The family’s internet messaging sagas continue. After Dad asked me the question I’d been dreading for a year, “what is Facebook?” (which was followed by a conversation where I told him I would only explain it if he wouldn’t join, and his comparing it to some age-old networking thingy) I thought we couldn’t get any more net-dysfunctional.
We obviously can – as evidenced by the Gtalk conversation this morning
Huma: did u turn the tank off before u left?
me: yes i turned it off and i double checked
Huma: k..once bitten, twice shy (i once left it on and the house literally flooded)
me: or..a stitch in time saves nine
Huma: or..a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
me: or a rolling stone gathers no moss
me: hmph.. all that glitters is not gold apparently
Huma: i will strike u when the iron is VERY hot
me: danger is next neighbour to security
and foul water..will quench fire
Huma: yeh kaunsa idiom hai
do u know why 9 was scared of 7?
Huma: because 7 8 9
Huma: i kknooowww
Everyone finds it very surprising that I communicate with my Dad mostly through Gtalk. We’ve had many a hilarious conversation that I’ve posted up here. Since he’s been in the hospital / recovering from surgery for the past few months, I’ve missed the randomness alot..and then yesterday:
Dad: As regards Smokie, she has already driven me up the ceiling with her meows – there are 3 billas outside our door and they meow from the other side
Me: chalo – even smoky is more popular than i am
Dad: If you can manage to take that sound out of the depth of your throat, you will have more billas of various colors
I really hope that doesn’t count for relationship advice.
Me: What did you do with the gall bladder stones then? (Dad recently underwent surgery to remove them and H gave them to him as a birthday present)
Dad: They are disintegrating into sand type dust.
Dad: Those very tiny imps were the cause of all this. They went to sleep for 15 years and then woke up all of a sudden
Me: I can see that your interesting sense of humour hasnt been affected
Dad: I can read between the lines. Thanx.
There’s something about journeys, about airports and departure lounges and long visa queues that fills me with both excitement and crushing depression at the same time. I remember long trips home from my early childhood, of my always calm mother, I sometimes wonder at how she managed to travel with boisterous twins without having a hair out of place. I miss my mother, I miss her more desperately as the years go by, and every time I see a display of maternal affection in the scenes from my everyday life – on the street, in conversations, in movies – I want to break down sobbing. I miss my childhood. On Fridays, when I shop for groceries at my neighborhood supermarket, I see a father with his young daughter (probably 6 or 7 years old), shopping for food, and I instantly wish I was back to that age, arguing with my father about having the privilege to push the shopping trolley, or how I really want Frosties.
This time, traveling back to Jordan via the Emirates had a strange childhood significance to it. Fourteen years ago, I looked back at the skyline and whispered goodbye. It seemed like the right thing to do, even if it was inspired by too many movies and books. This time, as I finally breathed Emirati air in while stepping off the plane, I thanked God for the antiquated airport that let me see the same sky and breathe in the same air again. Strange? Maybe.
One of the things about living in Jordan is that so many of the brands available here are the same ones I grew up with, so even the sight of a Unikai label reminds me of Unikai’s strawberry milk that I drank by the bucket load as a kid. Today, as I multitasked around the house – cooking, cleaning, and washing – and finally relaxing with a book and a cup of coffee, I recalled how my mother would sit down after having finished all the housework on weekends, and get a cup of tea and the phone and chat with her sisters and mother, or sit and talk about random things or give us advice on the future. The latter of which, she did a lot in the months before she died. It isn’t fair, that in nine years the pain has not decreased; it has only grown worse with each passing day. I have no acceptance, no concept of ‘there is some unhidden relevance in this’, nothing but a growing, gnawing sense of loss that is magnified each day.
Monday morning chat with Dad. I thought I was about to collapse due to lack of sleep..his day was..well..
Dad: Am thinking of proposing to the new Govt that they should cancel Monday from the calendar It is plain torture
me: but abba, it doesnt make sense cos i start my week on sunday and sunday sucks too
Dad: Huma wasn’t feeling well pre dawn. I woke up with a headache with a splitting headache. Smokie was perched on top of the book cabinet and not interested in food.
The whole world in disarray.
I dragged the quilt and went back to sleep – woke up at 9:30 and came to the office to face a briefing from a Thai girl who spoke in a dreary sleepy tone that even put Co-Worker#1 to sleep.
Nothing went OK so far
Dad: Co-worker#2 got some chicken patties which turned out to be stale.
Returned these to the bakery and the replacement was even worse.
Dad: Then I banged my head against the wall while trying to open a drawer.
Turned around and banged Co-worker #2′s plate with rice on the floor – broke the plate and spoiled my shirt.
Went home to change the shirt.
All OK till I wore it, no buttons on one cuff
And now I feel like hitting someone but my headache is returning and I just got a cup of tea with a ton of sugar in it.
me: and its what…noon now?
Dad: yep, barely 12:30
I received a package from home today, containing bedsheets that I’d asked my Aunt to get made, my old clothes, packets of Slims and boxes of Shaan Masala. When the Post Office called me in the morning informing me the parcel had arrived, I jumped out of bed with a feeling of excitement that I hadn’t felt for a long time. When they showed me the parcel, I almost burst out into tears at seeing my Dad’s handwriting and the immacutely sown together parcel. Of course, the intense feeling of just wanting to sit down and sob I felt was immediately offset by the following conversation I had with the very friendly guy at the Post Office.
Post Office Guy: Where are you from?
Post Office Guy: Welcome!
Post Office Guy: Do you like mansaf (Jordan’s national dish – rice with laban sauce with meat / chicken)
Post Office Guy: Do you like Pervez Musharraf?
Post Office Guy: Benazir Bhutto?
Saba: Earlier maybe..no
Post Office Guy: Nawaz Sharif?
Post Office Guy: (mimicking me while laughing with co worker) No..no
I smiled all the way home.
And now, I’m sitting in my favorite kurta, listening to my pick-me-up song of the week (too embarassing to post) and watching my favorite neighborhood cat and kitten play outside in the piles of leaves still damp from last night’s rain.
My Dad often logs in to the internet using the PC at home, so my sister’s Gtalk logs in automatically as well. So I message my sister online today…
Saba: H or dad?
Reply: smoky miaow
Saba: meow meow
cat, why you not run anymore?
do that lazy father and lazy sister not pull your tail?
Reply: because i am lazy
Saba: meow cat, will i be able to sleep on my own pillow when i come back?
Saba: meow cat, you’re fat
Reply: so are u
Saba: atleast i run
Saba: listen, when you’re prowling the house can you find some money and send it to me?
Smoky – on the pillow formerly known to be the property of Saba
Tis Eid in Jordan on the 12th and this is probably the strangest Chand Raat ever – for the first time in about 7 years I don’t have mehndi on my hands, and no Eid outfits, and no Eid events to attend (superexcited about that, actually)
While this has been a strange Ramadan too, owing to the fact that I made quite a good effort to fast this year, and missed home desperately when I had to wake up to an empty kitchen and no parathas in sight – I have learnt that while I can turn melancholy in seconds the minute memories of Ramadan-past make their way through the far corners of my brain where they are firmly buried, I also value everything that I took for granted before.
Especially parathas and pakoras.
Eid Mubarak y’all.
And to the few who know the dysfunctional family, here’s the latest gem:
me: How is Smoky?
Dad: She is fine. Getting affectionate with Huma also. Sleeps half the night with her.
Today I almost screamed when she landed right on my lower legs (Dad had surgery on his knees a few years ago)
And Huma tells her ‘OK, we agreed to kill Papa when he is sleeping. So dont attempt while he is awake’
Honestly, we are more dysfunctional online than in real life…
Huma: this all sounds very familiar.
i think u are just camouflaging ur feelings
what did harry and sally or their desi counterpart saif and rani teach you?
men and women cannot be friends
me: anyway, what is new in your life
Huma: nothing man
i went to a fortune teller today
the parrot guy
to tell me benazir’s future
Huma: in another monumental moment
abba got the tv shifted to his room
this is it
life as i know it is changing
Huma: and to inaugurate the occassion
he also fell asleep in front of it
Dad: Yeah – really cool
me: since when do you use words like cool?
Dad: My daughters’ lingo caught up with me
me: How is Smokie?
Dad: Smokie is great.
She meowed and walked me to the kitchen. Then turned around and faced the fridge. But, she did not want food, she wanted cream
Then she went and perched herself on the window sill so that I feed her there. Utterly, totally, entirely, wholly spoilt
Hanging out at the Pakistan Embassy – which truly felt like a small piece of home with Dawn and Jang newspapers (and the editions with the most important headlines of the past 2 months), and having a good old discussion on bureacracy and where to get Pakistani food in Amman…
Eating a proper chicken tikka meal with my Jordanian teammate, where for once I could tell him on what sauce to order with tikka, laugh at how much mess he made with the puris and collapse into laughter again at the horrendous menu spellings…specifically puris = bouri bread, and samosas = samboosak. This wasn’t as bad as me having to stop myself from laughing hysterically when the server at Wild Jordan pronounced the drink Winnie the Pooh from the kids’ menu as Winnie the Booh. I kid you not.
Going to the Ministry of Interior, getting an approval letter in record time (or so I thought then), being adopted in the waiting line by a bunch of men who acted as my translators and chided me for speaking so fast, as well as a security guard manning the Manager’s office who would refer to me as “yes, no arabic, you go ahead” everytime I would stand in line outside the office (which as a woman, is awesome – because there are only 2 women for every 20 men and they get through faster), feeling like I had been teletransported back home when there was an electricity blackout at the Ministry for 20 minutes, and meeting a Pakistani there from Rawalpindi whose been living in Jordan for 7 years, and who spoke Urdu as painfully slowly as I do now..
Going to the Ministry of Interior again, getting another approval letter in actual record time (30 minutes max), and realizing that the guy at Counter # 10 knows my name even without looking at my form…which as always was half complete, filled out in Arabic, English and Urdu (Urdu and Arabic have the same script, I can only understand written Arabic to an extent, and my friend at Counter # 10 doesn’t care anyway!), and chatting with the woman at the police station who thinks it is quite amazing that I live here without any family…
Getting my Dad to tentatively approve my going to Lebanon! (Asking if going to Israel was a good idea and having that turned down first was a stroke of genius) Destination: Beirut – soon!