New York, Wednesday August 23
After Hossein and Nance broke the horrible news to me, my mind underwent
a strange reaction. Instead of falling apart, my tears magically dried out.
I ceased feeling confused, hurt, or even guilty. I simply and methodically
put all those feelings aside. I knew exactly what I had to do.
I spent the next day making the necessary phone calls. Fortunately, it
was bAbA joon who picked up the phone when I dialed my parents' number.
As always, he refrained from asking unnecessary questions and wished me
luck. Derrick was equally magnanimous. "I think you are doing the right
thing darling," he said. "You can't give yourself to your audience
on stage when your mind is wandering thousands of miles away... Don't worry
about the play, this is why you have an understudy... We'll be happy to
welcome you back when you have figured things out..."
Aaahhhh... Finally my tomato juice. I thank the flight attendant and
gulp down the refreshing liquid.
I am going to Paris.
Thursday August 24
Arrived at Charles de Gaulle early in the morning as scheduled. The customs
officers looked at me suspiciously when I passed the gate in my pink pumas
and track pants, wearing my New York Yankees T-Shirt and baseball cap. I
am carrying no luggage: Just my knapsack and of course holding onto you,
dear little diary, firmly in my hand. After a perfunctory check of my knapsack,
a haughty "Allez-y! Allez-y!" ushers me outside. Welcome to Paris!
Grabbed the first taxi in sight and immediately gave the address for
the Time Magazine Paris Office. I don't have Ali's home address (Hossein
thinks he might be staying with friends but he doesn't know who) but I feel
very light-hearted. Am not scared at all, in fact quite euphorically confident
that I will find him even though I have one measly address and this City
is immense. Even took the time to smile at the ironies of life. Did not
follow Ross to Los Angeles yet here I am following Ali. But this feels different.
This time, I am truly the one taking control of my life, not letting someone
else shape the course of it.
The taxi drops me off in front of a majestic looking building. I take
the elevator to the Time's office where I am greeted by a funny looking
teen-ager (At least she looks like a teen-ager!) with purple streaks in
her hair, red braces in her teeth, and a thick pair of 60s type glasses
with leopard print frames. She is chewing her gum quite noisily and busily
working away at her Solitaire computer game. I turn around to the glass
door behind me just to check if I have the right office, but yes, here she
is, the receptionist of the venerable Time magazine Paris Office!
I think of clearing my throat to get her attention but then remember
Grolpy and decide to be more direct. In my grade seven French, I utter:
-- "Euh... Excusez-moi... Puis-je parler a Ali M..."
-- "Oh don't worry, I'm American too, can't understand a word of
The girl has turned from her game and is looking at me with a bored look,
continuing to chew her gum. For some reason, I picture the cows at my friend
Sadie' s farm in the Hamptons chewing the cud all day long while we watched
them with equal delight and horror from behind the fence.
-- "Umm... yes well... great... well... I am looking for a friend
who works at your office...His name is Ali M..."
-- "Ali? We don't have anyone here who's named Ali... Try Newsweek..."
Before going back to her game of Solitaire, she momentarily looks at
my pink leather diary with fluffy black trims.
-- "Cool diary..."
I am torn between my desire to laugh and my instinct to stick my fingers
into the girl's mouth and yank the gum out. I decide to smile even more
brightly than before and give it another try. I look at her nameplate on
her desk to be more "personal". The receptionist's name is Althea...
-- "I ain't Althea... She's on maternity leave, I 'm just filling
in for her..."
-- "Okay, then what is your name?"
-- "Okay Sally, listen to me. I have just flown from New York, hopped
into a cab at Charles de Gaulle, come straight here carrying only this purse
and this diary, and I have only one address in this whole City, and it is
the address of your office. I have it on 100% valid authority that my friend
Ali is working at this office. Now think a little bit. Did you have any
new recruits last week? From New York City? Medium height, dark hair, Olive
skin... His name is Ali!
Sally looks thoroughly annoyed with me but then a flash of recognition
passes into her cow-eyes.
-- "Oooooohhhh that guy!"
-- "Yes! That guy!"
I beam expectantly. Only a few moments separate me from Ali now."
Sally continues chewing.
-- "Yeah... I know who you're talking about... It's that guy Ali...
I think he's in Spain..."
-- " What's he doing in Spain???? He just got here!"
-- " Yeah well this is, like, Time Europe... (more chewing)... and
like, we cover all sorts of stuff in other countries...( chew, chew)...
And yeah... I think he took off for the week-end with some of the other
guys to go cover the Running of the Bulls in Spain..."
I can't believe what I am hearing? Ali? Covering the running of the Bulls
in Spain? That just sounds so unlike him! Who does he think he is, Ernest
Sally has gone back to her computer game. But I won't give up.
-- "Well, is there an address in Spain where I can reach him? Or
a cell phone?"
Sally looks at me with a look that says I've exceeded her tolerance for
-- "Naaahhh... And even if I did, I couldn't just give it up you
know? I mean you could be a psycho ex-girlfriend you know?... No Offense!"
Images of Sally flying out the 6th floor along with her computer. Gotta
calm myself down. But there is no way around it. My euphoria has been replaced
by despair. In a plaintive voice all I managed to utter is:
-- "Well... what should I do then?"
Sally chews on. She manages to blow a big bubble hiding her tiny head
then pops it.
-- "I don't know... Why don't you go see the Eiffel Tower?"
I am sitting miserably on a bench outside the office building. Not a
good idea in Paris. Already, I see a "gentleman" in his sixties,
with impeccably matching tie and socks sitting at the other end of the bench.
It seems with every minute going by, he is inching just a little bit closer
What can I do? Oh God? Go back to the airport? My heart is not in it?
Go completely bonkers and venture into Spain? Yeah! I had such luck finding
Ali in one City, I will have no problem finding him in an entire country.
Just follow the arrow saying "To the Running of the Bulls".
Oh god the older gentleman is so close now I can smell his rose-scented
cologne. I better get out of here? But where to?
Well here I am Sally! I hope you're happy! Out of luck and out of ideas,
I decided to actually go to the Eiffel Tower. I mean heck! If I am to go
back to New York City tonight with my tail between my legs, I may as well
have gotten one constructive thing out of the whole trip. And standing here
at the top of this eyesore (I don't care what you say, Zola was right!),
I am hoping to get some perspective on my life, some sense of what in hell
I am doing here? What is it about me that makes happiness always out of
reach? Am I cursed? God...I feel like I have been on a search all my life...
the right friends, the right school, the right boy-friend, the right job...Not
only do I never seem to coordinate my goals, I am not even sure I like them
once they have been reached. I am so confused....
The strangest thing happened to me. As I was standing here deciding
whether to leave all this meditation crap and go have a double shot of whiskey
at the Eiffel Bar, the Elevator door opened and dozens of people poured
out. It was like a sea of oranges tumbling out of the Elevator. I looked
around in awe. One of the Tower staffers discreetly whispered to me in English:"Zee
Dalai Lama is here in town fer a conference... Some ef zee monks have decided
to take zee tour of zee Eiffel Tower." I felt comforted because for
a second, I thought I might have fainted again, like I did back at the chapel
in bAbA's hospital.
Then I got a very eerie feeling. Among the orange figures scurrying to
and fro, and despite my astigmatism, I seemed to recognize one figure. I
approached this man from behind, as he was looking out from the observation
deck and tapped him gently on the shoulder. He turned around to look at
me and I was shocked to recognize his face, thick glasses, warm smile and
all. He was the man in my dream! The one I had the night before we got the
tests results back for bAbA's cancer. What had he told me then? That's right:
That the day of birth is not a beginning and the day of death not a termination,
it is a day of continuation.
The man however did not seem to know me at all but he gave me a polite
enough smile anyway. I felt so stupid for blurting the first thing that
came out of my mouth:
-- "Have you been to Mount Vernon?"
-- "...Mountain... Vernon...? Where is this mountain?"
-- "Um... oh I am so sorry... It's just that... well I thought you
were someone I knew..."
I turned away mortified ready to take the elevator down and hop onto
the first plane to New York. I thought to myself that Amoo Reza had been
the one kook in the whole family and I had probably inherited his "crazy
gene". But the man followed me and it was his turn to tap me gently
on the back.
-- "Excuse me Miss... Perhaps I can help you in some way."
I could not help but take this offer. I felt so alone!
-- "Your Excellency", I began, for lack of knowledge of how
to address him. But he interrupted me.
-- "I am just a simple monk... Now tell me, who are you searching
As strange as this sounds, I felt like he was genuinely interested in
helping me, that he would understand me. But I had so much to say, it all
came up like babbling, stuff about my MIP (Mystical Iranian Prince) and
Ross, and Peerooz, and Ali...
He gently touched my elbow and interrupted me:
-- "This MIP you tell me about... This idea is keeping you from
your chosen path... Remember, there is no one on earth to worship. No man
or woman to place on a pedestal over your head. No person so refined or
holy or perfect that you cannot imagine yourself an equal."
His words felt as if they had grabbed at my heart and were squeezing
it so hard. He saw the need I had and encouraged me. The tears came flowing.
When they dried out, he said:
-- "Now tell me what you search for..."
-- "I search... for... happiness."
His face beamed.
-- "My child, Nirvana is the highest happiness..."
-- "But...how do I attain Nirvana?"
The monk responded:
-- "Our life is shaped by our mind, we become what we think. Joy
follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves... Remember this
my child, and repeat it often: If in day to day life you lead a good life,
honestly, with love, with compassion, with less selfishness, then automatically
it will lead to Nirvana. Now close your eyes and meditate."
I leaned against the railing and did as he told me. I was not feeling
euphoric anymore but I wan't feeling miserable either. Instead a great calm
had enveloped me, just as it had in the chapel in Mount Vernon General.
I closed my eyes and started whispering the monk's mantra. With each utterance,
I felt myself grow even calmer.
If in day to day life, I lead a good life, with love, with compassion,
with less selfishness, then automatically it will lead to Nirvana.
I was free.