Manima: A Tale of Two Brothers

Mani, Nima and I grew up together in Dubai. They were my Iranian brothers from another mother, and I think we were in some kind of gang called the Persian Mafia, or the PMP, or something. Ten years later, Mani lives in Los Angeles and often speaks of 6 figure sums. Nima commands a hyper successful online company, clothing the young and hip in thug inspired threads. Mani likes to night dive with sharks and no flashlight. Nima likes to make fun of everything that moves and do headstands for fun. They both astound me, and I am honored to be their friend. Lisa


Top five reasons Indian movies are worth watching

People, if you haven’t yet watched an Indian movie you need to make this a life priority and get on with it. Take my word for it — nothing beats the insanity of the Indian filmic imagination. Growing up in Dubai fifteen years ago, there wasn’t much to watch on TV, so you learned to enjoy the only thing that television had to offer in abundance, and that was the good old Indian feature film. Ask anyone who has lived in Dubai forever and ask them what Thursday night is. They’ll tell you it’s Indian feature film night, that’s what.

  1. The villains are almost always well-dressed megalomaniacs (reminiscent of Dr. Evil), wearing either white or black and typically missing at least one body part —usually an eye (eye patches make a villain look so much more evil) or a leg….

  2. Nothing beats catching a few classic English words in the trademark Indian dialogue — treasured terms such as like ‘uncle’ and ‘jolly good’…

  3. The heroes are indestructible. I mean you can shoot these guys and the bullets just ricochet right off them and end up hitting you. Often a family member has just been kidnapped (a daughter, a brother, a mother etc) and the hero is out to save them from the one-legged villain wearing an eye patch, who he’ll defeat by stabbing out his one good eye and beating him to death with the guy’s own prosthetic limb.

  4. In all Indian movies the hero’s sidekick will die. It usually happens in a giant fight scene where hundreds of armed men attack the unarmed hero and his sidekick. A violent Braveheart-style battle will ensue, full of blood and extremely unrealistic sound effects. Once everyone has been torn limb from limb, the hero discovers that his friend has been struck down. After ‘Mighty Yell of Anguish-No.1’ he rushes over to his friend’s side. His friend is moments away from death and, just as he is about to die, he comes to his senses long enough to tell the guy to promise to take care of his mother, his father, his kids, uncle Joe, his blind cat, his pet midget … you get the idea … and then in mid-sentence he dies. The hero lets out ‘Mighty Yell of Anguish-No.2’ … zoom into the eyes … fade to black…

  5. This last reason is my favorite of all. In the middle of all Indian movies you have the mighty love dance between the hero and his woman. These scenes start in a house or in the city, the hero begins to sing a few words, then the woman sings, and then suddenly they are both dancing in the middle of the forest teasing each other from behind trees and then the hero disappears for a second. Suddenly he jumps out from behind a tree blowing on a saxophone … it’s always a saxophone. Indian people —what is the deal with you and saxophones? Could anything be less Indian then a saxophone? Seriously… Then after playing a few notes he jumps out from behind another tree with a guitar and then another tree with an accordion, and this goes on and on. Where is this forest? Which forest in India is hiding an instrument behind every tree? Who thought of this? How was this a good idea?

Most annoying thing that Middle Eastern families will do

Iranian grandparents are masters of subtlety. You will be sitting in the room with them and of course they will want to make a comment about you. Say they don’t like your shirt, for instance. They won’t come out and say it. Nope. They will start a conversation with another like-minded person (an ally) in the room about you and your shirt, but it will all be done as if you were not there. “When we were young no one ever wore disrespectful clothes, no, people wore stuff that would bring respect to them and their family, not SHAME and DISGUST.”

In Farsi we have a saying for this insanity — it translates as “I told the chair so the door would hear.”

Top five worst things about going to school in Dubai fifteen years ago

  1. Going to school in an old abandoned military camp is high on the list. There is a reason the military abandoned the damn thing … it was falling apart.

  2. This is more of a general thing that I am sure still happens. You say, “I want to turn on the air conditioner” not “I want to open the air conditioner.” It’s “I want to turn off the a/c” not “I want to close it.”

  3. The sandstorms … Yes, before the schools in Dubai had grass and flowers and walkways they had sand. Lots of sand. Endless valleys of sand that would be picked up by the wind and thrown into my eyes, ears, nose, food, shoes, pockets…

  4. The number of times I was attacked by crazy bright orange and yellow wasps is ridiculous … these things are God damn merciless. I think the schools would have their hives set up around school as a sort of living fence … these damn things were so big and orange….

  5. Mr. Najar

Inshallah is not an answer

Inshallah = if God is willing, if God wants.

Hey Abdullah, you want to go see a movie later?


Ok, so should I get tickets? Will you come?

Inshallah, I will

Well do you think God is leaning more towards you coming or not?

Inshallah, we will see

Well could you let me know so I can make other plans if you don’t want to come?

Inshallah, I will


Top five reasons Indian movies are worth watching

  1. Authenticity

  2. Authenticity

  3. Authenticity

  4. Authenticity

  5. Location

*Most annoying thing that Middle Eastern families will do *

  1. Feed You Constantly: Middle Eastern families don’t seem to get the concept of “I’m full.” You’ll be sitting in your grandparents’ house telling a story and you can see their eyes glazing over and you know they’re not even listening anymore. Then when you deliver the climactic punch line, they’ll respond with “Have some fruit.”

  2. They Ask You What’s Happening in the Movie: “So what’s happening now?” “So what happened while you were explaining the last part to me?”

  3. Ask What Grade You’re In: it never fails, man. Every time I see a family member, they still ask me what grade I’m in, like it’s a great conversational ice-breaker. “I don’t go to school anymore grandma, I died last year, remember?”

  4. Tell That Story About The Time When You Were a Kid And Showed Everyone Your Private Parts To Prove You Weren’t A Girl: this never happened, I just made it up. Honest. Shut up, I’m not a girl!

  5. Make You Show Off Your Talents At Dinner Parties: even if you have no skills at all, your parents will hype you up in front of their friends and make you do things. “C’mon Nima, show us that thing you do with your elbow!”

Top five worst things about going to school in Dubai fifteen years ago

  1. The school was covered in sand and rocks. Not only did this mean that your new Air Jordans got messed up on day one, but it also meant that if there was a schoolyard fight, you could expect rocks to be thrown. Ouch.

  2. The PE teachers made up sports activities to keep us busy. The games never had official names, but two of my favorites were ‘Run Around the Desert Until You’re Tired’ and ‘Wrestle the Fat Girl.’

  3. The air conditioner in the class never really worked, no matter how many times you “onned it” or “offed it.”

  4. The one ‘canteen’/food shack run by the legendary ‘Ramo’ only had zaatar bread and ‘Capri-Sonne’. When class let out so many kids would bum-rush the shack yelling “Ramo, Zaatar!” that there were some serious melees and disturbances of the peace, and kids ended up looking like they were at an English soccer match. One of Mani’s friends had an anxiety attack at thirteen waiting for a zaatar bread.

  5. Semi-permissible physical punishment. We weren’t really crystal clear on whether or not teachers were allowed to hit kids, but it sure happened once in a while. All the other kids would kind of curiously look at each other like “Is this cool?,” then we’d just shrug our shoulders because hey, it wasn’t us.

Five best things about having Mani as a brother

  1. We had white boy, crime-fighting alter egos when we were kids. He was Mark, I was Johnny Boy. All ladies were ours. (No they weren’t, we never really made it out of our bedroom.)

  2. I got to talk to older girls from his grade who thought I was the kindlier, gentler Mani. After I’d talk to them for a while, then I’d …. well, then I’d walk away actually. Seriously, I’m no Casanova.

  3. We would make home movie versions of “Believe or Not”, except ours was called “Believe it or You Don’t”, because I thought the grammar sounded better that way. On one episode we rolled down a short grassy hill in the park while my dad videotaped us.

  4. He’s easy to find in movie theaters—just listen for the girly scream-cackle.

  5. I’m a lot less hairy by comparison. I mean in general if I took my shirt off, people would say, “Put your shirt back on, you’re scaring the kids.” But if Mani was around, I’d look like a twelve-year-old girl. (For the record, I have no idea what that looks like).

Five worst things about getting older

  1. Developing the instinct to pat my belly when I’m tired, hungry, or confused.

  2. Having shoulder hair.

  3. Realizing your mother was right about how you’ll never get any girls if you keep acting that way.

  4. Less time until you die.

  5. It’s no longer OK to have a crush on either Mary-Kate or Ashley.