Note: This is the sixth installment in my series of trip reports from Turkey. You can find the first five here: https://bit.ly/2RQV9jT , here: https://bit.ly/2Q2FWPO , here: https://bit.ly/2B76IOB, here: https://bit.ly/2zSYmZ0,and here: https://bit.ly/2qTPYVa
I could see Medha’s hand inching slowly towards the huge stone axe. This could not be good. Aiming to distract her, I asked, “So Medha, what is the next thing you want to see in Istanbul?”
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I’d committed a grave error. The speed of Medha’s previously slowly-inching hand suddenly accelerated to Escape Velocity, and as she picked up the axe effortlessly, a gleam came into her eyes and she said in a threatening tone, “DO NOT TALK TO ME ABOUT ISTANBUL!”
Jiggy tried to be the voice of reason, and responded, “But why Medha? It is not THAT bad. Look at the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia….”
Medha interrupted her mid-sentence and said, “I still don’t know which dome is that of the Blue Mosque, and which one is Hagia Sophia. It’s not as if the Blue Mosque is blue, you know, as you would expect it to be in any sane city.”
I tried again, “But Medha, while we all agree with you on the lack of any inherent charm or grandeur in Istanbul, can I please implore you to let go of the stone axe. It seems to belong to another planet and another era, so we don’t know what ancient magic could be stored in it.”
Medha looked at me incredulously and said, “Really? You still believe in all these things despite the elaborate prank that all of us played on you the other day at Topkapi Palace?(Note: If you have been reading my stories regularly and in a sequence, like you are supposed to, you know which incident she was referring to. If not, why not? I know who you are, you delinquent. I’m going to find you, and then I’m going to make you read the entire series on a 4-inch mobile screen, just you wait.)
So saying, she calmly lifted the axe up, and slammed it down on two wheels that were kept in a recess in the wall. “See, nothing happened,” she said, laughing “you are such a coward.”
Everyone started laughing at me then, the tension having dissipated almost magically, and Pratik said, “Come, let’s go out to have a grilled chicken, because that is all I get to eat in this God-forsaken city.”
Suddenly, all of us had also started feeling extraordinarily hungry, so we walked out….and froze!
Instead of the millions of people, cats, and shops that we were expecting to see in Istanbul, we saw a fawn-coloured landscape that was unlike anything we had ever seen in our collective lives. There were rocks, big and small, everywhere, and in many such rocks were constructed caves, in which we could actually see people going about their normal lives.
But more significant than the change in scenery was the change in our moods, indeed, the way we looked upon the world, and our lives. All of us felt lighter, fresher, unburdened from the weight of the world that we seemed to forever carry on our permanently drooping shoulders and backs. This world was magical.
“This world is magical,” I couldn’t resist telling Medha, “see, I told you so.”
I saw a sudden spark of the Istanbul mania return to her eyes, as she asked, “And do you blame me for it?”
I hugged her tight, and said, “Whenever I tell you to NOT do anything in the future, just remind me of this moment!”
“Let’s explore this strange land,” said Thakkar, the ever-curious researcher in him coming to the fore.
We came out on a narrow road, and started walking downhill, where we could see the outline of a town from a distance. Suddenly, I saw a sign that made me stop in my tracks. Could this really be true? A golden opportunity like this, being handed over to me on a platter?
“What does that sign say, Pratik,” I asked, my fingers crossed firmly, praying that I was right.
“Go-Re-Me….” he said.
“Ohhhh NOOOOOOOOO!!!!” Medha howled, for she knew what was coming next.
And right on cue, I started off, “Go, a gear, a female gear, Ray, a drop of golden sun, Me, a name, I call myself…”
Medha was just readying her palm to whack me on the back of my head when I stopped automatically, for sitting on a thin wall at the edge of a valley was a Baba, not of the Ganoush kind, but a Holy Man, his palms raised in blessings.
We bowed in front of him, and when he said, “Look up my children,” we all looked up in unison, and nearly fainted with shock. For the Baba was none other than our very own Thakkar.
We all turned towards the Thakkar standing amongst us. Yup, he was still alive and kicking. Then, like zombies watching a really long game at the French Open, we kept looking first at one, then the other.
The spell was broken by Pratik, as expected, who suddenly spoke up, “Merre do-do Baba, merre do-do Baba,” hence, demonstrating his in-depth knowledge of trashy Hindi movies (something that would stand him in extremely good stead during Dumb Charades later that night).
The Baba wasn’t a fan of Gopi Kishan apparently, and so just shook his head in disgust, and said, “When Medha used the stone axe, it took us back to the source of its magic. This is Cappadocia, which, in the old tongue, means The Land of Fabulous Horses. I loved the place so much that I decided to stay on, for this place has no beginning and no end. It exists beyond time. Now go, soak in the spirit of this ancient magical land as much as you can.”
So, in accordance with his wishes, we proceeded to do just that….
…till finally, our pangs of joy were replaced with pangs of hunger, and we decided to sit down and eat.
Copious quantities of food and drinks were ordered, and relished. The bad taste of Istanbul’s commercial over-hyped food was finally erased. It was then that Jiggy asked her brother, “Pratik, how do you like Cappadocia?”
Pratik had a strange light in his eyes by now, like he had discovered the true meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and it was not 42. As if in a daze, he replied sagely, “This place is indeed magical.”
We kept waiting for more, for his outlook on the aura and spirit of the place, of the history and culture oozing out of the fairy chimneys and caves, of powerful magic of ancient Gods….
…but when he did not volunteer anything further, I pushed him, “Why do you feel so?”
“Well,” he replied, “this is the first place in Turkey where I’ve been able to find something apart from Grilled Chicken to eat!”