Unknown Caller

My phone display says: Unknown Caller. Most definitely, it’s a call from Tehran. I’m paralyzed with the desire to pick up and talk to a loved one, and the anxiety of what I might hear. I wished I wouldn’t get some of those phone calls from Tehran. I wished I knew which one of those callers were going to tell me things I don’t need to know and I don’t want to hear, so I wouldn’t pick up their calls. I wished people would respect what it has taken to leave, and wouldn’t tamper with it.

Trip Down *#@%$%^ Memory Lane

Without a doubt, Si-o-Seh Pol (which means “33 Bridges”) over Zayandeh River in Isfahan, is one of the most prized national monuments of Iran, a feat of architecture of its own time (built in 1602). Since I was a child and went to visit my aunt and uncle and my cousins in Isfahan, and later taking sightseeing and romantic trips there as an adult, I have walked on this bridge (driving is prohibited) hundreds of times, looking on the gorgeous city of Isfahan and Zayandehrood with interest, pride, and love. Seeing its picture early this morning, though, has reminded me of memories I don’t feel like I want to celebrate right now. Si-o-Se Pol was not welcome this morning.


Mohsen Makhmalbaf

I saw that picture of Mohsen Makhmalbaf and his daughter, Samira, on Radio Zamaneh's "Today's Photograph" section (Akse Emrooz), showing them at the Cannes Film Festival. I suppose by entitling the photograph "Makhmalbaf in 2007," someone wanted to bring attention to how his appearance has changed over the years, from austere revolutionary garb to a suit (maybe a tuxedo) with a bow-tie. I don't care what he wears, what he says, where he lives, and even what his children do. I respect Mohsen Makhmalbaf for his films in which he consistently and remarkably shows us to ourselves in seemingly effortless and easy ways. The pictures above are of his movie, Noon-o-Goldoon (Literal translation is Bread and Flower Pot, but which is translated into A Moment of Innocence), which is based on his own life's story. It is one of the most poignant and thought-provoking movies I have ever seen. He takes his audience on a journey, showing us both his young idealist life and his mature years of facing disappointments after the Iranian Revolution. He also portrays the ideals, dreams, and fears of the new Iranian generation vis a vis those of his own generation, and how under similar circumstances, they might not make the same choices as their parents did. I think this was one of my most favorite movies ever. If ever you get a chance to see it, see it!


Downtown Berkeley At Lunchtime & God

It’s a cool day in Berkeley, with the typical morning fog gone, and the sun breaking out. Instead of eating lunch, I took a walk around the block to burn about ten of the 50,000 calories I took in this weekend, as my sisters and I took turns to cook and feed our mini-family reunion crowd. .......... Man be baghe erfan.... My older son is at the age when people adjust their childhood images and conceptions, bringing them in line with those they acquire as adults, particularly during their college years. In his humanities courses, he is learning to question religious teachings, so he asks me the kinds of questions an atheist might ask a practicing believer, like asking me to answer tough questions about creation. The problem with the scenario he poses, though, is that neither he is a real atheist, nor am I a real practicing religious individual; therefore our discussion sort of turns into an "agreement" shortly after we start! Take, for example, the discussion we had about God this weekend.The most profound thing I said (if I may say so myself!) about this in our conversation, was that "My brand of spirituality works for me!" And the most profound thing he said was "It is so hard not to believe in God, because then it's just you, all by yourself. When I believed in God, whenever I was in a bind or when I had a tough test, I used to ask God to help me and then I would feel better, but now I can't do that. I'm on my own." I laughed and said to him "No, you're not on your own, because even when you stop asking God to help you, he will still help you because I asked him in MY prayers to help you!"


Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the US. This is the day those who died in wars are remembered. This is a picture of a memorial site in Lafayette, California, remembering all those who have died in Iraq war. As I pulled into the train station parking lot across the road to take this picture, I saw many people there looking at the memorial site quietly and reflectively. I cannot imagine how the parents of these young men and women must be feeling and what they must be thinking right now. I think giving one's life for one's country is probably the most honorable thing an individual can do. There is much debate and disagreement about the how's and why's of wars in the political arena worldwide. Regardless of those discussions, one cannot look at this memorial site and similar ones elsewhere, without being touched by the seriousness and significance of those soldiers' lives and deaths. I pray for their souls.


Personal Legend

“Everybody, when they are young, knows what their personal legend is. They yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them. But as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their personal legend. The mysterious force is a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your personal legend. It prepares your spirit and your will - It's your mission on earth. To realize it is a person's only real obligation. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."
From The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
My younger son is leaving on a trip to Amsterdam. A trip he dreamt, planned, and financed himself for a whole year. Part of me wants to protest the distance that is separating him from me. Part of me wants to wish an excellent wind in his sails to go and see and learn. I am reminded of the first day I taught him how to cross the street in Tehran. “Look to your left, look to your right, look to your left again, and go…run.” I waited for him to cross the street, as his little hand slipped out of mine, and off he went. My heart was beating so hard. It would have been so much easier to hold on to his hand and to walk him across the street. So much safer it was. But, he needed to learn to cross the street for himself to be able to get to the other side of the street, where his world was going to begin. Part of the pain of parenthood is to help your children go, go cross that street, go cross that ocean, go look for their “personal legend.” As he bounces around with joy and excitement, getting ready to leave, I brave the pain and hold still with a reassuring smile on my face. He goes to find the world and his personal legend, and I feel lost, staying on my side of the street.


Little Tajik Boy Dances.....

I am off for the weekend, excited to be seeing members of my family after a long time. I found my way to the blog of a dancer who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in Tajik, Afghan, Uzbek, and Iranian dances. Her name is Aliah Najmabadi. I leave you with an image from her blog, showing an artist family in Badakhshan who are performing music, where the solo dance is performed by a very young Tajik boy. Don't you think that little boy's pose and facial expression is priceless? It is so clear that however he was taught, he has learned to understand and feel dance in his little body and soul! It is so touching to look at that concentration on his face. For all the affinity I feel for Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan as neighbors who share so much in culture, language, and history with Iran, I feel awful that life in those countries must be marred by consistent violations of human rights. Take a look at this article. When will we be free? I hope you relax over the weekend, and feel close to those you love. I hope angels kiss your eyes to dream good dreams, as I used to wish for my children every night! I hope there is respite from war and evil at least over the next few days. Have a good weekend.

Blogger's Game: Significant People

Well, honored as I am to have been invited by Leva, I now realize what a tough assignment this is! People who have affected my life in profound ways are: Thirty eight people in my immediate family, starting with my parents, who present the mosaic of my identity, all that it is and has become. Mrs. Kamali, my grade school principal, who would take me out of the line to give me a merit (karte sad afarin) on Saturdays for my scholastic achievements, and would again pull me out of the same line on Thursday, to hit my little hands with a wooden ruler (with metal siding), for having misbehaved. She taught me to hate school, studying, discipline, and unearned authority. To this day I am convinced the song “Bad Teacher,” (Moalleme Bad) by Ebi was based on her. I learned from her to hold and kiss children’s hands, respect children and young people, and to give them encouragement and hope because they hold the future in their hands and hearts. Mrs. Javaheri, my seventh grade English teacher, who insulted me because I couldn’t make out the English alphabet, poking mean fun at me, driving me to work day and night to learn English in Tehran, to teach her and myself a lesson or two in a short nine months, and then through the rest of my life. Ali Moussavi Garmaroodi, my eighth grade composition teacher, who taught me to read significant books, and encouraged me to write, write, and write. He provided me with the outlet that has saved my sanity throughout my life—I wished I could say the same for those who have to read my writings! My brother-in-law, who gave me my first job at 15, helping me realize that I can work and not need to be financially supported by anyone else. Sohbatollah Khan, (The Saraidar), the Kurd building caretaker of a company I worked for in Tehran as a young woman. He taught me that commitment in a relationship (in his case marriage), is a very good thing. My friend, Mandana, who is one of the most unusual people I have ever met. She is bright, well-read, and a deep thinker. Above and beyond her many intellectual capabilities, however, she has the most unwavering set of values, an open mind, and a heart of gold. Mandana is the kind of friend everyone should hope to have. With her, even during my darkest days, I have never felt alone. From her, I keep trying to learn how to be a woman of my times with love, honor, and integrity. My friend, Linda, who has taught me all I know about American life, values, lingo, and heart. An unnamed woman in Mashad. Some day I will write on this woman in more detail. For now, I tell you that she is a mother of four sons and two daughters. All her sons served during the Iran-Iraq war, one of them was killed, one of them returned 70% disabled from his injuries during the war, and one of them came back with mental disabilities as a result of his tour of duty. Her son-in-law was also killed in the war. She taught me strength and hope. Nargess Khanoom, a woman in the village of Ghassemabad Olya on the border of Mazandaran and Gilan, from whom I learned that among all the darker things we see and feel in our fellow countrymen, there are bright beacons of light and hope, trained not by schools and universities or books, but through circumstances that could pull a woman out of a corner, and put her in a prominent place in her family and her community, commanding respect from all. Nazanin, a woman I met at a barbeque party in the Bay Area, during some of the darkest days of my life. Despite her chic and modern appearance (very gherty), in contrast to what a clergy might look like and say, on that day she reminded me that when we believe in God, we don’t have to worry about every little detail of our lives, and that some of that heavy burden can be left to God to carry for us. My life changed after meeting her, I believe. Sheila Williams, a woman who gave me my first job in the US, trusting me, and believing that the shy foreign student she had in her charge, could do things even that young woman didn’t know she could do. Two men who helped me run the gamut of feelings and experiences in relationships. Though my overall evaluation of both of them is not very high, more so in retrospect, I cannot deny the profound impact they have had on my life. Enough said. One hundred young Iranian men and women who worked with me during the fourteen years I lived in Iran, for teaching me a thing or two about the new generation of Iranians, their strengths, their weaknesses, their hopes, and their fears; for teaching me when I felt lost and displaced that Iran is mine and I am Iran’s, and that to sweat blood for a cause as dear as building hope for it, was a worthwhile effort which paid for itself in joy through and through. Young Iranian journalists, who are intelligent, wise, and brave, teaching me every day of my life that thought cannot be erased, suppressed, or stopped even through imprisonment, torture, and accusations, even when there is no newspaper in which to write, even when people fear reading the things they write, even when the day looks darker than the darkest nights. Hossein Mokhtari, Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, Dariush and Parvaneh Foroohar, and the other victims of serial killings of intellectuals in Iran, and Akbar Ganji, whose lives and deaths and near-deaths have helped me find new understanding and hope in the future of Iran. My list is not complete, but I believe there is a representation of the hundreds of people whose good and bad acts have touched me and have made me ponder and act in the best ways I knew how. My life would be a lot less, and less meaningful, if I hadn’t known each and every one of them. Now I would like to invite Mrs. Shin, Tameshk, Rahnavard, Peyvand Khorsandi, and Yek Negah to the game.



Last December*, my friend Kathy and I went to see Eva Yerbabuena Ballet Flamenco perform in Bereley’s Zellerbach. Certainly, as beautiful and moving as I find the flamenco, I understand that appreciating it is an acquired taste. I love the music, which is sad and sweet and full of energy, and I adore the dance, which is so poetic and is able to convey such a wide range of emotions. Of course, I certainly don’t want to say that I know that much about it artistically, as I am just a loving spectator of music and dance. I watch it and I feel it. That’s all. Eva Yerbabuena is one of the new generation of Spain’s Flamenco artists, who have introduced innovation and new interpretation in their dance. She is a world-class dancer, and recipient of Spain’s most prestigious dance award (the Premio Nacional de Danza). Eve and the dancers and musicians of her group sizzled the stage at Zellerbach during that performance. Watch this if you’d like to see what she does--watch her feet any chance you get, she is amazing, especially towards the end. I loved watching her perform and will go back again when she comes to Berkeley, as she frequently does. Enjoy. *(Quite by accident, I deleted several entries I had written in December and January. I am trying to reconstruct the worthwhile ones here.)

Bloggers' Game

Sweet Leva has invited me to participate in the newest Iranian bloggers' game. I am honored and touched, as I have never been invited to any such thing! For those of you who don't know how this works, a blogger (has to be one of the better-established ones for people to pay attention), thinks of a new game, writes the question, answers it, and then invites several others to answer the same question. Except for the first person, no one can participate in this game, unless they are invited (very classist). Once invited, most bloggers oblige. Blog audiences also keep tabs on who got invited and usually make a point of reminding bloggers that they have been invited to participate. The game which was done over the Winter Solstice (Shabe Yalda, the longest night of the year, an event celebrated by Iranians with many different rituals), for example, asked bloggers to name five "facts" about themselves that nobody else knew before. Or, the one before this, was to look at each blogger's "wish list." So, this time, the question is: Name people who have had significant influence in your life. I thank Leva for her kind invitation, and will oblige soon. Oh boy, I feel like I am preparing a speech for my OSCAR award! Hahaha!


My New Article in Iranian.com

My piece on Identity was published in Iranian.com yesterday. (And at this very moment, quite inadvertently, I just learned how to create a hyperlink! I am so excited! I am ashamed it was so easy, though! That's great--at the dast-afshani & paikoobi levels!).

Eric Clapton-Old Love

I can feel your body When I'm lying in bed There's too much confusion Going around through my head And it makes me so angry To know that the flame still burns Why can't I get over? When will I ever learn? Old love, leave me alone Old love, go on home I can see your face But I know that it's not real It's just an illusion Caused by how I used to feel And it makes me so angry To know that the flame will always burn I'll never get over I know now that I'll never learn I saw Eric Clapton perform in England in 1998, when he was on tour, promoting his Pilgrim album. The man is awesome. I have so many memories of his songs living, loving, dancing, losing, finding, suffering, crying, and dreaming. He never gets old for me. His guitar….his guitar plays on my heart, every emotion filled accord plays on my heart, it does. He rules. Take a look at this clip of the song, though his "Unplugged" rendition of the song remains my most favorite version.


Rasht Bazar

Continuing to seek refuge in images and thoughts that look familiar......This is a picture of Rasht Bazaar--one of the most wonderful places in the world for me. Though I am not Rashti, as you know by now, I am a self-sanctioned "Honarary Rashti," having travelled there tens of times. I will write about it someday. The cheese shown on the left is called Siahmizgi cheese, which is sharp and dry and very delicious. Surprisingly enough, this picture and the ones in its series,were taken for Iranian.com by none other than one Hossein Derakhshan on a trip he took to Rasht in 2001!

From Tameshk's Blog

Venus On Hafte Tir Square Crushed, smashed Then vanished from my chest This pain that grows in me I turned a page or two Looking for a relief in words foreign to my soul I looked for you In the greenish ink you’ve never written me with What I had in me of you was a pain A flaming pain in black And not Orange as you had always wished. Not orange like freedom But black like me Oh my! Oh my! Am I ever going to be free? Oh my!Am I ever going to be? Then When it comes I will call myself the most beautiful names you have ever imagined Then When it is to beI will color myself the most enchanting colors you have ever wished Then I will be me!

From Mrs. Shin's Blog

من زنی با تفکرات حاد فیمینستی نیستم. من از غائله می ترسم. من مانتوی گشاد می پوشم و آرایش نمی کنم. من دلم نمی خواهد کسی از این مردان یا زنان در خیابان آزارم بدهد اما من یک مادرم. چطور می شود نبینم چیزی را که سلامت بچه ام را ، خودم را و زندگیم را تهدید می کند؟ دلم می خواهد فریاد بزنم رو به جایی که شاید کسی نیست که بشنود. "معتادها را جمع کنید"، "سرنگها را ..." دلم می خواهد به من - زنی که در این شهر زندگی می کند - امنیت بدهید. امنیتی ساده برای یک قدم زدن ساده با بچه ام در خیابان. مشکل من دختران کاکلی نیستند. مشکل من مانتوی تنگ نیست. مشکل من کمی هوای تازه است. برای نفس کشیدن. بدون منظره کریه خون. به من کمک کنید.


I think pictures can be so powerful. If ever I see a disturbing picture, the image haunts me for days. I have brave blogger friends who post pictures and videos of people being tortured, stoned, and executed all the time. I can’t bear to look at them, because I won’t be able to forget them for a long time. At an airport somewhere, I once opened a book about Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan, and the book opened to an image I don’t want to describe here, but which haunts me to this day. This morning I was thinking to myself what image would make me happy, or might help overlap the horrible images of news of recent days in my mind, so that I can get them aside to be able to function? I thought of Damavand…my Dive Sepide Pai Dar Band*…. I searched for pictures of it, but with my limited time, I couldn’t get very far. So, I am posting this picture which Fariba Mobargheie posted in Iranian.com a couple of weeks ago (it is a nice picture, but I could do without the cables in it). Looking at it gives me strength and hope. I hope it does the same for you. Now I must go to an all-day retreat somewhere far from phones, computers and internet. Enjoy your day. *From a poem by Shariyar


Is Her Hejab Proper Now?

My heart weeps and my eyes won't close at night. I feel like the whole world's weight is on my shoulders, pulling me down, keeping me from taking one more step ahead. Who that girl is matters not. She could be me; she could be my daughter, my sister, my niece--she could be any Iranian woman. I am wondering though, doesn't she look surprisingly calm for someone who was injured brutally just a few minutes ago? Why isn't she hysterical at the sight of blood running down her face? Could it be, that if all of those Iranian women were to bleed from the face, they would all look so calm, simply because they have been bleeding even harder from their hearts and dignities all these years, and this is nothing by comparison? I just have one question of that gentleman to her left, the valiant what is he, a colonel? Does he like her hejab now? Is it better now than when he first met her a few minutes ago? Does she have proper Islamic cover now? Later tonight, is he going to go home feeling really accomplished and good about what he did at work today? Is he going to hug his little girl, telling her what great things he achieved today? Would he consider bringing her to work with him one of these days, to see what her father does for a living? I am heartsick and nothing feels good right now.

Dance on Saturday, Tears on Sunday, Joft Shish on Monday

It was an amazing weekend. The performance on Saturday night was AWESOME, and just as soon as I have photographs (which a kind-hearted gentleman in the audience said he would send me, as I had forgotten my clunky camera), I will write about it. I finished my Danny Postel book, and now I’m ready to write about it and his visit to Berkeley, which happened a few weeks back. I finished many projects around the house and did some work on material I have to take to a work retreat tomorrow. Yesterday morning I saw the picture of the girl who was beaten in Tehran by the police as she and her mother were walking down the street, to which both of them protested by removing their scarves from their heads, causing quite a stir. I sat there looking at that picture, crying a river, feeling helpless. If you haven’t heard about the incident, read this, and also see what Amir Abbas Nakhaee had to say about it in his blog. I really like the way he writes, so intelligently and bravely, this young journalist in Tehran. This morning, as I was running through my morning routine and checking my emails, my older son who is a delightful morning person (completely unlike his night-owl mother!) walked to my side and stood there. I asked him what he wanted and he said out of the blue, “How about a game of backgammon?” Imagine that! Well, I’m never one to lose an opportunity to spend time with my kids when they offer it to me—so backgammon it was at 6:45 a.m. this morning! He played some of his new favorite music for me, too, and helped me find some Farsi and English words I needed for my writing in the process. We played only one game and my victory over him was not a satisfying one, as I got too many doubles during the game, but it was pure joy for other reasons. As I finish this writing to post it this morning, I consider myself a very lucky woman indeed.


Tea With An Artist

Last week I had tea with Hamed Nikpay, a brilliant young Iranian musician, who lives in Northern California. I would very much like to tell you about him, but I have to wait for a piece I wrote on him to be published first. Here's his website if you want to know more about him. He is brilliant, take my word for it!


The Ahanchi works are mounted on the wall now. Seeing the pure joy I feel in having the works around me, my children have reacted jovially, having finally understood what it means to be a Hamadani-Tehrani-Iranian-American in their mother. I look at the artwork with happiness and pride. I am reminded of what lucky immigrants we have managed to become; appreciating and cherishing our lives in America, while on many occasions successfully managing to hold on to our Iranian heritage, language, culture, and all. I am reminded again that to be able to live free and regret-free, we must accept our identities in their entirety, and to embrace this which only the luckiest people in the world can have—the best of both worlds.


Two Hands Raised In Dance....

I am off for the weekend. I leave you with the image of hands raised in dance, speaking volumes of words and poetry, I believe*. I hope to be able to go to a special music and dance performance tomorrow night. It is called “Bridges,” and in its announcement flyer it says: “A concert bridging Jewish and Persian cultures through music and dance.” It is exciting for me for a number of reasons: I would love to hear the Yiddish songs they will be singing; I want to see Shahrzad Khorsandi dance; and my friend Aileen Kim dances with the ensemble, too, though she is neither Jewish nor Persian! It will be in a synagogue (kaniseh, or kenesht) in Berkeley, and I will report on it as soon as I can. Have a beautiful weekend wherever you are, eat and drink what you like, rest and relax all you can, and most importantly call, hug, and hold those whom you love. Life is too short to miss out on love and friendships, is what I think. P.S. Did you know that the Biblical Three Wise Men were Zarathustrian Iranians (Persians)? P.P.S. I promise to post the last installment of "Identity" sometime this weekend, too, though I will be intermittently working on home and work projects. *Photo: Hilary Bryan Website

Identity-Episode Four

Eight months ago, I asked my friend who runs a successful interior decorating business in Tehran, whether he could locate any Ahanchi works. Shortly thereafter, I received an email with two pictures as enclosures. One of them was another copy of the same Ahanchi work in my home in Tehran. The other was a continuation of that theme, displaying Lalehjin’s Pottery Market in which blue bowls and vases and such were presented for sale. I was so delighted I asked him to buy them for me and wait for further instructions. The flat, framed sculptures are huge and heavy and several attempts by relatives coming to these parts to bring them along were unsuccessful. Another dear friend finally had them shipped to me and I went to take delivery of them in San Francisco Airport last week. When I brought them home, breaking their wooden crate and pulling them out, I felt reunited with the dearest of friends! I jumped up and down with delight, dancing a dance of joy around the two of them in my humble home in the Bay Area. I felt that I had brought a piece of my lost identity, something I had been forced to leave behind, into my life. I felt I can now truly start my new life, with all my “essentials” on board.
(To be continued...just one more post, I promise!)

Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution

This is the documentary I went to see last weekend. I use the movie poster for their San Diego showing because, a) I am ashamed to say that Berkeley Lecture Series (in which I am a member) did not have a flyer for the event (nor any other event it organizes), b) The Persian Club of San Diego invited and paid for Mr. Takmil Homayoun’s trip to USA, so they deserve the original credit, and c) my little niece is so active and involved in PCC in San Diego, so this is my “thank you” to her for being such a cool Iranian. If you can go see this movie, or if you can buy it on DVD (it is available for sale), please do so. It is a delightful journey through Iranian movies before and after the Islamic Revolution, and how they have influenced the Iranian society, or vice versa. The interviews are simply delightful, and hearing Iranian directors talk about their trials and tribulations of making movies in Iran is fascinating. The part about the Iran-Iraq War and movies made during that era simply made me and my friend Kathy cry. Takmil Homayoun himself is a very witty and personable man, who made us laugh in delight during the questions and answers period. See it.

Hamadan Ceramics Shop (in Lalehjin)

Source: http://www.salamiran.org/CT/Tourism/Map/hamadan/

Lalehjin Pottery Factory

Identity-Episode Three

I lived in Tehran and got used to being a Hamadani-Tehrani Iranian. Through a succession of events, I came to know an artist named Mehdi Ahanchi. Ahanchi creates impressive works of art by combining copper and cold ceramic, covering the entire creation with polyester glaze. He is considered a unique sculpture artist and his works are displayed in contemporary arts museums and collections (http://www.opus125.org/mocia/ ). To a few lucky people, too, he sells his artwork for handsome prices. We bought a collection of Ahanchi works for our home in Tehran. Among the pieces we owned was a flat, framed sculpture of a man sitting in his pottery “studio” in Hamadan’s Lalehjin village. Lalehjin is a village just outside Hamadan, boasting the title of pottery capital of Iran, sending millions of primarily blue, and occasionally different colored hand-made bowls, plates and artifacts into the Iranian market. I have visited Lalehjin many times and also have a modest collection of its pottery, which though is not very durable because it chips and breaks easily, is a powerful symbol of a place I am now dutifully and lovingly calling my province. When under certain circumstances I left that home in 2006, leaving all in and about the home behind, there was only one thing I regretted leaving behind—the Ahanchi work which depicted the old man in Lalehjin, somehow a piece of my newly-developed and cherished identity.
(To be continued....)
Photo: Mehdi Ahanchi's "Two Women," http://www.geocities.com/cccaah/previous_exhibition.htm


Berkeley Weather

Our weather has been very strange this week. Take a look at what it looked like around 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday on Berkeley’s University Avenue, looking at the fog-covered Berkeley Hills-- a day as cold as a winter day! The other picture was taken this morning at around 11:00 a.m., returning from a meeting on Campus. This is Alumni House’s backyard, which is one of my most favorite, peaceful places on Campus. I often go to meetings at the Alumni House, and as I sit there somewhat bored with the meeting (don't tell anyone!), I look out the window at these trees and these benches and the occasional squirrels running around, and I feel better!

Identity-Episode Two

I have learned that we live again through our children. As they learn and grow, so do we. Our children provide us with a full-length mirror, in which we see ourselves again. Our pretenses and half-truths about ourselves come head to head with reality in our children’s presence. It is a sobering and humbling experience through and through.
My older son was 6 years old in 1992, and on a bright January Saturday, he taught me a lesson. He and I were having a conversation about speaking Farsi at home, during which he announced: “Why should I speak Farsi? I am an American.” I said to him: “You were born in America, and that makes you an American, but you are also an Iranian, and Iranians speak Farsi.” He said: “Why am I an Iranian?” I said: “Because your parents came from Iran.” In the style of the short attention span of six-year-old boys, our conversation ended soon.
But for a long time after that conversation, I sat there thinking, and feeling like a hypocrite. My parents had come from Hamadan, and I had flatly refused to be a Hamadani. I had deliberately disliked and disdained that piece of my identity, because….because why? Because Tehran was bigger and better and more exciting than Hamadan? Because I didn’t like their humbler appearance, or the dialect or accent Hamadani’s had when they spoke Farsi? Because none of my other friends had been Hamadani’s? So in an attempt to correct this hypocrisy, this double standard which I was imposing on my own child, I decided that day that I am a Hamadani. Except for some minor details, such as how I could learn to become a Hamadani sitting in the San Francisco Bay Area, literally from scratch.
When we went to live in Iran soon thereafter, I took myself and the whole family to numerous trips to Hamadan, found what few “relatives” were still living there, visited its bazaar and its many historical monuments, and tried to learn and recognize the dialect, asking questions about its history, searching for my parents’ heritage. Since that day in 1992, every time someone asks me where in Iran I am from, I say proudly: “Hamadan.” Of course to bona fide Hamadani’s who then start asking me about my roots and family and whereabouts, I would have to say that I am not a terribly good Hamadani, knowing little about it, but that I am willing to learn. I have read books on its history and dialect and continue to try to become a better Hamadani.
(To be continued...)


Identity--A Tale in Several Episodes-Episode One

I was born in Amirieh neighborhood of Tehran. Before my first birthday, my parents moved us into a huge villa style house in suburban Tehran. I grew up in that suburb of Tehran, attended schools nearby and eventually went to Kharazmi High School from which I graduated.
I was a typical Tehrani girl who knew the city like the back of her hand, and was nimble in moving from one point to another, claiming the big, beautiful, ugly Tehran as her hometown. My parents had come to Tehran from Hamadan in the 1940’s when they had been very young, and had later married and given birth to all my brothers and sisters in Tehran.
Our contact with Hamadan had been very limited and infrequent, limited for the most part to some relatives of my father’s visits to Tehran. I have vague recollections of trips to Hamadan when I was very young, and I didn’t really see Hamadan again until I was 16, when my parents took me and my sisters to stay at Bou Ali Hotel, very much like tourists. Though it was a memorable trip, I was not impressed by Hamadan. Feeling completely unattached to anywhere other than Tehran, if anybody ever asked me where I was from, I would say I was from Tehran, and refused to acknowledge any ties with Hamadan. Later, when I came to US to study, for more than a decade I intermittently and interchangeably forgot about my neighborhood, Tehran, Hamadan, and Iran. I will explain in the next installments how and when I remembered them again.
(To be continued...)


Wisdom On The Road

Where else in the world would you see such a prominent sign on the road, giving you advice about life? I believe that instead of trying to be what we once were and will never be again in the history, as Iranians we should try to appreciate the things that still exist and display our 3,000-year history. One of those things is wisdom in daily life, which Iranians have to a fault, passed through the generations. Let's get over other ironies of this picture and for a moment appreciate the practical wisdom of Iran and Iranians (there might also be some sense of humor in this pircture, but don't get distracted by it! This post is about Iranian wisdom.). Photo by Fariba Mobargheie; http://www.iranian.com/Travelers/2007/May/Shomal/index.html


The Handyman

When I bought the house, my wonderful realtor gave me a gift—a handyman’s services for a few hours to help me do the harder fix-ups and tasks around the house. I worked it out with her to send the guy, a Vietnamese man named Ken, to my home on Saturday morning. When at 9:30 on Saturday morning the doorbell rang, I was surprised to find a younger Iranian man at the door. He was a nice and confident man and after initial pleasantries and offering him coffee, I asked him to replace the light fixture in the bathroom, fix the squeaking shower door, put a window screen back, fix the laundry room door, and help me hang two heavy paintings on the wall. All this time, I was busy doing chores myself, listening to music, sometimes singing along. When the gentleman finished the jobs downstairs and came upstairs, I asked him briefly whether Iranian music depressed him, as it does many Iranians for reasons I don’t understand. He said no, so all the time he was working upstairs, I picked and played music for us, all the while, in ways those close to me know I do, explaining the different pieces of music, asking him what he thought. I asked him where in Iran he was from and when he said Mashad, I played pieces of happy Khorasan music for him. He did a lot of work and I was so happy for his capable assistance. As he was about to leave, I was shocked to learn that he was actually a successful engineer and my realtor’s brother-in-law! She had honored her appointment with me and had asked her brother-in-law to keep the unavailable Ken’s appointment! I am so embarrassed I haven’t been able to bring myself to call her and thank her! What do you suppose the engineer handyman told my realtor about me? Yikes! And while on that sentiment....... My older sister said that at a dinner party, one of her old friends asked her if she was related to this “blogger woman in Berkeley,” whose blog he and his wife visit frequently and would like to meet someday. At the thought of embarrassing my own respectable sister….More Yikes!

A Caravan Filled With Poetry & Music

(a.k.a. karevani az sher o moosighi) The boys and I listened to Marvin Gaye this weekend. I love his song Heard it through the grapevine. It is such a soulful song and I never get tired of it, not to mention the fact that once upon a time when I lived with a less than honest partner, the song's lyrics felt apropos more than once! Like a mysterious gene, I’m afraid I have now passed my love for the song on to my kids, and they love listening to it (and sometimes moving to its beat), too! Listen to the music with pictures of Marvin Gaye and lyrics to the song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hajBdDM2qdg


Dance of Faith

This is a picture of Sama*, the spiritual dance of what is now widely referred to in the West as “whirling dervishes.” A few years ago, I made the pilgrimage to Konya (Ghouniyeh) in Turkey to attend the annual Resurrection (orooj) ceremonies of Molana (better known as Rumi in the West). I call it a pilgrimage, because it was one of the most important events in my life, transforming me in profound ways. Someday I will write about what I mean by that transformation which happened in a small non-pretentious khaneghah, what I saw and how I felt. It is a tall tale, actually, best said when I feel lighter and better-equipped to deal with the surge of emotions I will have to recall in order that I may tell you about it. For now, I leave you with images of the dance which as I have witnessed personally, is a pilgrimage of sorts in itself, as those I saw performing it in that austere khaneghah in Ghouniyeh, were not attached to anything or anyone around them, but had surrendered to a music and a calling that only they seemed to hear and follow, delivering the most awesome and moving scene to the ones witnessing it. This is a short video clip of the more formal Sama. http://www.whirlingdervishes.org/multimedia/Sema1.wmv . The one I will talk about later, though, was a much more spontaneous dance, with ordinary-looking men and women in it, touching in its simplicity and honesty. I wish you a weekend full of joy and relaxation. For those of you living in these parts, Happy Mother’s Day, regardless of your gender, marital status, and familial situation. We can only aspire to be as good to others as our mothers were to us and to our siblings. On Sunday I will go see a documentary about Iranian filmmakers at the University, findings of which you poor souls will have to read about next week! Be good and happy. * Iranians call it Sama and Turks call it Sema. I borrowed this photograph from the same source as the above video clip.


For My Mother

I dreamt of you and Baba again. You were both all dressed up again, going to yet another party! You both seemed in good health and good spirit, as you always do in my dreams. Something exciting is always happening around the two of you in my dreams, as it did in real life. Either you have guests or you are going to a party! Though the shape and style of the homes you have in my dreams vary, one time a cottage by a river, another our old-style villa in Tehran, yet another your Jordan apartment, you always seem to be happy, celebrating, and prosperous. Your intelligent eyes are filled with that same joie de vivre which you always had, and you don’t appear to be worrying for anything. I rather like that, remembering how you worried about every single one of us all the time. Do you remember our conversations? I stopped telling the others about those conversations, because it turned out a long time ago that whatever you guys talked about together, it wasn’t the same things you and I talked about. It seems that you and I had these private conversations, unique, deep and meaningful. Do you remember the prayer you used to do for me? Whenever I was worried about something at work and I asked you to pray for me, you would ask God to help me. You would say “God, please help my daughter and safeguard her reputation,” and this is the part that to this day reminds me of what a special woman you were, you would say: “My daughter’s is the reputation of all working women, safeguard their reputation.” My gorgeous, vivacious, brave, and intelligent Maman, Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven.

When Will I Learn How To Be Serious?

I stayed up late working on some volunteer material with a deadline, and had to wake up early to get ready and get the boys off to work. I also had an appointment with my good friend, Nahid, first thing in the morning. I had begged her to come and tell me where to put my two new art pieces on the wall. In the bright daylight, I looked around and there were dirty plates, cups, glasses, water bottles, soda cans, t-shirts, shoes, exercise weights, wet towels, dry towels, books, CD’s, etc. all over the kitchen, living room, family room, the hallway, and the bathroom. I was so mad I started yelling at the boys about the mess and how embarrassing it was for me to have a guest in this unkempt home. It must have been a good day for the two of them, because they had decided not to engage in the shouting match with me, as they often do, so they were actually relaxed and smiling as I went around picking things up, ranting and raving. At one point I was complaining about how unfair it is to have to clean up after three people, as I was picking up astray items and adding how none of those things belonged where they were placed. My older son said something about how I needed to relax, and I yelled: “You guys are slobs! My friend will be here any minute and this house looks like a mess! I can’t believe how irresponsible the two of you are! This is so unacceptable!” and with every word I was getting louder and louder. My younger son asked suddenly: “Mom, do you know where my bag is?” and I said: “Yes, sweetheart, I saw it downstairs on the dryer.” The three of us were quiet for a few minutes, and the two of them busted out laughing at my sudden change of tone and demeanor, in the middle of all the yelling. I turned my face to the side, so they won’t see that I, too, was laughing. When we were in the car, my older son kept laughing aloud. He said: “Mom, you’re just like me, you yell and then you forget that you were angry. You’re no good at this.” I was laughing, too, but I made sure they didn’t see me laughing, trying to appear angry, serious, and “in-charge.” I laughed for five minutes after I had dropped them off.


My 100th Post & Hide and Seek With Sina

I forgot to ask my blogger friends if this was a significant thing, like an 18th birthday or something, because it certainly feels special to me! Well, it isn’t really my 100th post, because one time by mistake I deleted a bunch of things I had written in December and January, and couldn’t retrieve them! But I celebrate anyway. I want to thank Mehran, Leva, and Jahanshah for helping me find the courage to let others come see my blog. I was writing but I never gave anyone the address to come see me! I was what I called a “Blogger Makhfi” for a while there! Having a blog has been one of the better things I have done in my life, I think. To celebrate it, I want to tell you about a blog I absolutely love to visit. It is called Mrs. Shin’s Diaries http://mrsshin.blogspot.com/ . Mrs. Shin is a young woman who lives with her husband and their 18-month old toddler in Tehran. She is an artist, a writer, a very creative young woman, and a thriving mother in the midst. It is so refreshing to read the way she handles and balances her child, her marriage, her career, her ambitions and her hopes. Her son, Sina, is at the core of most of her posts, and that always tugs at my heart, reminding me of the time my sons were so young. Yesterday she had a post about playing Hide and Seek with her son. This picture simply melted my heart! I just sat there looking at it for the longest time, wanting to open those closet doors to look at the sweet owner of those cute red-socked feet! Take a look and enjoy it as I did. Here’s a link to that post: http://mrsshin.blogspot.com/2007/05/blog-post_08.html


1:00 p.m. On A Beautiful Day

Today I had to run to San Francisco Airport to pick up a dear package, containing two works of art for which I have been waiting for months (I will say no more, because I want to tell you about it in a happy piece soon, containing pictures, words, sentiments, and all—so please no pushing and pulling for getting it out of me sooner than I’m ready!). Though I feel harried these days, with too many commitments and deadlines hanging over my head, I felt really happy and positive today, as it is such a beautiful and warm day in the Bay Area. So, if you want to know just how brazen (por-rou) I am, take a look at this picture. Please note:

  • I am not a good photographer.
  • I don’t have a good camera.
  • I am not a good driver.
  • I just had that car accident, and at the time of the accident I wasn’t even doing anything (you know, I wasn’t talking on the phone, talking to someone in the car, smoking, changing CD’s—I was not doing anything other than driving when I ran into that car in front of me).

So, I know you would appreciate my por-rougi when you see that this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. I took a picture with one hand, without focusing or looking at my subject, from inside a moving car, through the closed window. Not bad, ha? I did it to show you that it is a day to love living in the Bay Area. It is a good day to be me.

Touched by An Angel

I am working on a hard speech for Miss Phyllis’ memorial service which will be tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. I have already started writing it, but will continue working on it tonight. I so want to do a good job for my friend, and I hope it is a speech Phyllis would like. I will read a chapter again from Jibran Khalil Jibran’s The Prophet, talk some about her and her friends at work, and close with a poem from Maya Angelou, Touched by an Angel. I have a lot of stress, but I want to do this. It seems to be such a small tribute to a very good person who has left a big void in so many lives. I know I can't do anything about the accent, but there is a lot I can do with the love.



At the last hours of the weekend, I went to see Spiderman III with my sons. As young boys born in the US, exposure to comic heroes is inevitable and begins at a very early age. Spiderman has had a presence in our family’s imagination and dialogue for as long as we have known each other! I believe we get to live again through our children and their experiences in life, and I am grateful for the chance to have learned about this part of Americana through them. It felt good to be sitting in the theatre with the two of them, who are “special effects critics," commenting on what was “cool” and what was not. For me, it was pure fun to go to the movies with the two of them, something we haven’t been able to do much recently with our busy schedules. Popcorn in hand and sitting in that cool, dark theatre, I was so grateful for the few hours of peaceful bliss we had after the trials and tribulations of late. I do love going to the movies, and I am reminded again that the best things in life are free or don’t cost very much.

Time It Was And What A Time It Was, It Was

A friend of mine is going through a divorce. Mature and brave as he sounds in the decision he and his partner have made, I cannot help but notice the agony he seems to be experiencing. This agony presents itself as an occasional short remark, or the way he appears nostalgic about the past these days, quite possibly of a time in his life when he was happier and more hopeful about the future; or the way he stumbles when he appears ambivalent and unpracticed in referring to her as his “wife,” correcting himself quickly to refer to her as his “ex-wife.” Other than what he says, many of us can imagine and feel his agony quite well, because this is a path many of us have had to take during our lifetime. I have passed this painful road, and though I would rather forget about it, for his sake I would talk about it, hoping that it can be helpful. I believe the worst thing about a divorce or a break-up is not leaving a familiar face, a familiar space, or losing things in the process. I believe it is losing the hope and optimism we had when we were first united with our lover. No feeling in the world compares with the wonderful sense of private and personal accomplishment we feel when after thinking, feeling, wondering, hoping, trying, failing, trying again, and winning the heart of someone we found special, we are united with that person. That first knowing look, that first proclamation of feelings for each other, that first kiss and that first embrace are all moments completely unforgettable and incomparable to any other memory or accomplishment in life. Long after we break up, something inside our hearts longs for those feelings and memories, and something in our minds resists the long and painful journey of falling in love again and the fear of another potential failure. That battle rages continually inside people who have experienced the phenomenon of divorce. Sorry, this is a long piece! You may read the rest here: http://www.iranian.com/Kaviani/2007/May/Divorce/index.html . If you are in Iran and can't access Iranian.com, please leave a comment and I'll forward the article to you.


Coming Up For Air

Women dancing at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. It has been a hard couple of weeks. I have been a little depressed, a little confused, a little under the weather, and very lucky, as I had a major car accident yesterday and along with the guy in the other car, escaped unharmed. The car is probably totaled, but I won’t know until the insurance folks come take a look next week. My little car looked so sad as it was put on the tow truck and driven away. I wanted to go tell it that I’m sorry for rear-ending the car in front of me, and that I did try to stop in time but it was not possible. But I thought that the tow-truck driver and the CHP Officer would have thought that I was high or something for having a conversation with my car, so I just whispered those words in my heart. I didn’t leave you with a weekend good wish on Friday, and I am about to fix that! So, here’s wishing that you have had a good weekend, and that wherever in the world you are you are experiencing joy, health, and happiness. Take a look at this slideshow, which is all about a celebration of dance with some very nice imagery. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqhNPY882kE&mode=related&search= So, as I felt sick and bruised and immobile, due to the developing "no-car" situation, I had time to reflect and rest, which I spent writing something new. It’s about love and divorce and I wrote it for a friend of mine. When it’s published I will write the link. I ran into my friend Saba, who said that she reads my articles and enjoys them, and comes to visit the blog routinely. I asked her which article she read, and she said: "Oh, all of them." I’m really having a good hard time with this business of being seen and not be able to see, even by people I know! Be good and safe.

Call From A Train

My sons are on a train to work. My younger son calls me. The minute I pick up the phone I realize I am on his speaker—a bad sign, which means that they are having an argument and I have been called as a referee, and they don’t trust each other to convey my ruling fairly, so they must both be listening! So, here’s the question he asks me: "Maman, what does Ajale Moallagh mean?" As I stumble to explain the meaning, they are quiet, and all I can hear is the sounds of the train in the background. When I’m finished explaining, there is a silence, and I say reluctantly, "Heloooooooo?" And my younger son says "Thank You" and hangs up. Another discombobulating day in my life.


شام ونهار نداریم..................جاش میخوریم کیک زرد
Photo by Jahanshah Javid ( http://www.iranian.com/JahanshahJavid/2007/May/Concert/73.html)



خط سهراب سپهري «. . . آدم چه دير مي‌فهمد. من چه دير فهميدم که انسان يعني عجالتا.» From: http://www.parand.se/

Free Ali Farahbakhsh, Prisoner of Conscience

He continues to remain imprisoned after five months. Let's not forget about him. Here's my previous post and article about him: http://nazykaviani.blogspot.com/2007/04/for-ali-farahbakhsh.html Photo from Hanif Mazrooee Blog: http://hanif.ir/


Jimmy Carter

Former President, and Noble Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter came to Berkeley this afternoon. He was promoting his new book: Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. In a packed Zellerbach Auditorium, he talked to an audience of mostly students (only 150 seats were made available to faculty and staff). He received a Berkeley Medal of Honor, the highest honor the University extends to dignitaries (Berkeley does not issue honorary degrees).

For me, there were three points of appeal to Carter’s presence at the University: I believe Jimmy Carter to have done very well as a human rights activist (so much better than he did as a US President, I believe). Additionally, he is a man very much hated by a group of Iranians who hold him directly responsible for the regime change of 1979 in Iran. I don’t actually agree with the second point, but it intrigued me enough to want to hear this man talk. The last point is that I believe whether he was good or bad, effective or useless, a servant of human rights or a traitor to them, history will have until eternity to judge Jimmy Carter and other leaders to measure and evaluate them; however, in my limited lifetime, whenever I have a chance to go see major figures of our contemporary history, I never pass it up.

Jimmy Carter talked about his book, and the plight of Palestinians. The overall premise of his book is that while he criticizes suicide bombers and those who "consider the killing of Israelis as victories,” he says "some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians." He said Israel will never find peace unless it withdraws from its neighbor’s lands and stops persecuting Palestenians.

He then had a talk with Orville Schell, Dean of Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Schell asked Carter several questions, including what he thought about US taking military action against Iran, and he replied it would be a catastrophe, worse than Iraq.

Another interesting day in Berkeley, wouldn't you say?


Free Smiles For Everyone

I stepped out to go to lunch, and I noticed that just outside our office building the police had closed the streets leading to Berkeley City Hall. I looked across, and found a group of demonstrators standing near the City Hall building. They were "immigrant rights activists" who were demanding citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a halt to planned increases in citizenship fees, guest worker proposals, arrests and deportations and increased border policing. They also wanted an end to the war in Iraq and policies that they said punish the poor. They were a lively crowd, it seemed. I am used to seeing demonstrations around Berkeley. This city and its citizens have always stood for something a little different, a characteristic I love and cherish about this part of the world. What was interesting to me, in view of what has been happening in Tehran, was that the police officers who had closed the streets leading to the City Hall, and were standing there keeping an eye on the crowd were all relaxed, seemed to be in good spirits, had smiles on their faces, and actually looked like they were enjoying themselves in the sun. I remembered the pictures I saw of the Tehran police talking to Iranians on the street just this past week, and remembered that none of them were smiling, none of them seemed relaxed and kind, not really. That made me sad. I know some people might say why in the middle of everything else, I am comparing Tehran police to Berkeley police--to that I say that I am not talking about their patrol cars, uniforms, or wages. I'm not even talking about the excellent physical condition of the young and handsome male and female police officers I saw today. I am talking about the way each police force looks at the very citizens they are supposed to protect. I am talking about a smile. It won't cost people anything to smile, will it? It won't hurt anyone to look kindly at the very people who pay their salary and wages. Kindness is free, isn't it?


The first time I went to a Japanese Drums concert in Berkeley, my children were very young, so they couldn’t come with me; but I played the tape I bought that day for them for many years (on many Friday mornings in Tehran, this is what I played to wake them up with a good mood, because the music was so exciting for young boys!). This year in February, the three of us went to see the Japanese Drums concert in Berkeley. It was an amazing time. Japanese drums are really exciting to hear. Their players, also, are not your ordinary musicians. They are Samurai who train in many disciplines and are in extraordinary physical shape, as playing these drums sitting, standing up, or bending precariously as they have to do (due to the size and shape of the drums) is an extremely demanding task. My kids now own a Kodo CD which they insist on playing in the car sometimes on high volume (to get back at me for all those Friday mornings, I guess!). All I can say is that on those days my car sounds like no one else’s car, and our family gives new meaning to what Iranians might call: Karevani az sher o moosighi (A caravan filled with poetry and music)! Take a look at this little excerpt about Kodo, and you can also go watch the clip at the bottom of this post to judge for yourself. For over 30 years, the "samurai percussionists" of Kodo have explored the limitless possibilities of the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko, honoring the past and boldly striking out in new directions for this vibrant living art form. The versatile performers dance, mime, and play a variety of instruments, but it is their awesome drums that mesmerize the audience, including the massive o-daiko, a 900-pound decorated instrument carved from the trunk of a single tree and played by two men. An international phenomenon, the company has given over 2,700 performances on all five continents. "Superlatives don't really exist to convey the primal power and bravura beauty of Kodo" (Chicago Tribune). Here’s an amateur clip of the concert we went to in a different location: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl-f5a7BgSA&mode=related&search= Enjoy!