#4: On Listening

Nevsehir, Cappadocia Region

While most of Istanbul is an extremely modern and evolved city, the ruins, so to speak, are there for you to pick out yourself. I was told that since there is so much concrete in this city, thanks to the development, the locals have rallied for conscious greenery. Therefore, all over Istanbul you can see innumerable flowers. Tiny pots of flowers line up on the walls forming designs and adding to the flora that abounds on lamp posts, on sidewalks, on the window ledges, and just about everywhere. The volume of flowers in this city is not even funny. Though it looks amazing and there isn’t a single colour of flower left behind, it makes me wonder how do they maintain all of them. So much cutting, watering, pruning – how do they do it all over the city? Who is behind it that they do such a fantastic job? I must confess that I have made zero comparisons with India, and that I have seen no reason to do so. This is not because I am enlightened or have a false sense of superiority, but because, frankly, I don’t miss India at all. Apart from writing about it now, I haven’t thought of back home.

I could just live here all along. It’s like a dream. I could keep walking around these places, engage in make-shift conversation with Russians, Koreans, Turks, and God-knows-who-else, get by in the sunshine filled days with cool breeze and wrap myself in woollens at night. I could keep drinking bitter coffee and count the lira that I have left. When I don’t have enough, I would make cuts by drinking cay (tea) not because it’s cold and I need it, but because I need to sit down for a while and just look at the landscape, gaze at a water body or a hill or a cave. I could just sit around and not think of anything, but just write to my dad every day and tell him what I did. In turn, he would write back to me telling me what else I should explore. I could live my whole life like this. However, I am human, this is fluid time, and rosy pictures don’t even happen in the greatest of books.

So, now that I sit here and wonder what is it that makes me write this, I think it’s an attempt to talk to myself. That this is real, I am here, and it’s more than what I thought it would be. Also, of all the things that I have learnt about real communication, the greatest one is this – Shut up and listen. As Ernest Hemingway very rightly put it: When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. The more I recede into the background and observe, the more this seems true – how we’re so intent on making a point that we just don’t hear others out. Like there is something so broken inside us that that it can be fixed only by perpetual point-making. Our voices are so lonely inside that they want to come out and become one with the chirping of the birds, the honking of the vehicles, and the mellifluence of the music. It seems that they’ve been trapped for so long that they don’t know what their true identity is. And only saying can reclaim our voices, and silence never can.

I am insufficiently equipped to make an observation on people of other nationalities, but I can say for a fact that Indians just don’t listen. No matter what. Even if they do, it’s only to keep thinking what they’re going to say next. Indians listen only because it buys them arrogance to keep talking. This observation doesn’t come from travelling to a foreign land and nit-picking on Indian behaviour. I had spent 6 weeks consulting in an Indian company before I came to Turkey. That experience thrust in my face how we’re all word-whores. Coming to Turkey and watching Indians behave like they’ve never spoken before has re-affirmed my observation.

More on desperate, despicable Indian behaviour sometime else. For now, know that today, I saw twinkling birds in the sky. An echeleon of birds with black bodies and white wing spans made its way to the fascinating fairy-tale region of Cappadocia, as I did too. Just when I saw them twinkling in the sky, I knew that this place has to be stuffed with fairy-tales. And guess what? It is.

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