5/17/2007

Identity-Episode Two

I have learned that we live again through our children. As they learn and grow, so do we. Our children provide us with a full-length mirror, in which we see ourselves again. Our pretenses and half-truths about ourselves come head to head with reality in our children’s presence. It is a sobering and humbling experience through and through.
My older son was 6 years old in 1992, and on a bright January Saturday, he taught me a lesson. He and I were having a conversation about speaking Farsi at home, during which he announced: “Why should I speak Farsi? I am an American.” I said to him: “You were born in America, and that makes you an American, but you are also an Iranian, and Iranians speak Farsi.” He said: “Why am I an Iranian?” I said: “Because your parents came from Iran.” In the style of the short attention span of six-year-old boys, our conversation ended soon.
But for a long time after that conversation, I sat there thinking, and feeling like a hypocrite. My parents had come from Hamadan, and I had flatly refused to be a Hamadani. I had deliberately disliked and disdained that piece of my identity, because….because why? Because Tehran was bigger and better and more exciting than Hamadan? Because I didn’t like their humbler appearance, or the dialect or accent Hamadani’s had when they spoke Farsi? Because none of my other friends had been Hamadani’s? So in an attempt to correct this hypocrisy, this double standard which I was imposing on my own child, I decided that day that I am a Hamadani. Except for some minor details, such as how I could learn to become a Hamadani sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area, literally from scratch.
When we went to live in Iran soon thereafter, I took myself and the whole family to numerous trips to Hamadan, found what few “relatives” were still living there, visited its bazaar and its many historical monuments, and tried to learn and recognize the dialect, asking questions about its history, searching for my parents’ heritage. Since that day in 1992, every time someone asks me where in Iran I am from, I say proudly: “Hamadan.” Of course to bona fide Hamadani’s who then start asking me about my roots and family and whereabouts, I would have to say that I am not a terribly good Hamadani, knowing little about it, but that I am willing to learn. I have read books on its history and dialect and continue to try to become a better Hamadani.
(To be continued...)

2 comments:

Assal said...

It is going to be interesting to discover Hamedan through you, Nazy Joonam!

My grandfather (on my father's side) is from Hamedan, so that makes me a quarter Hamedani, too!

Nazy said...

Hey, I didn't know that about your Dad, Assal! Actually, the posts are not so much about Hamadan, as they are about my revised and revised identity. I will post some pictures here soon for you my ham-shahri (in more ways than one, again!). Be good my friend and enjoy your school break.