What has happened once again, that happened times before, How often must this happen, before it happens no more; How much can we handle, before we fall apart, What more can be done to prepare for a broken heart; A hardened heart can love no more, is this the way things end? I gave myself, my weakened heart, all to you my friend; And now there is an emptiness where once my heart did beat, Please take my heart with you, for me, it proved too much a feat.... This is a poem by my wonderful young friend, Shabnam Ghayour, who lives in London. I am honored she let me use it here. Shabnam is a successful events manager and a powerhouse in London's restaurant and entertainment scene. Can you tell she has a most wonderful heart, too?
I have a brilliant young artist friend who lives in Iran. He is married to a wonderful young woman, the daughter of famous artists herself, and the last time I saw the two of them in Tehran in March 2006, they were happily married and unbelievably in love. Over the past couple of months, my friend had been acting strange, calling me in the middle of the night, and leaving strange messages on my voice mail, saying: Hi! This is Hamid*. I need to talk to you. Please don’t call me; and hanging up. Or appearing as though he was online on Yahoo Messenger, but no matter how much I tried to get his attention, he wouldn’t reply. Recently, he has resurfaced, saying that he is having serious problems with his wife and they are seriously considering divorce. He has the familiar story of how they are so different, and that they don’t get along anymore, etc., saying that his wife is the one pushing for a divorce. I ask him whether they are still in the same apartment. He says yes. I ask him if they are talking to each other. He says no. Though it is quite obvious, I ask whether they are having sex, and he says not for the past 4 months. When I first learned about this a month ago, I suggested to Hamid to go see a marriage counselor. With divorce at such a high rate in Iran, we actually have professionals specializing in marriage counseling (I don’t know how good or effective they are, but I know that they exist). He agreed to go. So, he calls me the day before Nowrooz and says that they went to see the marriage counselor and he was advised by the counselor that his wife cannot stand this marriage any more! He said that they are moving full speed towards the big D. My heart weeps for anyone who knows nothing about the reality of divorce and keeps saying the word. I say to him, Hamid Jan. You can always get a divorce, but you must first make sure that you have given this marriage your best shot. I say to him that making this important decision will bring him and his wife so much pain later that it is worth serious and deep contemplation at this time. I ask him what his wife told the marriage counselor, what it is that made her not be able to stand this marriage anymore. He says that she told the counselor that he doesn’t pay any attention to her. I asked him if this was true. He says yes, I admit it and I’m sorry. Talking to him, though, he doesn’t sound sorry enough. I say to him, Hamid Jan. Please go get your wife some flowers, a gift, and go embrace her and tell her that you are sorry and that you want to save your marriage, that you both need another chance to work on making this right. He says I don’t believe in those kinds of material offerings. I point out to him that that’s probably one of the things that is construed as his lack of attention to his wife. I say to him that gifts don’t really matter, except that they are symbols and signs of the fact that we care about someone; that’s why they shouldn’t be expensive or lavish. I say to him that people really appreciate it when their partners show that they have been thinking about them. I begged of him to go do something nice and kind for his wife, asking her to give their marriage another chance. In the end, he said he will do it. We hung up. I didn’t get the feeling that he was entirely convinced that this is the right thing to do. I can only hope that he does give his marriage another shot, in whatever way he is comfortable doing. I think, however, that divorce is a decision that cooks in people’s minds and hearts for a long time before it even surfaces and is discussed. In the time it takes for it to cook in people’s minds, however, it becomes almost irreversible and unstoppable. I wished I had been in Tehran as my young friends’ relationship was deteriorating, and maybe I could have helped them in the process. I am so sad for the two of them and for what is awaiting them. Judging from tens of similar separations I have witnessed in Iran, after a possible divorce Hamid would most likely quickly get into another relationship, and quite possibly another marriage. His beautiful young wife, however, will not have a very easy time doing the same. Economic perils and social pressures threaten her, and her spirit will suffer much in the hands of a society that doesn’t take too kindly to divorced women. I hope they work on their problems and stay together. It was so beautiful watching them in love. My heart aches with worry and hope. *I have changed his name and some other attributes here.
Here's a picture of "my beloved," beautiful ugly city, taken yesterday by Mr. Karim Arghandehpour, who is a famous and wonderful journalist, author, and scholar in Iran. Those of you who read Farsi can visit his blog at http://www.futurama.ir/ .
The last time I packed boxes and suitcases, I was crying. I was reflecting on my long journey through life, packing boxes and suitcases for the past 28 years. Moving out of my parents’ house, moving to America, moving to Iran, moving back to America, moving back to Iran, moving back to America, moving back to Iran, and finally moving back to America, packing, leaving, crying. When I arrived at my sister’s house last year, I was thinking how tired I was of moving, moving, and moving, and never really arriving to stay for good. I reflected that everything in life gets better with practice; that you get used to everything. The only thing you never get used to, the only thing that the more you do, the worse you get at it, and the less you want to try it again, is saying good-bye. Each time it gets harder, because by now you are familiar with the pain that awaits you, loneliness, homesickness (wherever that home was), missing your family, missing your friends, missing the places and people you left behind. Over the past year, I have missed Tehran so much. It was a hometown I got to know again--on a very intimate level this time. I miss the afternoons of Tehran. In winter I miss the trays of piping hot red beets (laboo) on street corners. In spring I miss the green baby almonds (chaghaleh), and the gorgeous sweet fresh white berries (toot sefid) which come around in June, displayed in huge, heaping trays everywhere. I miss seeing the hundreds of happy families going for an evening picnic in Park-e-Mellat, carrying their food, their carpet, and their badminton sets. I miss the smug-ridden town, offering the deafening sound of honking horns on a constant basis. I miss the grid-locked traffic, where each car you pass has a group of young men and women in it, playing different kinds of loud music, talking in an animated fashion, and laughing. I miss the smell of nazri food, a gorgeous bowl of beautifully decorated sholeh zard. I remember when we were children, people offered this food to us in real white bowls with red-rose (gol-e-sorkhi) pattern. My mother always had us deliver the bowls to their owners with a red rose from our garden in it. Ah, the smell of those velvet roses and their nearby Persian Jasmines still have me drunk with memories of a childhood which was nothing short of perfect. I miss all traditions that make Tehran my hometown. I miss the vendors who, as you got ready to pay for your purchase, offered whole-heartedly, “mehman bashid,” be my guest. I have the boxes and the wrapping material ready. I’m sitting here looking at them. This time when I move, I won’t cry. I am going to a beautiful new home, a home that will have room for all of us to be and do as we are accustomed. It has beautiful trees all-around, and you can see the green hills from its windows. It is a home for which I have waited for many years, maybe my whole life. My own home. I already know where around that home I will plant my pomegranate and fig trees, the ones that will bring prosperity to my Iranian home. I don’t cry this time. I now live in my old, new, hometown; a place of which I have many good memories, and freer and lighter than I have been in years, I have every intention of making many many new good memories here. I still miss my beautiful ugly Tehran, but I feel my city of childhood, love, and so many memories, has blessed me with good wishes for moving on, for building this new life. I pick up a piece of bubble wrap, and carefully wrap the first item. I am smiling.
On a Saturday in 1983, when we were still students, I was sitting at the table paying my bills, listening to the Iranian program on television. I heard them advertise a new Iranian restaurant, located in the Town and Country Village in Palo Alto, letting us know that they have the “Best Chelo Kabab In The Area.” I called my sister and a few other friends, and they all agreed to go there for lunch. Starving students on a tight budget, we were going to splurge and eat the “Best Chelo Kabab In The Area.” All nine of us piled into a beat-up Chevrolet Impala station wagon, and started the long journey from Berkeley to Palo Alto. On the way, we were singing “Sepideh dam oomad o vaghte raftan...” on top of our lungs, laughing and feeling generally happy. ...... Read the rest of this story here: http://www.iranian.com/Kaviani/2007/March/Dough/index.html
This is my handsome friend, Errol Mauchlan. I worked for him when he was Assistant-Chancellor at Berkeley, and we have maintained our valuable friendship through the years. He is a Scotsman who has lived in the US for the past 50 years. He has one of the sharpest analytical minds I have ever known; he follows local, national and international politics closely, and is articulate, generous, and fun to talk to. I am so glad I get to see him and have lunch with him occasionally now. This is a picture of him at lunch today at Bucci’s in Emeryville (a very hip and famous restaurant). He usually smiles a beautiful smile, but I think this serious look (his look in meetings) is also rather interesting.
What is with Iranians and always being late to EVERYTHING? Forget about being "fashionably late," though even that phrase refers to undisciplined morons! Many of us seem to have no respect for time, neither ours nor others'. We show up late to dinner parties, appointments, and events. Iranian events always get started an hour or more later than the scheduled time to accommodate the latecomers, or maybe the organizers and performers (being Iranians themselves, too)! I think the procrastinating Iranians might be thinking about the earth's life of millions of years or that 3,000+ year Iranian history, comparing all other time references with them, thinking "what is 2 hours in the overall scheme of things?" I hate it when I have to wait for people, and I hate it more when I keep people waiting. Punctuality is a good trait. Even more than showing respect for others, it shows that we have respect for ourselves and for our time. I am really grouchy with a certain Iranian right now.
So, it took me three days, but here is a picture of my Haft Sin. I couldn't get the whole table in the frame, so some of my items on the edge are missing! At this stage, I would settle for mediocrity!
I had my Nowrooz visitors at home last night and it was a very good time. Some of my Iranian Berkeley colleagues might come to visit me today and tomorrow, and I have had to clean my office for that, too! I have tulips and fragrant freesias on my desk and my cookie jar is replenished. I guess this might be one of the few times in the year when I appreciate being older than anyone else!
My children made out like bandits with their eidi's this year. I got $10 for prosperity's sake (dashti) from my older sister. It was a relief to remember that there are people older than me!
My insomnia has ebbed, and I am happy that I can sleep again. I had a "Ms. Wisdom Moment" the day before Nowrooz, but I didn't want to talk about sad things, so I kept it for another time.
I will have to buy new shirini for my Nowrooz table, as my guests finished all the cookies my friend, Monir Zand, had made! (the ones in the lower right side of the picture).
Well, so, this picture is a little corny, but it's the best I could do, given my limited state of technology. I'll do better next year, I hope.
I pray the following prayer for you and for all of Iran (Ya Moghallebolgholoob.........):
“Oh, you transformer of hearts and emotions, you master of day and the night, you provider of health and better times. Turn our lives into the possible best!” *
* From Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani's article in Iranian.com, Lilies Growing in a Dark Lagoon. tp://www.iranian.com/Ghahremani/2007/March/Norooz/index.html
Two women, exhausted, probably threatened, bullied, and insulted, kept in solitary confinement for close to three weeks, have been released to go home tonight. I am happy to see them released. I forget for these next few hours, that they should never have been arrested and detained in the first place. I am happy to see them with their families. I am happy to imagine them taking a bath and putting clean clothes on. I am happy to imagine them eating their Sabzi Polo Mahi tonight. I am happy to imagine them hugging their loved ones. For now I forget the humiliation and the unfair treatment they had to endure for speaking their minds, these wonderful, educated, and brave women. I am happy they are home. I am happy they are free.
After I waited for this for a month (really every time I see him, I think I have been waiting for this all my life), March 18th finally came and I went to see Hossein Alizadeh and his group, Ham Avayan, in a private concert in a home in Fremont. Not the super expensive ticket, not the miles and miles I had to drive there, not the piled up exhaustion of hard work and the insomnia of late, nothing was going to get in the way of my going to this event. And it was simply awesome. He was accompanied by both a male and a female vocalist, his twin sons, and two other instrumentalists. He talked to us about music, bedaheh navazi (spontaneous music or “jamming”), and how an audience can participate in it by being responsive and creating motivation for the artists. He is so down-to-earth and so full of energy; funny, too. The whole house was filled to the brim with people, all touched and made emotional by the electric energy of the Master and his young ensemble. What a wonderful night this was. I am honored to have been able to go see him again for what must be the 14th time in concert. I wished I knew how to put one of the tracks of his new CD here for you to hear. They performed a song based on a poem by my beloved Fereidoon Moshiri, and it was so well-delivered. It is called Ode To Flowers. I hope you don’t think I’m sounding over the top about this; there is something in that man’s soul which once he picks up that Tar, turns into magical waves of reflection, joy, and happiness for his audience. My heart is singing today.
Photo from Zamaneh http://www.radiozamaneh.org/music/2007/03/post_143.html
I am cleaning our apartment like a maniac. Picking up, sorting, cleaning, dusting, washing, vacuuming, all the while complaining about the fact that there is too much work and not enough time to finish my summary khooneh takooni, set the Haft-Sin, and do all that I must also do this weekend, in anticipation of the arrival of the New Year on Tuesday. My young adult children are not home. So, I’m talking to myself, or the broom, really. I’m thinking whether Nowrooz is yet another thing that only matters to me in this household? I wonder whether my children’s hearts are also leaping out, thinking about Tuesday? Are they filled with the hope and optimism I tend to project at this time of the year? Do they feel this change of the old year into the new, as I feel, as though I am carrying a gene thousands of years old? Do they even care? I make a mental note to myself to ask them. ***** I am driving them to work. Before I have a chance to talk to them about my question, we have another incident interjecting itself on our conversation. Some background first. My kids love The Doors. They are actually obsessed with the Doors. They talk about the Doors, as though it is a musical group that is still around, making new music for them all the time. In fact, as we all know, The Doors don’t exist anymore. Their lead singer, Jim Morrison, died of suspicious causes, and the band disbanded decades ago. As is our family tradition, when each of us wants to share a piece of music he/she loves with the other two, we play it loudly, all sit and listen, and the one promoting the music says some words about the artist, the music, or the lyrics. Each time my children tried to tell me about a song by The Doors, I would say: “I know that music. I used to listen to it all the time when I was a teenager. I owned their original LP’s and listened to them on my gramophone.” Somehow, they are so “newly-obsessed” with The Doors, they don’t believe me. Now, you should also know that I have my very own Doors CD, which among the eclectic collection of music I own, I sometimes play. I had left it in the car CD player last night, when I had been giving myself a solitary audio treat. Now, we fast forward to present. We get in the car, and Come On Baby Light My Fire starts blasting out (yes, I listen to The Doors the only way The Doors should be listened to, on high volume). The two of them look at me in astonishment. They ask where that CD came from. I tell them it’s mine. They smile, shake their heads, and mumble “Coooool!” We listen in companionable silence for a while. ***** .....Read the rest of this story in:
With the time change, stress, and the big load of volunteer work I have accepted, on top of the ongoing stuff, I can't sleep at nights. I fall asleep at about 3:00 a.m., and turn off both alarms at 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., waking up late and more stressed out! I forget things like my cell phone and important papers, and my life gets more complicated. I am running really late for everything today. I will have to run to places now for the rest of the day, and every hour has been scheduled until 9:00 p.m. Yikes! On the up side, staying up till 2:30 last night, I learned that bail has been set for the last two women in prison. It is an astronomical bail, but I am hopeful that they will be home for Nowrooz. My heart is lighter and happier this morning. Maybe I can finally get some sleep tonight. This weekend looks even crazier than my work week! I wished I hadn't worn these high heels to work today.
Another typical day in my life. I get a phone call from my young friend in LA. She says after she told her boss that she didn’t appreciate his touches and close proximity to her in her office, she was called into the office of bigwigs yesterday, and was summarily fired, escorted to the parking lot and all. Her friends are telling her to sue. I say to her to wallow and cry for another 48 hours and then get started on finding a new job. I say to her what might sound like a cliché: “The best revenge is living well.” I say: “Get a job, get a life, and live it well. That will show the bastards the stuff you are made of. Their loss. Stop thinking that your dignity has been compromised because you were fired. Your dignity would have been compromised if you had succumbed and slept with your boss to keep your job or to be promoted.” She cries. I sound brave and wise on the phone, but I swallow my tears for my brilliant UCLA MBA friend. I hang up. I am telling you, I think I don’t deserve all the respect I get from my women friends. I am in the business of survival and search for happiness, even if it takes me to another continent, another country, another job, and another life. I fight as best as I can, and when I have to choose between martyrdom and departure, I depart. I won’t stay and fight to the last drop of my blood. I need my blood and my life to live and to help those dependent on me. I think my young friend may be able to win a long and uphill battle, but she will lose so much time, energy, and life in the process. What for? To prove a point that keeps being proven and yet the offense continues? I don’t know. I am not that wise, really.
Dar paye an hameh khoon keh bar in khak chekid Nangeman bad in Jan! Sharmeman bad in Nan! Ma neshastim o tamasha kardim. After all those blood dripping on this soil Disgraced be this soul, shameful this bread! We just sat and watched those crimes. (From Without You On a Moonlit Night, Fereidoon Moshiri Poems, Translated by Mehdi Afshar, Namak Publishers, Tehran, 2006.) Those two women are still in solitary confinement. My heart is in solitary confinement. My conscience is strangling my heart which wants to leap toward Nowrooz with joy. I go through the motions. I pretend it is business as usual in my household. My tulips from last year just blossomed today. The wheat has stopped sprouting due to neglect. The silver is polished. I cry.
My friend, Renaud, is a very interesting man. Son of a French businessman, he grew up in Tehran in the sixties and seventies. He attended Razi School. He speaks fluent Farsi, though he is really humble and never admits his full command of the language. He likes Iranian foods and spices and makes his family Adas Polo ba Keshmesh. He enjoys Iranian music, and through his mumblings I think I may have discovered that he plays the Tombak, too, but I’m not sure. He works at Berkeley with me and lives around here with his family. Renaud is father to two of the most beautiful children in the world, Isabelle and Thomas. I may be thousands of miles away from home, but to have coffee with this kind, sweet, and generous man every morning, talking about work, life, families, politics and such, has been a wonderful cure for my homesickness. Though he never says it, I believe him to be a lot more Iranian than some of the born and raised Iranians I know, because he has the gift of remembering his good memories of Iran, appreciating its arts, poetry, and music, and expecting nothing in return from Iran, hence never getting disappointed with it! We all went to the annual Charshanbeh Soori ceremony in Berkeley tonight. It felt so good to be surrounded by one of the largest congregations of Iranians I had ever been to outside of Iran. In Renaud’s eager participation in the ceremonies, encouraging his children to jump over the fire, and moving to the beat of Iranian music while snacking on a Kabab sandwich, Katayoon and I felt like we had gone out with members of our own family. This is the way it should be, I thought. Love for and good memories of a country that means so much to the very fabric of each of us. My friend Renaud is an Iranian.
Do I want to jump over the fire? Do I want to impatiently check up on the sprouting wheat in the plate? Do I want to color those eggs? Do I want to clean the house and put out my decorative plates and vases full of tulips and fresias? Do I want to go buy that one item of new clothing I have religiously purchased for myself in March since I have been on my own at 18? My heart feels heavy and imprisoned. I wished they would let the last two go for Nowrooz, so that I could do all that. I wished.... http://www.iranian.com/Kaviani/2007/March/Women/index.html
She cries. I ask her what the matter is. She cries harder. She looks really Western today, chic clothes, nice boots, manicured nails, gorgeous loose curls of auburn hair all around her lovely pale face; yet she sounds so Iranian, not just the accent, but what she says sounds so old world to me today. In between sobs and tears and silences where her shoulders shake and her face rests in her wet hands, she talks about the “incident of intimacy,” her words not mine. I try to understand what has her so miserable. So, first I try to find out if she has been hurt in any way. She shakes her head “no.” Relieved, I try to soothe her by saying that things happen. I say it’s natural for things to sometimes progress in a relationship, and that could be O.K. I say that between two free, consenting adults…. She shakes her head “no,” again…. I’m stumped. I keep quiet. I wonder whether she has a cultural difficulty in accepting something considered natural and acceptable in a relationship in these parts. She says: “I was so surprised…,” more sobs. My heart is breaking for my friend, but I don’t even understand the problem to start offering solace. She says: “…after…..he didn’t even walk me to my car. He never called me again... .” What can I say? Break into a tirade against men? Too pathetic and stereotypical, so I won’t do it. Console her by saying that he will call her, thinking of excuses about the man’s abysmal behavior and disappearance? How can I defend something indefensible about a person I have never met? I can’t appease my friend on unfounded hope. I am quiet, but I reach for my sad friend and give her a big hug, holding her in my arms for a long time, rocking her, giving her my silent love and reassurance about her womanhood and dignity. Ms. Wisdom is quiet for a change.
I am teaching my son how to drive. It is an exercise in futility! For starters, I am not a good, experienced driver myself. Up until last year, I had always been driven around by others, seldom having to drive myself anywhere. Now, all of a sudden, I not only have to drive 30 miles to work and back everyday, I also have to give my children rides, make airport runs to pick up guests, drive around the Bay Area late at night, going to or returning from concerts, events and such. I must also “teach” these young men how to drive. If it weren’t so nerve racking, it would be quite comical! I was telling my kids why I didn’t learn how to drive until I was 26. As with my other siblings, the summer of my high school graduation, my father asked Jenab Sarhang (The Colonel), who had a driving instruction school in our neighborhood, to send someone to teach me how to drive. That first July day, with the cool 6:00 a.m. breeze of Tehran on my face, I reluctantly got into the yellow Paykan that the teacher had brought to our door, complete with the second set of gas, clutch, and brake pedals under the teacher’s feet. He introduced himself. He was the Colonel’s son, a young and handsome man. Well, he already knew who and whose daughter I was. We started with the basics and the first session went quite well, I thought. The second session I noticed that my teacher was wearing a very strong cologne. I looked and he wasn’t wearing the jeans he had worn the first time. He was dressed in very nice clothes. As he was coaching me and I was gingerly trying to learn driving, he started talking to me about life, asking me questions and engaging in some serious philosophical discussions. It was so hard for me to concentrate on my driving, because at 17, I had to simultaneously think about such big topics as the teacher asked me. The third time he came to my door, instead of letting me turn on the ignition and go, he turned to me and started talking to me about himself, his life, his philosophies in life. We drove for about 500 meters and he had me stop the car under the shade of a tree, where he went on to talk some more, asking me questions about my “plans” for the future. I was increasingly uncomfortable and miserable in that car. Finally by fourth class he asked me if I would consider “marriage!” I had to tell him yes, I do consider marriage, because I have a boyfriend I would like to marry someday. Oh Boy! This really upset my teacher-turned-“khastegar” (suitor)! He stopped talking to me. He was actually ghahr with me! He refused to talk to me or give me any instructions! I tried it one more time, and when I realized this guy is not fitting the bill for a driving instructor, and would rather be a jilted lover or something (!), I went home and refused to go to driving training anymore, taking much blame from my parents and teasing from my sisters! That’s how I didn’t learn driving when I was younger. Why I didn’t learn it for the next nine years, and how I finally did learn it are two other stories I will have to tell some other time. My children think I am so predictable, and that they know everything there is to know about me. Lots of times, I get the "broken-record-reaction" on their faces when I start talking to them about life and different issues. Sometimes I tell them a little story they have never heard before (and I know just how many of those there are in my heart and in my head!). Then I see in their eyes that I confuse and startle them! That isn’t such a bad thing, as sometimes they need to be reminded that their mother, too, was once 17!
In the middle of the “organized chaos” that starts my day at 5:30 a.m. (jump out of bed, take a shower, put the tea on, start-up the computer, run through emails from Iran, run through the news, hurriedly exchange some instant messages with friends in European time zones, dry hair, wake up the boys, get dressed, make lunch for the boys, get all of us into the car, drop the boys off, drive to work, park, run, and get into my office), I notice that I have a headache. Uh-Oh! Early morning headaches mean migraine attacks for me—headaches which will stay for a couple of days, driving me crazy and less than functional. I’m thinking it must be the stress of the past couple of days, spent in worry and anxiety for a number of personal, professional, and political issues, worrying about changing homes, a difficult project at work, or the women arrested in Tehran. Then I remember. I was sitting in my boss’s office yesterday and we were talking about something and we were laughing jovially, and I bent my head backwards and hit it hard against the wall! It made an ominous sound and hurt like hell, but I was also laughing like a maniac, so I didn’t stop laughing! Then I forgot all about it. So, it is likely that my head hurts not because of stress but because of laughter! How ironic is that? Then I think to myself, isn’t this typical and representative of my life these days? I laugh like a maniac, because life is beautiful, and I cry and worry, because life is ugly, too? I need to make up my mind: is it beautiful or ugly? Should I laugh or cry? Well, I figure, life is beautiful. It comes with pains and ugliness and evil, too, but if you have a purpose, occasionally you can hit your head against the wall, or fill it with sad thoughts, and give yourself a headache or some tears, but then you can just move on and be happy again at the first opportune moment. My head hurts, but I think I just met my first opportune moment! I’m happy.
I wonder where I would be if I was still living in Tehran. Would I have been brave enough to have followed the others to the peaceful protest of this week? Would I have been arrested abruptly and violently, dragged through the city, and shoved into a crowded holding cell, only to be transferred blindfolded to Block 209 of a horrible jail? I don’t know. I do know that my heart weeps for the plight of Iranian women, caught in the hands of barbaric laws which not only don’t protect them, but at every turn take away something from their freedom, their dignity, their individuality, and their humanity, degrading them to second class citizens, devoid of rights to custody of their own children, rights to a fair marriage, rights to choose their own clothing, and many other basic human rights. It is true that no human being in Iran is treated with dignity, but it is particularly horrible for women. One of the arrested women, Asieh Amini, is a blogger, whose blog I visit every night, occasionally leaving comments, comments which she sometimes answers. My unmet friend, Asieh, shares a name with my grandmother. Through her infrequent postings, she appears as such a soft, yet strong soul. You can feel her “woman-ness” through her words of wisdom, compassion, and humor. The reason she writes infrequently is that she is a women’s and children’s rights activist, traveling all over Iran, witnessing, reporting, and following up on abused women and children. Asieh is the voice of collective consciences of every Iranian man and woman. She won’t let go of that abused 12 year old boy in Hamadan. She won’t let go of that young woman in Rasht, waiting to be executed because she killed someone in self-defense. I have never met her, but I feel like I know her and I love her and my heart feels imprisoned thinking of her in jail. I want to shout to the world: It’s not fair! I know better, though. I go and help my friend put his articles about the women into English, so the world could hear. That’s how I can help. Those women in prison cannot afford their supporters to fall apart on them now. Not now. Much like she won’t let Behzad and Delara down, I won’t let Asieh down. http://www.iranian.com/Shorts/2007/march2007.html#7c
The wind blows my hair, tossing and throwing it into my face. The light and bubbly air of a Northern California March day caresses me and bursts of spring dive in and out of my little car, enveloping me in a love of spring, thousands of years old for Iranians. Shadmehr’s music is drowning out the sounds of the freeway running under my feet. The sweet and benign sunshine of a winter’s end makes feeble attempts to penetrate my upturned face, but falls short. My eyes run through the beauty surrounding me all around; the gorgeous green hills, the pristine view of the Bay as I turn a bend and face what must be the most spectacular view of the world. How lucky can a person be, I wonder? I remember Sohrab’s poem, which I have read hundreds of times in my life, but for the first time in my life, I FEEL it, and it feels good, soft, embracing, and true. Man cheh sabzam emrooz va cheh andazeh tanam hoshyar ast……. (How green I feel today, And how alert my body feels…..)
Professor Lotfi Zadeh is a legend in his own time. He is the inventor of “Fuzzy Logic,” a theory now widely used in many disciplines and environments, particularly as it pertains to development and manufacturing of computer hardware, software, and robotics. Those who know this theory know that it is much to do with math, technology, and, well, logic. In my non-technical state, the best way for me to describe Fuzzy Logic is to say that it revolves around not the black and white areas of “absolute” in matters, but around the thousand shades of grey in between, and how to describe, quantify, and utilize them. No wonder even students of philosophy are among those doing research on his theory. He is originally from Baku, Azarbaijan, but spent 14 years in Iran between the ages of 10 and 24, when he graduated from Tehran Technical University. He is now 86 years old, a Professor Emeritus at Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, and continues to work, research, and speak at conferences worldwide. In addition to his credentials, he holds 26 honorary doctorate degrees from universities all over the world. This man and his lovely wife, Fay, are my friends. He is funny and full of life, appearing dapper and dressed in European style clothing. He speaks many languages, including a sweet and fluent Farsi. He tells short, funny stories and has a mind which is sharp as a blade. We spend our time talking about the world, politics, and life in general. His approach to life and its many dimensions is astounding. He forgets nothing, and remembers everything. He tells short and meaningful stories and shares his bittersweet take on issues. Tonight he told me a funny story. Being a Russian himself, many of his stories are about Russians. He said a Russian runs into his friend. His friend is walking awkwardly and obviously in pain. He asks him why he is walking that way and his friend says: “It’s because my shoes are too tight.” The first man asks why his friend wouldn’t consider wearing shoes in his own size. He says: “Well, you see, recently I went bankrupt. Then my wife died. My son is a gangster now and my daughter is a prostitute. The only joy and relief I feel in my life is when I go home and take off these tight shoes.” His anecdote represents a clear and sound mind, the one that gave “Fuzzy Logic” to the world. There is nothing fuzzy about Lotfi. There is no fuzziness to the way I feel, honored and special when I grab my chopsticks, eat, and enjoy my time next to Lotfi and Fay. Life is clear and meaningful tonight. I don’t feel fuzzy tonight. http://www.iranian.com/Shorts/2007/march2007.html#5
I love Nina Simone. Something really deep and emotional and personal is touched and emboldened in me every time I listen to her. Among all her works, several collections of which I own, her beautiful rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (circa 1964) is one that I could listen to endlessly, and feel the same emotions each time. Something about the words, which of course have been sung before and since, and the way she delivers the song, slower than the original version, but also with such emotion and honesty that makes me humble and admitting of being human. My beloved Iranian performer, Farhad, also sang the same song, and followed Nina Simone’s version of it. His performance is good and poignant, to great emotional effect. Some days I wonder whether music will ever be made to touch our souls like this again. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood (1964) Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus, Bennie Benjamin Baby you understand me now If sometimes you see I'm mad Doncha know that no one alive can always be an angel? When everything goes wrong you see some bad Well I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood Ya know sometimes baby I'm so carefree with a joy that's hard to hide Then sometimes it seems again that all I have is worry And then you burn to see my other side But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood If I seem edgy I want you to know I never meant to take it out on you Life has its problems and I get more than my share but that's me one thing I never mean to do Cos I love you Oh babyI'm just human Don't you know I have faults like anyone? Sometimes I find myself alone regretting some little fooling thing some simple thing that I've done I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood I try so hard So don't let me be misunderstood
I have 12 “Little Black Dresses.” I have 10 glittery “Party Dresses.” I have 8 pairs of “Party Shoes,” and 5 “Party Handbags.” I have nice jewelry, a Rolex, pearls, and diamonds. I have a whole case of expensive unused make-up. I have no place I want to go. I have invitations to places I don’t want to go. My clothes and my jewelry can get me acceptable admission to any gala. My heart, however, doesn’t want to go to any of those places, whether or not I’m invited. My clothes are remnants of a life that was and I chose it to be no more. I thought it so chic and so desirable to dress up, to get ready, to converse and laugh all the while, and perform this erotic business of getting ready and going together. I think it sad and empty now, asking myself what the big deal was? I thought it so appropriate to arrive with a man holding my elbow, helping me step out of the car, helping me out of my coat, and dancing with me, all the time looking into my eyes and holding my gaze, full of promises of things to come. I don’t want the clothes, the jewels, and the empty promises. I want no part of the charade that fake commitments are. My clothes gather dust and become unfashionable, and my feet no longer feel happy in the shoes. I want clothes that fit me, not some crazy notion of who I should be. I want to go to places that make me happy and acknowledge me, only me, and no fake association of me to another. I don’t know the woman in those pictures. She died and the clothes in my closet are her shrouds. Time to go to a new celebration, with different clothes, in different shoes, dancing to a different tune. Time to change, or to stay true to myself. Time to celebrate something new. The Empress gets dressed.