One generation, three centuries
I am daunted by how the images
have remained intact
despite the passage of time
February 22, 2005
Among the many political articles, I come across
a short piece someone has written about what he remembers of
life in Iran [See: "Once
upon a dream"].
His words sound almost as nostalgic as I feel and what I read
is so saturated with images, voices and fragrance, it opens
an old door to memories. I know that door too well for it took
me years to build it. I put a padlock on it a long time ago
and threw away the key. Or, so I thought.
I remember once I mentioned a "dah-shahi" to a
young Iranian girl. The puzzled look on her face reminded me
belonged to an entirely different generation. I promised myself
never to let generation gap separate me from the young.
My grandmother's voice resonates in my ears. "A dozen
of eggs used to cost two 'abbassi'. Back then, one
did not measure life's value by money alone," she
said as her eyes glazed over with nostalgia. I tried to
understand the world to which Nanjoon belonged, but it felt as
if she knew nothing about mine. I would never become my grandmother;
and decided never to tell my children about the regret of having
proceeded to a more convenient, but far less humane era.
The door to the storage of decades is once again
ajar. Memories pull me in and I am daunted by how the images
have remained intact
despite the passage of time.
As I read the article, I see those familiar scenes
as if it was only yesterday. I know that boy who rolls a tire
down the alley,
guiding it with the touch of a twig. I've seen the blackberry
stains on his face and I've picked Jasmines from that backyard
to string a fragrant necklace. Still, the author's name
suggests that he must be young and I refuse to feel old by telling
him what a 'dah-shahi' could have bought back when
I was a child or indeed what it is.
I find a certain beauty in the mere ability to
understand him, the beauty of knowing that I belong to a generation
have a three-century span. Having played with handmade rag
dolls, I grew up to learn about robots, the child who rubbed
on her cheeks grew up to witness the transformation of faces
by cosmetic surgery and she moved away from a small town that
still had carriages to where the space shuttles were launched.
Sooner or later, one learns to live with memories
and endure the mixed emotions they entail. But in order to ease
we also need to remember that although those days will never
come back, they are not lost. It is through those memories that
we grow stronger, more interesting and a lot more understanding.
No, we can't recreate the same era for our children, but
having lived through it enables us to become better parents and
appreciate what the next generation is all about.
No wonder so many poets have used the metaphor
of a river to describe life. Indeed it flows past places which
it will never
see again and although we have no idea which mountain it originated
from or where it will end, there's enough beauty in the
flow itself. The river endures much hardship, but as Akhavan
puts is so eloquently in his poem of the lagoon -- Mordab --
the ecstasy in coming out of a rock and hitting ones head against
a rock makes the journey a thrill. When you focus on the current,
looking back is not only unnecessary, but it doesn't have
to be so sad.
As a people who seem to have endured the lifestyle
of three separate centuries, middle aged Iranians of today are
unique. No, we cannot
recreate the lifestyle that we knew but, to be fair, we need
to remember both the good and the bad. Painting a colorful
picture of all that was so precious is unfair to those who rely
in their search of the truth.
The author even misses the cruelty of the teacher's ruler
on the back of his hand. I want him to know that those teachers
are still there, only now they ride around town in their SUVs
and their ruler is a machine gun. He misses climbing the tree
for more blackberries, but when I went in search of that tree
they told me it had been cut a long time ago to make room for
a larger bank. And, with grandmother long gone, her land is sold
and her belongings have been confiscated.
"What then?" he may ask. "Has
all that beauty vanished?"
No! Not as long as it remains within the
people and not while our precious memories remind us who we really
The stories were passed on to us by our elders and we, in turn,
make a gift of it to the next generation. Although we each remember
our own unique chain of events, they will continue to link us,
bond us, and the union of the raindrops will make the river flow.