Note: This is the seventh installment in my series of trip reports from Turkey. You can find the first six here: https://bit.ly/2RQV9jT , here: https://bit.ly/2Q2FWPO , here: https://bit.ly/2B76IOB, here: https://bit.ly/2zSYmZ0,here: https://bit.ly/2qTPYVa, and here: https://bit.ly/2DLTr0d
The violent sound rang out so loud in the valley-like Goreme Open Air Museum that 73 Churches caved in, and the steep slopes of the Museum became as flat as a draught beer poured out 37 days ago.
We quickly turned to check out the source of the explosion, only to discover that it was not a bomb, it was something much worse. The noise that people from Goreme to Istanbul had heard this afternoon was the resonating sound of the palm of Jiggy’s right hand on her brother Pratik’s left cheek.
Now if Jiggy had done this to Vijay, our Visa Agent who had messed up our entire Visa Application process, and was Jiggy’s bête noire (or Khaandaani Dushman, as they are called backed home in India), one could still understand her behaviour, if not endorse or condone it. But Pratik was Jiggy’s iklauta bhai (only brother), her jigar ka tukda (A traditional term of endearment in India which literally means Piece of Liver. This term has always left me terribly confused. Why would a piece of one’s liver be more valuable or endearing to one than say, a piece of one’s heart, one’s brain, one’s kidney, one’s gall bladder(as Medha insists I put in) or one’s small or large intestine, for that matter? I just don’t get it), and so, we just didn’t get it!
As a result, this rash and reckless act by the perennially even-tempered Jiggy left me with no option but to don my hat of the Elder Statesman of the family, and try and get to the bottom of the matter. So, I took Jiggy aside, and made her sit on a bench.
And then, I gently asked her, “Jiggy, what’s wrong. Tell me.”
Jiggy shook her head violently, as if removing millions of non-existent lice from her hair, and said, “I think I’ve lost it.”
I looked towards her in a commiserating manner, and said, “That much is apparent to everyone from here to Istanbul, Jiggs.”
She became slightly more hyper at this, and cried out, “Noooo, that is NOT what I mean. I mean that I have lost IT, not that I have LOST it.”
I still had no idea what she was talking about, but I let it go and tried a different tack. “Why don’t you start from the beginning,” I said.
She took a few hundred deep breaths, and finally started narrating her story.
“I’d bought it only last evening as a gift for my 5-year old niece Tvisha. But I can’t find it anywhere now. At first, I thought I must have dropped it somewhere. So, I retraced my steps since the morning, starting off from the Karamjali Underground City…
“Kaymakli, not Karamjali…” I started correcting her instinctively, but one fiery look from her and I shut my yap pronto. “Pray continue,” I said.
She continued, “Then I went to the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys Valley….
…but I looked on top of each mushroom, and still couldn’t find it.”
Jiggy cleared her throat and went on, “It was then that I started suspecting foul play. I initially suspected Thakkar, that maybe this was one of his practical jokes. But he protested his innocence, and pointed me in a different direction.”
“Then….” Jiggy stopped here, seeming a bit embarrassed, but at my encouragement, moved on, “I’m sorry but I thought Medha had done it. I started giving her a cold shoulder as result.”
She immediately saw the horrified and betrayed expression on my face, and quickly said, “But I realized that such a thing was impossible, so I made up with her. I was now sure that the girl in the yellow sweater had done it. I could swear that this is the same girl whom I had bumped into in Dubai last year on a tour, so she must be stalking me.”
“But Jiggy,” I couldn’t resist saying, “don’t you think that hypothesis is a bit far-fetched?”
Jiggy bristled and replied, “That is exactly what Pratik told me when I shared my suspicions with him, and you all saw, or rather heard, my response to that.”
I quickly covered my left cheek surreptitiously, making it appear as if I was involved in deep contemplation. Jiggy now asked me, “Do YOU, by any chance, have any idea as to where it could be?”
“I’m sure I can help you find it Jiggs,” I told her, “but first, I need to know what exactly we are talking about.”
“Ohhh,” Jiggy said, surprised, “I thought I’d told you right at the beginning. It is a packet of balloons of different colours that I had bought for Tvisha. Have you seen them anywhere?”
I recalled the explosive sound of the slap on Pratik’s face that was still reverberating through the surviving 4238 churches in the Museum, the colour of Pratik’s cheek, fresh after receiving the aforementioned slap, and the fire in Jiggy’s eyes, and I innocently replied, “I’m sorry Jiggs, I wish I could help you, but I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!”