The greatest teacher I ever had

I had just finished second grade when my uncle who was spending his “sepah behdasht” in kurdestan visited us on his leave, brought me some story books and read them with me.

I don’t know how much of the “life lessons” of those books I really understood, but I know those stories stuck with me all my life.

The first one was the little black fish ماهی سیاه کوچولو. The book was like a little treasure chest, the modest cover with the picture of a little black fish didn’t give away the story line. I started reading it to my uncle and with every page and every sentence and every word, the little black fish took me to a different world, where fish could talk and tell stories… I couldn’t stop reading, I wanted to know where he was going and how he would free himself of the dangers he faced. He was a brave one that little black fish.

This was no ordinary children’s book, darker than anything I had read before, but it didn’t feel dark, it was stimulating my imagination like nothing else ever had…

I started reading the rest of the books after my uncle left. The stories of Ulduz, the little girl who had nothing in common with me  took me to a different world where kids were not pampered and friendships were deeper than any friendship I had experienced in my life.  

I didn’t know anything about the skillful writer of these treasures. I only knew his name: Samad Behrangi. I asked my mother about him. She told me he was a teacher who had died, that his books were secrets and not to be discussed outside the house. That was puzzling, but it made sense at the same time. Such wonderful stories can’t be ordinary. They’re written for special little children! Only the ones who’d cherished them like I did. I decided to keep my secret and the books in a little box in my closet, the one I would open carefully when I was alone and read them again and again.

Samad’s ideology was unknown to me at the time, but his stories made a lasting impression on me, his stories gave me courage. I learned that no dream is too big, I learned that bullies are actually the ones who are most scared, I learned that obstacles are only impossible if you don’t tackle them, I learned to think differently and not to be embarrassed to challenge the norm, I learned not to surrender without a fight. 

9 Shahrivar is the anniversary of this great teacher’s untimely death. I read a lot about the circumstances of his drowning that summer of 1347 (1968)and I am not sure what really happened to him at such young age of 29, I could either accept that he was murdered or believe that whatever the circumstances, one little black fish found his way to the sea… 

His life lessons of courage and humanity are forever with me, and his memory is honored by all the special children who had the privilege of sharing the secret.

Roohash shad va yaadash gerami



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