Something to smile about
Yes, thank God for Noruz
March 16, 2001
It's near. You can tell by just walking in the street, or looking up
at the sky. You can feel it without even catching a glimpse.
Memories of Noruz past wash over me like a wave, and how amazing it
is that I remember all of them, from the time my brain first started holding
on to the most precious of times. Even the name sounds pretty. . . or the
idea that people living in this ancient, beautiful land have been preparing
themselves for such a day for thousands of years. By celebrating Noruz,
I feel as if I'm somewhat honoring their memory.
Noruz is the only day of the year when ALL Iranians, no matter where
in the world they live, no matter what group, religion or political party
they belong to, can rejoice and laugh with a fellow enemy without planning
to shoot him afterwards.
Noruz is like our version of "shahrol haram" (the month when
Arab tribes had to live in peace without raising war). It is a symbol of
our glorious past, and the hope that it may be regained -- even at a time
when something like that seems way too impossible and far from reach.
There's something very comforting in knowing that. Even though Noruz
has coincided with a thousand and one tragedies, it has always been able
to help us recover, coming to every home year after year, giving the most
unfortunate something to smile about. Muslim, Christian, Jewish or atheist
-- everyone can celebrate wholeheartedly without argument
The name "Noruz" explains it better than anything else: It's
a "new day" in which everything can start fresh. And just as
the earth ends a tiring year-long journey to start over again, we too,
can once again hope, and believe that the coming year can be a new start
for us as well; one in which past mistakes might not be repeated.
For a country with people as different as night and day, a time like
this shouldn't be taken for granted. Noruz for me is the memory of sitting
in front of the sabzeh and impatiently waiting for it to grow. It was a
true mystery: Why do plants grow so fast on those TV shows, but so slowly
in my grandmother's garden? The pretty goldfish were visited every five
minutes just in case they suffered a fatal heart attack.
And then there was poetry.
Shakespeare is a gift from heaven. Blake is quite a treat. And Robert
Frost is one of the best poets ever. But Hafez is something else. What
Hafez writes is not within normal human standards. There's a whole different
world in his poems, not one I understand very well but just one that seems
way too awesome and extraordinary to leave unexplored.
How many times did my grandfather open the pretty-looking book on the
table, and began reading in whispers as I watched him with much curiosity.
Unlike other books he read, this one never seemed to come to an end. One
day I decided , like the grown-ups, to ask him for a faal-e Hafez.
Grandfather said I should first repeat his words. He recited the faateheh.
-- "Why do we say the faateheh grandpa?"
-- "So that Hafez would go to heaven."
-- "But hasn't God decided that already?"
-- "He might reconsider."
I was sure he was mistaken. God had already made up his mind about Hafez.
But I obeyed and did my best to repeat grandfather's words. I knew he was
a religious man. What or whom he believed in was a mystery, but I loved
him more than the whole world put together.
No one is sure when Hafez first found his way in the hearts of so many
Iranians, but one guess is that it all goes back to the time of Sultan
Ahmad Ilkani, who ruled over Baghdad. He was doubtful about attacking Tabriz.
Legend has it that he opened his Divan-e Hafez and came across a poem that
ended like this:
araagh o faars gerefti be she'r khosh haafez,
biyaa keh nobat-e faars o vaght-e tabriz ast
Some think I'm crazy, and others only laugh , but I truly believe that
my Hafez-e Shirazi talks to people, and even gives them a helping hand,
but only to those who are willing to ask for one. So this Noruz I think
I'll bring down my beautiful Divan from the bookshelf, and put it beside
the pretty mirror and dancing goldfish, all ready for the moment when nature
once again will smile her prettiest smile, forgetting all the horrible
things that happened in the past.
Sometimes life hands down a moment so precious, so overwhelming, you
almost glow, and I know I can expect one of these rare moments every first
day of Farvardin. I will put my Divan on the haftseen, just the way my
grandfather taught me. And on Noruz I'll open my magical book, just the
way grandfather did when I sat next to him with awe and wonder as a care-free
five-year-old, and perhaps come across a poem much like this one:
goftam zamaan-e eshrat didi keh chon saraamad
goftaa khaamoosh haafez, kin ghoseh ham sar aayad
And I will hope with all my heart that he will be right once more, just
as he has always been.