Dried Up In Meetings

by Mir Jalal

From the book "Dried Up In Meetings"
Azerbaijan International 1998, USA

Dried-up fig, dried-up apricot and dried-up wild berry- you often see these things, but a man dried up in meetings is rarely identified.

He's the one dried up and mummified from meetings who has lost his zest for life. You know the type even if you don't know his name. You know him well and often pass him in front of his office or on the stairs-He's the thin man, leaning forward taking long strides.

Where is he rushing off to? Another meeting. Under his arm, his gray worn-out attaché case is full of papers and notes untidily thrown together.

What are all those papers? Protocols! All his life, immersed in thought, frowning, head bent down, face clouded, unaware of the world-that's the way he goes about his business.

For him, there's no difference between day and night, spring and fall, hot and cold, heaven and earth. None of them have any significance. One is amazed to see this sullen-looking man who is so distant from the sounds of spring, the fragrance of flowers, the songs of birds, or of music and joy! He doesn't enjoy these things.

Do you think this man-the incarnation of bureaucracy itself-will be different in his private family life? Or that when he comes home and takes off his hat and meets his wife and children, his personality changes? That a light brightens up on his face and a smile appears on his lips?

If so, you're mistaken. No, he is a man of principle, steadfastness and directness. His own family life is like a meeting. He emphatically believes that all of us have been created for meetings. Our heads were given to us for making appointments, our fingers for writing regulations, our voices for making speeches and our hands for applauding at meetings.
To him, the whole universe has been created as the result of an important meeting and everything functions according to a single decree.

If you don't believe it, look up at the sky. See how millions of stars are gathered around the moon, who is chairing the meeting. For thousands of years such a heated discussion has been going on in the sky, and occasionally, its thunder-like sound is heard on earth.

Catch a glimpse of Dried-Up conversing with his wife, Mayransa. "Comrade Mayransa, it has been suggested that you wash my socks and hang them up to dry."

When his wife does not answer, Dried-Up gets up and taps the blunt end of a pencil against a table, insisting, "Answer is requested, Comrade Mayransa."

His not-so-easy-life that was usually spent in meetings, appointments and in giving speeches was shaken several times by his own family affairs. Let me explain.
One evening 18 years ago when Dried-Up returned from a meeting, he was surprised at not finding his wife at home. He wondered what meeting she could be attending at such a time of night. A short while later, the neighbor's wife stopped by and congratulated him.

"Brother Dried-Up, Good news! You have a beautiful daughter. Mayransa Khanum is in the hospital waiting for you."
Dried-Up didn't answer. His face only showed signs of anger and fear. It darkened even more when he asked, "Was this necessary? Who directed this order? What will they say at work?"

Then they brought the baby home all bundled up. Dried-Up did not leave his world of papers and notes to look at the child. Mayransa asked her husband to decide upon a good name. Dried-Up took the matter to the meeting of his club. Many names were suggested there, but he accepted none of them, insisting rather on his own ideas. He suggested, "Ma'aruzeh," which means "Written Report." People in the meeting roared with laughter and then they applauded. And that's how his daughter's name came to be "Ma'aruzeh."

Ma'aruzeh grew up. She began to read. And, eventually, that's what drew her father's attention. Whenever Ma'aruzeh needed books or writing pads, Dried-Up would observe all the formalities.

First, his daughter would be required to write her father a request. Then the request would have to be sent to school to be approved by her teacher. After that, Mayransa, his wife, would have to sign it. Eventually, Dried-Up would get around to buying the book or the pad from a shop.

After getting his daughter's signature as receipt, he would assign a date for it, "until the second week of the coming month."
He would then send a copy of this record to his office in order "to keep them informed," and he kept another copy in his own archives just in case anyone should ask him about it in the future.

The principal of the school spoke to Ma'aruzeh several times. "My child, ask your father to come to school, I have something important to tell him."

Dried-Up would always send back the reply, "I have a meeting to attend."
When the girl grew up, Dried-Up's problems multiplied. He would give the same answer to all her would-be suitors. "Fill out a form. I'll look into it." The suitors, on hearing this, would disappear.

Eventually, Askar, a taxi driver who was very sincere in his intentions towards Ma'aruzeh, refused to give up his pursuit. And Mayransa was happy about the prospect of having Askar as her son-in-law so she tried to influence her husband.
"Dear, they're asking for the hand of Ma'aruzeh."
"Be more specific. Who wants her? And under what conditions?"
"The driver, Askar."
"Where is his letter of request?"
"There is no letter."
"Don't be ridiculous. If there is no request, no forms and no guarantee, why are you wasting my time?"
Mayransa pleaded. "Perhaps, whenever you don't have any meetings, you could meet this man-he could come and talk with you."
Dried-Up repeated the name of the man several times and then shook his head at Mayransa.
"His name is very old fashioned, very old fashioned. Whoever wants to marry Ma'aruzeh should have a name worthy of her."
"If you mention it to him, he'll change his name."
"I don't need him. If someone wants our daughter, he should send his description and photograph. I could get to know him, and then we could start to talk about it."

But Dried-Up only repeated his refusal. "I said he should send his job description, and then we could talk about it. There is no need for further discussion."

Mayransa said nothing further. Askar was told what Dried-Up had said. He replied, "If he wants my resume, let him go get it himself from my office, but I know an easier way than this so we won't have to bother him needlessly."
That evening Dried-Up was arranging his minutes and official reports. Mayransa opened the closet door and was putting on some new clothes. When her husband looked up, he saw his wife in a rather happy and festive mood, quickly getting dressed.

"Dear, where are you going?" he asked surprised.
"Nowhere. There is a small meeting."
"Where is Ma'aruzeh?"
"She is at her own meeting and has sent you a note."
Mayransa took a small envelope from under a book on the table and gave it to her husband. "It seems that the kids have an appointment. Read and find out."
When he read the letter, he became livid with anger.

Dear Father,
We have discussed this extensively. We have thought about it and talked it over. We didn't want to bother you so we've gone to the Notary. Tomorrow is our Wedding Day. It will be in the home of the bridegroom. If you have time after your meetings, please drop by. Your daughter, Ma'aruzeh.

Dried-Up dried up even more. He jumped up, saying, "What? What? They've issued a resolution without consulting me? Who has certified this?"

Mayransa, without losing her calm demeanor replied, "You must certify it!"
Dried-Up lost his temper. "But I haven't read his request nor investigated his job. Without having some discussion, how can I approve of such a decision? What kind of insanity is this?"

Mayransa put on her boots and uttered her final words. "Whether you approve or not is your problem. I will be at Askar's house for the wedding. Look after the house. Don't leave the doors and windows open!"

And with those words, she slammed the door and stormed out.

For Dried Up, it was as if the whole house had begun to spin around him and a millstone had been tied around his neck.


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