1/31/2008

Sleep Walking Thursday

Lunch at my desk on a rainy Thursday.
So, I got caught up in a social gathering last night, coming home really late, and having to deliver on a promise I had made my friend to do something for him. I didn't get a chance to write a post or do anything else, going to bed at 4:00 a.m. All day today I sleep walked, suppressing yawns and fighting stupidity, a common side effect of sleep deprivation for me. Honestly, I don't know how successful I was! Right about now it's all a moot point, don't you think? I want to thank those of you who noticed my absence and kindly wrote to find out what happened to me last night. It's so nice to be missed!
My friend John and his partner adopted three orphaned brothers last year. I got a chance today to go visit him in his cubicle, asking after the boys and how they are doing. I adore this man. Can you imagine the immensity and importance of what they have done? Just like any doting father, he reached in his wallet and showed me his kids' school pictures and told me about the challenges of raising them, going from having no children one day to having three the next. I thought to myself that to find role models in our lifetime, sometimes all we have to do is walk over to the cubicle down the hall. He said to me that sometimes the thing that keeps him going is the hope that 20 years from now, one day he would find out that their decisions and actions would have mattered and would have been effective in those children's lives. I told him that I'm going through just such stage in my life with my children, and I can assure him that a lot of joy and satisfaction will await him then.
I am really tired now. I will go rest some and come back later to work on my dance story, post my final installment of Khosrow and Shirin on Iranian, and reply to your kind comments. Be good y'all.

1/29/2008

A Relatively Good Tuesday

Photo By Ben Bagheri, Two Weeks in Iran, Iranian.com, January 2008.
It rained and rained and rained today, but the dreary weather and the miserable cold could do nothing to bring my spirits down. I had such a happy, energetic day, accomplishing things at work and thinking good thoughts. I am hoping to be finally coming out of the sickness and fatigue which has slowed me down for a few days now. I felt lighter and better than I had in a long time, hoping not to have a relapse tomorrow.
I did receive some sad news today. My friend at work says her husband finally told her yesterday that he wants a divorce. Was it my imagination or did she look relieved? I think she looked like she finally knew what was staring her in the eyes, and the not-knowing, the hoping, the struggle, had finally come to an end, and at least she knew what she was seeing. It is a shame, because it is a twenty-some year marriage with two grown children in it, but it appears that her husband has made up his mind. You know, most people don't wake up one day and announce "I think this is a good day to go talk about a divorce." The decision, unfortunately, is a process which for the most part happens in a couple's heads and hearts for a long time before it finds its way to their lips. That's why it is so hard for us to "talk people out of a divorce." In most cases the decision is not a spontaneous one and has taken years to be made. I am so sorry that while the decision was brewing in at least one of their heads, prompt action wasn't taken to avoid it. So, that was today's sad news. It is never a good day to see breakups and not be able to help. I wished everybody would fall in love and stay in love forever.
So, my sons have now each called me separately to see "what's cooking" for dinner! And I have no dinner, yet! I should run and make something now, and then sit down to my dancer story. If I can, I will come online and answer your kind comments later. Enjoy your breakfast, lunch, and dinner wherever on this planet you live! We will go very American tonight and have steaks and peas and potatoes! Bon appetit!

1/28/2008

The Story We Never Heard

He says: "I was 9 when I started Ballet in Tehran. I had never seen ballet before in my life. My uncle was friends with Bijan Kalantari, who was a ballet dancer and a choreographer himself, and wanted to start the first Iranian ballet company from ground up, entirely with Iranian dancers, hoping to be able to perform internationally. Of the 14 students in the newly founded ballet program at Tehran's Music Conervatory (Honarestan-e-Ali-e-Moosighi), there were 12 girls and only two boys. I was one of them."
Seldom in my life have I felt such passion about a story, whether I have heard it, or I have told it myself. I am getting ready to tell you the story of a fascinating man. I have never met him. On the phone, he has one of the kindest, most honest, most confident voices I have ever heard. His winning charm is in his story, true, but there is something so Iranian about him, so belonging to the land I love. Brace yourselves. Soon you will see a gem uncovered, and I should hope that you know me modest enough to believe me when I tell you that the beauty of this story is only in the person who is at the center of it, nothing to do with the storyteller. I will just tell you the story. Give me a week. Be good y'all.

1/27/2008

A Sunday In Solitude

Snow in Sanandaj, Kurdistan, January 2008.
صدای ترس
در گرمیِ يک چای تازه،
و محبّتی دوستانه،
و لحظه های خالی از کلمه،
حسّی لبريز از احتياج به انفجار،
قلبم را از پنجره
پرتاب می کند
تا دورترين عطر گل سرخ،
در بعد از ظهر باغی تنها
تا دختر کوچکی
که ابرها را می شمارد
در آسمانی آبی،
و صورتش را می فشارد
روی علفهای داغ،
دور از نگاه بزرگترها
حسّی لبريز از احتياج به انفجار
می خواهد
دور از صدای ترس
روی علفهای داغ
بخوابد
در بعد از ظهر باغی تنها
فريده فرجام
آمستردام – ژوئن ۲۰۰۱
This poem and this poet have something do do with the story I will tell soon. I will be back tomorrow to write a longer post. Be good y'all.

1/26/2008

Confessing and Accomplishing Kookoo Sabzi

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.

1/25/2008

Being Ba Vafa

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.

1/24/2008

The Sun Rises (Aftab Mishavad)

Narenjestan-e Ghavam, Shiraz, Photo by Parviz Forghani
There is a strange symmetry between how the sun and the clouds have been fighting each other all day and how my body and that awful virus have been going at it. Our rainy and cold day gave way briefly to that beautiful patch of sunshine which did manage to come out a little while ago, only to get obliterated quickly by raining clouds. I'm happy, but my body has given in to the fatigue and ickiness of the virus, making me feel weak and achy. I had to stay home another day to rest. When we live by ourselves, there is no other person to hear us coughing and feel us sweating all night, and telling us in the morning that we must stay home and take it easy. We have to do it for ourselves. That process is not always easy, because usually the sick person is stubborn and won't heed our call easily and we have to get mean to return them to bed to rest! I have had to be mean to myself to shut down my usually very elaborate and active life. I sit here and think and go lie down and think some more, and try to sleep, and can't. I hate being sick. I want the sun to come out and I want to feel good again, fast.
Speaking of the sun, let me try again to post that Forough poem today. It is appropriate, I believe.
The Sun Rises (Aftab Mishavad)
Look how sorrow in my eyes
melts to water drop by drop,
how my rebellious shadow falls
captive to the sun.
Look. Sparks ignite me,
flames engulf me,
carry me high,
trap me in the sky.
Look how my universe
now streams with shooting stars.
You came from far, far away,
from the realm of perfume and light,
seated me on a canoe of ivory, of glass and clouds.
Take me now, my hope, my solace,
to the place of desires,
carry me to the city of rapture and rhymes.
You draw me up a flickering path,
seat me higher than all the stars,
but look these stars scorch me,
burn me, and I, like a feverish red fish,
nip at them in the pool of night.
How distant did our world once lie
from these chambers of the sky,
but now your voice reaches me,
the sound of angels' snow wings.
Look how I've soared to galaxies,
to shorelessness, eternity.
Now that we have come so high,
wash me in the waves of wine,
fold me in each silky kiss,
crave me through the lingering nights.
Don't release me, do not
part me from these stars.
Look how night along our path
melts like wax in drops, in drops,
my dark eyes drink sleep's wine
from your cup of lullabies.
Upon the cradles of my poetry
you waft your breath and look,
the sunrise floods us with light.
From Sin, Selected Poems of Forough Farrokhzad, Translated by Sholeh Wolpe, The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, 2007.

1/23/2008

Tree of Life

Shahram Nazeri at artists' visit with Khatami, Tehran, December 2008.
Hello, Hello! I'm alive! Thank you all for your good wishes and kind comments. I think my body is fighting some vicious virus and leaves me so tired and depleted. I am fine and back to my usual mischievious ways! If you promise not to laugh at me, I should also tell you that this morning when I woke up at 5:30 to get ready to go to work, in the pitch black darkness, just as I was realizing that I'm not fit to go into work, I ran into the folding cabinet door around the washing machine in the hallway, and cut and bruised my lip, looking a swollen and crooked sight throughout the day! Ha Ha, it was a stupid accident which sent me right back to bed! I intermittently smiled at the bruise all day, except that it hurts a bit if I try to smile my big smiles!
I should tell you that my music review was published. I reviewed Shahram and Hafez Nazeri's new Album, Passion of Rumi. It is a beautiful piece of music and you can go here to listen to samples of that music. Listen to the track called "The Passion of Rumi," and you will see why I liked this music so much. You can also read my humble review here. I would like to hear your opinions about the music and my review if you find it of interest to you.
Being sick and staying home, I had time to think a bit today. My life continues to be affected by the new acquaintances and friendships I have been forming over the past few weeks. I am learning new things about myself and about life, and this continues to have elements of surprise and pain at times. I was thinking today that for all its ups and downs, I wouldn't have changed my life for any other, and if I had been given another chance to live, I would have made those same decisions as I did, to make sure that I would get the same life, with joys as only I have known and pains as only I have suffered, growing roots and branches and leaves exactly where I have them on my tree. I love my tree of life.

1/22/2008

Thinking of Forough

The gutter (navdoon) of my house.
I just got home after a very long day. It rains and I'm suddenly very tired, with a sore throat and no hoseleh. I will come back tomorrow to reply to your beautiful, kind comments. Today is already finished for me, tired and not feeling very well. I tried to post a Forough poem tonight, and just as I was finished typing it, I erased it by mistake. I just don't have the energy to re-do it. I'm going to bed, thinking of Forough. I'm confident I'll be good as new tomorrow morning. Until then, be good y'all.

1/21/2008

Martin Luther King, Jr.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" (from the speech delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.)
Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Few individuals have touched contemporary world history as he has. He was a man in the business of hope. While cognizant of and outraged by injustice, he chose the way of peace and hope and promoting that hope to a people disadvanted, discriminated against, and disheartened. To listen to his speeches and to read his quotes, I am always saddened to know that such a truly special man lived a very short life, unable to give more to humanity.
My African American friends celebrate this day. I celebrate this day, too, as it marks the memory of an extraordinary man, whose words and thoughts continue to eccho through modern history, reminding us all that good leaders can help people overcome their despair and find a way to be seen, heard, and acknowledged for their rights without the need to resort to violence. How can I not be filled with respect for a man who said: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I so wished there were more people and more world leaders like him.

1/19/2008

Saturday Musings

Jewelery shop in Mashad Bazaar. Photo by Shahireh Sharif.
I spent the day working around the house and thinking, talking to very few people. I was thinking about something I want to write for Valentine's Day. Last year I wrote a piece on the occasion for Iranian.com which caused much uproar! In it, I was basically saying that celebrating Valentine's Day or Love Day, cannot only mean that men and women would buy each other flowers and chocolates and gifts on that day, or on any day for that matter. I think just like all the other occasions, Love Day has turned into a commercial event, filled with silly expectations, and devoid of true love, understanding, and celebration of one another. Anyhow, this year, I would like to put together a list of wishes from my friends, real people with real things they would like their partners to do for them on Valentine's Day to show their love. What got me thinking about this is that my friend at work about whom I wrote a few weeks ago, is facing a very difficult time in her marriage. Her husband has now moved out and she is bereft with pain and loss. She said to me that she would like her husband to come home for Valentine's Day, but not just to have come home. She wants him to come back to the marriage and to her. I have put her wish on my list. One of my young friends also told me that since she has now lived with her boyfriend for 5 years, she would really like to hear him talk about marriage with her this Valentine's Day. I asked another friend and she said she would love her husband to take her to a play, something she loves and he hates! If any of you would like to put something on the list, please either leave a comment or send me an email and I will include it in my piece. I will share the piece with you when it's ready. It's been a long and exhausting day, so I end it right about now. Be good y'all.

IranWrites

I would like to tell you about my friend, Mina, and her weblog named IranWrites, which she keeps in English. Mina is one of the most intelligent, articulate, and compassionate people I have come across in cyberspace. She is a scholar, an author, and an activist. I came to know her when I was researching a piece I was writing about Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam, the Iranian choreographer and dancer, last year. Reading her observations and insight about that subject and any other subject she chooses, compared to my often superficial look at my subjects, embarrasses me a little actually! She zeroes in on her subjects and goes deep and wide to look at them, giving her readers immense satisfaction in seeing the issue from several angles. She writes simply and passionately, and reading her is very easy. Mina writes book reviews, political analyses, and her general observations as an Iranian who emigrated to US 35 years ago. Please go visit Mina's weblog and read her for yourself. In reading the collection of thoughts, analysis, and observations that make up her blogs, I am proud of her as a very responsible individual and an exemplary Iranian-American.

1/18/2008

From Karkheh to Rhein

It's Friday. My week was filled with new meetings and experiences of new and old feelings. I shared some of them with you. My relationship with my children is transforming again, putting us on a more adult track yet again. These transformations only mean that the list of topics we can easily and maturely discuss with one another grows. We are now past talking about the physical relationship of men and women and we are talking about "relationships," and how men and women might regard a relationship differently, with different expectations. To surprise you, I should say that I am not at all the only one who has opinions and experiences about this, and they are not the only ones who have questions and doubts about it! It is always a good day for me when I receive a beautiful sentiment in the form of an email from Iran first thing in the morning, and a couple of hours later an SMS from my older son, saying simply: "i love you mom."
I want to tell you a short story, a memory. I met Majid Entezami, the famous Iranian composer and his lovely wife, one of the few Harp players in Iran, in a family gathering several years ago. We talked about life and music and our children. He is truly a charming man who loves his family. I told him I knew him most prominently through his masterpiece film score, Az Kharkeh Ta Rhein. He said "You know, what happened to that score has been a source of bafflement for me." He explained that it is one of two pieces of music Iranian Radio and Television air during mourning times in Iran (the other is Hossein Alizadeh's symphony, Neynava), and this music has come to be known for sadness and reflection. I asked him if he minded. He said "No, I don't mind it, as I wrote it to be reflective and sad, but sometimes when I hear it unexpectedly played on the radio, I turn to my wife and ask her: 'It's not a national mourning day. Did someone die today?' Anyhow, it is a really beautiful piece of music and remembering how many times I heard it on the radio during Tasooa and Ashura, I felt nostalgic about it today.
We are at the beginning of a three-day weekend in the US. Monday is Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, and I will write about him a little later this weekend. I wish you all a relaxing weekend, whether or not you are reflecting. Get together with those who matter to you, sit around a fire, talk, and embrace each other. You know, we must never underestimate the power of human touch. Holding hands, hugging, and touching our family and loved ones can have extremely powerful benefits for our souls. Iranians touch each other a lot more than Americans do. Believing in and observing "personal space" is the reason Americans refrain from getting too physically close to one another; this is intended to respect people's individuality, a value most prized in American culture. Iranians touch each other more, believing it conveys messages of closeness, brotherhood, and affection, a much more tribal approach to human interaction. I am very Iranian, very tribal, and when not in professional settings, I touch the people around me a lot! Have a good weekend y'all.

Oh, Anzali!

Snow, fog, and beauty in Bandar Anzali, Gilan, Iran. Photo from Alef Shin (by Mr. Anoush).
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.

1/17/2008

Traditions

Snow in Rasht, January 2008.
You must be getting so bored with me right about now! I am back in a storytelling mood, and I can't stop myself! Continuing down memory lane and the issue of identity, I want to tell you about traditions today. When I was growing up, as in any other typical middle-class Iranian family, our household was always experiencing much excitement and joy around numerous annual "occasions." Of course, events such as khastegari's, weddings, funerals, and arrivals of new babies into the family received much spontaneous due attention, but there were a set of recurring events each year which were celebrated as family ceremonies and traditions. The whole process of preparing for Nowrooz was a series of events from spring cleaning (khooneh takooni), to reupholstering the furniture, to shopping for clothes and food, to having the biggest Charshanbeh Soori event in the neighborhood, and finally Nowrooz itself, each event filled with smaller events and milestones, each individually important and well planned, down to special meals and snacks served on those occasions.
For example, making pickles in our household was an annul tradition. My mother would go to fruit and vegetable market, buy huge quantities of vegetables and herbs, and have them delivered to the house in a truck. Jamileh Khnoom would come and stay for three days to help my mother clean, wash, and chop the ingredients and put them in huge containers (dabbeh) on the terrace in the sun for several days, before they were moved inside to a cool dark place to last for a whole year to compliment our every meal. The same would take place for cooking jams, making lemon and sour grape juice, and tomato and pomegranate pastes. Even changing the sheets on our blankets (lahaf) was a ceremony, where once every few weeks several women family members would come to help my mother re-sew all the clean, pristine sheets back onto the blankets, helping her be ready for all those unannounced guests who would come to stay the night. In every small tradition, there was life and there are memories of my childhood now sitting in the folds of those lahafs, and inside those dabbehs, and forever lingering around a metal sign covered with cotton ribbons soaked in oil and lit up at sunset on Charshanbeh Soori, announcing: "Sale 1348 Mobarak Baad."
Being so accustomed to traditions, I established my own traditions with my children. A bit more updated, a bit more international at times, and less focused around domestic affairs, my children and I had our own traditions which featured some activities with their friends and cousins in a festive atmosphere. A few days before Nowrooz, for example, I would rent a mini-bus, invite my children's friends, and we would all go to Tajrish to buy our haft-sins, returning home to have lunch and color our eggs, each child taking his haft-sin items and colored eggs home at the end of the day. Or, I would rent a mini-bus to take my kids and their friends on one of the last days of summer to Tehran Bazaar (bein-ol-haramain) to buy new school year supplies. One special occasion for us was to invite their friends to come with us to go watch Tasooa and Ashoora parades (dasteh and heyat). We would walk to Meidoon-e-Chizar and watch the awesome ceremonies taking place there. If I could, I would also encourage them to go to houses of those who were serving free food, Nazri, to wait in line and pick up the neighbors' offerings. We would then return home with their friends and eat the food together.
People would always ask me why I would go through so much trouble just for a few hours, taking care of so many other kids in the process. I always told them that all my life I had considered myself a very fortunate woman because I had such good memories of my childhood. Even as they have become giant young adults, I continue to celebrate and observe many occasions with my children, hoping that the memories we have built together will also enrich their lives, giving them some of the joy I felt as a child and later as an adult. I am so full of nostalgia and memories of Meidoon-e-Chizar these days.

1/16/2008

Moharram

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.)

Children of Adam Update

I talked about Nina Pari Aghabeikzadeh's movie, Children of Adam, yesterday. Since the competition is over, I have posted her videoclip in that post. Watch it. It's great.

1/15/2008

بایرامعـلی تقدیم می کند

Those of you who are regular visitors to my weblog know that I have a good friend named Bayramali. He is a blogger who specializes in arts, nostalgia, and humor. He is an extremely funny young man who brims with intelligence, knowledge, and joy of life. We met last year and our friendship has been a constant source of joy for me. Along with several other young bloggers who live in this area, Bayram is my friend and my family now. Leva kiddingly says that she is always surprised to read my comments in Bayramali's weblog, because in his comments section, she believes, I turn into an entirely different person, funny and witty! Ha Ha, that statement cracks me up every time! The reason is, I believe, that Bayramali affects me that way, and if I am funny and witty in his space, it's a direct result of that which he gives to all who go and visit him.
Deutsche Welle has recently interviewed Bayramali, and you can read that piece here. The interviewer is obviously smitten with Bayram's brand of humor, especially when he does his music reviews which could be endlessly funny. She has featured one of his "music interpretations," in which he reviews Kamran and Hooman's song, Oon ba man. You can read that post here, and listen to him deliver the review in his own words here. No written document, no blog entry, and no interview, however, can show the true and deep essence of the man that Bayram is. He is unique and special and positive and loving to all, and you would have to know him to know what I am saying.

1/14/2008

Renewals

From right to left, Hamed Nikpay, Professor Lotfi Zadeh, and his friend Kimmy, today at Alborz Restaurant, Berkeley.
Over the past 72 hours, I have learned that life can be full of small and big surprises, chance meetings and pleasant renewals. I was sitting at my desk contemplating what to do for lunch today, when I received a call from my friend Hamed, who was in-between classes (he teaches music in Berkeley's Persian Center), wondering whether I wanted to go to lunch. Visiting Hamed always cheers me up, as seldom have I met artistically-gifted people who are so down-to-earth and approachable. He met me outside my office and we started walking to our usual eating place, Alborz, to grab a bite, talking to each other at 1,000 words per second! When we arrived I found my charming friend, Lotfi, having lunch with his scientist friend, Kimmy. All of a sudden I was even happier! Lotfi came over and met Hamed and introduced his friend to us, telling me that having lunch with me soon is on top of his list! We shall see about that, but in the meantime, who can resist the charm of this man, so I believe him! He looked dapper and energetic as usual. Hamed and I talked about life and friends and music and I can't remember what. As they were leaving, I asked them to pose for a picture for me. I couldn't resist sharing the photograph and the memory with you. Life continues to be good.
P.S. I have previously talked about Lotfi here, here, and here, and about Hamed Nikpay, here and here.

Children of Adam

Nina Pari Aghabeikzadeh, a young Iranian-American woman (born to an Iranian father and an American mother), has made a five minute film about Iran and protesting potential plans to attack Iran . It is called "Children of Adam," based on Saadi's poem, Bani adam azaye yek peykarand... I have seen the movie and find it sweet and uplifting. Too bad it’s only five minutes, though!
Nina has entered her film on an online film festival with the theme: “Muslims in America : Stories Not Stereotypes.” I would like to invite you to go see it and vote for it if you can before midnight tomorrow night, which is the deadline for voting. Here’s what you have to do:
  1. You have to join Link TV to be able to vote. So, go to this link: http://www.linktv.org/community/join , fill out your information and click submit (it doesn’t cost anything to join).
  2. Go to your email to receive the registration verification email from Link TV. Click on the link they give you.
  3. Go to this link: http://www.linktv.org/onenation/films/view/224, watch the movie, and vote for it. Please note that you will have to watch the five minute movie before you can vote or it will get a negative vote value.
  4. Enjoy and share your thoughts here, in the comments section under the movie in Link TV, or directly with Nina at ninapa_film@yahoo.com.

Sunday's Live Entertainment

I started my day taking care of a couple of outstanding commitments. I then went to visit my sisters for a couple of hours. It was a most enjoyable and relaxing time. One of my younger sisters had a birthday, and we celebrated her, though she wasn't in a great mood to celebrate herself. When I showed her the videoclip from the Indian movie, Sholay, her mood improved drastically, especially as our youngest sister decided to do the Sholay dance for her in person, to enhance the effect! We laughed a lot and said goodbye to my older sister who is leaving tomorrow. Let's see, how many sisters did I count for you so far? Oh yes, my other sister was also there, watching American Football with the guys as she does regularly, joining us for the Indian dance show! It was a sight, I'm telling you! I looked at my young niece and nephews who, I swear, had grown an inch each since I saw them last two weeks ago! Something really good happens to me when I'm near my siblings and their families. I am reminded of what all the effort, all the running around, and all the work we call life, is about. One of the things it's about is being able to share yourself and who you are with those who know you better and longer than anyone else in the world. What is life without being acknowledged and celebrated for your existence occasionally? A family does that better than anyone else in the world. Whether they live right next to us, in the same city, in the same continent, or in an entirely different house, city, and continent, they still know us and they care about us. What is life without an occasional unexpected dance in the middle of the living room, or the sight of those emerging dark hairs above a young boy's lips, and the hint of a ghachaghi lipstick on a thirteen year old's lips? Life is good.

1/12/2008

A Thinking Saturday

Shabestan of Nasirolmolk Mosque, Shiraz, Photo by Parviz Forgahani (I cropped this photo).
I am working on a music review. This is a tough project, as I know I am not qualified to do an artistic review of anything! As a spectator and observer of the arts, however, I do have a lot of heart and passion for music, especially music of the type I am reviewing. All morning my home was filled with beautiful music and something felt very satisfying in all that. Anyhow, it is a hard project. I will share when it's ready.
We had sunshine today and it felt so good to have the birds back, singing on the now completely leafless trees outside. They didn't seem to care at all or missing the leaves, though! I spent my afternoon thinking and reflecting and sorting things out upstairs! You know, "living a mostly regretfree life" becomes a challenge somedays, and I have to occasionally remind myself to let go of some things and be kinder to myself. Nothing is more futile than living in the past. I have found that on the days I don't feel terribly agile and good at handling my present life, I delve into the past and wallow a little bit. Most unbecoming and useless, I would say! On a more positive note, we are saying goodbye to my sister who is the last one to leave after the family reunion, returning to Iran this week. I took my own advice and went to confess my love for her and her family and confess I did! It felt good.

Dance With Me

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!

1/10/2008

Mehr Ensemble and Regular Mehr

Rain outside my window in Berkeley this week.
We had another day of rain today, possibly the last one this week. Though weather doesn't normally affect my moods too much, I felt sad and tired when I woke up to rain this morning. Well, it might have nothing to do with the weather anyway. Let's not talk about sadness, though. Let me share something I recently found with you. My friend, Dr. Zari Taheri, sent me links to videoclips of musical presentations by Mehr Ensemble, of whom I had never heard before. All the musicians in this group are very young, but pretty accomplished in their instruments. The interesting thing about them is that this is an all-women group. Take a look at this videoclip. The best I could make out about the group through watching all the clips is that their composer and aristic director is Azar Zargarian, who also plays the Tar, with Mehrbanu as the vocalist, Hannaneh Saeidi on Qanun, Najmeh Saghari on Barbat, Sanaz Keshavarz on Tombak, Marjan Tavakoi on Tanbur and Daf, and Raana Shieh on Kamancheh. I found this part of their presentation in Italy particularly uplifting because of the percussionists' (Daf and Tombak) interaction with one another. They are young and we must watch them over the coming years as they do seem to have great potential. (If you are unable to access YouTube, check this out. You can see their other clips there, too.)
These are the last few days of college winter break, and I smiled to myself this morning when I found not one (Iden), but two of my sons' friends sleeping in the living room. I was further surprised this evening to see them all back at the house, as my younger son and I have been having some rocky times together recently. He came and talked to me about the things he had put off doing for a long time (the source of our conflict). Apparently, he accomplished many of them today. Interesting. Now they are back to sitting around and talking and laughing together and something tells me I will have to feed them all shortly. Why don't I mind that?! I have been working on a work-related project all day and will continue until it's finished tonight, coming back to reply to comments when I'm done. Have a good evening in our parts and a happy morning in Tehran and a good time in all the places in between.
P.S. For those of you who live in these parts, I would like to tell you that Berkeley Lecture Series will have a program this coming Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 3:00 P.M., at 101 Moffitt Library of UC Berkeley. The lecturer will be Professor Sohrab Behdad of Denison University, who will talk on "The Rise and Fall of Iranian Social Classes in the Post-Revolutionary Iran." Please note that the meeting has a different time and venue than Berkeley Lecture Series' usual. Lecture is in Farsi.

1/09/2008

Supernatural

Painting by Parviz Kalantari, who is a master Iranian painter, and who has also written sweet and funny books. I met him during a display of his works in Tehran three years ago. A memorable artist and an interesting man, that Parviz-e-Kalantari.
Have you ever had friends and family who say they can do extraordinary things? Do you believe them? I had a co-worker in Tehran who meditated and said that he was a Flying Sidhi. I have a close relative who believes she has healing powers, always attempting to heal people around her of their pains and ailments by using some healing techniques. A high school friend and a distant relative of mine are now famous fortunetellers who have a large following. I believe and accept all of them. Though I might never want to learn about what they do, I never feel the urge to question or examine their claims, either. I just accept them as they say.
I remember when I went on a work training trip with the "Flying Sidhi," (they are supposed to be able to "levitate," or rise and suspend in the air during their yoga meditation), another co-worker accompanying us kept arguing with this guy, trying to prove that he was lying. Several times I had to follow this other guy into the backyard of the place we were staying and haul him back inside when he tried to watch the other guy through the window, so that he might prove that the guy was lying! I wouldn't let him tease and insult the other guy, all the time telling him to be respectful. To this day, if anyone tells me a "miracle" happened to him or her, or some supernatural event took place in his or her life, I tend to believe and respect him, never doubting or ridiculing my friend, and honestly never wanting to challenge the notion. Is that normal? Not having any curiosity about the accuracy of a claim someone I know makes? Is it gullible? I thought I would ask.
Before I go, though, I should tell you of a memory. A friend of mine who was very close to me, an artist, suffered a massive heart attack in Tehran a few years ago. My friend was a darvish and often told me about his "encounters" with spirits. I always believed him, though others around us were skeptical. The day he was taken to the hospital, I learned the news and rushed to his side in CCU. He was lucid and recognized me, telling me: "Chera zahmat keshidin?" The nurses were preparing him to hook him up to CCU instruments, so his wife and I left the room. His wife went to get his medicine. Several minutes later I heard him talking. I went in and found him alone. I asked him: "Reza Jan, are you talking to me? Do you need anything?" He said: "Na Nazy Khanoom, I was talking to the others. They are talking to me." My friend died that night, so I never got to ask him who they were and what they were talking about. But I believed him as I always did.

Nostalgia

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.

1/08/2008

Gratitude

I call this unnamed picture "Woman with Flowers." From Iranian.com, Photo by Horizon, a very gifted photographer in Tehran.
Someone has to remind me occasionally that life on the internet is not real. Or is it? Are the people we meet on the internet real? Are our relationships with those people behind the blogs limited to a few paragraphs the blogger writes and a few mindless or mindful comments we and others leave there? Do we ever get to meet the essence of the individuals behind the blogs and the comments? I'd like to think that we do. Though we might not be able to see the whole person, or all of that person, the parts that we do see and touch are real.
A sarcastic individual might tell me: "Get a life, lady!," but I would like to confess that I have laughed uncontrollably at some blogger's jokes, I have cried inconsolably at another blogger's woes, I have worried deeply about another blogger's dilemma, and I have spent a whole day thinking about some philosophical post I read somewhere. I get upset when a blogger who feels the blues turns off his or her comments, leaving me without a way to talk to him or her, to leave a greeting or to try to soothe the pain and to bring reminders of happier days, just like I would appreciate if someone did it for me. I am delighted when I read an intelligent comment by a reader, or see that the meaning of my post has found a home in his or her heart. I miss my readers and wonder why they haven't come back. My more experienced blogger friends tell me that one of these days I will grow tired of replying to every single comment, and that I, too, will only reply when a reply is warranted. Today I doubt that very much. Never in my life have I disregarded the greetings, Salam, of an indiviual. When someone talks to me, I answer. So, O.K., suppose that someday I get so many comments, I won't have time to deal with all of them on an individual basis! Until such day, I write to hear from people, and when I do, I reply.
More important than my daily posts, I love the dialogues that take place inside my comments section, where my readers show me their beautiful hearts and brilliant minds. I wrote my post last night, with a mind burdened with thought and a heart full of hope. I write this post tonight to thank all of you for commenting on yesterday's post, but specially Alef Shin, who surprisingly wrote in his perfect English (as opposed to his usual perfect Farsi), telling me that he has seen the love of motion inside my soul. I am grateful for that observation, mostly because until I read that comment, though I was quite aware of it, I had not been able to verbalize that love thoroughly myself. My heart is touched today by the knowledge that I am read and understood, and that is as real as it gets for me. Thank you to all.

1/07/2008

Gift

Mina Momeni, Photography Collection at Elahe Gallery, Tehran, December 2007.
هدیه
من از نهایت شب حرف میزنم
من از نهایت تاریکی
و از نهایت شب حرف میزنم
اگر به خانه’ من آمدی برای من ای مهربان چراغ بیار
و یک دریچه که از آن
به ازدحام کوچه’ خوشبخت بنگرم
فروغ فرخزاد
Gift
I speak out of the deep of Night
Out of the deep of darkness I speak
And out of the deep of night
Should you come to my house, O Kind Soul,
Bring me a lamp and a window
Through which I may view the crowd
of the happy alley
Forough Farrokhzad, Another Birth, Translated by Ismail Salami

1/06/2008

Storms on Two Sides of The Earth

Storms building over San Francisco Bay, January 5, 2008. (I know this is not one of my best pictures, as I stopped the car in a precarious spot on El Cerrito Hills and snapped the picture in pouring rain, but if you click on it, you can see Golden Gate Bridge more clearly.)
Can you believe how much snow has fallen on Tehran? I read that all international flights into and out of Tehran have been cancelled and that the whole city is shut down. I hope all my friends in Tehran are staying warm and comfortable, enjoying the view from a window! I spent the day working not on what was on my list, but on the ad hoc list which just emerged as the morning progressed. I tried not to stress over it and go with the flow. As a result, I have a mixed bag of accomplishments and failures for the day (very typical, wouldn't you say?). My important writing piece received no progress today, but I'm glad to report that my house is clean and tidy, some of my emails have been answered, my plants have been watered, and my kids will have home-made food to eat for a couple of days. As you can see, at least some of my priorities are in proper order! I'm now going to see the movie, Charlie Wilson's War. If it's noteworthy, I'll be happy to report back. Happy Sunday Evening.

1/05/2008

Perplexity (Heirani)

Exhibit A, my dinner tonight.
My sons and their friends went to San Francisco to celebrate their Saturday night. Instead of worrying about them as I am inclined to do, I decided to get busy doing my own things! I had a beautiful simple dinner, Exhibit A, and got busy working on a large project I have been trying to finish. So, I don't know what is happening to me here! For some reason I am in my story-telling mood again, remembering so many memories and wanting to share them! You poor things, will have to put up with me. So, here's the story I remembered today.
I said last night that Kaykhosrow Pournazeri's Shams Ensemble (Tanboor Navazan-e Shams) is one of my favorite music groups in Iran. I remember seeing them for the first time in the Bay Area in 1991/1992, when they were touring with Shahram Nazeri. It was an awesome concert, and I remember how much I enjoyed the performance. The local Iranian television station aired several of the songs from the concert and I videotaped them, listening to them frequently. We moved to Iran in 1992, and since my arrival, I was looking for that album. I used to go into music shops and ask for “Shahram Nazeri's new album with Kaykhosrow Pournazeri,” and they kept giving me Motreb-e-Mahtab-roo, which I also loved and owned, but which wasn't what I was looking for. This was most puzzling to me, but I wouldn’t give up, either. I would watch the videotapes of the songs at home and go looking for that album once every few months.
In 1998, one day I was shopping at the nearby Super Jordan which happened to have a music section. I knew the young chaps who worked there, and we would have “musical chats” often. On this day, I asked Mehdi, the guy behind the counter, whether he could help me. I said: “Agha Mehdi, Shahram Nazeri and Tanbournavazan-e-Shams did an album together a few years ago. One of their songs goes something like this…” and I started whispering the song: “dar talabe zohreh rokhe mahroo…” for him. He listened and after a few minutes he said: “I think I have it!” I stopped whispering and just as I started asking him excitedly to show me the album, I heard some people behind me clapping and complementing me on my singing! Can you believe it?! I had not been whispering, I guess! It was rather humiliating, but the best part of the day was that Mehdi brought out the album Heirani (Perplexity) to me and I quickly paid for it and left to listen to it at home, but also to escape the people who most likely thought I was crazy! As to what had happened to the album for all those years, I heard that because the Shams Ensemble had women singing rather prominently in the background of that album, it couldn’t pass Ministry of Guidance’s requirements for publication. With the more relaxed conditions of post-Khatami era, it became possible to release that album. So, I finally got my album, but not before I did an involuntary concert in tribute for it! I leave you with another Shams Ensemble clip tonight. It's awesome. Have a good evening you all.

1/04/2008

Keeping Warm

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.

1/03/2008

The Day I Lied, Told The Truth, and Lied

Environmental Arts Festival, Hormoz Island, Persian Gulf, December 2007
On a snowy day several years ago, I went to Guidance Court (dadgah-e ershad) in Tehran. Several weeks earlier, my father's apartment complex had been raided by the police, who had broken the satellite dish and had confiscated his receiver, serving him a notice to attend the court. I had gone in his place, except that if I said I had come in his place, they would have demanded for him to attend himself, so I showed up and declared that I was the owner of the confiscated illegal device.
I had to wait with a group with other "suspects," all of whom were middle-aged men and women, engineers, teachers, and businessmen, one a university professor, calmly sitting there talking about politics and traffic. My turn was up. I went in. The judge, a young clergy, read my deposition and asked me what I had to say for myself. I asked him if he wanted me to repeat what was in my deposition, or if he wanted the truth. He said writing lies in my deposition could cost me a prison term, but that he wanted to know the truth. I told him that this dish and receiver was in use by my father, who was in his 80's, immobile in a bed, and alone. I told him it was one of his few outlets into the world outside, and he used it to watch the news. I told the judge that I did know it was against the law to own satellite dishes and receivers, but if the spirit of the law was to keep the society from learning bad things (bad amoozi), I doubted that at 83 years of age and paralyzed, my father was going to learn any new bad things through the medium, and if he did, that he would have a chance to try those bad things or teach them to others. I was found guilty, and the judge ordered me to pay 50,000 toomans in fines.
As I left the court, everyone outside wanted to know how much fine I had to pay, as some convicted individuals had had to pay as much as 500,000 toomans that day. I said 50,000. They all wanted to know what I had said to have resulted in the lowest fine. I told them I doubted what I had done (telling the truth) would work for them. After paying the fine and completing the paperwork, I called my father to say that he was off the hook ("Baba jan, tabrik migam, shoma tabraeh shodid."). He was so happy and asked me if I had managed to get his receiver back. I said they couldn't find his, because there were so many confiscated units there, but that I had managed to get permission for him to own one. I went and bought him a better receiver that afternoon and had it installed that night. This one he used happily for two years until he died.

1/02/2008

The Snowman

Farshad's snowman in Tehran, January 2, 2007. The note says: "For World Peace In 2008.
Also, look at these gorgeous pictures of snow in Tehran on Fars News Agency.
My morning started opening an email from Farshad in Tehran, holding pictures of this snowman in his backyard. Thanks to Farshad, it was a good start to a day which took me back to work after several days. My sons and I spent a bit of time together this evening. My older son read his new poem to me, which was delightful, but as you may know, as a mother I am not supposed to make a big deal of how good his poetry has become, because it makes him shy and uncomfortable and next time he writes something, he won't share it with me so easily. So, I made only some small supportive noises, though I was filled with pride. That also was a perfect end to this day. I leave you with a Wallace Stevens poem, entitled appropriately, The Snowman. Wallace Stevens was a Pulitzer winner American poet who died over 50 years ago. Listen to this short piece on NPR by Commentator Jay Keyser who says Stevens wrote the best short poem in the English language, and his reasons for this.
The Snowman
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 time

To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think

Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land

Full 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.

Snow in Tehran

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.

1/01/2008

Warm Thoughts on A Winter Night

A Tehran street vendor's tray of piping hot red beets (laboo), January 1, 2007. Photo by Halat.
On my request, my wonderful reader, Halat, who is a blogger and an artist in Tehran has taken this photograph for me. Isn't it just beautiful? I cannot think about Tehran winters without remembering the look, the aroma, and the taste of laboo on street corners. Simply gorgeous! Thank you very much to Halat who is unique and is not at all Yeki mese hameh!
So, this was the last day of my winter break. I must return to work tomorrow and start on a few of those wishes and resolutions I shared with you yesterday. I will again have less time to spend on blogging, and you'll be somewhat rid of me, though not entirely! It has been a very exciting and relaxing couple of weeks, spent with family and friends both online and in real life, proving how the line in between the two lives becomes invisible at times. I took part in many gatherings and a wedding as you know. Warm memories of these days will be with me for the cold months ahead. I'm not sure I'm ready to go back (postham bad joori baad khordeh!), but I must try. Thank you all for being such good and generous readers, keeping me company through this holiday season with Yalda, Christmas, and New Year celebrations. Be good y'all.

New Year's Prayers

New Year's Mass, St. Joseph's Church, Tehran, January 1, 2008. Photo by Mohsen Sajjadi; see Mehr News for more pictures.
I went looking for a picture appropriate to the occasion of New Year's Day for my post. Among the many many pictures I saw today, I found this image of a New Year's Mass held by Armenian Christians in Tehran most touching. There is something about group prayers that is very appealing to me. Even when people don't believe in God or religions and engage in group meditation instead, something about all those people concentrating together is interesting to me. Anyhow, I'd like to think that those people in the picture were praying for world peace at that moment. We need it now more than any other time. Whatever the occasion, whoever the congregation, and whatever the religion and medium, everyone should be thinking about and hoping for peace and doing something about it, too.