Iranian Banter in my Bakkala

Ah, there’s the bakkala guy bringing my delivery of goodies.

This was earlier during the full lockdown when no movement other than delivery of essential supplies were permitted. In my case essential supplies equal chocolate, nutella, ice cream, beer, diet coke, popcorn, coffee etc.

I had slowly accumulated half a lifetime’s supply essentials like tinned and dried pulses, foods, and cigarettes way back since February (I might be a closet prepper) so my needs, to their bemusement, are limited to luxuries and comforts.

Any case, the bakkala (that’s corner grocery shop for those of you not keeping up) remained open and delivering locally.

The place is run by these three or four salt of the earth Iranian guys who run a tight and very efficient show and who have, over the years, accumulated a veritable Alladin’s cave of goodies.

Their selection of foods is heavily peppered by the clutch of buildings behind them that house restaurant and retail workers from several Asian countries so you’ll find all kinds of exotic foods and peculiar vegetably like things.

Also, as you can see, they were very kind indeed to put their phone number right outside my window to save me having to walk around all day with pencil and paper to write it down.

They know me as Esteffen Jerard for obvious reasons. I also thinks it helps them remember the peculiar name of the peculiar foreigner who speaks Arabic. I actually had to confirm it when I called them the first time.

Stewart. Minou? Stephen. Afwan monouu? Esteffen Jerard! Ahh Esteffen, shlonak habibi?

As happens quite regularly, people don’t expect to hear Arabic from me, perhaps expecting me to say something like e=mc2. So when they do, they think they misheard and answer in whatever preferred manner they have for communicating with aliens.

I regularly go through a rigmarole of answers and sign language to my well spoken Arabic before the conversations arrive at ‘Ah, you speak Arabic? Why didn’t you say so?

I tell them, I say I been trying to speak to you in Arabic for the last five minutes you just keep ignoring it.

It’s akin to stories of indigenous peoples of the Americas looking out to sea and not seeing European ships because they were not expecting them.

Apparently it’s a documented phenomena, and if it isn’t, then I’ve just documented it myself.

I remember in the case of these guys, it was about a month after I started to frequent their store that they finally came around to the idea that I actually speak Arabic and that my vocabulary went beyond fee sneekers? hatha kam? leish ma fee banana?


They’re usually quite busy and not interested in the nuances of rhetorical discourse.

This is why I always get so well chuffed to give them something to pause about.

Having spent a bit of time in and around Iran I raised a few eyebrows when I picked up on their chit chat and answered back. They were particularly caught off guard when I used to surreptitiously read a full Iranian sentence from their ever on TV set and said it out loud in a conversational tone.

They rarely stop doing things, so those few times when I got them to pause, usually mid-something, to compute what I’d just said in Iranian was always a treat.

I still catch them out sometimes, prompting them to interrupt their busy schedules for a quick laugh and a crack back.

In any case, the bakkala is a strictly a credit and cash affair – I buy, they record, and every once in a while I hand over cash. No cards, no phone payment thingy, and certainly no Paypal.

So those of you getting the bright idea of calling them and buying me a delivery of treats, don’t knock yourselves out.

I’ll have to pay for it myself.

Posted by | View Post | View Group

Leave a Reply