We have a great variety of TV channels, but BBC news is the only one in English and I have never liked watching the news. I’m left with the rest, which is a melting pot of stations from Turkmenistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Romania, Russia, France, Germany, China, Qatar, Kazakhstan and India.
It’s 9 PM. I’ve been reading and writing for about 10 hours and we have absolutely nothing to do, nowhere to go and very little to watch. So while Tom gets some paperwork done, I play with the TV control.
I catch something similar to So You Think You Can Dance. The judges are two women and a man with more lip-gloss and mascara than his two female counterparts put together. The first contestant is a young man that looks like Prince (the artist formerly known). He wears purple satin pants, an open bullfighter jacket with sequins, and platform shoes. He’s short, slender, has a diminutive waist and a round, petite backside like Prince’s, which he shakes like nobody’s business. I look at Tom. He makes a tsk, tsk noise and carries on with his paperwork. The next contestant is the spitting image of Johnny Weir and wears similar attire but instead of the jacket, he wears a pirate shirt with tassels. The stage is about 4’ long but in that space, this Johnny Weir pulls some moves that I have only seen Shakira and Beyonce do. He is amazing and the male judge agrees with me because he jumps off his seat and claps with the tips of his fingers, like a seal.
I change the channel and I watch for a few minutes The King of Queens dubbed in Russian, some commercials in German, and a Chinese talent show where a little guy pulls a woman in a wheelchair with his eyelids. Then something catches my attention.
A girl in her teens is crying to who appears to be her mother. The mother looks indignant but somewhat compassionate. I look at everything on the screen. They live in a mud house with low ceilings. They are sitting on the floor, on rugs, and rub their hands by a fire in the middle of the living room. They do some crying together and when the camera pans out, I see the baby. It’s a stiff bundle of white fabric that clearly doesn’t have a baby in it, but I get the idea. The young girl holds the baby in her arms and cries some more. As the mother leaves the room, the father walks in. They exchange nasty looks. I feel the tension. The father gives the baby another mean look and shouts things at his daughter, who hasn’t stopped crying. Then the father gets close to the girl, uncomfortably close, and he whispers something in her ear. She looks disgusted and recoils and so do I. Oh, no. Oh no, is all I think. But then the father leaves the room and she ponders and cries and seems to make a decision as she kisses the bundle. The next scene shows her leaving the house with the baby in her arms. She wears a long green tunic with a hoodie-like head scarf similar to those Afghan women were made to wear a few years back, and a black, stiff-looking veil that covers her face and hangs all the way down to her knees. She walks past other mud houses baking in the sun, past donkeys lazily grazing under dead trees, past other anonymous women wearing similar clothes, until she gets to a secret location: a barn, which is another small mud house. There, a young man awaits.
Before she arrives, he prepares the love pad. A few Persian rugs and lots of hay. It is obvious that he has plans because the camera zooms in on his face and I see the smirk of a teenage boy about to get lucky.
I’m watching a soap opera in a language I’ve never heard before. And I’m hooked. I look at Tom and he has stopped working. He is watching the soap opera too and he is digging it. We speculate. Tom tells me what he thinks and I make my predictions.
The young man tries to seduce the girl (who is still carrying the baby in her arms) by touching her feet. He is on the love pad and invites her, begs her to lay with him. This Casanova is ready to go. She paces back and forth, crying, explaining to him her predicament, (at least that's what I think) but the guy is overcome with desire and all he can do is paw her feet and salivate. She gives him the baby and runs out of the barn.
Then everything gets complicated. Many characters appear and the dialogues are long and the camera focuses on their faces and their fake tears and without action, we can’t tell what’s happening. I’m getting a headache.
I change the station and watch a Bridal Show on the equivalent to the Home Shopping Channel. The dresses look heavy and the models struggle to move in them. These gowns are loaded with colorful beads, rhinestones, sequins, tiny mirrors, and everything shiny. The telephone number flashes on the screen. You can call right now from just about anywhere in Asia and get one of these beauties.
I watch Sesame Street in Romanian, a version of American Idol in Uzbek or Turkmen, some cricket match narrated in Hindi, and a tasteless, borderline raunchy skit in German à la Benny Hill. But nothing, nothing can get my mind off the fate of that fake baby. I wonder who the father is and whether the young girl will be forced to marry an old cousin. I also think about the young man and if he will ever get lucky.
I have never liked soaps, but this one? I’m digging it.