I first met Zinat Javid when I traveled to Shiraz some fifteen years ago. I had just married her grandson from her first born son, Manoochehr Javid. I had not seen Shiraz since before the revolution and was happy to both see that beautiful and ancient city and my husband’s grandmother.
It was Ordibehesht in Shiraz. The most beautiful time of the year to visit the place. We stayed in the home that belonged to her and her husband on Khoocheh Bagh Safa. It was a beautiful house surrounded by a walled garden that looked like it had seen better days. You could smell the honeysuckle by day and listen to the nightingales by night.
Zinat khanoom was a feisty old lady with sharp, bright eyes. Immediately we took to each other. She was kind and hospitable like Iranian ladies of that generation usually are. But her kindness and generosity came from the heart and one never felt that she faked anything. She was also a conversationalist and that characteristic we shared.
My husband not knowing Persian, I acted as the translator. We spent a week in her beautiful home and became very close to each other. She took us sightseeing and out to chelo-kabob. I loved the fact that any chance she got, even in public places, she would shed her hejab. She hated it. I loved her for her courage and outspoken hatred of the mullahs. I remember begging her to be careful but she did not listen.
Zinat Khanoom recounted to me the story of her life. How she had gotten married at the very young age of thirteen and had spent the next ten years producing children. She spoke of my husband’s father with pride and fondness and regret at having lost him so early.
She recounted to me the story of giving birth under difficult conditions of the day to a premature son who was some four months early. She fed him milk with little droppers a little drop at a time till he grew to be the wonderful man that he is today. She encouraged me, as in-laws do, to get pregnant quickly before she said, “your womb gets lazy.”
I promised her that I would try my best and sure enough one beautiful spring Shiraz eve my own son was conceived in her home. I named him Manoochehr after Zinat Khanoom’s son and my husband’s father.
A short while later, I went back to Iran and was asked by her daughter, who adored her and who lives in the U.S, to bring her back to France, where we were living at the time, so that she could then take her to the States. Zinat Khanoom missed her children but was not too happy about leaving her home of more than thirty years. Who could blame her? This is the predicament of all of us Iranians thorn between the love of a place and that of family.
We came to Tehran and from there we took an Air France flight to Paris where my husband and I were living. We asked for a wheelchair for her but she did not like it. She tried as much as possible to avoid using it. On the plane we talked and she told me about how she had removed her hejab when Reza Shah had imposed its removal. Her husband worked for the Oil Company which at the time was run by the English. I asked her if she was hesitant about removing her hejab. She answered, “No way, I was so happy about it that I took off my hejab a few days before the actual decree-maa az oonaayee boodeem keh baa zoogh be peeshvazesh rafteem.”
She stayed with us a short while in Paris and visa in hand left for the U.S with her daughter who had come to fetch her. Once we were in the U.S we saw her, but not as much as I would have liked. Every time I went to L.A to visit her, at her daughters who took care of her like only an angel would, she would engage me in political conversation. She read and listened to the news with an interest that was impressive for her age. At the time I wrote rather loudly against the theocratic regime. Most of my relatives, especially the older ones, discouraged me. They told me that all this bad mouthing of the mullahs would get me know where and would only make it difficult for me to recuperate my confiscated property.
The last time I saw Zinat Khanoom she took me to one side and told me, “bareekala, taa meetooni benevis be eenaa fohsh bedeh. Be harf heech kasam goosh nadeh. Benevis.” (Bravo, write as much as you possibly can, cuss them as much as possible and do not listen to anyone, just continue writing.) I loved her for that.