An odd thing happened to me last night. Well, lot of odd things happen to me—in my head, I mean. I went to Maths Ma’am’s house. Her sister is stitching some National Dress for me and wanted me to try them on for size. So I did that. I taught Lucky. I drank tea. Then she said stay for dinner and go. So I did that too.
The thing about Maths Ma’am’s house—I may have mentioned this—is they don’t watch endless, mind-numbingly stupid Hindi serials, which is what most people here do. Lucky watches cartoons, sometimes in English, or the TV is off, or they watch educational programs. If Maths Ma’am isn’t busy, she sits and watches TV with me and we discuss it.
You don’t realize how awash in information the West is until you leave it, and have to pay for every byte you download. (Why must news article be 6 MB? It’s absurd.) And the book selection at the school library is not so broad that I might ever learn something new from it. So watching TV at her house is huge.
These days, we watch Al Jazeera. Maths Ma’am used to watch a Japanese station (English-language), but they’ve evidently been broadcasting boring programs. I like Al Jazeera. I caught up on the news for a world. I had no idea there were civil wars over quite so much of the Middle East. I watched something called 14Up South Africa, which was interesting, but less than utterly enrapturing. They interrupted it a few times to give us updates on the non-progress of Syrian indirect talks in Geneva.
I didn’t have the best day yesterday, I’ll remind you. I was kind of all befuddled and mixed up. I couldn’t seem to remember how to calm down. Consequently, I went to her house in not exactly the best state. It was okay, but one of those behind glass sort of evenings.
They were updating us on the non-progress of the talks, and the delegate for the regime began to speak, and I thought “Mom” and wanted to hug him. It was this very strong feeling inside. Well, the gentleman in question is in no way mom-like. He is official-looking and elderly. There is something more going on than I was ever fully aware of.
I have tried to piece together the situation with Aliya: a lot of it is guessing, nothing much is really clear. I don’t even really think her name was probably Aliya. I just don’t know what it was, and I think Aisha was not her, but her friend.
I don’t think I fully appreciated the emotion of it though. Not only the loss later, after she left—and I think she did leave—but the attachment when she was there. I was trying to find facts, and facts are definitely useful. They give you a frame to make the bits of memory that inevitably start surfacing make some kind of sense. I think I was trying to piece too much together while still keeping my feelings behind glass. Some of it may be just that I was very young, and I don’t have this long set of older memories to give context to the younger muddle.
I don’t know. But I can only have responded to the elderly statesman the way I did because of his language: the fact of his speaking Arabic, or his particular dialect. Syrians mostly speak Levantine, North Mesopotamian, or Iraqi dialects of Arabic, but he’s a government delegate. Maybe he was speaking Standard Arabic, which no one really speaks as a mother tongue. I really don’t know. But it seems today it is both more puzzling and more important than I ever thought.