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Diaspora

Sometimes
I wonder sometimes what is it about us that still after many years of living outside of Iran connects us together

By Darya Sarkar
October 8, 2003
The Iranian

How does it feel like to have a home and yet search for a place to fit in? This question is perhaps relevant to those of us living outside of Iran. Living here, we have friends and families from different backgrounds. At times we run into Persians who have just come from Iran and have already forgotten the language, and yet manage to meet people who grew up here all their life and still give you a "what's up" in Persian with their little slangish accent. 

I wonder sometimes if we all belong to the same country or not, and what is it about us that still after many years of living outside of Iran connects us together when we hear the word "Persian", or when we hear people speaking Farsi. We tend to instinctively turn around and look, sometimes with a little attitude. We judge each other. Let's not deny that judgment exists in our culture. We may all look the same, but we are still different. But what makes us different from those who grew up in Iran and never left Iran? Does the fact that we live in Europe or America make us any better or them any less civilized than us? 

Sometimes I do wonder how different I would have been if my parents never brought me to America. Maybe I would have turned out to be an Islamic girl waiting until someone came to my khaastegaari, married a Persian man and had kids. Or, maybe I would have turned into a wild, rebellious girl, having boyfriends, and going against the rules and my culture's expectations, and being influenced by the American dream. I don't know.  I guess I would never know what I would have been like if I would have never left Iran. But one thing that I know is that I would have been a different person. Maybe a complete contradict of who I am now.

I am not an American girl nor Iranian. I am just me. For years I struggled to figure my identity and belong to a certain group. I am just me, with a mix of both cultures and a mix of every place I have traveled to and every person I have met. I could be Indian, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and many more.  I have learned from my best friends who have invited me into their home and culture. But I still feel lost sometimes not being able to be just one thing. When with Persians, they think I am American and insist on the fact that I don't look THAT Persian, and Americans on the other hand think that I am not white enough.

Sometimes I do wish to go back to Iran, marry a good Muslim and be a good wife, just as I am expected in my Persian culture, but I am still scared. I am scared of going back home and not being able to fit in. As a child coming to America, it takes years to fit in and become the same color as the rest of the crowd. You slowly lose your Persian accent, assimilate into the new culture and soon no one looks at you as a foreigner, and they categorize you as "one of the White people". 

Sometimes I do want to leave the American life for good and go back to the old me. To my old school when every day I had to wear my manteau and roosari, I want to go back to first grade, the times that for teacher's day my dad would take me to the flower shop at Agha Ali's store right at the corner two bocks away from our house to buy flowers for my teachers. 

What about every Norouz when we would sit by the haftseen, to start our family gatherings? Or my cousins whom I grew up with, or my old friends who have gotten married now? What about going home and finding the chador my grandma made for me for my first trip to Mashhad.

Sometimes I want them all back. I want to leave all my tube tops, tank tops, and short skirts behind just to be able to wear that chador once again. Sometimes I miss the smell of Sonbol and Yas in the backyard of our old house. Sometimes I do feel lost but I get comforted to know that I have a home that is always mine. I feel guilty sometimes for the girls in Iran. For all the freedom that I have and they don't, for the fact that I can do things and be ok. In fact I am not judged here and what I do is ok in my American culture.

I still read the news and buy books about Iran. It's the only way left for me to stay connected to a part of my past that I can't have anymore. Although fitted in this country and culture, I look at the pictures of people in Iran and know they are my people. Their pain does make me cry and their suffering still affects me personally and I just don't think I can ever let go of that.

Sometimes we do try to black out the past and create a new world for ourselves but sometimes every now and then something little can remind us of the memory of home. This feeling can only exist in our hearts. So it does not really matter how I look or dress or how much of an American girl I am through other people's eyes. There is only a part of me in my heart that assures me of who I am and that is the part that people often can't see.

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