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.