I wish I'd broken both my legs
By Kamran Seyed Moussavi
August 2, 2001
I've never been, even at very early age, a subscriber to deterministic
thinking. So any time grown-ups would say things like "it was his (or
her) time" when someone young had died, or "it is not his (or
her) time yet" when someone very old was still living, I wondered.
Yes, I just wondered and doubted. What is this pre-determined time? Is
it assigned? By whom? What is the criteria? Why, over a 24-hour span, did
Mohammad Kashfee, my seventh grade bench- and close play-mate, and mighty
old Naneh Zaynab, who raised my father and his siblings, have to die? Ehsan
Geda (beggar) seemed to be even older than her, and he was still alive.
Cruel thinking? Yes. A legitimate question, nevertheless.
There is a story in Mawlana's famed Mathnawi which goes like this:
A man comes across Ezrail (the Grim Reaper, for our Western friends) in
the town's main bazaar and Ezrail gives him an unusual look. Very disturbed,
the man rushes to King Solomon's court and says to him: "I saw Ezrail
in the bazaar today and he gave an angry look. I'm afraid that he's after
me and I don't want to go just now. Would you please spare my life by sending
me as far away from here as possible, say to India?"
King Solomon complies and sends him at once to India on the wings of
the Eastern Wind. The next day when the king holds his daily public court,
he sees Ezrail amongst the attendants and asks him: "Why in the world
did you terrify my subject by giving him such an angry look?" To which
Ezrail replies: "Your Majesty, that was not an angry look but an astonished
one. Because right before I met that man, the Lord had instructed me to
take that fellow's life in India three days later. But when I saw him in
the bazaar, I honestly thought t the Lord had made a mistake, and I said
to myself there was no way this man could go to India in three days to face
his destiny, even if he turned into a bird."
What follows is not a fable. It is a true story about my brother Mohammad.
It was in the Spring of 1980, at the height of the hostage crises, when
the Carter Administration ordered all Iranian diplomats out of the country.
At that time, Mohammad was an Iranian naval officer who was immune from
this diplomatic order and did not have to leave. But leave, he decided to
He summoned me from Oklahoma to come to Washington DC, to take care of
his affairs after his departure. I vividly remember his American counter-part
and close friend, J.C., crying (I mean literally in tears) and begging him:
"Don't be so fucking stupid Mohammad. Why do you have to be so stubborn?
What for? Do you really think you're appreciated back there? Why don't you
fucking stay? You don't have to leave, and you know that. At least let Louisa
and the kids stay, the fuck with you." Mohammad replied with laughter:
"Once a dumb Yank, always a dumb Yank. I'm going back there to get
ready to kick your guys' asses, when you guys decide to attack."
Mohammad and his family left shortly afterwards. His determined face,
while waiting to board the plane at Dulles Airport, is my last live memory
He took his wife and two kids to Iran. They then went back-and-forth
to Europe several times. The Americans never attacked and the hostages came
home after 444 days of captivity. Mohammad later retired from the Iranian
navy and migrated to Italy, his wife's birthplace.
A couple of years later, he decided to visit our parents in Iran. On
his way back from the Iranian consulate in Rome, he was stroked by a man
riding a Vespa motorcycle traveling extremely fast. He told me on the phone
later that the moment of contact was pretty scary. But his injuries were
surprisingly minor. At the hospital, he kept telling Louisa: "Oh man,
I could have died in this thing. What luck. I only have a broken leg, that's
all. What luck. Imagine, if it was any worse, I couldn't go to Iran."
Three weeks later, and still wearing a soft cast on his fractured shin,
Mohammad arrived in Tehran. He was arrested only two weeks later and sent
to Evin prison. Convicted as a mofsede fel-arz, "warrior against
god and his messenger", and "enemy of Islam", he was sentenced
to death and executed in November 1985, somewhere in Tehran.
What is interesting is that in one of his last prison meetings with his
wife, resembling a corpse after having lost 65 lbs., he said: "Do you
remember the hospital in Rome? Do you recall me repeating 'What luck'? Do
you? I wish I'd broken both my legs then. No, I wish I had my back broken.
That way I could be with you and the kids on a wheelchair, but alive. Forgive
me for being selfish."
I have been held at gun point in America, this land of sea-to-shining-sea,
three times. I am still alive. Makes you wonder! Doesn't it?