I was in a meeting with my boss. She and I were talking about someone whom I will meet tomorrow. Explaining about the man, she mentioned, "and he has three adopted sons." I asked her "Are they brothers?" and she said "Yes." I was filled with pride and joy for the man who would adopt three brothers and raise them like his own, as only Americans know how to do. I also remembered one of my sadder memories in life, when in 1990 I thought briefly about what it would be like to adopt three little girls who for some reason were stranded in London, all alone, and the Welfare Department of United Kingdom had run a full-page ad with their pictures in Kayhan London, asking Iranians to consider adopting them. For a few hours on that day, I dreamed of adopting those little girls, adding them to our family, making them sisters to the boys. I thought about rescuing them and giving them a home and a family and all the love I know I can give to all, and particularly, to my children. It was such a wonderful time, those few hours. It didn't work out, for reasons better left unmentioned, but some days I feel I have ached for those little girls now for 16 years. I am proud of the man whom I'll meet tomorrow, who has adopted three brothers. Some days I think my boss thinks she has hired a complete lunatic, as I wiped the tears from my eyes.
It whirls and sings and jumps out of his hands, only to return and to resume the magical and intoxicating beat of music of a different kind and texture, sporadically augmented with the sound of chains chiming. Mohammad Vali once read me a poem in which heaven was described. Among the imagery the poem described, it said: “…and people there play music, a different kind of music, with a different instrument, something we have never seen before, something that might resemble a Daf… .” Tonight I was in heaven, listening to Pejman, playing the Daf so masterfully. I wished he would play longer…..I wished he would live up here to play for us everyday.….I wished we could all be together everyday……I wished Mohammad Vali were still alive. He is up in heaven, playing the instrument that might resemble a Daf. I remember his funeral quite well….his son and his best friend played the Daf as he was put down in the grave….they cried and played and cried and played…and just as dirt was shoveled onto his grave, the two of them kissed their Dafs and threw them into his grave, to be buried with him. I think he is playing the instrument that might resemble a Daf, and I miss him, my friend.
Just a quick note in the middle of all the noise, words, and traffic that marks a family reunion! It is so sweet to be surrounded by so much love for those you have missed bitterly for a long time. My brother, Massoud, is such a peaceful and wonderful man. He is a top-notch scholar in his own field, a professor, a researcher, and an author. Perhaps it would be legitimate for me to be proud of him because he is all that. What makes me most proud of him, though, is the Grade AAA+ heart he has and how when he is around, one never feels sad or lonely. He has something kind and constructive to say to everyone, and there is always something to learn from him. He is a joy to know and a good role model to follow. Off to doing (or pretending to do) some chores for dinner now! Life is good, very good.
My friend, Jaleh, is a lecturer at Berkeley. She is such a breath of fresh air. She is so understated and humble, yet she knows so much and so many people. We usually go out to lunch and have a blast talking, laughing, and comparing notes! We had our standing lunch date yesterday. She came and brought two of her friends with her. Imagine having chelokabab with three scholarly Iranian ladies! It was such a delightful lunch, listening to an interesting conversation between two of the women, discussing whether or not Iranian women had some type of covering, such as hejab, pre-Islam, during the Sassanian Dynasty. It was invigorating and wonderful to follow the discussion. I was delighted to see that though she is a famous author and a very intelligent and well-versed intellectual, one of the ladies insisted to have piaz with her chelokabab! I was so proud to be at Alborz Restaurant today. I also ran into my old friend, Persis, who, in her own right, is now a scholar, a professor, and an author. None of these descriptions do justice to what a nice and generous woman she is. I should add that I was also touched to see that she had read my articles! She and I decided to get together soon. Well, another lovely day in Berkeley! I am so lucky.
I am so excited today. This is it! Our "Majority Family Reunion" weekend. Five aeroplanes and a few cars will bring me most of the ones who matter to me most in life! A brother, two sisters, three nieces, and three nephews. I can't afford to get sad thinking about the brother, sister, four nieces, and a nephew who can't come, and how my parents would have felt seeing us all together. It won't do justice to the spirit of this beautiful, chilly spring day in Northern California. It won't do justice to my spirit. This week I met with an interesting man. He has only known me for a few months now, and asked me where I had been before (how come he had never seen me in the circles that I now frequent?). I said to him that I was living another life. Then it struck me how true that statement was! Last year at this time I was living another life; I was another person; an abridged, limited version of myself. This year, I am better. I am slowly opening my wings and taking short flights into new areas of life. I rather like it. It is scary some days and I fear I might fall. Some days I do fall. But nothing life altering! Just some bruises and some aches and pains. Then I get going again. Take notice: I am a happy woman on this, the 23rd day of February, 2007!
I live in a dangerously thin, long, and deep stretch of space, which is my identity. I live in America, taking daily pains to practice what I know well—being an Iranian. On good days I think I have the best of both worlds. I am free to live, to be, to think, and to talk, because I am in America. I am surrounded by wonderful friends that Americans are, loving and supportive and respectful of me. I am free to love Iran, to follow its news, and to appreciate its music, poetry, and art, among all the other cultural elements I follow. On bad days, though, I feel lost, belonging to this land never, and belonging to the old world no more. When I lose my balance and fall off my thin stretch of identity, I am lost for I am neither Iranian nor American. My friends have asked several times whether they could introduce me to their single American male friends. They say: “Jim is a nice man, a good man, an architect. He is handsome and fun, and he is lonely. We think you two will be so good together.” I say: What would I say to Jim? Talk politics? O.K. We will talk about George Bush. We will talk about Obama and Clinton. Talk social issues? We will talk about our mutual disgust for Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton. Talk life? We will talk about our past experiences, our triumphs and failures. We will talk about our children and their individual characteristics. Talk spirituality and the environment? We will talk about religion and global warming. Then what? What will we talk about? Can Jim and I talk about Sabzeh Meidoon and Tehran Bazaar on a smug-ridden weekday? Can we talk about Sohrab Sepehri’s Sedaye Paye Ab, reading the passage which says: …zendegi abtani kardan dar howzcheye aknoon ast? Can we talk about the nuances of Forough’s Fathe Bagh? May we be engrossed talking about our fear and hate for Mesbah Yazdi? Can I convincingly tell him about my trip to Ghasem Abad Olya, a village on the boarder of Gilan and Mazandaran provinces? Can I tell him about the eerie feeling of Khaneh Mashrooteh in Tabriz? Can I describe the strange and sad and sweet feelings I felt watching an Ashoora parade in Tehran? Can he listen to me tirelessly while I play track after track of sweet Alizadeh music, describing how he wrote Neinava, and how I saw his many live performances, and how it made me feel? On certain nights, without any explicable reason, can I open my Hafez book and make a wish and open the book to cite my Khajeh’s words of wisdom and hope? Can Jim understand fully what it meant to grow up a tomboy in Tehran Pars, riding bicycles and fighting with boys who grew up to follow me home and carry my books, a few years later sending their mothers to my house for khastegari, asking for my hand in marriage? He might. He will have to, if I am to bring him into my life. I can only go to any Jim’s life, if Hafez, Molana, Sohrab, Forough, Alizadeh and Mesbah can come, too. I have yet to meet such a Jim. Have you?
Here's something I just published in Iranian.com. It has to do with Iranian bloggers these days. http://www.iranian.com/Opinion/2007/February/Blog/index.html
The next few days will be what Americans happily call a “long weekend,” adding a Monday to the normal weekend—President’s Day 2007. Though I have much sleep deprivation, a house guest, and I really do want to go visit with my sisters whom I miss very much, I’m not looking forward to this “Long Weekend,” which puts the breaks on the momentum I built up during the past week, running around, working, going to meetings, going to events, keeping really busy and trying to forget the thoughts that run through me. Since last Friday, I have resembled Forrest Gump, running and running and never stopping! Well, can’t do much about it, so I might as well go with the flow. My friend Parvin is back in town this afternoon, and we will go to dinner and a Simon Shaheen concert together at the Zellerbach tonight. My wonderful young musician friend, Hamed, will also have a concert tomorrow night which we will attend. I try to fill in all the moments and hours of the imaginary calendar in my head which is “This Weekend.” I keep reminding myself that there have been hundreds of times when time went by too quickly and it felt like a dream to have experienced certain expanses of time, like when I went to a short trip to a pleasant spot, or when I was looking forward to a gathering for weeks and it went by so quickly. I then remind myself that there have also been other times, ridden with pain and anguish, when time went by even more slowly than it does these days. My life does not have those pains and anguishes anymore. I am free of the source of that pain and anguish, and I must learn to savor and appreciate this freedom, even if I don’t quite know what to do with myself, yet. Time is a relative thing, I tell myself. I add it to the list of all other things I have by now discovered to be relative. I learn.
This is the article I wrote for Iranian.com, which was published this morning. Here's the link, http://www.iranian.com/Diaspora/2007/February/Cupid/index.html and I copy it here: My wonderful 22-year-old niece, full of life and hope, asks me if I knew that Valentine’s Day does not actually have its origins in St. Valentine’s birthday, but that it is an ancient, 3000 year old Iranian celebration of women and love, called Espandarmaz, taking place on the 29th day of the month of Bahman, also called Esfandgan. On this day, she says, women and love were celebrated by men, where women did no house chores and men took care of the women in their lives. To that, I say, dream on my child! Even if true, just as the governing style of Cyrus The Great, The Persian Empire, and all the glamour of it disappeared, so has any national inkling among most Iranian men, that women are sacred and special! Three years ago, at a gathering in Tehran, I attempted to introduce three of my friends to each other. I said to the group that I thought the lives of at least three of us have had so much turmoil in the hands of Iranian men, that we could write a good book, a collection of our tragic stories. I was joking around, saying, what do you know? Maybe Hollywood would come calling to turn our stories into a movie! There is certainly enough betrayal, abuse, and hurt in our stories, which would make it a fascinating, albeit painful, read! Imagine child abduction, libelous acts, stolen property, family courts in which all three of one of the women’s children were swiftly taken from her, and a fascinating episode of a vindictive, mentally-ill husband (a physician!) bribing authorities to get his wife lashed in Isfahan, on the preposterous accusation that she “talked to a strange man without his permission,” complete with four “fair” witnesses to corroborate the claim! At this point, the fourth woman said, don’t waste your time, as the story of my life has already been written, made into a movie, and has even won an Oscar, though the name is a bit off! We asked which movie that was and she said: “American Beauty,” whereupon she went on to say how she had found her husband and her teenage daughter’s friend together in her bed. She held that if only it would have been called “Iranian Beauty,” and had been cast a little differently, it would have been perfect! The truth is that growing up as girls and young women in the “White Revolution” era of Iran in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, we were somehow taught that we were growing up to be very special women. We were told that we could be anything and do anything. We had free education and sufficient social tolerance to wear mini-skirts, and enough welfare to think that we could go anywhere in the world, but that we would choose to return to the best part of the world, Iran. Somehow, in our naiveté each of us thought that in our own rights we were “Miss Iran,” learning and growing, and would later be pursued by the most gorgeous and eligible Iranian men who would come and marry us and give us the world! That was the simple and shallow way we were socially prepared for life. Well, let’s take stock of what really happened! We grew up and went to college and learned some skills, and then the Revolution happened. If not all, many many of us ended up working for a living, paying for ourselves, our children, and on many occasions, for that husband (yes, the very knight on the white horse, that one!). As if life wasn’t complicated enough, we have had to take care of aging parents; and on many occasions (well, after we gave up on the so-called knight on the white horse) we have had to raise our children alone. Wait, the list isn’t complete: with our leftover energy, we have even had to be the generation who was literate and worldly enough to understand and care about literature, politics, the environment, and the future of Iran. You don’t need to get your knickers in a twist my dears! This is not the ravings of a man-hating ultra feminist! I actually really like and respect good Iranian men and enjoy their company! And I know that not all Iranian men are like that. I also know of many sufficiently happy Iranian couples who are raising their families and sticking together, and I admire them for that. I will put them aside. I will also put aside Iranian men living outside of Iran, in countries with modern laws that protect women’s rights as partners in life with men. Where I challenge this myth of “ancient national respect for women,” is how Iranian men have almost collectively behaved under the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they have been given so many rights and privileges through the constitution. You would expect educated men of the Espandarmaz tradition to side with their wives, sisters, and mothers, to take action against the unjust ways in which the Iranian laws see and treat women. No chance of that! Through apathy, Iranian men have embraced the mandatory Islamic cover for women, hejab; very few of them have ever taken steps to protest the unfair inheritance, travel, marriage, and custody laws against the basic human rights of Iranian women; and many of them have shown that they would use and abuse the right to temporary marriage as often as they could. I ask you, if love and respect for women had such ancient roots in the Iranian culture, would it have disappeared overnight with the arrival of an Islamic state? Let me give you an example of what I mean. Since the majority of Iranian women don’t really believe in hejab, a protest that does have roots in our ancient traditions, the state of their appearance is in no way comparable to that of other Moslem women in the world who do believe in observing that attire, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is up in arms now for the 27th year running, trying to make them wear it and to wear it properly--failing miserably! I think Iranian men really enjoy the current laws of Iran; that’s why so few of them have ever protested those laws. My honest friend Massoud who lives in the US and is very open-minded, once said to me that he thought the problem was that the Iranian laws were just too tempting for men not to cheat on disclosure and sharing of their assets with their wives! How many university professors, doctors, lawyers, and professionals would you like me to show you who in recent decades have treated their wives cruelly, committing adultery, bigamy, abuse, and outright thievery of their community property in broad daylight? The true measure of a man’s love and respect for a woman is not how big and punctually or romantically that box of chocolates or those flowers and balloons or even diamond rings arrive on Valentine’s Day. The measure, my dears, is how consistently, fairly, and lovingly he treats her even if he is allowed to do otherwise. Happy Valentine’s Day!
The news knocked the wind out of me, for a day. Then I started breathing again. I want to appear non-chalant and all grown up about this, so I will say no more. I am in acceptance already, I think! I went to see my sister, Mojgan, who was soothing and supportive, as usual, and stayed a bit longer than I had originally intended. Then, aimlessly, I went to a little shopping therapy at Victoria’s Secret, buying myself things I didn’t really need, but which, in their frivolity, made me feel a little better. I tried calling another friend to talk about this, but when I got the voicemail, I left an ordinary, “cheerful Nazy” message and hung up. I got an SMS from a good friend and it felt good, but couldn’t consolidate enough energy to reply. I let the feelings of different texture and force just envelope me and carry me. When I got home to my empty apartment, devoid of the usual noises of the boys who had independent weekend plans, I had some wine, smoked many cigarettes, listened to some good music and started writing. I spent the entire night, writing an article for Iranian.com. I didn’t go to bed until I had sent it to Mr. Javid. It was 5:00 a.m. when I finally did fall asleep, lighter and a lot more peaceful with myself. In the morning, the things I had bought in a haze the night before, appeared silly and even more frivolous. I will keep them, I decided. They are the new additions to all the symbols and signs which characterize my new life, witnessing and collaborating with the notion that out of all that pain, a new Nazy is born. The big lesson of the big news was: I did the right thing.
I have some scattered thoughts today... Reach Out And Touch Someone?: Though I hate talking for long periods of time on the telephone, I had a really lovely visit with a dear friend of mine on the phone last night. We talked about so many different topics, covering politics, relationships, poetry, and we even listened to some music together! That was really fun and all through today, I feel as though I went to their house in Tehran and visited with them, just like I did so many times over the past 10 years. My Learning This Week: Today at lunchtime my friend Kathy and I went to listen to a talk by a young and wonderful sociologist at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. (Take a look: http://journalism.berkeley.edu/events/details.php?ID=367) . This was a fascinating topic for me, as I studied marketing in college, and I learned how mass media can be used to affect purchasing decisions in America. To see how big broadcasting businesses are changing the structure, targeting, and results of this medium is fairly astounding. The amazing thing about America is that, according to this author, many organizations across parties and political platforms and beliefs, are coming together to fight the disappearance of local news, music, and life from radio stations across the nation. My Big News: My new appointment was announced at work yesterday! I received a lot of good wishes and warm hugs from my friends here. Though I tell them, I don’t think any of my co-workers really believe me when I tell them that this place feels like home to me and each and every one of them are like family to me. I don’t think they get it, because they don’t know how much and how desperately I needed to get a fresh start, to find myself a new home, and to be in a new environment, and this place has given it all to me. Some people really gave me a hand with this new beginning, and that has been the most important gift anyone ever gave me in my life. Confusions Continue: This has also been a strange couple of weeks, filled with continued confusing feelings about who I am, and what I want in life, wondering, all of a sudden, just how I must look to others looking at me. Relationships, which have been my strength in life, somehow allude and tease and exhaust me these days. Some days I don’t know what some people are saying to me! Is there a message I must get, which I am failing miserably? Should I ask for clarification? Won’t I look really strange and stupid all of a sudden? Looking Forward: I am so excited we will be having a “Majority Family Reunion” in Northern California at the end of February. A Majority Family Reunion is when most of us can make it to an event! Since 1968, all of my siblings and I have only managed to get together twice! Once in the summer of 1974, and once in 2004, when my father passed away. This time around one of my sisters and one of my brothers won’t be there. Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to seeing my brother, my sisters, my nieces and nephews. I am so excited!
“…All the pride and vanity of autumn vanished under the footsteps of Saba wind…” Hafez I had always been fascinated witnessing other animals’ instincts about season changes. How did they know the timing of their mating, food storage, and hibernation? Why couldn’t we be so well-regulated and orderly and in unison with the earth and nature? A few years ago I finally started to “feel the seasons in my bones” for the first time, knowing in the sweltering heat of late August, when summer all of a sudden ends, or in the coldest winter day, being able to smell spring around the corner. I have figured it out now. In order for humans to see how these instincts are working, they just need to live a little longer than on this planet. Once we pass 40, we slowly start to learn a trick or two about how to be in tune with nature! Well, once we are past 40, we learn a lot, period! Though I noticed last year’s hyacinth bulbs sitting on my balcony announced two weeks ago that they would like to give life another shot and hence started to sprout, yesterday was the first time this year when I actually smelled spring. Aside from its renewals and the earth’s awakening, this time of the year is filled with nostalgia and happy memories and huge hopes for me and all Iranians. It is when we start our countdown to Now-rooz (New Day) which is our New Year, which takes place on the first day of spring on March 21st. There is so much to plan, so much to do, and so much to look forward to at this time of the year. I will tell you more about that later.
I had intended to write a lot earlier this week, but this was a tough week! I find that as I try to continue doing multiple things, the way I have done all my life, because I now tend to favor parts of my life and responsibilities, it is more likely for me to fall behind, fall short, or fall apart! I did submit an article for posting in Iranian.com, which they kindly published and here's the link: http://www.iranian.com/Opinion/2007/January/Action110/index.html . I then kept quiet because there was so much more to do this week. The interview went well, I think, and I am waiting to hear the outcome. Tomorrow my wonderful friend Linda and I will be hosting a dinner in honor of a very good friend of ours. She retired from UC employment in December. It seems only yesterday that I came to work at UC's Northgate Hall as a student, watching my friend Rosemarie with fascination and admiration, learning from her and her effervescent ways. If I am lucky, there will be a small residue in me of the wonderful woman that she is. The big mystery of American life, the American Football Season, will hit its crescendo this weekend. As in all years past, I catch the excitement of all who love it and live it and breathe it for months each year; but, unfortunately, I still don't "get" it! I put money in betting pools at work, I attend Super Bowl parties and eat and drink, and I really love hearing my family and friends yell and scream during the game; but nothing else happens for me! Of course most people don't know this secret about me, so I guess I must be acting the part! I do look forward to Sunday's gathering. I will make a better entry here soon. I just need to replenish my energies and I'll be back with gusto! Nazy