A long line in our family of perpetual travelers
By Laleh Haghighi
April 8, 2003
They say a child's long-term memory kicks in after
the age 1. My grandmother was maybe a little bit older when she
got her earliest memory. It consisted of seeing her father pulling
her mother by the hair and dragging her from room to room as she
screamed and wiggled hopelessly to free herself from his iron grip.
Bozorg's mother was, people say, a beautiful young
woman from a well to do Hamedan family. Although she had many jewels,
her most precious ornament was probably her long, thick mane of
hair which she kept in a neat braid that would have rivaled Rapunzel
in length, volume, and magnificence. But unfortunately, the object
of her pride became the instrument of her torture in the hands of
her violent husband.
To this day, Bozorg has talked very little of her father. My mother
herself vaguely remembers seeing her grandfather only once or twice
at their home when she was a child. Even then, she says, he never
spoke to her or any of his other six grandchildren. He wouldn't
even make eye contact. He just sat at the dining table and ate in
silence while Bozorg put dish after dish in front of him.
From what little rumors my mother has gathered, Bozorg's father
was a hopeless drug addict to the end of his life. He squandered
his wife's possessions, and beat her to a pulp if she tried to refuse
him the money needed for his destructive habit. He even stole all
of her jewels which she had carefully and lovingly hidden since
her wedding day, not daring to touch the priceless gems for fear
they would get lost or stolen.
Bozorg never knew the reason for her mother's death. Some say it
was a broken heart. It simply may have been one broken limb too
many. In those days, even the seed of the idea that would form the
concept of domestic abuse had not come into existence in the remote
provincial town of Hamadan, nor the rest of the world for that matter.
After her mother's death, Bozorg was not allowed to go to school
anymore. Her father, for whatever reason Iranian men had those days,
decided that the place of a girl should be in her home, not on the
outside where she could be "corrupted." Soon after, Bozorg's
father remarried. The woman he chose as a second wife was the very
contrast of Bozorg's mother.
Outwardly, she was a ferociously pious woman who played a prominent
figure in the community because of her supposed religious strictness
and morality. But in reality, she was a greedy woman with a cold
calculating heart and an acid tongue, motivated in life solely by
her own interest and survival.
After Bozorg's father passed away many years later, this octogenarian
woman did not even allow the corpse of her husband to become cold
before she started hunting for another husband. Who am I to judge
her? Maybe she believed (rightly so?) that the only key to her survival
in the society she lived in was the protection of a man.
Bozorg's stepmother did not take any interest whatsoever
in the little orphaned child left in her care. And Bozorg's
father was obviously too busy injecting his arms with all kinds
of substances to notice his child was left to sit in a corner of
her room all day and all night, with no human contact. Not even
a distracted hand would perfunctorily give her a pat on the head
in passing, like one would pet a dog.
She could very well have wasted away, forgotten, in the confines
of an old home, with a drug addict for a father and an uncaring
stepmother if it wasn't for her older brother, already a
grown man with a wife and family of his own in Tehran, visiting
There, he found his little sister in a quasi-catatonic state, swaying
back and forth continuously, with a fixed stare on her face, and
no recognition that anything or anyone was around her. He also noticed
to his dismay that her little fingernails had turned black, as if
reflecting the gloomy state of her health. Bozorg's older
brother decided once and for all to take his sister to live with
him and his family in Tehran. These plans were met with scarce protest
by Bozorg' parents, who seemed surprised to be reminded that
they had a child living among them.
And so the fate was sealed. Bozorg's bags were packed and she started
on the first trip in her life, which would take her from her native
Hamedan to the capital of Iran. This would not be Bozorg's last
trip however. My grandmother would merely become the first in a
long line in our family of perpetual travelers.
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