Sorrow upon sorrow

A bare brick wall with a simple white plaque. Behind the barely 6 feet wall the sound of music from a cafe reaches us. We hear the sounds of skate boards, the periodic ‘kat’,’kat’ as the wheels of the board hit the ground.

“You shall tell your sons.” A verse from the Old testament is inscribed in black on the simple white plaque. The sounds of activity from the other side of the wall betrays the sense of decrepitude that we see around us. Dilapidated buildings about 3 stories high. Apartments with cracked doors and/or cracked walls. Washing hanging on the telephone lines that sag almost threatening to snap. Low lights escaping through the cracks, the only indication of life within.

“This is a part of the original ghetto wall”, says our guide from the Budapest Free walking tours.”A wall this high segregated the Jews from the rest of humanity.”

For a minute we all take it in. I for one can never comprehend the holocaust. I cannot bring myself to believe that something as horrid and cruel as that could actually happen in an intelligent society. But standing here in front of ‘The Wall’ I cannot not believe. Suddenly the sound of music and the kat kat of the skateboard seem alien. A false sense of security that does not belong with cracks, the sagging pole and the memories that lie trapped.

The last stop of our tour is the holocaust memorial. The guide points us to a pile of pebbles gathered in the center of the courtyard.
“It was customary to place an inanimate object by a Jewish grave, something that would not wither and die like flowers. Feel free to pay your respects.” With that our tour is over and our guide slowly steps away to take questions in private. Most of us linger around the graves. Some of us pick pebbles from the pile. I walk over to the corner grave. I kneel on the ground as a sign of respect. Under a pile of previously placed pebble is a white pamphlet.

Pray the Kaddish for the those who do not have anybody to pray for them.’

On the reverse was the translated Jewish Mourner;s prayer.
I placed by pebble down by the grave and bowed my head and prayed

May his Great name grow exalted and sanctified. Amen. In the world He created as He willed…”

On our walk back to our hotel that evening Maria and I pass by the cafe on the side of the wall. As a symbolic gesture we stop for a cup of coffee by the Ghetto wall.
The sense of abandon do not reach us at this side of the wall. It is as if the wall still stands to keep the light escaping from the cracks from mixing with the lights of the cafe, the sounds of sadness from blending in with the conversations. It stands tall to keep modernity from creeping in and memories from flowing out. It stands as a check; lest one forgets the untold horrors that the wall has contained silently.

A scrub at a Turkish hamam

I am not alright with nudity. To start with I do not have a flattering figure and next it is shunned in my culture. My mother would have a fit! Yet a scrub at the old Turkish hamam of cerbiltas was on the cards. A pamphlet we had picked up from the tourist office at Sultanhmet claimed it was an experience “Not to be missed”. The back side of the folded pamphlet announced that here we would get a disposable briefs and a bath mitt. The glossy paper and the catchy font made is seem like a luxury. And the tourists that we were fell for it immediately.

I was told by a Turkish friend that traditionally mother in laws invited the daughter in law to be to the hamam. There under the pretext of a good scrub the mother would check out the bride to be, ensure that she was well endowed and would make her son happy and bless her household with many sons.

After paying for our scrubs, the lady at the counter handed us our disposable briefs and bath mitts. Without the glossy paper and catchy font the briefs and mitts failed to evoke a sense of luxury.

We changed out of our clothes and wrapped ourselves in a rather large towel which the hamam provided and consciously walked into the scrub room.

The scrub room was a semi dark room ( what a relief!) with a marble slab in the middle surrounded with water taps and fountains. Underneath the slab of marble there was hot water being circulated. There were women in different states of nudeness everywhere. Some of them lay back on the slab relaxing. Some of them were enjoying a good scrub by middle aged well endowed semi nude women with black lingerie. While others were enjoying a swim in the pool at the far corner adjacent to the jacuzzi.

We choose to follow the women relaxing on the slab. We lay back with the towel over us. I strategically tilted and tightened my body to fit under the towel. Just when I managed succeeded in my efforts, one of the scrubbing women came over, yanked off my towel and poured a large mug of water over me. My scrub had officially begun.

She scrubbed so hard that the layer of tan on my skin peeled right off. I began to relax and enjoy the scrub.

When she reached my stomach, she gently tapped my bulging tummy and winked and asked “Baby?”. My face reddened.  Gosh I didn’t think all that eating was actually showing; I mean my jeans still fit!