Saturday, December 18, 2010

Morning Cya

           It's cold out side... So, I walk into a Cya (tea) cafe. My usual one. I say usual even though it's only been 4 days that I've spent in Istanbul. These people really make you feel at home though you can't talk their language and they can't speak yours. They are great hosts.
           But coming back to this particular morning...
So, I walk into this Cya cafe (evi as they call cafes here) my usual one. Erol is sitting with Edris who's there every morning having cya and cigarettes with his morning newspaper. The breakfast today is local bread, salted cheese, salted butter and black olives marinated in something that makes them taste a bit sour. Ofcourse I am invited, can't say no to them... you can't say no to these people. I have already had my breakfast at the hotel but I'll have to spend next ten mins trying to explain it to them... so I just go with it.
           Just so that you get a feel of this place: It's a sunday morning and the sun is out after two days of rain and snow. All the local Cya Evis in Turkey have these really low tables like one and a half feet high with four stools around them just as low. There are around four tables in the Evi. The sun is mild and is punched through a thin layer of clouds passing by. So the light is constantly changing. It's beautiful!
          I start eating the warm bread with cheese. We exchange smiles in silence. There are other people in the evi. A group of four men are having the same breakfast, they are sitting in a corner making small talk. There's a tough looking guy wearing heavy leather boots with muck stains on them. He's reading the funny papers and then there's a bum Umer who's trying hard to stay awake while rolling tobacco.
          My second cya comes on the table, its uncalled for. Edris offers me a ham chop, I say no, he insists, I try to explain to him that I'm a vegetarian but what he gets out of my sign language is that I've had breakfast at the hotel! I can live with that. So no more vegetarian explanation, I am at my last piece of bread. The door behind me opens and a gush of cold wind makes its way into the warm evi. First thing I see is the tough guy's face change from tough to the one when your father walks into the room.
         "salam vale kum" I hear from behind me. "Vale kum aus salam" everybody in the evi choruses. The tough guy all humbled up stands up to shake this guy's hand. The shadow on the front wall moves and the man behind me walks by and sits himself on one of the stools. He takes a place from where he sees everyone and as the front wall of the evi is all glass he can also see outside. It's Yusuf. He must be 6'1 wearing black trousers, black clean shiny shoes, black shirt, on which he's wearing a grey sweater, thin black jacket with another long coat to keep himself warm in style. Grey short hair goes perfectly in harmony with the gray sweater. Stubble as if he's not shaven for two days. Everybody's making small talk with him just to make a conversation. This guy looks, talks, walks exactly like the padrone in 'The Godfather' part one. The one in Robert De Niro's neighborhood who's the black hand there and walks around wearing all white. Extorting protection money from all the Italians in his neighborhood.
            Yusuf starts talking to the bum Umer making fun of him, Umer's absent minded and doesn't get the joke, everybody else is laughing. I can't understand a word of what they are saying but one just knows. Umer's still trying hard to roll his cigarette while Erol a 55+ guy who runs the evi comes and puts another cup of cya in front of him.
            Now without a word spoken to him the tough guy has already rolled a cigarette for Yusuf. He puts it in his mouth and the tough guy lights it up for him. Taking a small newspaper pudi out of his pocket, Yusuf says something to Erol. He takes a few rolling papers from the tough guy and goes and sits behind the cay counter. All I could see was Erol cutting a transparent piece of plastic from a carry bag and give it to Yusuf who's now opened the pudi and smelling the stuff in it. Erol says something to which Yusuf just nods his head. Erol comes back with a cup of cay. Edris by now has cleaned up the table and is smoking a cigarette while reading the news.
           Other four guys sitting in the corner have finished eating and for some reason hurry out of the evi. Each one greeting Yusuf while walking out. He doesn't even look at them, he's busy trying to relight the hand rolled cigarette and with a lot of smoke around him it looks like a Gordon Willis frame.
           The tough guy sitting next to him is tearing wide strips of newspaper that he's been reading. Yusuf takes the stuff out of his paper pudi puts it in the piece of plastic that Erol has handed over. This stuff Yusuf's been working with is some kind of green fine powder. He takes the paper strip from the table. Edris offers me a cigarette. Yusuf puts the plastic pudi into the paper strip and rolls it real tight into a packet and while doing so says something to Erol who's behind the cay machine. He answers from there and the only word that I understand is 'Hindistan'. I look at Erol and then at Yusuf who's looking at me right in the eyes. He smiles not too much and then nods, I smile back. He gets back to his paper packet. Now he's rolling the packet in the second  paper strip, making it as tight as possible. Erol comes back with a piece of silver foil. Wrapping the newspaper packet in the foil Yusuf nudges the tough guy who gets up and gets a handy stove and a pair of tongs. He lights it up in one corner close to the cay machine. Yusuf goes to the stove and with the packet held in between the tongs he starts roasting it. While he's doing that the tough guy has gone out and got a piece of broken marble tile. After the roast which happens for like 5 minutes, Yusuf puts the foil packet on the floor and places the marble tile on it. He then stands on it pressing it down real hard.
            By now I have already started writing down this whole morning in my small Rubberband dairy and have filled up 2-3 pages of it. As Yusuf's done with standing on the packet the tough guy picks up the tile and throws it out. Yusuf picks the packet up and opens it. The green powder has  now transformed into a really thin round plastic chip like thing. He breaks a small piece out of it and hands it over to Erol who's still behind the counter with the rolling paper. Yusuf also hands over three cigarettes to him and then comes back and sits at his observant corner.
            I can see Erol working with the rolling paper and tobacco sitting behind the counter. After a couple of minutes he calls Yusuf and they both go back to a inner room with a massive 2 paper joint.
            Yusuf comes out with slightly heavy lidded eyes and without a word the tough guy gets up and goes to the inner room. Yusuf gives a small piece of the green chip to the Umer who's been waiting for it. He smiles the widest that he could. Yusuf walks out.
            I sit there writing all this. Feeling that if I go from here without writing it today I'll never remember it the way it is happening in front of me. So I keep writing frantically. Yusuf returns after 15-20 minutes, he walks in, smiles at me and goes and sits right next to the huge glass panel window that overlooks the road and one can see everything happening on the street. He's very silent... I don't think he says much anyways.
           He's sitting there wearing all black looking out in some deep thought... and the sun comes out of the clouds. Perfect! I tell myself, without even thinking twice about it I put down my dairy and pen, pick up my camera and walk up to him and just with a gesture ask him if I can make a picture of him. Point blank he says NO looking right into my eyes again. I look at Erol he's known me for past few days "I am not a stranger here" my look says to Erol. He smiles and puts up his shoulders in a way that tells me he doesn't have a say in the matter. OK I go back to my stool. Yusuf is now talking to Erol and looking at me at the same time. I don't know what Erol tells him but he calls me and with a hand gesture asks me to put up my camera.
          The sun is gone behind the clouds again, but the frame is still beautiful. I look through my eyepiece 35mm full frame perfect! I under expose by 1/3 stop. CLICK! I catch him looking out at something. Cigarette in his right hand and a metal strap watch on his left that's sneaks out of his black over coat's sleeve... I point my camera at him again thing time he looks directly at the lens, the same look! Sharp. With my left hand that's under the lens I point towards the window, he gets it. He looks out again. CLICK!
          I smile, he smiles. I go back and sit down on my stool pushing it closer to the wall behind me, resting my back on the wall I start writing again. I am now a couple of more pages down when Yusuf is ready to go, he comes up to me, puts his hand on my head and ruffles up my hair. Smiles. Leaves.

Yusuf : Click on the picture to see it at a better resolution.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anatolian Light

Even trash looks beautiful here in Cappadocia. The light is so beautiful that it's just making me take pictures of absolute roadside trash. Posting some here more will follow.