The travelers, Part II
By Laleh Haghighi
April 14, 2003
My maternal grandmother Bozorg was saved from the
neglect of her drug-addicted father and uncaring stepmother thanks
to her older brother, who took her from the provincial town of Hamedan
to the bustling capital Tehran.
In those days, traveling from the Iranian countryside to Tehran
was akin to flying from the Earth to the Moon. Such was the difference
between a sleepy, traditional provincial Iranian town like Hamedan
and the bustling, burgeoning modern capital. Even today, there is
a sharp contrast: Tehran is a world apart from the rest of Iran,
perhaps even the rest of the planet.
Bozorg, who had been used to sit in a dark room all day with no
one to talk to, encountered a big shock. But it was a beneficial
shock. Although her brother had resigned himself to the fact that
his little sister had been struck dumb, Bozorg amazingly made a
quick recovery upon entering his noisy, warm household full of children,
servants, relatives and guests. She soon regained her faculties
of talking, laughing and socializing with other people.
Of course, it wasn't like Cinderella suddenly became a princess
overnight. After all, what value or respect had a penniless little
orphaned girl in the society of Iran, where a woman's worth was
defined by either father or husband. So Bozorg was treated as the
poor relation in her brother's home. Even though she was around
the same age, maybe slightly older, than her nephews and nieces,
she was relegated to doing house chores, working alongside the other
The most bitter regret of her life was that she was never allowed
to go to school like the rest of the children and this haunted her
until her old age. However, she relished in being allowed to roam
freely among other people, to be talked to, listened to. She felt
for the first time that she was alive.
While still in her teens, Bozorg's family arranged a match for
her with my grandfather, Pedar. They met on their wedding day and
Bozorg felt incredibly relieved to see that her future husband was
young and had a full set of lovely thick, wavy hair. At her tender
age, her only wish in life was that the husband she was destined
to would not be old and decrepit like many other matches she had
seen. And her wish was for once fulfilled.
Pedar and Bozorg, being both young and penniless, bonded very quickly
during the first very hard years of marriage. Bozorg's mother
in law, affectionately known simply as Aveji in the family, took
Bozorg under her wing and heaped much love and affection on her.
Bozorg, thirsty for maternal guidance, reciprocated enthusiastically.
Many years later, when Aveji was on her death bed, it was in Bozorg's
house that she found the last comforts of her life.
It was sad to see the end for a woman who was such an incredibly
strong matriarch. Aaeji, who had successfully resisted the idea
of marriage until the "old maid" age of fifteen years
old, actually married her husband out of love. She had fallen in
love with his photograph which depicted a tall and handsome young
man, looking much younger than his thirty years. Aveji herself was
as short as an apple so the two made quite a funny picture wherever
they went. But what Aveji lacked in height, she made up with her
zest for life, her passion and her exuberance. Her husband, a shy
quiet type despite his prominent stature, was madly head over heels
for her and remained so throughout their marriage. So it was with
great difficulty that he resigned himself to leaving his wife and
children and go to Tehran to find work.
But Aveji would have none of this. Despite everyone's protests
that she should stay in her birthtown of Hamedan and take care of
her children while her husband slaved away in Tehran to send them
back the necessary money to survive, Aveji was adamant that her
family stick together and that her children grow up with a father.
None of the obstacles mattered to this fierce young girl: Neither
the fact that the only means of transportation she could afford
to and from Tehran was a rickety old bus. Nor that the route from
Hamedan to Tehran was full of potential dangers: thieves, murderers
and rapists who would likely target a "helpless" lone
young girl. Aaveji took the hand of her children one at a time,
and went back and forth continuously until she had delivered every
single kid to their father in Tehran. Then, she took the rest of
their measly belongings and joined them in the capital.
Perhaps the kinship between Bozorg and Aveji went beyond that of
a surrogate mother-daughter relationship. Perhaps these two women
had looked at each other and smiled, recognizing from the first
glimpse that each had met in the other -- a fellow traveler.
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