Distances created by culture, money, religion...
By M. Taheri
November 7, 2002
My mother entered the room and said, "Remember Samaneh? In shomal? Well,
she's getting married with some taxi driver and hardly has enough money, not even
for a jaheeziye (dowry). Poor thing. If you think you have anything that would suit
her for a jaheeziye, give them to me and we'll send them to her."
As she left, I carelessly murmured under my lips, "Yeah, ok..." But there
was something else going through my heart: Samaneh, the daughter of my aunt's housekeeper...
My parents are originally from shomal, Mazandaran in particular. Now, all our relatives
have been scattered all over Iran (mostly in Tehran) and the world -- except for
a couple family members who remained in shomal.
One of my aunts has a house in shomal and in Tehran, living half the time here and
the other half there. In her house in shomal they have a housekeeper, who also occasionally
comes to their house in Tehran to help.
One summer, years ago when I, along with my family, had come to Iran for a vacation
for the first time in years, we stayed at my aunt's house in shomal. I was still
a child then, trying to explore this motherland of mine and the culture of its people
which I had left at the age of six.
Staying at the 'shomali house' I would sleep with the chirping of the crickets and
the aroma of trees during the usually hot nights. And in the mornings I would wake
up to the songs of the sparrows, the burning sun from afar, and sometimes to the
voice of the namaki in the alleys nearby.
It all seemed a very new experience to me, having lived away from here for a few
years, but at the same time I could sense the repetition of my earlier childhood
before moving to the U.S. The feeling which I had forgotten and noticed I had been
missing after I got a chance to experience it again, was repeating itself within
Being closer to this childhood again, I started understanding how far I had become
from it. During the days in the hot humid weather of shomal, if there were no plans
to visit family members or have them visit us or to go to the beach and perhaps take
a swim, I loved to walk or simply sit in the large yard of the house, exploring the
tiny nature the place held.
Sometimes I would pick the flowers and sometimes I would collect the oranges which
had fallen off the trees unto the grass. Many times I would take the hose and start
watering all the plants, the variety of flowers - the picotees, the geraniums, the
gladioluses - the grass, and the variety of trees. That must have been my favorite
All the fun in the large yard of my aunt's house was shared with Samaneh, the housekeeper's
daughter who would come along to help her mother at times. She was around my age,
maybe a year older or younger, I can't quite remember. We were still children at
the time. No matter how different our lives and how different our families and how
different our surroundings, we still shared the simple joyful thoughts.
We could find laughter in simplicities such as watering the trees, we could exchange
smiles over seeing a butterfly, and the little funny arguements we would have on
little unimportant stuff which seemed so important to us, then the simple reconciliation
after the slight rare arguements. We were still children and the distances money,
cultural differences, and surroundings always create still did not exist much between
us. We were good friends, without those virtual distances.
The weeks in shomal passed by quickly, and so did the time my family and I stayed
in Iran. Time in larger scales also passed by quickly, the years of still being a
child and the years after that. Now, living in Iran again I am 19-years-old, and
Samaneh, whom I haven't seen since that year, must be around that age too.
After what my mother had said, I couldn't help to think
of the distances which are created between people after growing up. The distances
that cultural differences, veiw points toward life, money, power, fame, sometimes
nationality and religion can create. I took a look at the present Samaneh and the
present me: What a difference! She was now getting married, trying to collect a jaheeziye,
and going to be a mother of a child soon (as later I heard my mother saying that
Samaneh was pregnant too).
On the other hand here I was, not thinking about marriage in a serious way at all,
definately not a jaheeziye (not my type of thing!), instead thinking about dating,
working, my university, poetry, music, and different arts, about the possibility
of moving back to the U.S., and thinking about things such as feminism!
It feels like I live in a totally different world than Samaneh does. If I saw her
now I doubt I could communicate with her at all. But when we were children during
those weeks we were really friends. I had as good a communication with her as I had
with my other friends which I still keep in touch with. It's strange to me, the distance
being created as you grow up from being a child.
If from a spot on earth you start two lines with
the slightest angle between them, and you continue the lines to a far distance, say
to the moon, by the time it gets there the lines may be so far away that each one
is on one side of the moon.
It seems that life is the same, as time goes by the simple unimportant distances
at our childhood seem to grow so much that later it becomes hard to remember the
times we were all so close to one another, and we shared the same simplicity that
todays children hold.
I took a look out the window in the hot summer evening of Tehran, did a little prayer
for Samaneh in my heart, then headed toward my closet and started getting ready to
go out at night to a restuarant with a bunch of friends.