An effort to recapitulate and share my ideas,views and thoughts in words...

The Blue Mosque, Attribution: Source-Wikimedia,Image author:Jeremy Avnet

It was as if I was seeing myself for the first time! As I stood in front of the mirror, admiring myself, I caressed my magnificent black beard and glanced at the beauty of my golden colored skin. I had bought a Turkish cap last week from Osman; the clothier and I was going to wear it for the first time. Just then, Gulben, my beautiful wife entered. She had a glass of red cherry sherbet in her hands which I had ordered her to fetch. She looked even more beautiful in the slight ray of sunlight that hit the room. Her red veil though, hid her perfect face.

"The Sultan wants me at the palazzo, I'll have to leave, dear" I said and made my way out of my mansion after kissing my beloved's cheek. 

I worked as a minister in our Sultan's palazzo and  people called me Hikmet; meaning wisdom. Ten years ago, I would have never even dreamt of living in Istanbul and serving the Sultan. My actual name was Ishak and I came from Persia, ten years ago. I had been a good scholar then and soon was deputed as one of the Sultan's ministers.

As I peregrinated towards the palazzo, I was occupied by the bustling activity in the streets. I observed children running and playing with the toy swords, the beautiful maidens gossiping and few street dogs languishing in the front of food stalls. I could hear the sound of musical instruments as i walked past dervish houses. Osman was busy persuading customers to buy the new arrivals at his garments store. What a clever tradesman! I thought. During my melancholy walk, I wondered why the Sultan had commissioned an order for me to arrive at the palazzo, as I knew I had completed all my work and was looking forward to spending a day with my wife.

The city was as beautiful as ever. I saw that the stunning minarets, tombs and mosques acquired a golden tinge in the morning sun. The cherry and Pomegranate trees had icicles on them. Nature was recovering from yesterday nights heavy snowfall. I couldn't help praising Allah and the beauty he has endowed in earth. The air was cool, fresh and had a sweet smell of lavender dispersed in it. The gorgeous maidens smiled at me as I glanced at them, their coquettish instincts showing off, probably being intimidated by the handsomeness I possessed. 

Having walked for few minutes now, I could now see that I was approaching "Sultanahmet Camii" or the Blue mosque. With its 6 magnificent minarets, it was one of its kind. I stood gazing at this architectural marvel for some time. "The Ottomans were really gifted by Allah" I thought. I was awakened from my state of awe when the thought of Sultan's letter crossed my mind and continued walking to my destination, the palazzo. 

Sultan's men were waiting for me at the gate. They informed that a masterpiece of the great miniaturist Ismail Effendi that Sultan recently received had been stolen and I was one among the many suspects. I had seen the painting. It was a true wonder and to be honest, I had wished if I possessed it. Its exquisite work and embellishments would have had any person longing to possess it. But I had not stolen it. I wondered why the Sultan would suspect me. It was so harsh, being a loyal servant of the Sultan for years, how could he distrust me!?

The only way to find out the culprit was by torturing methods. The torturers took me and others branded as suspects into a dark room. We were stripped naked, Now, awaiting the torture, I cried to Allah. "How can they punish me? I am Innocent..Allah ! give me strength!! " A man closed in me with a dagger, or was it a dagger? I was not sure. I didn't dare to look.Soon I felt sharp pain, wincing, I jumped, and screamed at the top of my voice.

The pain subsided, I opened my eyes, to my amazement, I was sitting in my bed, sweating. I didn't have the long magnificent beard nor the fair, golden skin nor the ostentatious Turkish clothes. Grandfather was lighting the lamp. I saw the beautiful picture of lord Krishna, Ganesha and other deities in the room. Grandfather had just started praying. 

I shoved the blanket and discovered the book I had left half-read last night- "My name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk. I took the book in my hands and buried my face in its pages. I reflected again my time in Istanbul and its mystic beauty, the people I met there, Gulben, the smell of lavender that hung in the air, the blue mosque and the handsome Hikmet or..Ishak. 

Grandfather was getting irritated of the fact that I had not bothered to get up and offer my prayers. I quickly got up, prayed to lord and hurried downstairs. I stared aesthetically at the gorgeous morning sky, still, very different to the amethyst sky I saw in my dreams, where Eagles hovered over the myriad tombs and minarets of Istanbul. A strange hollow feeling haunted me, I wish I was still there, to prove my innocence to Sultan and continue my life as Hikmet, in the city where east meets west and which happens to be the most intelligent city of the world, Istanbul.

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. Rahul sat in his bed, hunching over the bulky Anatomy book, trying to learn the relations of axillary artery. The 1st average examinations were just around the corner and he was determined to live up to the expectations of his family. He was the first ever medico his family produced, so the pressure of expectations on him was huge. Though his eyes were fixed on the large text book, his mind transgressed to various thoughts, from the good looking girls in his class to the beautiful places he wished to visit. As he sat musing in his thoughts and occasionally in the anatomy of upper limb, a sudden, sharp pain bolted across his lower abdomen. He winced in pain and hurriedly examined his abdomen. The bulge which he had discovered in the inguinal region few days before was now more prominent. He had also been experiencing pain in his genitals and attacks of constipation but refrained from revealing it to his parents due to his shy nature.

The agonizing incident brought a great deal of anxiety in him and he decided to consult Dr.Ramachandran; who was the Associate professor of surgery in the medical school that Rahul attended. Rahul succumbed to the embarrassment of exposing his private parts as Dr.Ramachandran carefully examined the lump in the scrotal region with his index finger. As the doctor found the boy experiencing a "catching" pain during straining efforts, he confirmed his diagnosis as "Inguinal hernia". Rahul's parents were soon called upon and Dr.Ramachandran conveyed the news for operating it at the earliest. The surgery, by no means was a jeopardizing one, but it meant that Rahul would miss his examinations and a few classes. Meanwhile, Rahul enjoyed the care and attention he got from his fellow mates while he was admitted in the hospital.

The surgery went on as scheduled. Dr.Ramachandran had no hiccups as he performed herniorraphy meticulously, reverting the herniated coils of intestine back to the abdominal cavity and closing off the Hassalbach's triangle through which the hernia had occurred. Rahul wondered what the doctor did as he lay anxiously under the influence of the local anesthesia. The surgery concluded in few hours and Dr.Ramachandran was all smiles.

" Did I scare you son? I just put a wayward coil back on track!Dr.Ramachandran said with a gentle grin.

Rahul recovered soon and within a fortnight, he was back in medical school. He had a lot of pride sharing his experience and was totally relishing being the center of attention among his mates. Nevertheless, at the back of his mind, he was terribly sad not to have given a shot at the exams for which he had prepared well. 

The first two hours were lecture classes on Nerve and Muscle physiology by Dr.Rita; something he never enjoyed. Rahul was extremely passionate about Anatomy and was waiting impatiently to get into the dissection hall. Just as Dr.Rita finished delivering the Physiology lecture, Rahul got up with exuberance, put on his white coat and joined the mass exodus of bodies covered in white coats to the dissection hall. As he climbed hastily the fleet of stairs, he sensed the familiar stench from the cadavers, up in the dissection hall begining to permeate his olfactory mucosa. He looked at the notice board and was surprised to find that the dissection of thorax had finished and that of the inguinal region had started.
The notice board read

"Today's dissection-INGUINAL REGION"

This was the region that caused him miss almost a week of dissection and a series of exams and the very reason made him eager to learn about his anatomical shortcoming. As soon as he entered the dissection hall, he occupied his seat near the cadaver and began reading Cunningham's manual of anatomy. He avidly waited for the Professor to arrive at the table. Soon Dr.Asha arrived, greeted all the students, inquired about Rahuls recovery and gave directions to carry out the dissection. It was Rahuls turn today to dissect as he had missed several dissections off late.

Rahul grew nervous, his hands shook as he carefully marked the points of incision. Then with the scalpel, incised the dark, cold, wrinkled and hardened skin of the cadaver. The whitish layer of superficial fascia began to show as he reflected the skin. He exposed the superficial inguinal ring and soon Dr.Asha came in for a closer look. She examined the structures coming out of the ring. There was obviously, the spermatic cord and the Ilioinguinal nerve but there was something else, large and uncanny. Dr. Asha was excited, "Yes! It is a hernia!!" She exclaimed. Rahul was awe-struck. He was witnessing the case, which taunted him for days, right in front of his eyes! He couldn't fathom his state of mind, was he happy? Excited? or Scared? His mouth became dry, Dr.Asha looked at him in amazement. Soon, Rahul became busy showing off what he just discovered to his mates and a very eventful dissection concluded. As Rahul packed the dissected region with glycerin and cotton, he stared at the face of the cadaver. 

"Strong man, died with the agonizing hernia, untreated.." he thought. It was for the first time that Rahul actually thought about the human which once lived in the cadaver, a human being, with ambitions, feelings, emotions and senses as his very own. But now, it lay cold and naked, waiting for its body to be eviscerated. He finished packing the inguinal region with utmost respect to the cadaver. As he left the dissection hall, chattering with friends,  he glanced at the quote embossed in the wall, that he always cherished.
"Let the laughter flee and the talking cease, this is the place where death delights to help the living"

Dredging up the caliginous memories of those times, I find the day my father introduced me to the world of philately. I was a small kid then, just over 6 years old. As I had the habit of collecting any ken-speckle object which was small enough to keep in my shelf, I welcomed this offer whole-heartedly. Much to my delight, father presented me with a plastic box full of stamps. The beautiful colors, the various dimensions in which they came and their characteristic serrated contours made me fall in love with stamps.

As years passed by, I became more inclined towards collecting stamps. My father helped my collection robust. Initially, by presenting me with an inoculum of stamps and gradually he added more to the collection by bringing home stamps from the letters he encountered at his workplace. He also taught me the procedure to carefully peel off the stamps from their envelopes by dipping in water for sometime and finally drying them over a towel.

Stamps introduced the world to me. I would keenly study the names of countries and places which were imprinted on the sealed stamps. The European stamps attracted me the most. Their intricate designs and the portraits of good looking, pink colored people easily made them my favorites. Growing up in a very modest town, I had little opportunities to learn about the world. We had a television set with channels which were mostly indigenous and at those times, internet was totally alien for most people including me. However, each of the stamps i collected added a drop of knowledge in me. Stamps provided me with multifarious information. I learned about the countries, cultures, the flora and fauna endemic to a region and on occasions the capitals and even the famous personalities and events of a particular country. The stamps were actually a kaleidoscope through which I viewed the world.

One day, as I lay in my bed appreciating my stamps, a particular set of 'ugly' looking stamps in my collection caught my attention. They did not have the date on them but certainly appeared very old. Most of them had British Kings on them which suggested they might be those at the times of the British Empire. I was shocked to find that in one of them, the script was in Malayalam. I had never come across a stamp scripted in Malayalam. I inquired about these particular set of stamps to my father and learned that these were passed on to my father from my great grandfather. It was then I realized our family had a legacy of philately and what I possessed in my shelf was a treasure inherited from one generation to another. 

But I had found only a few of these uncanny, old stamps! "My great grandpa's collection could not be so meager" I reflected. The next time I visited my ancestral house, I was determined to explore my great grandpa's trunk. As I had severe dust allergy, I had a lot of trouble persuading my grandfather to allow me to access the old trunks. Owing to my persevering efforts, he finally gave in. Enthusiastically, I climbed up the narrow, rickety old stairs, and headed straight to Grandfathers room. As I explored the trunk, I was dumbfounded to find more of these small old, soiled stamps. So my mission was accomplished. But that was not all, to my surprise, I found a handful of brownish copper coins. In various coins I appreciated the embossed images of King George, Queen Victoria, Elizabeth and the bald figure of King Edward who interestingly didn't have a crown. I didn't know how to thank my late great grandpa. I was in sheer jubilation, in a state of mind that a pirate would have been in after unearthing a treasure. This event also helped me take an active interest in numismatics.

For few more years, the stamps came in nice and handsome into my big "stamp stock book".
I managed to establish trade with some of my friends and was able to build an impressive collection. As I entered my teens, for some strange reason, my collection ceased to grow. It would be the beginning of a crisis, father no longer brought stamps, I too started losing interest as I seldom got any stamps. "It's the couriers" father would reply to me whenever I asked him why the letters don't come. "Couriers!!" I cursed,  whatever that meant, I hated them. I wondered why the couriers didn't bear stamps. Later I found that the couriers were a faster means of sending information. By this time other means of written communication like e-mails, sms, faxes, etc had also become well established. I winced in these developments for they ruined my kingdom of philately. I felt like a powerless King in a democracy.

Today, as I browse through my priceless collections, I virtually find myself sailing through the chronicle of my life. Each stamp has a memory to go with it, a story to tell. I wonder what the present day kids will have to imbibe and preserve from the couriers and the e-mails other than the mere information that they carry. Still, it is a pleasure to see philately communities and actively trading enthusiasts in the internet. It would be the only ray of hope, for the perishing philatelist in me.

The conclusion of 1st M.B.B.S examinations were more of a relief to me than anything else. With the burden put out of my head, I was desperate to get to my hometown. This time, to visit my lone grandmother who lives in a very remote area of Palakkad called Karimkulam. My journey would be in two parts, initially to my beloved village, Pulappatta, and after spending a day there, straight to Karimkulam ["straight" would be a misnomer as i would have to take at least 3 buses to get to my destination.]. This was the first time I was to visit my grandmother all alone. My relatives in and around Karimkulam and my grandma herself had a notion I was not bothered of their well being and hence this visit was a conscious attempt on my part to prove them wrong. 

I started my journey to Karimkulam early morning in an inept looking bus. Courtesy of the side seat I occupied, I was able to appreciate the breathtaking milieu that my hometown always offered. As the bus sped through the dilapidated road, I could see the rubber plantations gradually give way to the vernacular trees and shrubs. The plantations were a part of modernization. Though initially implemented by the Christians, nowadays, every resident of my village seems to have a rubber farm in his share of land. My ostentatious carry bag seemed to catch the attention of many people as they tried to figure out what I must be doing in this very austere town.

Much to my delight, I reached Palakkad [my first stop] sooner than I expected. The first part of my journey had not been pleasing. I found it extremely gruesome to sit in the bus hunching over my bag. It was an ordeal to walk in the scorching town of Palakkad. The sun, as it is in Palakkad was unforgiving. I made my way to the next bus station on foot, luckily I got the next bus anon, it was standing in ignition, so had to leave soon. I observed the people closely, unlike those in Calicut, most of them were old fashioned, the youngsters wore hilarious clothes that made them look like outdated Tamil movie stars and there was an air of confidence in all of those faces. 

As I bellied up to Karimkulam, i could see the contrast between it and Pulappatta. Though both places were in the same district, there were myriad differences between them. Both were beautiful in their own ways. Pulappatta was cooler, always in the canopy of rain clouds while Karimkulam, though jam-packed with rice fields, was much like a Savannah region. I was thoroughly relishing the surroundings my eyes feasted upon. The rice fields seemed like a green carpet laid out in an endless landscape, with the Western ghats towering above the horizon. The black palms, which i fancy to be endemic to this region [at least in Kerala] stood tall in between the rice fields. Occasionally, the brooks appeared, the adolescents hung out there, fishing and chatting. I fancied being one of them, totally free and enjoying life in their peer group.

After hours of waiting, I finally reached my destination. As I peregrinated through the dusty road, many natives eyed me with surprise. I returned all the smiles from the innocent faces I saw on my way to Granny's house. She was ecstatic on my arrival, gave me a hug and welcomed home. I ate all the dishes she had made specially for me. Our neighbor also showed her love by regaling me with a piece of fried fish. I was over-whelmed by the love and care i got from my grandmother and the relatives in the vicinity. I spend the rest of the day musing in a book I had brought from Calicut. 

I settled myself in the balcony, gazing at the Western Ghats, gleaming in the twilight. As I scanned through the massive black mountains, I lost track of time. The sun had disappeared and the sky became atomized with stars. It has been a long time since i saw such a magnificent sky, I tried to figure out the constellations, the big dipper, the Orion [but without luck, I had forgotten them] and i was lost in the aura of the mysterious universe. The silhouettes of the black palms now disappeared totally. Only sound that evaded into the air were the holy hymns from the lips of my grandmother. It was a magical evening.

I had made this visit to prove a point or two that I am old enough to travel alone. But I found that I really did enjoy my visit and I was overjoyed that I was able to give my solitary grandma a day to cherish with me. I made my journey back to Pulappatta, with each and every part of me wanting to come back sooner or later to this wonderful village.

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