ in Urdu, though likely from the Latin root of “Rome.” And are not the seeds of this spectacular fruit so much like garnets, possibly bearing a resemblance to the word “pomegranate” in English? And “rasbhari,” meaning “full of nectar” in Urdu, derived possibly from Sanskrit, nearly the same as “raspberry” in sound? And isn’t it curious that “imli” (tamarind) is similar to the date in texture and colour but quite the opposite in taste, one being very sour, the other very sweet, yet all the words for it on the list are related to the Arabic “Tamr Hindi,” “the Indian date.” And isn’t “Shah dana” (cherry) or “king grain” reminiscent of the Syrian king who imported cherries in silk pouches carried by homing pigeons? One could go on and on, which is the supreme gift of this enterprise of searching for origins and mutual influence, to a poet. Besides the two bazaars of my childhood, there is a third famous bazaar that belongs in this story, one which is directly related to how Urdu found its shape— it is the Urdu Bazaar in Delhi, the marketplace near the imperial Mughal palace. I have yet to see it but the multiplicity of full-fleshed sensory associations of distinct cultures by way of taste, texture, scent, and sonic sensibility, reaches me through the lexicon and floods my mind with images of Urdu’s cultural heritage. Another sherbet recipe comes to mind. Mughal Summer Sherbet Milk Saffron Almonds Cashews Pistachios Melon seeds Poppy seeds Green cardamoms Rose petals Cinnamon Black peppercorns Sugar The writer is the author of Kohl & Chalk and Baker of Tarifa, and is the recipient of the San Diego Book Award as well as the Nazim Hikmet Prize. Her work has been translated into Spanish and Urdu. She has taught in the MFA programme at San Diego State University. She Tweets at @ShadabZeest and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 16th , 2017.