Trip to Turkey Day 3 – A Mata in Medha #TurkishDelight

Note: This is the fourth part of my series of trip reports from Turkey. You can find the first three here: https://bit.ly/2RQV9jT , here: https://bit.ly/2Q2FWPO , and here: https://bit.ly/2B76IOB

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..” I shouted in a long-drawn out booming voice, with my right arm outstretched, reaching towards Medha almost in slow motion, but I already knew my Herculean effort was going to be in vain, I was too late.

How’s that for a dramatic opening sentence, eh? Now let’s go into a tiny flashback, to a time long, long…actually, just 2 minutes and 37 seconds ago.

We were in the Harem (Not to be confused with a Hamam, jismein sab nange hote hain (Everyone is equally naked in a Hamam, Old Indian Saying), only the courtesans used to be naked in a Harem. Now you know the difference, right? You can thank me later) of Istanbul’s landmark Topkapi Palace, where we had reached after paying an extra entrance fee of 35 Liras each (Totally not worth it, btw), and I had just been telling Medha that objects in these old palaces had ancient magic stored inside them, and so she should be careful not to touch anything. So obviously, when she saw an old man with a teeny-weeny mustache, she promptly proceeded to check if the mustache came off.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…..” I shouted in a long-drawn out booming voice, with my right arm outstretched, reaching towards Medha almost in slow motion, but I already knew my Herculean effort was going to be in vain, I was too late.

As soon as Medha touched the edge of the statue’s mustache, it came unglued, and the statue suddenly became Aadha-Muchh-Munda(Half-mustache-shaven, in Hindi).

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We were all shocked beyond belief, and staring at the statue in horror. The authorities were sure to levy a hefty penalty on us now, if they did not throw us in prison first. “Run,” I instructed our gang under my breath, “act totally naturally, but run before anyone realizes what has happened.”

“We Sultans do not run, we fight till we die,” came the reply in a deep voice that I didn’t recognize. I turned around to check who had spoken, and stood transfixed, as I realized that the words had come out of the mouth of my dear wife Medha.

“What…what…what…” I started stuttering, when she held up a hand imperiously and said in the same alien, male voice, “How dare you speak to the Sultan without permission, you slave?”

And it was then that it struck me. Not her hand, though that too was perilously close to striking me, but the realization that we were dealing with supernatural forces here. To put it in a nutshell (Nut being the operative word here), in the words of Ayesha when she saw Namrata dancing wildly at a party, “Iske andar Mata aa gayi hai!(A spirit has entered her body.)

When Namrata had started dancing….Oh don’t worry, I’m just kidding, I won’t introduce more characters into this travelogue at this late stage. even I can’t digress that much. Or can I?

Anyways, the bottom line was that the spirit of the Sultan who had spent his entire life in this Harem (not Hamam) had somehow entered Medha’s body when she had touched that statue’s mustache, and now, we were in trouble….big trouble, which we soon realized when Medha started bandying around orders in a tone that brooked no dissent.

“We should do what she wants, or else she will do what SHE wants,” Pratik whispered his gem of the day to us, and we readily agreed. And thus began one of the weirdest tour that the walls and gardens of Topkapi Palace would have ever witnessed in its long and illustrious history.

“First of all,” said Medha in a matter-of-fact manner, “we shall all dance on ‘Saaddi rail-gaddi aayi‘(Punjabi party song in which everyone forms a line and starts running. The lyrics of the song, loosely translated, mean- Get off the track, O lovely ladies, our train is on its way.)

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The task completed to her satisfaction, she took our human train to the part of the palace that overlooked the Bosphorus, and said, “Now, we shall all sit in a row and get our photo clicked.”

That’s simple, we thought to ourselves, maybe she’s getting back to normal. But then came the twist, of course, “Half of you will face the other side, so that the photo captures the best side of everyone.”

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We fulfilled her desire, but she wasn’t done yet. Turning towards Swati, she now said, “You wear her hair.”

“Whaaaaaat?” Swati cried out, confused beyond words.

“What is so difficult to understand,” said Medha, “You wear her hair. Now say that ten times in quick succession.”

Swati almost had tears in her eyes by this time, so Jiggy went up to her and said, “I think she wants you to wear my hair.”

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The two girls completed the task with panache, but all that Medha said was, “See, it was so simple. You wear her hair.”

Everyone was terribly tired by now, with all the running and death-defying stunts that Medha had been making us perform, so we had a quick discussion while she was distracted by the fall colors of a tree overlooking the Bosphorus. Thakkar said, “I think we need to go back to the place where it all started, the Harem.”

And as we all nodded in assent at his wisdom, he continued, “By the way, how is a Harem different from a Hamam?”

And now, we gently guided Medha back towards the Harem, but this time, we just sneaked in through the Exit Gate, we would rather spend 14 years in prison than pay 35 Liras again for that small annexure.

We reached the main hall of the Harem, where all the performances (Naach Munnibai naach types) used to take place. “Medha, wake up, please, see, we are back to the Harem. Now you also please come back,” I pleaded with my wife. But the spirit of the Sultan was not done with us, or at least me, yet.

Medha was now looking at me like she was seeing me for the first time in her life. Then, she started inspecting me closely, all the while staring at me with lecherous eyes. For the first time in my life, I felt like a piece of meat instead of a man.

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And then, in that same deep voice, she said, “Naach Munnibai naach!”

And I danced, even though I had always thought that I couldn’t dance to save my life, now I realized that I could dance…to save my life. My feet started tapping off their own accord, and my hands started moving in perfect(OK, who am I kidding, not perfect by any stretch of imagination, but in some sort of) synchronization.

For the next ten minutes, the entire hall stood transfixed as I gave the craziest dance performance they’d ever been witness to. Everyone was clapping in rhythm, keeping pace with me, and loud peals of laughter could be heard till as far as the Galata Tower.

Finally, I could dance no more, and I fell to the ground, just like Basanti at the end of “Aa jab tak hai jaan, jaane-jahaan, main naachoongi in Sholay. Everyone went silent, as if they’d seen a ghost, and then Medha’s hand stretched towards me, as she said in her normal sweet, melodious voice, “Now THAT was worth paying 35 Liras for, wasn’t it?”

And as the rest of our gang started laughing like crazy, I realized that they’d all been in on it, right from the beginning. But you know what, I couldn’t care less. I’d danced in the Sultan’s Harem (not Hamam, thankfully) and no one could ever take that memory away from me!

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About anuragbakhshi

At the age of 40, I decided to exit the corporate world, and enter the world of stories as a full-time writer. Wish me luck!
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1 Response to Trip to Turkey Day 3 – A Mata in Medha #TurkishDelight

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