A member of the Mehregan Chorus performs at Fajr Music Festival, Tehran, December 2007. I so wished I could hear them sing.I am feeling so light and relieved today. Those of you who have been reading me longer know that since July I have been talking about writing a story about an Iranian dance artist. I was working on my project happily, if a bit sluggishly, when two months ago I lost all my files, notes, links, and interviews in an unfortunate crash, unable to retrieve my files. I was so overwhelmed with grief and so embarrassed to call the artist again and to re-interview him. Finally, through a set of events, I did make contact with him again (he is a very gracious man) and we have renewed our commitment to do the story. I am so relieved to have finally confessed the problem to him. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders all of a sudden. We all know that it is really good to come clean when we have a problem, but somehow actually doing it can become a dilemma sometimes. Anyhow, I feel great about that. I will be working on it, brining you a fabulous story about an Iranian who has brought so much fame and honor to Iran and Iranians, but about whom very little has been known in the Iranian community over the past three decades. You will really really like this story, I promise. I don't know if I mentioned that my sons' friend, Iden is living with us this semester, so until further notice, I have three sons in my house! Today Iden and I were alone in the house. I heard him talk his sweet Azari to his mother in Iran on the phone, and I remembered the days my son was living away from me in Europe and then in the US, when I was missing him and worrying about him all the time. Anyhow, all this past week I was feeling weak, so I hadn't gone grocery shopping, and a house that has three young men living in it becomes devoid of food very quickly. Looking in the refrigerator, I found some items with which to make a salad and some kookoo sabzi today, and Iden and I had lunch together. It makes me happy that he was studying math all day. I have never seen my kids study like this, and it's a wonder to me how they pass their courses, but they do. I washed the dishes and cleaned the counters and looking back at the clean kitchen after several days' neglect, I thought to myself that when I'm tuned in to my environment, like I was all day today, there is so much more to see and about which to feel happy and accomplished. Even the simplest, silliest of things can become a reason to feel happy and satisfied. I'm around this evening, working on my "relationships" piece. I'll be online until I pass out, so perhaps we can chat "online" if you care to leave comments tonight. Be good y'all.
Sima Bina and her all-women band perform "Majoon Naboodom" in Germany.
It's Friday. So, it wasn't the most productive of weeks for me, at least not physically. Though sick, I had a good week, filled with kindness and affection of friends and family. Your good vibes were received and much appreciated. My sons and Iden are getting ready to go celebrate their youth on a Friday night in San Francisco. Ho Hum...I'm not going to worry about their driving in the pouring rain or anything of that kind. At least they have agreed to stay at their friend, Ghazal's house for the night, so I won't worry about their getting home very late. On the upside, I have a beautiful roaring fire going and the house all to myself, so I can listen to my music in a little bit. My work on the "relationships" piece is compiling nicely. Ha Ha, I have enough material to write a book on that subject! Have you ever noticed how much better we are at discussing other people's relationships than we are in discussing our own?! The truth is that I have been an utter failure myself when it comes to relationships with men. Up until two years ago, I was married all my life. None of this "dating" business feels familiar or comfortable to me, as a result. I get so easily confused about signals and intentions and wishes, something sooooo humiliating in a middle-aged woman who is expected to be a lot more experienced and mature. The men I find attractive usually don't appear terribly attractive to my friends (well, they think my taste in men sucks!). None of the men I like are terribly handsome, that's true, because looks are so overrated in my opinion. I like intelligent men, those who can think and talk and tell me things I have never heard before. So far we don't have a problem, right? WRONG! The men I like, yes, the "intelligent" ones, either like women a lot younger than me, or they claim that they are very messed up and cannot commit! With all due respect for the institution of marriage, I don't believe that in second and third "versions" of partnership in life, a legal marriage is the absolute form of commitment. The commitment I'm talking about is one in which two people who have their own lives and homes and families are in an adult companionship which is meaningful to both of them, never having to worry what the other one is up to, and who else might be in his or her life, committing to be monogomous. All my life I have thought jealousy to be such a waste of perfectly good emotion and energy; energy that can better be spent loving, trusting, laughing, dancing, and enjoying life. To spend time "wondering" is a destroyer of life and hope, in my opinion. Well, I am tempted to conclude that relationships are just too hard in my station in life. I have been thinking recently that I must just give it up, and when I get one more tap on the shoulder from another man at work or in social and cultural setups, whether he is Iranian, American, younger, older, handsome, or ordinary-looking, I should just tell him off and be left to my own devices. There, for some reason I just told you more about myself than I was willing to say for a long time! For here and now, though, never mind all that. Let's think about relationships that are present in our lives here and now. Those good friends, those loving partners, those beautiful children, those lovely nieces and nephews, and those wonderful siblings and parents. They are here. They are real. They expect very little, don't usually send confusing signals, and they are committed to us, and most of them are with us for the duration of our lives. Let's take joy in them. Let's go and surprise them with a bear hug, one of those hugs where you won't let go for a long time, kiss their cheeks, hold their hands, look into their eyes, and tell them "asheghetam," "dooset daram," "I love you," "I am proud of you," or a simple "mokhlesim." How about that? Time and energy spent on loving and trusting is never wasted. It is an investment that will pay off tenfold. To be "ba vafa" is an immeasurable and invaluable asset. Be "bavafa" this weekend. Try it. I'm going to hug my kids and Iden before they take off. Have a good weekend and be good y'all.
This is what I woke up to in my in-box. Lovely, lovely Anzali Port in snow. So many times, true joy is ridiculously close to us, just a few clicks away, costing nothing, and immeasurably rewarding. We should just look for it.
Little boy contemplates coming out in Hamadan's coldest winter in decades. Icicles shine. Be careful my young Hamadani friend! More photos here.To have lived as long as I have, one comes face to face with his or her own identity more than once. I told you a long time ago how in search of my identity, knowing myself first as a Tehrani born and raised in Tehran, then as an Iranian when I moved to US, and later as an American when I had lived here a long time, sometime in the early 1990's I became a Hamadani, where my parents had originally emigrated from in the 1940's. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Today I want to tell you the story of how I became a Moslem. I grew up in a home which had not one, but two Haji's as heads of household. Looking back, and remembering thousands of Iranian Moslems I have met in my life, I would say that my parents were probably the happiest Moslems there ever was. They prayed, fasted, paid their khoms-o-zakat and fetrieh, sacrificed not one, but two lambs every Eid-e-Ghorban, celebrated Moslem eids, and mourned the Imams. Nothing about the way they were Moslems was ever overbearing or imposing to us, the children who were growing up in that happy household. We lacked nothing in religious training if we showed an interest in it, and could participate in all religious ceremonies and requirements. We also could choose not to participate, as some of us chose. There was no pressure and no reprimands. What we learned was completely elective and through observation of those who were loving us unconditionally, providing for us, and raising us as the most loving parents in the world. Whereas a micro mini skirt was not terribly appreciated by my father, no other appearance requirements were ever set for me and my sisters. The way I knew I was a Moslem was to watch the two of them enjoy being Moslems, so comfortable with the rituals and requirements, so generous to others, and so serious and reflective during their prayers. I remember my father used to work very long days and almost all days of the year, except for our family holidays and twice a year, once during the mourning days of Ramadan and again during Tasooa and Ashoora in Moharram. He wore a black shirt and abstained from shaving, sitting with us in the house, while he reflected. The biggest requirements of those mourning days were for us not to listen to music and not to have parties. That was it. Even religious mourning days, therefore, though quiet, were good days during which our household stayed together, getting busy preparing special foods such as Sholeh Zard, for delivery to our neighbors' homes, celebrating the sense of family and community as Moslems. I remember how my mother poured the hot, delicious smelling Sholeh zard into china gol-e-sorkhi bowls, decorating it lovingly and expertly with cinnamon and pistachio slivers. I remember how neighbors would later return each other's china bowls, leaving a gorgeous flower from their garden inside to thank each other. I have been through my many stages of belief and spirituality in life. I have read about other faiths and beliefs, and have attended other religions' ceremonies and places of prayer. In the end, if someone asks me today if I believe in God, I would wholeheartedly say "yes." If they asked me what my religion is, I would say "Islam." I know I may not be a very good Moslem, but a long time ago I stopped fighting the urge to pray my Moslem protective prayers for my children and those I love as I see them off, and a fateheh for the deceased every chance I get. I know that to those who make religion a chore, an imposition, a must, with hundreds of requirements and do's and don't's, I am not a very good Moslem at all. But I believe that in the way I live and choose to be, being a moslem has played an integral part of my identity and demeanor. I don't fight it anymore like I used to do during my younger years. Learning from the two best Moslems I have ever known, I couldn't be anything but a Moslem. I celebrate and cherish that piece of my identity in the ways in which I worship my God. (I will tell you another story on this subject soon.)
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Nouvelle Vage Sings Dance With Me.
It's Friday. My week went by in a whirlwind of activities, minor accomplishments, and a pleasant event. I want to tell you about stories tonight. Those who know me, know to always expect me to tell them stories. I would often start many conversations by telling my friends: "Let me tell you a story," or "bezarin baratoon yek ghesseh begam." My stories don't surprise my friends anymore, but they are polite enough to endure (really, what choice do they have?!).
I believe there is a story in everything. Some of us never see it. Some of us see it but can never tell it. Some of us see it and tell it. Simple as that. Sometimes there isn't just one story, but several, all in the same seemingly mundane thing. So, take this videoclip, for example. The story about this videoclip is that my friend, Jahanshah, has a small corner on his website, Iranian.com, called "Stuff." He posts videoclips of things he likes, music he enjoys, and things he finds amusing there. With hundreds of article and news bits on the site, nowhere else on Iranian.com is more about Jahanshah himself than this small column. Last night he had posted this videoclip there. It is a song called "Dance With Me," by a French band, named Nouvelle Vague. It is ovelapped on a dance scene from the 1964 French movie, Bande A Part. It is a sweet song which has been perfectly rythmed on top of the movie scene, and the result is lovely.The story of Bande A Part (or Band of Outsiders) is that it is a comedy classic by the great Jean-Luc Godard, the famous French director. Here's what the original dance scene looked like. The story on top of this is that American film director, Quentin Tarantino was so impressed by this movie that he named his movie production company, "A Band Apart" after the film and referenced it in his movie, Pulp Fiction. Pulp Fiction became an instant classic in the world of cinema in 1994. I even remember in Kamal Tabrizi's movie, Marmulak, in one scene Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction were referenced and that was hilarious! So, how many stories did I just tell you? I wish you all a very good weekend, full of joy and relaxation. I hope all of you who have a special person in your lives, would make time to go out and do something really special with him or her alone. Go out for a nice long walk, go to dinner for two, or go see a movie together. Those of you who really like someone but have never found the courage to do something about it should probably also do something about that soon, and why not this weekend? Try it, it might work! Those of you still looking for someone, please don't give up, keep on looking. Life can be so full of surprises when you least expect them. Be bold, be brave, and confess your love for all those who matter most to you in your life. You won't regret it, I gurantee it. Be good y'all. P.S. The spacing on this post doesn't seem to work and I'm too tired to keep working on it! Bebakhshid!
Do you remember this? It is a dance clip from the Indian movie, Sholay. Though I don't care much about Indian movies, I remember this one fondly, because of what life felt like around watching it in Iran in early 1980's. This clip is for Leva. I thought you might also appreciate the nostalgia.
Shams Ensemble performance celebrating the Year of Rumi in Saadabad, Autumn 2007.
It's Friday. We had a major rainstorm in our area today. It was really interesting driving to work with almost zero visibility in rain and fog and awful winds. The storm is passed now and we are left with intermittent rain. No storm ever lasts. It comes and if you are strong enough to stay grounded and not get blown away, it leaves and hopefully you have learned a few things in the process. It feels silly now to remember how nervous I was this morning in my little car, seeing very little and feeling that strong wind working hard to lift me and my car away!I leave you with a short video clip of one of my favorite music groups, the Shams Ensemble, directed by Kaykhosrow Pourazeri. You can also see an interesting multimedia presentation about them and this concert here. I wish you all a very happy weekend, full of rest and relaxation near those who matter the most to you. I hope people in Northern Iran receive warmth and relief, too. I saw a picture of a family under a korsi* in Sari (Mazandran Province), which was really sweet. I have vague memories of korsi when I was a young child. It isn't so much what functional purpose a korsi serves, but the fact that in order to use it, a whole family sits in the same room and in close vicinity to each other, feet under the korsi, covered in a huge blanket, therefore talking and eating together. That is the image I carry of a korsi and the warmth I feel when remembering it from my childhood. A family can still come together, sit together for several hours, eat together, and chat (asemoon-o-rismoon). That's what I hope for all of you on this weekend. If you don't have your family around you, get you friends together in an impromptu gathering. Celebrate the warmth of loving hearts next to one another. Celebrate the calm after the storm. Celebrate life. Share a blanket with your kids. Don't forget to smile a lot and exercise those facial muscles. Don't forget that you matter a lot to many. Be good y'all. *Before heaters and central heating became prevalent in Iran, people used to use a korsi as the main heating device in Iranian homes. It is a low square wooden table with short legs, under which a pit of embers or an electric heater is placed, and over which a large hand-made blanket is spread, around which members of a family sit to keep warm in cold winter nights.
One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long timeTo behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to thinkOf any misery in the sound of the wind, In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the landFull of the same wind That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,And, nothing himself, beholds Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
I should have gone to bed a long time ago, but Halat also sent me this video clip which she took of snow on Tehran's Mirdamad Boulevard, as she and her father were driving to work this morning. I thought I would share it with you. It was fun to see my beautiful Tehran again. Well, it's beautiful to me. Thank you Halat Jan. Goodnight.