I love my weekly visits to Ammi. I love it when she makes me tea, and calls me for lunch after setting the table. I love the feeling of not having to run the household: not worrying about meals, and laundry. I love the feeling of being a daughter.
Soon after lunch, just when I’m all settled to watch some T.V., Ammi hands me the phone. “It’s S,” she says.
S is my youngest sister. She has called from her office.
After the usual exchange of salaams, she says, quite excitedly, “I’m going on an official trip abroad!”
“Great. Where to?” I ask.
“How about a clue?” I don’t feel like guessing. Animal Planet is featuring an interesting show on lions. Our cable package at home didn’t include the Animal Planet, so I’m deprived. This is my once-a-week chance to catch up on the animals.
“Hmm, the country’s name starts with a letter T.”
“Tanzania?” I am, after all, watching lions. It’s but natural for me to think of Africa.
“Tanzania?! What will I do there?” She asks me to guess again.
“Toronto?” The lioness is about to jump over her prey, a huge buffalo. Look at the size difference!
“That’s not a country! Okay, I’ll give you another clue. It’s a Muslim country.” My sister is obviously getting impatient.
“Turkey?” This has to be it. I don’t know any other country that starts with T.
“Hmm, actually..it’s not a T. Sorry, my mistake. The country starts with a letter I.” She giggles.
I miss the lioness’ first attack on the buffalo.
“Iraq?” I don’t understand why her boss felt the need to open a real estate business there.
“No! Okay, you’ve got just one more try.”
“Islamic Republic of Pakistan?” I wanted to say Islamabad.
“Uff, it’s Iran! You’re so bad at guessing. Anyway, I’ll be flying to Tehran with my project manager on Sunday.”
Ah, Tehran. So that’s where the T came from!
And then she continues, “I’m learning a few sentences in Persian language.”
She spent days memorizing useful phrases, like:
Nemi danam (I don’t know)
Kart-e etebar ghabool milonid? (Do you accept credit cards?)
“You know, you actually didn’t need to put so much effort in memorizing those,” I tell her, “all you have to do is recite a few lines from our national anthem whenever you meet a local.”
The national anthem of Pakistan is, after all, entirely written in the Persian language, except for one Urdu word ‘Ka’.
So, armed with her Persian language handbook, a new abaya, and a camera, my youngest sister flies first class on a three-day official trip to Tehran.
In the meantime, I am watching Animal Planet.