A pink taxi

A pink taxi

February 3, 2011

Teta and Jeddo's News

 My paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather used to be avid news watchers.  With all the turmoil that occured respectively in their part of the world, they have always been very politically conscious.

My paternal grandmother added the word "Al Akhbar" to my small Arabic lexicon. If she wasn't hosting people in  her salon to discuss the civil war in Lebanon or the upheaval in her homeland Palestine, she was watching the news on TV or listening to  it on the radio. These were the years before we had cable channels dedicated to the news! She would have loved  Al Jazeera. Instead, she watched prime time news and built her evenings around it.

Dinner was always served in her house by the television at prime time and it certainly wasn't a frozen-TV dinner plate. A two tier trolley that only exist in fancy European restaurants was pulled in front of her, laden with cut cucumbers and tomatoes, labneh, zaatar, cheeses, cold cuts, omelets and gratins. She would put the volume up and shush her surrounding audience. We were then assaulted with images of bombings, soldiers, tanks and horrible despots. A true horror show with commentaries made in Arabic to top it off!

My grandmother used to buy rechargeable batteries for her hand held radios. These little Sony radios rested on her pillow and she would find the dial for that all familiar Arabic voice on the BBC. I often shared a room with her on my visits to Beirut, and soon became accustomed to the political lullaby.

Back in the US,  my maternal grandfather also listened for news about his motherland Iran, and also about internal US politics, debates between Republicans and Democrats. His bed was always awash with New York Times papers. Under the bed, beside it and all over the bed spread. He would invite me to rest my head on his shoulder so he could show me the article he considered to be " Khayli Jaleb!" (Interesting). The newspapers would crush under my weight but he didn't mind. I have enherited his love for old and stale papers, with the only difference that I read them in French.

He used to particularly enjoy watching political TV shows Sunday mornings, in his bedroom. He would place his arm chair very close to the TV and cup his hand to his ear, to warn us that his attention was fully directed to the debate. My English vocabulary, despite it being of college level, couldn't comprehend the language because I didn't share his interest in the debate. I would look at him and he would grin back at me, in an attempt to push me to try to listen and understand also.

These two sets of grandparents slept with the news on their mind. Although they passed away, along with their political idiosyncracies, we each have kept precious memories of them. Today our interest in world politics stem from them, and I can be sure that,  as children sitting beside them, we learnt about the ways of the world subconsciously, as the radio or the TV told us of more turmoil in our countries.


  1. By God,this is one of your best descriptive blogs ever.You took the words out of my mouth,and you made me travel back into memories of the two people I loved most,and I keep in my mind at all times.
    From the days that I noticed the huge radio in my paternal grandmother's dining room,to the Phillips radio that my parents used to listen to Gamal Abdul Nasser's epic speechees.From the days that we listened on transister radioes to the military announcements of the domino coup d'etats in the Arab world,to the days of the balck and white TV Arabic news on Dubai's only channel.From the days we pirated cable from the only satellite connection of the Sheik's palace,to the advent of CNN first news channel,to listening to the MW BBC Arabic news.
    Then the media avalanche took place in the last decade:multi cable news from Orbit satellites,to surfing the net on the latest computers,from the Blackberrys to Facebook and Twitter.We are now all news addicts,yearning for the early days of the King's Speech!