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Quarantine Diaries: Random Conversations
My dad called me from Pakistan this morning at the unearthly quarantine standard time of 7:49. I heard the ringing, struggled to the edge of the bed and looked down at my disgruntled cell phone complaining loudly and saw “Daddy” on the screen. I turned back over and pulled the covers over my head knowing he would have a couple things to say to me when I called back.
At about noon I remembered I was supposed to do something but the Internet had sucked me into its bottomless hell and I wasn’t quite sure what it was I had to do. Till my cell rang and “Daddy” blinked accusingly at me. Daddy will be referred to as Eccentric South Asian Boomer because nothing could explain the enigma that is him better.
This entire conversation took place in Urdish (Urdu-English). Below is a close translation but some treasures will be lost in translation unless you understand Urdish.
Me: “Hello, Salam alaykum!”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Walaikum As Salam bhai (bhai means brother but is used when a rant is about to follow) where have you been?”
Me: “I’ve been-”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “I have been calling you forever!”
Me: “I didn’t-”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Why don’t you answer your phone?”
I realize it is pointless so I let him go on for as long as he needs to or runs out of breath.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “All I get are your messages that sound like ‘mamamamam’? What are you doing? Why don’t you call back? DO you know how worried I have been? You never call!”
Me: “I didn’t get a single call from you. Are you-”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “What are you saying bhai? I called so many times, I got your messages, you kept mumbling ‘mamamama’ what is that?”
Me wondering if someone with a similar number to mine had been kidnapped and gagged: “I didn’t send you any messages, and why would I mumble like that?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Messages on your cell phone bhai!”
Me: “You mean the answering machine thing on my cell phone? That is not me sending you a message, that is just a recording. And I don’t sound like ‘mamamama’ is your hearing ok?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Mujhe budda kairee ho? Chaurral!” (Are you calling me old? Witch!”) Laughing at the ridiculous thought of himself being old. You know how dads call their daughters sweety or honey affectionately? Mine calls me Witch.
Me: “You are old. I didn’t get a call from you, at least my cell phone isn’t showing any notifications otherwise I would have called you back. When did you call? And by the way, I have called you like a dozen times on Whatsapp and you never answer!”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Haan bhai! (Yeah brother) that’s exactly what you would say, I didn’t get any calls from you on Whatsapp. I called you about fifteen-twenty days ago.”
Me, preparing to hear an earful after my next statement: “I was in Morocco.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “WHAT!?”
Me: “Eldest Child took me to Morocco.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Have you both lost your minds, do you even know what is happening in the world right now?”
Me: “We left when it wasn’t crazy like it is now, also Morocco still has a very low number of cases, it had barely any when we were there and of course we wouldn’t have left if things were the way they are now, I’ve been home for more than a week now. Calm down. Aren’t you happy I got that amazing opportunity? You know I have never done anything like that in my life.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer changing the topic abruptly lest it should start a comment on his parenting and my lack of fun experiences in my early life: “Are you taking care of everyone’s health? Are you taking Moringa? Do you have access to Moringa? Do you know how beneficial Moringa is?”
Moringa has been his favorite topic for the past few years. He is a walking encyclopedia on Moringa and family members are now reluctant to invite him to family dinners because he can’t talk about anything else. He is also the major (only) supplier of Moringa to the entire extended family (that is his remaining sibling and the offspring of all his siblings as well as cousins and their offspring). He carries around a huge duffel bag full of carefully wrapped packs of dried leaves. Yes, my 75+ South Asian, arthritic, father is a dealer. Of Moringa.
Me: “I promise I will get some Moringa from some health store when the lockdown ends.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “I can send you some from here. You should all be taking Moringa every day, especially now.”
Me: “I don’t think mailing me a pack of dried leaves from Pakistan is a good idea. And don’t worry we are all taking vitamin C, warm lemonade with honey, none of us are going out. We are all fine, no symptoms.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Okay listen, I have a new number to use for Whatsapp. You need to write it down.”
Me: “Okay, but you know we can Whatsapp on this number too right?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “No, no just write the number, it’s Zong.” (Zong is a network).
Me: “Okay I’ve got a pen.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Ready?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “OK write…are you ready?”
Me: “Yes, yes tell me the number already!”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Ok write zero, three, three….you know you have to add nine and two first ?”
Me: “Yes I know, ok zero, three, three then?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Zero, three, three..”
Me: “Yes, after that?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “You got the zero, three, three?”
Me: “Oh my God, yes. What is the rest of it?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Okay, nine, two, zero, three, three, four…
Me scribbling out the second set of nine, two, zero, three, three.
He finally manages to tell me the entire number.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Okay now I am calling you using this new number on Whatsapp.”
Me: “Okay.” I hang up and wait.
Ten minutes later he calls me on Whatsapp not from the new number but the previous one.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Hello? Hello? Hello?” He constantly touches the screen of his phone while yelling hello and the screen disappears.
I call him back.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Hello! What’s wrong with your phone I couldn’t hear you?”
Me: “That is because you kept touching the screen and wouldn’t stop yelling. If you stop yelling you would actually be able to hear what I have to say.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer sticking his smiling into his phone: “Tum tho bohot moti hogai ho!” (You have gotten really fat!”
At this point, I must explain, this is not meant with ill intention, but it has been so ingrained into that generation’s minds that it is okay to say shitty stuff to other people and that the recipients of shitty stuff should laugh at their intelligent wit. It is a good thing the Boomers didn’t give birth to the Millennials. Only Generation X can put up with this kind of nonsense.
Me: “Thanks, that makes me feel really special.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Look at me, at this age look how well I have taken care of myself, I am only eating one and half chapatti at a meal.”
Me: “I am 5’6 and weigh 129 pounds.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Oh well that’s not fat.”
Me: “No it’s not. Even if it was, it is not something to say to your daughter. Or anybody else for that matter. It is considered very offensive now.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Well your face looks really fat.” Laughing at his own intelligent humour.
Me: “Thanks Daddy.”
The line drops and I try to call him back. He does not pick. I call three more times then give up. After ten minutes my cell rings again.
Me: “Hi why weren’t you picking up? I called you like four times.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Oh my phone didn’t ring.”
Me: “You need to get your phone checked out.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Oh there’s nothing wrong with my phone. I just keep Whatsapp off.”
Me looking for a brick wall to pound my head against: “Why would you not keep it on? And how do you turn it off? No wonder you didn’t pick any of my calls ever. What is the use of you having a cell phone if I can’t call you?”
The irony that I have had to parent my parents, as well as my kids (and husband), is not lost on me.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Okay listen, I have another number that I use as well, grab your pen.”
Me horrified: “What? Why can’t we just use either of these numbers?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “This is the Jazz number. The first one was the PTCL and the one you wrote was Zong.” As if any of these cell phone networks would make a difference because he kept his Whatsapp “off” anyways.
Me going into mom rant mode: “No, no more numbers! You don’t deserve more networks, you need to learn how to use your cell phone first! I have eight different numbers saved for you! Are you kidding me! No more new numbers!”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Just write it.” He starts dictating the number. We do a replay of the previous number writing scenario. Exactly the same.
Me writing it down finally: “Ok I got it.”
I look at my cell phone, I now have “Daddy” with eight different numbers saved, “Daddy 2” which is the Zong number and “Daddy 3” which is the Jazz number. Ten numbers that he will not answer when I call.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “What is your husband doing?”
Me: “He is cooking.”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “What? Why is he cooking? Why aren’t you cooking? What is the matter with you?”
Me, contemplating hanging up: “Listen I am in quarantine, I explained that to you already, I was in Morocco remember?”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Yes, you need to be very careful and stay quarantined! Are you staying away from everyone?”
Me: “Yes, I am. I know what the word quarantine means. Also, I have cooked for him for twenty-five years and-”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “And you will cook for him for the next twenty-five years!”
Me: “AND Prodigal Son can cook and so can Middle Child if they feel their father needs a break. You do know everyone is at home doing nothing right? There is no school and no jobs, everyone can cook!”
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “But it is YOUR job, you know that right?”
Me in my head: No but I know which generation’s job it was to ruin the world now.
Eccentric South Asian Boomer: “Okay I gotta go get some sleep, it is late here. You go back to enjoying doing nothing. Call you soon.”