Ceasefire My children are talking again. That is such a relief to me. In their brotherly business, most days they are thick as thieves! They support each other, cover up for each other, and stand up to me or anybody else who is criticizing one of them. But as rarely as it happens, there are times when they completely and utterly get on each other’s nerves. They quarrel, fight, and get nasty. The only thing they don’t care about AT ALL when this happens is me! I have to sit through their meanness to each other, their lack of forgiveness for each other, and their continued petty bickering during these darker times. Thank God since they have become older, they have stopped asking me to take sides or talk in support of their statements! If ever I say anything, each of them turns to me and says: “Mom, please stay out of this!” This time their battle grew too long, breaking a record, when they didn’t acknowledge each other for three weeks running. I was miserable. Though each of them treated me a lot more nicely during these three weeks (well, they have to be nice to someone in the house), I didn’t like it! I wished they would be kinder to each other and be aloof and flippant to me, as young adult men tend to be with their mothers. Mothers love them anyway, is the way this goes. I saw them talking congenially again today. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it felt really good to watch it from a distance. Phew! God’s small favors make the world go round, is what I think. Delete I pushed delete on my unfinished article. It’s gone, and I’m free of the pressure of having to finish something which was too hard to finish, a story too hard to tell, invoking deep and sad emotions of identity in me. I am already starting something new, something happier, lighter, and easier to tell others. I wished I could occasionally do the same with other issues in life which follow me and hang over me like a black cloud, causing me agony in making a decision and taking appropriate action. I wished life had a delete button I could push sometimes. This responsible adult business is just too hard sometimes. I grew up entirely too fast, assuming serious responsibilities at an early age, something that has caused me pride and a distinct sense of accomplishment all my life. I would like to think that the stories I can tell now are the direct results of that life. Only some days, I want to look at those who look up to me to help, to decide, to lead, and to tell them the direction to take, that today my role as mother, manager, mentor, friend, confidant, and elder is mysteriously deleted, so please find suitable replacement! All of a sudden that image feels funny to me: I can just imagine the bewildered looks on their faces! Deleted? I don’t think they’ll go for it, though! Maybe I won’t want to insist on it, either. Who would I be without my constituencies? That is not a very funny image, I must say! Growing Pains I found out that some of the things I write are “borrowed” and posted in places I don’t like, without my knowledge or approval. This feels weird. I have to get used to this internet world, where once you say something it is out for the world to see and to use in eternity, it seems. A big part of me feels so special to be a part of this international tribe that internet users now are, but a part of me grieves my privacy, as I write openly and honestly, and talk about my personal life and beliefs in my articles and posts. Others who read what I say know a heck of a lot more about me than I know about them. I hear from different sources that many people come to visit my blog, and I am honored for that, but other than the few good friends who do leave comments and let me “see” them, I don’t know anything about the rest. I wished they would leave comments, even if it is just to say hi, so I knew they came by. And I really would appreciate it if people who borrow quotes from me, at least let me know that they have done it. I am not a famous author, analyst, or activist. I’m just an ordinary person with a lot of feeling for the world and ten itchy fingers. Anyhow, it felt strange and I need to figure out more about how I feel about this before I can say more. Feeling Somewhat Accomplished Some paintings are now up on the walls of my house. Most boxes are unpacked. I am slowly remembering where many things are now, still desperately trying to locate my “good scissors.” I finished my volunteer work, and actually cooked more elaborate meals in my kitchen this weekend! I swept the dust balls that were quickly becoming the bane of my existence, and dusted surfaces that needed it badly. I still have a major paper filing project which will take another whole weekend to do. I visited with family and friends and paid attention to some neglected friends locally and abroad. It was a productive weekend all in all. I am now off to the week ahead which is going to be sad at work with important deadlines looming.
I am off for the weekend, ending a hard week. I leave you with the image of a young Iranian woman, dancing at a Nowrooz Celebration this past March in Philadelphia. Isn’t she just beautiful? If you look at all the pictures, you will see better photos of the dancers, but I liked this one the best because the dancer’s face is so full of life and hope in this picture. As you may be able to tell, because dance makes me happy, I tend to prescribe some representation of it to others, hoping that it would make them happy, too!* I hope you have a good weekend, full of rest, love, hope, and accomplishment. As for me, I will be doing chores and errands, some volunteer work, and visiting with my sisters who will be in town. I have an incomplete piece of writing which has been hard to finish. I might work on finishing it this weekend, or better yet, I might just push delete on it and start all over again! I might go see a movie, too, if I can. Any recommendations? Be good y’all and take care. *I’m not the only one who thinks dancing will take our minds off the recent events, as it turns out! Check this out: http://nikahang.blogspot.com/2007/04/all-that-jazz.html . (Photo by Omid Alavi, published in Iranian.com http://www.iranian.com/Diaspora/2007/April/Phil/index.html)
It's been a roller-coaster of a week, I'll say. I have gone through what probably is the widest range of emotions someone could have in just a week! You guys must be exhausted just reading about me (and you don't know some of the things I didn't report!). I feel overwhelmed. To add to the situation, whenever I get really sad, I start getting nostalgic and homesick for Tehran. Bia o dorostesh kon! I wander its streets and roads in my daydreams, and dream about being in Tehran in my sleep. This is Modarres Freeway or Parkway in Tehran. It starts in Haft-e-Tir Square in Central Tehran and runs all the way to Northern Tehran. It is the second oldest freeway in Tehran, so the shrubbery and the trees lining it are mature and lush and gorgeous. It is a road I used to take home from work everyday. On smug-free days like the one in the picture, you can see the mountains located to the North of Tehran. I miss my Tehran today, on top of all the other things going on around me. Right now, all I want to do is to take this freeway South and go down to Jomhouri Avenue, get lost in the crowds and the loud traffic of it, find my way to Pirashki Khosravi, have a pirashki (or two) with a bitter turkish coffee, the like of which no one else makes in the world. The store is now owned by an Armenian family, though there are pictures inside of the man named "Khosravi" and his Armenian staff in the 1950's and 1960's. There are no chairs for you to sit at Pirashki Khosravi. You must eat standing up and leave, though no one ever rushes you to leave. You can stay if you want and watch the hundreds of different people who come in every hour. I have done this so many times--just standing there in that small shop, watching people come and go. I miss it today, my city.
Thursday Night My beautiful, gentle, and competent co-worker, Phyllis, died today. I am so sad. She was 60 years old, a quiet, non-pretentious soul. The tragedy that has enveloped us today is because Phyllis lived alone and had not come to work, nor answered her telephone all day yesterday, so two co-workers went to her house today and with the help of a neighbor, broke down her door and discovered her in a coma in her house. They took her to the hospital but she died of cardiac arrest this afternoon. My other co-worker, Kay, who was the one who went to Phyllis’ house, had lost her son suddenly a few months ago. This would be too much for any one person to handle in such a short period of time, I worry. Today Kay was intermittently hysterical and calm, desperately trying to locate Phyllis’ next of kin, a sister and a brother. Kay is a devout Christian, one of the few people I have ever met in my life, who has been able to make sense of life and its tragedies. When we went to her son’s memorial service, in the tradition of many African American congregations, there was beautiful music in the program. When they sang the first song, she lifted her arms heavenwards, and started swaying and moving to the beat of the music, singing along, making me cry uncontrollably at the solace she alone seemed to find in her beliefs in dealing with her loss. Tomorrow I will have to go take care of our staff’s morale and help find a way to cope in the workplace. My boss is on a much-deserved vacation, and what a fine time it is for me to be “in charge.” I will do it for Phyllis, though, so unassuming and gentle she was, my friend, whom every time I addressed as Miss Phyllis, would turn around with an amused smile and look at me, the manic foreign lady, with a smile and say: “Yes?”
I have a friend I have never met, but who is now very dear to me. His name is Ali Tehrani. He is a Ph.D. engineer by profession, and a musician by heart and soul. He has a website in which he painstakingly and lovingly picks poems, writes music, and performs (sings and sometimes plays) songs. http://www.songsdaily.com/blogs/songsdaily/ His work is unique because he doesn’t just carefully and wholeheartedly write music or sing a song—he takes the trouble of teaching the music to his audience. He used to also leave interesting commentaries at the bottom of his music posts, but he is taking a sabbatical from that function for now, for reasons I respect. Whenever I feel low, I go to his by now extensive gallery of old and new music and look around, listen, and leave. Something very poignant and special he wrote is a song he wrote and performed based on a poem by Parvaneh Foroohar. Until I ran into his blog, I didn’t know that Parvaneh Foroohar was such a powerful poet. This poem is sad, and it is so eerie that she wrote it when she was alive, clearly and poetically predicting the way in which she and her husband would die, yet conveying hope for the future of Iran. Here’s the poem, and the link to Songs Daily. If you cannot read Farsi, please leave a comment and I will translate it for you.
چه غم آلوده شبي
شبي از دشنه و از دشمن پر
گرده ها زير فشار شب خم
سينه ها از غم شب خسته و زار
نه نسيمي، نه نواي مهري
نه اميدي، نه صداي پايي
شبي اينسان خاموش
شبي اينسان خونين
شبي اينسان ز كژانديشي پر
در كدامين تاريخ ، مي توان دیگر يافت
در همه خلوت اين شام سياه
وندرين ظلمت محض
به كدامين اميد، مي توان ديگر بود
به كدامين فرياد مي توان سينه سپرد
به چنين تيره شبي ، نتواني آويخت
ژنده پيراهن خويش
خشم طوفان مددي
رعد و بوران سببي
تا بميراني ديو، تا بسوزاني دد
و برآري خورشيد از دماوند بلند
زنده یاد پروانه اسکندری فروهر
You can listen to the song by clicking on the “Real” or “MP3” icons at the top. Enjoy it and think as it provokes me to do. I salute Ali Tehrani for mixing his art with a distinct sense of social responsibility, a potent and powerful combination with the help of which people’s hearts and souls can be touched and transformed. http://svr76.ehostpros.com/~songsd76/blogs/songsdaily/archives/2006/11/oeoeuuu_uoeuuoe.html
I had a nice co-worker who left our office and moved to a job in the City a few months ago. In February, he called me to schedule a dinner to “celebrate our new jobs.” Since then, our appointment has been moved around three times by virtue of scheduling conflicts we have both had. I am going to see him for an early dinner in Berkeley tonight. I told my co-worker about my dinner with this guy, and she insists that I have a “date” with him. I think this is “dinner with a friend,” because I am meeting my friend for dinner. I know I’m really out of practice, but wouldn’t I somehow know it if I went on a date? This was so hilarious I went around laughing to myself for a while this afternoon! But now, all of a sudden, I'm starting to worry, hoping that there are no misunderstandings, feeling self-conscious. Yikes. I’m too old for this “single” business.
I am writing some technical documentation. I have to interview a co-worker and document the procedures she follows in performing a complicated task. Itchy fingers are writing less-than-original and, well, let’s face it, boring things all day today and tomorrow. If only I could find a way to add a twist of humor, feeling, or naughtiness to the documentation…….I doubt it could fly, though…I’d probably get myself fired. Forget it. Off I go.
I went to see my friend, Professor Lotfi Zadeh for lunch yesterday (which explains why I was falling asleep in that afternoon meeting). He is so sweet and so alert. He is 86 years old, but you wouldn’t know it looking at him. We talked about politics, the University, and men. He says he is an expert on relationships! He gives very practical and unbiased advice, and that is refreshing. I am honored to have Lotfi as a friend. He told me a new joke. He said a man told his wife that he wants a divorce and wants to move to Bolivia. His wife asked him why Bolivia? He said because he has heard that in Bolivia, women pay their husbands $25 each time they have sex. She said to him that if this is what he wants to do, he can have the divorce, but is he quite sure he can live on $25 a month? I had left my camera at home. Next time I see him, I’ll be sure to take it and show you how dapper he looks. He had a white hat on that read Bank of America across it. When we entered the restaurant on the north side and he noticed that we had to wait in line for a long time, he picked up his hat and quite artfully threw it on a table, reserving it for when we picked up our food! It was a sight to see! (See my previous post about him, http://nazykaviani.blogspot.com/2007/03/fuzzy.html)
I went to a meeting with the bigwigs. I had prepared my presentation carefully, as my boss and another colleague who knew a lot about the subject could not be there, and I was representing my unit for the first time, feeling anxious that I might say the wrong thing! Everybody took too long to talk their piece, and I felt really sleepy by the time my turn was almost up. I was yawning, you know, those big, wide yawns which you try to suppress, but where you can’t fool anyone? I thought how embarrassing it would be to look so bored and sleepy, and worse yet, to actually fall asleep in the meeting, on top of the fact that I might say the wrong thing! I was kicking myself for not having had any coffee before the meeting. All of a sudden, I saw this big fat stick just outside the 2nd floor conference room window, swaying back and forth and appearing really threatening as it approached the glass dangerously, but then retreating, going back towards the trees, only to come back in a rush again. I sat there transfixed on what was happening outside the window. I heard two guys talk in Spanish, sounding urgent, not relaxed. I admonished myself for the 100th time for living in California and not speaking Spanish. Then I saw them, first one, and then the other. They were window-washers who come to clean the windows once a week. They had big smiles on their faces as they looked in on our meeting, probably feeling sorry for us and feeling lucky for themselves, washed the windows and moved on to the next window, waving at me as they went. I wasn’t sleepy anymore.
My friend’s mother passed away in Mashad. I asked him whether there will be a memorial for her here. I offered to hold a ceremony for his mother at my house, if he likes. He said no. He and his brother want to mourn their mother’s passing in private and in their own way. I respect that. I do, however, believe that it is really important that people do mourn their loved ones in a way which will facilitate and help acceptance of their death. Ceremonies and gatherings around a death are helpful for continuation of life and dealing with the loss. Anyhow, I’m sad for my friend. Loss of a parent is a uniquely difficult occasion, as our parents tend to be our two-member fan club in life, and the only ones in the world who are capable of loving us unconditionally. Their passing leaves a void in each of us, beyond repair.
If you can’t fix the economy, If you can’t figure out the way to shine in a good light around the globe, If your friends are the least loved people in the world, If you don’t know what to do with the minds that think, If you don’t like what those thoughts bring, If you have problems with drugs, prostitution, and crime, If you can’t create jobs to keep everybody decently alive, It’s time for you to go to the perpetual Plan B, Where you attack women on the street, You frighten and insult them, You degrade and humiliate them, You drag them away with you to Vozara, To be paraded through the frightened eyes of those standing by, And their worried families, You arrest young men with different hairdos, You arrest young men and women holding hands, You arrest young women walking about, You shout at them, you talk down at them, You scare and intimidate them, Now you are safe again for a month, Go on, enjoy it, your forced values will appear intact again, For a month. ........................................................ This is what inspired me to write this post:
Nazy Joonam: I was reading your post on national dance week a few minutes ago. As usual, I can’t add any comments from where I am, so I write them to you. The day that dawn on you has barely set on us. Only 12 hours of time difference, a few thousand kilometers of distance, and two entirely different worlds. As usual, now that summer is on it’s way, authorities in Iran have started persecuting women for the way they dress, and where you live, people can dance in streets and no one would bother them. My 17 year old son came home late last night. His eyes were reddened by tears. He said he had been arrested by the police, just because he is a young boy. They catch every young boy and check their military service status these days. They also arrest them if their clothes or hair style are inappropriate. Attached is a small piece of video footage. One of our presidents pre election interviews. Politicians around the globe tell lies before elections, but he has set a record in this area. Good luck with your article Love, Fariba
During the last year I lived in Tehran, I was involved in a major environmental activism project to save some trees in northern Tehran neighborhood of Elahieh, where the last trees standing in Tehran lived. It was a valiant effort, and increased much awareness, but our group of a few dedicated women lost the battle when they built a tower on top of most of the fruit orchard. For a year, those trees were my life, and that building project was the nightmare I had to face everyday. It was an exciting time, too, as I got to meet many interesting people in Tehran, activists, politicians, and journalists, and learned a lot about how the bureacracy really works. My sisters came by to visit me this weekend. My younger sister looked around the house. She stopped by the windows and looked out for several minutes. She then turned to me and said, you know, for all the hard work you did for saving those trees in Elahieh, God will always put a tree outside each of your windows. That was one of the most beautiful things I ever heard in my life. I hope it's true.
And continuing on the subject of National Dance Week, I saw these gorgeous photographs on Iranian.com, and am sharing them with you. They are the works of an amazing Iranian woman named Shahla Bebe in Los Angeles, and they are a visual feast. Take a look: http://www.iranian.com/Arts/2007/April/Bebe/index.html If you are in Iran, and can't go to Iranian.com, you may go to the artist's website, and click on the "Dance" option to look at these works: http://www.bebeimagestudio.com/fineart.htm . Hopefully her website isn't filtered yet! I hope you have a good weekend, and that you will catch some smiles, some sleep, and some good energy this weekend. I'll be busy unpacking my last boxes, doing some volunteer work, attending a lecture, and finishing writing a hard article for publication next week (I have been working on it for a week and it is not anywhere near done!). Be good y'all.
This is the first day of the National Dance Week (April 20th-27th). My friend, Aileen, who is a dancer, participated in an improvised dance performance with several other dancers on a street corner in downtown Berkeley this afternoon. It didn't last very long, but it pulled a good crowd, and everyone was eager for the performance, as it took everyone's minds away from what a sad week this has been. I consider myself lucky for having talented artist friends all over the world. Aileen and I used to work together some years ago, and got reunited again in a new office over the past year. She is beautiful inside and out. She is the first one from left in the bottom picture. Another interesting day in Berkeley.
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
Today has been declared a Day of Mourning in Virginia. In sympathy with our colleagues at Virginia Tech, we are dedicating today's noon playing of the Campanile to those who died in Monday's tragic events. We ask you all to pause in what you are doing at 12 noon for a moment of silence in reflection for those who died at Virginia Tech. Thank you.
Robert J. Birgeneau Chancellor
My head is bursting with a migraine headache. It feels like a ton, and the pain seems to be sending daggers into my eyes. It is a miserable and sorry state to be in if you still have to drag yourself around to tend the multitude of responsibilities to which you have been sentenced or volunteered! I move sluggishly and talk stingily. As usual, I wonder if a double cappuccino and some painkillers will help, and I will find out later that they don’t. …And all of a sudden I remember why I couldn’t sleep last night, hence the headache this morning. Did you hear that the murderers in Kerman were exonerated from charges of multiple gruesome murders-by-torture of ordinary citizens? Apparently, their excuse of “feeling moved and agitated by these people’s apparent turning on Islam,” led the killers to a group decision to kill them, and this excuse was accepted by the judge. There is no justice in the world in general, and in particular in Iran, I am old enough to know that, but is there also no shame? Is there no modicum of humanity left in the system? To commit planned, pre-meditated murder of innocent people and to get away with it like this? When there is no justice, there can never be freedom, there can never be growth, there can never be a good basis upon which to build a future, don’t they understand? If citizens of a country are treated like animals, like worthless insects, who can be eliminated as though their lives or deaths are inconsequential, when and how will that country grow and prosper? Those men and women in Kerman have been dead and gone for a number of years now, and even at this late stage their deaths are approved and hailed by the Iranian Justice system? I am sad and embarrassed for that but I am sleepless for the effects such a ruling will have in emboldening and encouraging more of the same crazy fanatics to repeat similar offenses. I am sad and my head hurts like hell.
I arrived early to meet someone at the train station. I pulled into a parking space to wait. I noticed a young couple across the way in a loving embrace by their parked car. All around the world, two people embracing each other like that in a train station means that they are getting ready to separate. How I hate separations! How unfair they are! The couple were holding each other for dear life, it seemed. They were talking, and each of them seemed to be all ears and all eyes for what the other one was saying. It was so sweet to see them be so attentive to each other. How sweet it is when in the “head over heels” days of love, everything one says is a beautiful symphony to the other! They were kissing each other, too, lots and lots of times! I averted my eyes, but continued to feel all warm and happy for the obvious love between the two of them. I was thinking about how blissfully unaware the two of them were of the perils of love! I thought that this hour, this moment, and this instant, were beautiful moments of love and understanding between these two people, and that this is really wonderful. Never mind the ensuing misunderstandings and the pain and suffering of the breakup which seem inevitable when love is happening between such young people. I won’t worry about that right now, I thought, because obviously, they weren’t worrying about it, either! The kisses and embraces and the words continued. The train pulled into the station and I looked up the escalator to check the arriving passengers. Then I looked across at the couple again. They were both in the car, driving away together! I smiled a big smile to myself. No separations tonight.
I live and work in a university community, full of the life and energy of its young students. Some days I go to Sproul Plaza at lunch, and sit on a bench and look at the thousands of brilliant young men and women who walk about, talking, laughing, and bringing the most valuable asset a university can have: young minds ready to grow and expand and learn, preparing to give back to the world by becoming professionals, scientists, and leaders of tomorrow. It is unfathomable that such beautiful stream of vitality and life which was running through Virginia Tech, came to an abrupt and violent end yesterday. I am speechless in the face of this violence and brutal attack on human life and humanity. The thought of those kids’ parents and families and communities won’t let go of me. I am mother, aunt, and friend to many college students. The tragedy’s dimensions are truly unthinkable for me. My blogger friend, Serendip http://fleetingperusal.blogspot.com/, who is a sensitive and kind man, has been particularly hard-hit with the news. I pray for him, and I pray for all the families, friends, and affiliates of the Virginia Tech community, to find the strength and hope with which to overcome this sadness and tragedy. I also pray for my Korean friends, who as immigrants must feel particularly saddened by the perpetrator’s South Korean identity, something that they now have to hear 100 times an hour on CNN. I quote something from Jebran Khalil Jebran’s book, Prophet, where he talks about children: And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of to-morrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
Last week I went to see Karim Sadjadpour give a lecture at Berkeley. Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Religion, Politics, and Globalization Program at UC Berkeley sponsored the event. Sajadpour is an articulate and approachable young man. He presented his analysis of what he thinks is happening in Iran. More than an academic presentation on the politics of Iran, I found his presentation insightful and loving of Iran and the people of Iran. He made sharp observations about the Iranian culture and how it affects political negotiations. The audience connected well with him, and he did an exceptionally good job of answering questions, which always makes me feel good at the end of a lecture. I am continually amazed with the younger generation of Iranians who live, study, and work abroad. They are free of the more intense emotions my generation seems to have about Iran, which could be a very positive thing. My generation was displaced and faced with hardships after the Revolution. This generation, however, were either born into the Islamic state, learning quickly how to navigate their way through its labyrinths of dual, public and private lives, or were born and raised outside of Iran, where they didn’t have to face the obstacles we, as first generation immigrants had to endure. As a generation, they are more objective and less emotional, which helps them be more focused on issues, and that’s important, I think. Sadjadpour was fair, confident, and affectionate towards both Iran and US, obviously preoccupied with finding a way out of the web of misunderstandings and misconceptions. I am glad for that preoccupation and believe that more people need to be preoccupied by the issue. This was a real treat for me.  View his profile here: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/experts/index.cfm?fa=expert_view&expert_id=340 . You will notice that the photo he has in his dossier there is a lot better than the one I took, the difference being that this is my handiwork!
I leave you all with this beautiful image of my amazing young friend, and her friends, dancing on stage in Tehran, during the Fajr Theater Festival's closing ceremonies in Tehran last February. This performance was described as "harakaat nemaayeshi", which is the "Islamic" way of describing dance (raqs). You know how that goes, if you call it something else, it will be less sinful! Pictures were taken by Omid Salehi in Tehran, and if you want to look at all 20 pictures in the series, you can see them here: http://www.iranian.com/Salehi/2003/February/Dance/ . Have a good weekend.
(I know Mehran tried to teach me how to avoid putting the entire URL here, but I didn't learn, I'm afraid!)
I have unpacked most of my books and music. Something about their sitting in those dark tight boxes was bothering me. I set them free, dusted them, and put them on the shelves with love, looking at every one of them, looking inside for reminisces of where, when, and how they came to be mine, reflecting on hand-written notes of my friends and family, and in some cases, the author him/herself. I love my books. I once had a large library which I had put together for 20 years. It was entirely lost (to me) in 1996 under unmentionable circumstances. I have re-built this small library now since 1997. When I was leaving Tehran, I brought them all with me, because I couldn’t imagine living without them. As I put all the poetry books together, I took time to read poems of Moshiri, Shafiee Kadkani, and of course, making a wish, my Hafez. I was just standing there with the dusting rag on my shoulder and a silly grin on my face, looking at my books and thinking how very rich I feel because I have books! The most important assets in life, I am continually reminded, are the ones that are free or not very expensive. My books helped last night to begin turning my house into my home. I am lucky, indeed.
These books are actually my books on my table at work. I couldn't find the camera to take a picture of the shelves at home last night! The Hafez book is calligraphed by Ostad Mehdi Fallah, who not only is a Farsi calligraphy artist, but also a gifted musician, and an exceptional individual.
A few days before Seyyed Ebrahim Nabavi wrote “Dear Hossein, You Are Not an Israeli Spy” in his website, I tried to convey more or less the same message in an article published in Iranian.com. Hossein Derakhshan is not a spy, a traitor, or a snitch, as he has been labeled. He is a flamboyant man who loves Iran and writes sensational material, some days with a sharp sense of timing, and some days not. Is he a journalist? Certainly his style leaves something to be desired in that department, precisely the reason why so many people take offense at his quick-witted and unchecked criticism of others. Whether he likes it or not, there are standards to be followed in the field of journalism, starting with form, continuing to content, and evolving into careful reflection of facts, sources, and conclusions. So much of that seems to be absent from his material, especially one of his April 2007 posts, which Iranian.com has published. I am glad Hossein has stepped out of his blog and has submitted his article for publishing at Iranian.com. This gives us a chance to approach him on a more public and uninhibited level, something that is difficult to do when we step into his blog, where articulate as his audience is, standards of polite tolerance and exchange of ideas are often glaringly unobserved. ......................... Read the rest of this article here: http://www.iranian.com/Kaviani/2007/April/Derakhshan/index.html If you are in Iran and you can't access iranian.com, please leave me a comment and I'll email the article to you.
I don’t watch TV anymore. My kids watch things I don’t like to watch and I get so busy surfing the net for news and such, that there really is no time left to feel bad that I don’t get a chance to watch even five minutes of TV these days. This leaves the boys so happy to have full testosterone-fuelled reign over the TV remote control! They can watch all the basketball, football, wrestling, Family Guy, South Park, and Jon Stewart they want—though I must admit, I do go peek at the TV when I hear that funny man on sometimes! If and when I do get a chance to watch TV, it is such a disappointing experience for me. News channels roll video and empty words about the war in Iraq, with no analysis, characteristic of American news, talking about more dead soldiers and civilians as though they are reporting a traffic jam on Highway 101, and the slew of reality shows parading on TV, where people’s personal and private lives are aired for the cheap entertainment value it might offer the audience. I think it isn’t just degrading to participants in reality shows to flaunt the sad and ugly parts of their lives so publicly; I believe it is also degrading to me as a viewer to watch a woman have it out with her husband on the air, or for a former “best friend” to confess having had sex with her friend’s boyfriend, feeling proud of it, too. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned now, but none of this appeals to me anymore. I am reminded of my favorite song by Bruce Springsteen, 57 Channels, in a part of which he says: ……. We switched ‘round and ‘round ‘till half-past dawn There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on Fifty-Seven channels and nothin’ on Well, now home entertainment was my baby’s wish So I hopped into town for a satellite dish I tied it to the top of my Japanese car I came home and I pointed it out into the stars A message came back from the great beyond There’s fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on Fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on. ……. You can watch the video of that song here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qugDVJ1JU54 . Some other time, I will tell you how Iranian programs on TV are even worse than American ones!
And since I am usually in a pretty cheerful mood, and today I am obviously overtaken by this rare dark bad mood, I should also take this opportunity to say that I wished the person who keeps calling me and can't understand why I won't return his phone calls and emails would know that my name is Nazy, and it's spelled N A Z Y. It is not Nazli or Nazanin, nor is it spelled NAZI (really, who would ever choose to be called a Nazi on purpose?), and my last name is not Karimi, as he tried to introduce me to someone a few weeks ago when I ran into them at a lecture. At my age, I appreciate the importance of time in deepening and furthering relationships and fostering understandings, so I am not disillusioned about meeting new people and expecting them to know me very well immediately. But a person's name seems to be a very good place to start all that, don't you think? Darkly, Nazy
Mani: Hi! Chetori? Mani: Ding Mani: Helllllllllllloooooooooooooo! Mani: Are you there? I have good news. Mani: Ding Mani: Naaaaaaaaaazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyyy! Mani: Ding Nazy: Yes, I’m here. Sorry. I was downstairs. I was waiting for you to come online. How are you? What’s the good news? Give it here, I could use some good news! Nazy: Hello! Nazy: Ding Nazy: :(
I have a project on which I have worked since August. It’s not going my way at all. I’m at that pivotal point where I must surrender, but I don’t want to give up. A small part of what I proposed has been implemented and the rest, which requires team cooperation appears now to be completely impossible to attain. My boss is so kind to me. She wants to give me a new project to get my mind off the project that is going nowhere fast. I’m resisting moving on, hoping that I can turn the first project around. I have tried everything and nothing seems to work, because my clients don’t like this project at all. Nobody likes this project at all. It feels like a failure and I don’t want to have managed a failure. It is so depressing.
I can’t find anything. My kids can’t find anything, either. Their dilemma is understandable—they didn’t pack anything. My dilemma is three-fold, because I packed for three people and now I don’t know where anything is. I wore strange clothes to work today. Tomorrow isn’t going to be that much better, either. I should have taken this week off work. I need a vacation; that is what I need. But I won’t be able to pack for a vacation, because I don’t know where anything is. I’m crabby.
So, O.K. She is not as pretty as Mona Lisa, but could Mona Lisa play music? This one quite obviously could, AND, to look at da Vinci’s Mona Lisa I will have to travel to The Louvre, but this one, she lives with me! Of course like many other Ghajar era painters, the anonymous painter didn’t know how to implement perspective in his painting, so my Mona Lisa looks like she is playing her Dayereh inside out! But that’s O.K. She stays just the same! I can’t wait to put her up on the wall.
I have officially moved to a new home! More than relocation, the past few days had an amazing amount of reflection time for me. I came face to face with many memories, some of which made me happy, like running into my son’s baby book, complete with his first lock of hair from his first trip to the barber. I found the little baby outfit in which I had taken my younger son home from the hospital when he was born. I found my college graduation tassel, which says “Class of 1983!” I found things you won’t believe and I have every intention of taking pictures of them and putting them here for you to see, like my childhood stamp collection and LP’s from my teenage years! But I also found old photographs and mementos of a man I once loved, things that I had buried in corners of my closet and drawers, only for me to know and see. Love letters, pictures, a beautiful pen, maps of places we had visited together, silly mementos from those trips which only made sense to us, like a newspaper clipping of an Italian newspaper with just the date on it, business card of a tea house in Vienna, or a book bought in an Iranian province where they stamped the inside of the books with the bookshop’s name and date when they sold you the book, and a brief note on a hotel stationery, announcing brightly: “Good Morning. I love you. I’ll be back in 45 minutes.” Memories flooded and engulfed me for a while there, stopping work and thinking. You know, just as it is hard to imagine my 6’4” son in those baby clothes anymore, it is also hard to imagine and remember the man and woman in those pictures. The thing to remember about memories and mementoes is that in time, they remind you not necessarily of a person or a place, but of a feeling of joy, love, and excitement that was present when those events took place. My mementoes are not of that man any more, but of the love that once existed, beautiful and bold and real, but which ended a long time ago. Anyhow, I reflected and worked hard, and I’m ready to relax now! I was listening to a John Lennon CD this weekend. The song I absolutely love is called “Nobody Told Me” possibly the last song John Lennon ever sang. I listened and sang along and worked with that CD all through packing and unpacking. The funny thing is that when I came in to check on the Comcast guy’s progress, he had his back to me and I saw him moving his hips to the tune of the song! That was hilarious. I quietly left the room. Watch the video clip here.
Over the next three days, I will be moving into a new home. Though 25 boxes of books, CD’s, plates, and pictures have already been packed and moved, it is glaringly clear now that I am way behind my schedule (and to think that I made a living as a Project Manager, hahaha!). So, I am taking a few days off to go take care of it. I will most likely not have access to a computer or internet for this weekend. As soon as I can get Comcast to set up my service at the new place, I’ll be back! Take a rest from my nonsense my dears, or go look at my older nonsense (I mean posts)! Though you all get lucky as a result of my absence, First Prize goes to Mr. Javid of Iranian.com, who won’t have to publish my work or answer my emails this weekend for a change! Be good y’all and be happy. Keep my chair warm! I'll be back!
I went to listen to Reese Erlich, a famous journalist and author, who was giving a lecture in Berkeley’s School of Journalism last night. He is a very interesting man and is working on a new book about Iran. He is funny and witty and has so much to tell. He traveled to Iran with the San Francisco Chronicle group which included Sean Penn during the presidential elections two years ago. He talked about his book, about his talks with Shirin Ebadi and others in Tehran. More importantly, he talked about the media coverage of the Iraqi war and the situation there, talking about red lines and censorship in the US. The thing that is really interesting about attending small lectures by world-class figures at UC is that the audience is also very interesting, and asks intelligent, articulate, and challenging questions. You learn a lot from the speaker, and even more from all the faculty members, scholars, and activists who attend the lectures. That’s why it is really important to stay and listen to the Q/A session. Unfortunately I had to leave more than half-way into the Q/A to take care of other things. It was another enlightening day for me at Berkeley. I think I learned something new.
During all the years I have lived in the US, I have taken pains to learn about the people who have so kindly let me live my life here. I pay attention to their traditions and participate whenever I am honored with an invitation. I think a good host deserves a good guest. I don’t know of very many other places in this world were you could immigrate, and be able to blend in, live, learn, work, and enjoy your life, and at the same time be able to enjoy your own identity, your own traditions, and your own beliefs. My co-worker, Mary Ann’s father passed away a few weeks ago. We were invited to two ceremonies memorializing him, one an evening Rosary Service, and another, a memorial service at the Catholic Church the next day. I had every intention of attending both ceremonies to support my friend, and to show my respect for her. I asked another Catholic co-worker to explain to me exactly what is entailed in a Rosary Service. In a short description of the ceremony during a coffee break, I learned that the Catholic Rosary has 30 beads in it, and for each of those beads, a Hail Mary* will be said, and after each ten Hail Mary’s, a “station,” the priest will talk to the audience. I asked her what else I needed to know and do once I was there, and she said “Don’t worry, I’ll be sitting right next to you, and I will tell you what to do.” I arrived at the funeral home at 7:00 p.m. sharp, found my co-workers and went to sit down at one of the pews. The priest came and the ceremony started. I should tell you at this time that as I sat down on the bench, I noticed that my co-worker’s father’s body was put in an open casket at the altar, as is tradition with many Christian families. I was sitting very close to my friend, copying everything she was doing, exactly as she was doing it and repeating everything she and everyone else said. The deceased was from an Italian American family, and the funeral home hall was filled with many people who had come to partake in the ceremony. The Rosary Service was completed. My friend, who by now was talking to another friend (my boss) who is also a Catholic, got up. I got up. They started walking towards the open casket. As I followed them, I was confused about what to do now, as they hadn’t told me about this step. We followed the line to the casket. The deceased gentleman, God bless him (khoda biamorz) was dressed up very nicely, and appeared to be sleeping. A beautiful red rosary was wound around his hand. We were standing there and my friends were looking at the deceased respectfully. I stood there too, paying close attention to what they were saying and doing. At this time my two friends started whispering some words together, some type of prayer, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I was feeling useless and increasingly uncomfortable because obviously I wasn’t doing the right thing, and I didn’t want to appear disrespectful. So I just stood there for a few more seconds, and then I did the only thing that came to my mind. I reached over and put my finger on the side of the casket, and I started to cite a Fateheh for the gentleman. After I finished, because my friends were still whispering their prayer, I also did a Namaze Meyyet (prayer for the deceased) for the man, as best as I could remember it, at the end asking God to forgive this man any sins (though I must say, he looked like a very good old man, sleeping there peacefully and innocently), and to take him to heaven. As we filed again in the line to leave the funeral home, I told Mary Ann that I had prayed a Moslem prayer for her Catholic father. She was very warm and receptive and thanked me for the prayer, telling me that her father would have appreciated the gesture. I learned two lessons: One, that just as I can’t become a Catholic in 30 minutes, I can’t forget that I was born and raised a Moslem (even though I am not a good Moslem at all). Two, that in certain moments in life, it really doesn’t matter who is Moslem and who is Christian, or of whatever other religion or belief. When a surge of humanity touches us, we all become the same, and we must respond to that humanity in whatever way we know. I truly love living in America, where even at my age, I am continually challenged and exposed to new events and new experiences, from which I learn, and hopefully, I can also teach others. Amen. * Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Last Saturday, after sleeping for only 4 hours, my son woke me up at 7:00 a.m., frantic with worry because we had overslept. I had to drive him to the train station. We took longer than expected to leave, so at 7:25, thinking that I will just have to drive for 5 minutes to BART and back, and hopefully I can go back to bed and get some more rest, I decided to get behind the wheel in my pajamas. Who will see me at this hour on a Saturday morning? No one, I told myself. We got in the car and started the drive. He was really anxious that he won’t be able to be at work in Hayward by 9:00 a.m. So, in a moment of tender motherly love, I decided to drive him to work, 40 miles away. We listened to music and chatted. We went to McDonald’s to get him some breakfast, and I dropped him off at his work right on the dot at 9:00 a.m. Mission accomplished! I was driving back when I realized I was hearing strange sounds. I was trying not to think about having a flat tire. I was thinking it would be so awful to have to get out of my car to change the flat tire in bright daylight on I-580, IN MY PAJAMAS! It was one of those things where I was hoping NO ONE would come and help me, as I didn’t want them to see me in my blue pajamas with yellow polka dots! My raincoat was in the car. I thought I would put it on and change the tire. The bright sunlight and the already warm day were worrying me about how warm it would be to have thermal pajamas AND a long raincoat on, while trying to change a flat tire, a task already too overbearing to contemplate! I pulled to the shoulder. I climbed out of the passenger side and got out. I looked at my tires. None of them were flat. I climbed back in and got going, feeling hot and stressed. Driving the 40 miles back home was filled with the worry of having to face the world in my pajamas! I got home all shaken up, and promised myself to NEVER do that again.
I wrote this last Friday, but with the move and all, couldn't get it posted. http://www.iranian.com/Kaviani/2007/April/Farahbakhsh/index.html Over the past few months, I have come to know a name I had never heard before, Ali Farahbakhsh. While everyone was hoping to see him finally freed, this young Iranian journalist, who had been detained at Evin prison for the past several months, was recently tried and sentenced to three years in prison, based on ambiguous and unfounded charges. His research and journalism domain is economics and finance. He isn’t even a social or a political journalist. He was imprisoned for several months, forced to “confess” to having ties to outside agencies keen on overthrowing the Iranian government. He refused to confess to something he didn’t do, hence he was handed a sentence of three years’ jail term this week. Three years. For what? My heart cries with the injustice he has had to face. I am angry that I can’t do anything to help him, to get him out, to return him to his mother, wife and one-year-old toddler, to his home where he can think, and to his keyboard where he can pour out his thoughts and soul. All my life, I have had itchy fingers. I like to write. Some days, it is a good way to classify my thoughts. Some days it feels like a massive release of emotions and feelings which are creating havoc in my mind. Some other days it becomes such an urgent need, such an explosion of energy and thought in me that unless I sit down and pour it out, it won’t stop and will drive me crazy with anxiety. Writing is my way of expression. As a result, I have immense respect for anyone who writes. I read books, articles, blogs, and even notes others write, all the time learning, all the time connecting to the producer of those thoughts and words on a very personal level. I have no illusions, however. I am not an author, nor a journalist. I lack the training, and more importantly, the requisite courage that goes with those professions. This makes me respect journalists, especially Iranian journalists, even more. Walking the tightrope of censorship and social taboos, they are the brave soldiers of cultural and social change in a very dangerous environment, risking prosecution, imprisonment, and torture. Whenever one of them is arrested in Iran, my heart and soul aches with horrible pain and worry. What would a writer do in jail? What would he or she do with those itchy fingers? How would those explosions of ideas, thought, and feelings fare in prison? My eyes fill with tears thinking that a decent, thoughtful, educated individual is put in a cell with criminals or worse yet, in a small cell, suffering solitary confinement. What is Ali Farahbakhsh doing right now? Lying on his narrow bed in his cell? Counting the days he has been in that cell? Going crazy with the thought of the days and years he will have to stay there? Does he have cellmates? Who are they? Do they talk? What about? He’s probably thinking that he should have written political articles, because that way he would have been a better-known figure and there might have been a bigger outcry for his release! Writing columns on economic affairs has probably not brought him enough fame! In actuality, I don’t think he is thinking about these questions much. He is probably worried about the safety and livelihood of his family in his absence. Today I tip my hat to all the unsung heroes of this dreadful and dangerous profession that journalism in Iran is. Today my itchy fingers salute Ali Farahbakhsh in Evin. I hope that as he sits around thinking about the nightmare that his life has become, he is hit with a warm wave of sympathy and respect that is sent to him from all these thousands of miles away. I hope this wave of affection and respect reaches him and makes this day, this minute, and this instant, a little more tolerable for him. I hope that even for a few minutes, he finds calm and peace in the knowledge that though we can’t get him out, we won’t forget him.