Thursday, June 29, 2006

Afghans, Cell phones and Meetings

Afghans love cell phones. Almost everyone has a special ring tone, sometimes Afghan music, sometimes Arab music. It’s often quite catchy. In mixed Afghan and non-Afghan company, the Afghans are marked immediately by their reactions to the cell phone ring. I’ve seen Afghans inadvertently move their shoulders in tune with the Afghan music, especially Logari music.

But the rings are jarring in meetings. Afghan meetings (another post) are long, with many examples (misals) and hot debates. A phone will ring, with it’s catchy tune, and because most people do not have voice mail, the person will immediately answer.

(Sound of Arab music)

Balay (yes)? Salam! How are you? How is your family, your mother, how’s her leg? Is it better? Which hospital did you go to? No! that one is terrible. Listen, brother – you’re wasting money if you don’t go to so and so. I’m serious. Tell him you know me! Fine thank you fine thank you. I’m fine? Really? Who? Congratulations! No, go ahead, eat without me. I’m here at the ***, In a meeting. An important meeting. Of course, well, I told them. And I will tell them…

It’s disconcerting and I don’t completely understand why the cell-phone user is so loud and so willing to share personal information.

Perhaps it is the communal nature of Afghans. Once you’re off the phone, you usually share the information of phone call with the rest of your family. It was so and so. She says Salam to you, her wedding is this day. She’s not happy with the gifts her fiance’s family has brought her (oh, this is another post too).

And when someone from abroad calls, you say, ‘Your eyes are bright (Chishm-et-roshan)’. It’s a form of congratulations. In the U.S., Afghan-Americans only use it when someone comes home from a long trip or visits from far away. Perhaps we use it here because for about 20 years, no one came back.

And I never say anything during the meetings when they take a call. The other day, I watched a man hotly argue and then stop to take a call. I was irritated with him but his phone call amused me and reminded me that he has a family too. Cell phones bring a touch of humanity to us, who would have thought?


1 comment:

Imperial Sugar Land said...

this is a beautiful post - i love the part about chism-e-roshan... and you have so many promises for more posts...