This is the post in my entire history of Blogging which will ‘go down’ or should I say ‘stand out’ as the only post without photographs. I’ve not taken up but rather submitted myself to the ‘Weekly Writing Challenge: Snapshots‘ from WordPress where, rather than giving into the urge to take a picture, I have to write down my impressions of a scene surrounding me. And describe ‘Who’s around? How does the air feel? What sounds do you hear? What emotions are you experiencing?’
Please stoppppppp! This is torture for me. Nowadays, I don’t capture a scene around me until and unless it’s through a camera lens. Not one but two, to be precise. One is a normal Nikon D-80 SLR that helps me to transport myself to the moment when an event took place, zooming it eight times, cropping the unnecessary frills that intrude into my desired frame. This heavy-duty equipment lets me take 10 mindless shots of a beautiful sunset and clogs the memory of the 80GB hard disc of my mammoth iMac. The other lens is comparatively small. But hundred times more powerful than my Nikon. It not only clicks a memorable event, it lets me immediately share it with my readers (who I like to imagine, are waiting just for me to upload the moment pictorially on Instagram, describe it in 140 words with whacky hashtags on Twitter, and gives me an opportunity to talk about it 5 times daily on my Facebook page).
Why did I take up this challenge? I had recently visited Turkey and my life was going perfectly fine till that momentous event when I had my first Turkish ice cream. As I was about to savour the first spoon of the famous Turkish ice cream, my smartphone died. I was frozen in time. What was I going to do next? Perhaps call up the emergency? I looked around for my travel mates. Was there someone, oh please, anyone to capture that moment for me – the historical moment where I licked into the delicious creamy Turkish ice cream for the first time? The Facebook moment that I had waited for? The tweet that was about to bring in 1000 retweets and 10,000 followers? That Instagram post which would perhaps be the featured post of the week? Could that be ‘whatsapp’-ed to me so that I could post it on Instagram and Twitter later as a #latergram? I was telling my two little girls (known as the Z-Sisters in this blog) how my phone died and I couldn’t take even take a picture of the ice cream that was so famous here in Turkey. They asked me a simple question – ‘Mama, how was the ice cream?’
I couldn’t answer. I didn’t have an answer. My taste buds also seemed to have died down with my smart phone. Not being able to take pictures had made me turn senile. I knew that senility was coming, but surely not this soon? Realisation dawned upon me – I needed to detoxify. I had to see life once again through my own eyes. I am not professing here to give up my addiction but I am definitely taking up this challenge to prove to myself that yes, I can still write in words and paint a picture. Good photography is integral to my posts, but sans them, I will not ruin my own experience and still be able to share that experience with others.
So, will you read my post on Turkish ice creams if there are no snapshots? Please say Yes!
It only took me minutes after having landed in Istanbul to realize that this city was a kaleidoscope of people and culture. Every moment was being captured in my camera and smartphone. Except that one experience. Yes, I couldn’t capture the famous Turkish ice cream – the Dondurma, which I am going to capture now through words (do I even have a choice here?). You will most certainly find a Dondurma stall everywhere in Istanbul – from street kiosks to fashionable cafes, even in some fancy restaurants. Bold rectangular compartments of thick creamy ice cream in tantalizing colors of different shades line up each ice cream stall. Do you like coffee ice cream and foamy cream? Or would you prefer plain creamy white vanilla with chopped stark green pistachios? Or may be a single scoop of delicious pink strawberry delicately crowning a double chocolate will do for you. Whichever flavor you fancy, if you think that you can get hold of your ice cream easily, then you are in for a pleasant surprise. The ice cream vendors here are magicians in fancy clothing – a mesmerizing red velvety long robe with embroidered borders and an equally mesmerizing hat that looks like a big glass upside down with a tussle dangling from it. These Dondurma-men serve you the ice cream, hand it over to you by wrapping the cone delicately in tissue paper and you put your hand forward to grab the ice cream. Is the ice cream in your hand? No, it isn’t. The deliciously tempting ice cone has already gone back to the seller. Oops, if that’s a mean trick, wait for the next act. With a swish of his hand he topples the cone upside down, and as your heart beat races with the thought that your object of desire – the creamy, swirling scoops have fallen off the cones – no, they haven’t! They are still dangling from the cone, hanging in mid-air, each scoop refusing to part from the other like two inseparable lovers who have vowed never to part themselves away from each other. This is an act in an opera where you, the helpless bystander along with many surrounding bystanders anxiously wait for your ice cream amidst occasional screams of oops and ahhs.
The Turkish ice creams are not your regular ice creams. Apart from the regular ingredients like Milk and Sugar, they also have an ingredient called Salep, a thickening agent made from a flour from Orchids and Mastic, a resin that gives the chewiness and the crunchiness. The ice cream vendor churns out the creamy mixture of an ice cream flavor with a long-handled paddle and as he scoops it out like a thick elastic chewing gum, you have to wait for the customary trick to be performed on you. Go ahead – make a fool of yourself as the others waiting for their turns break into delirious laughter. I warn you here, once a spoonful of this magic cream enters your mouth, you’ll know that you’ve chewed upon the thickest and the creamiest form of edible ‘divinity’.
Unfortunately, I realized this a bit too late, much after the first scoop went into my numb mouth and dead taste buds. It is only when I resigned to my fate and accepted that the death of my smartphone was as inevitable as life’s fact that one day even our lives would come to an end, that I started feeling my taste buds come alive with the richness of the last spoonful of the last scoop of the Turkish ice cream. It was a bit too late, but never the less a lesson learnt that will be etched in my memory for ever. And that which will take me now not only to Istanbul once again but to the land where the Turkish ice creams originated from – Maraş, thus giving another name to these divine, desirable, chewy and scrumptious ice creams – the Maraş Ice Cream.
WordPress, thank you for bringing me back into the world where I was born. The world which I had learnt to feel with my senses initially and suddenly unlearnt it mid-way.
Unblogging it all… Ishita
PS: This emotional post also happens to be my 150th post