This is the first Norooz when I have no new outfit, no sabzeh, and not even a haft-seen. I won’t even mention how my major spring-cleaning has turned into an implausible dream! I could blame the book tour for keeping me away much of the time, or the fact that my back has been bothering me, but there’s more. I know there is because the enthusiasm is gone and I find it hard to be joyful.
Every year at this time, as nostalgia kicks in, Charshanbeh soori somehow puts me back in Norooz mode. So on Tuesday I went to a friend’s house, hoping that once again I’d jump over the fire she lights in her garden, absorb its warmth and demand the usual exchange of colors. But instead of jumping, I found myself walking past the bonfires and mumbling under my breath, “Take away my yellow and give me your red!” Ending the evening with a heavy heart, it was clear the fires hadn’t heard me.
Next, I tried watching the videos of Tehran’s Charshanbeh-soori on the Iranian, but that only gave me a scare. The sound of firecrackers resembled gunshots, making me fear for those young people on the street. When cars circled the bonfire, I worried they might explode and I was even concerned about a guy on the motorcycle. What if he’s pushed into the fire?
Unable to calm the storm within, I switched channels, but the rest was all about the recent Japan disaster. How small the world has become! These were my neighbors and friends losing their lives, their homes, and their entire city. For a moment I saw myself on the screen, walking in the cold, searching the rubbles for the remains of a loved one, me whose life was in peril.
A glance at the calendar tells me there are three more days to Norooz; surely not enough time to make baklava. Maybe I could wear last year’s dress and no one would notice. As for the haft-seen and shireeni, I’ll buy something from Sahel Bazaar, give them the business and avoid working. Don’t think the kids will know the difference.
Last night, I sat in my usual spot with Richard Manchester’s “Super” puzzle book to distract my mind. Solving a crossword on page 355, I was stumped at 39 across. Four letters and the clue was, “Arab Country” and no, it was not Iraq. Frustrated at my lack of knowledge, I peeked at the solutions and found the answer to be “Iran.”
Iran? MY Iran is now an “Arab country?”
I had the urge to hit my head with the heavy puzzle book!
Indeed we live in a world that is still unable to distinguish between Persians and Arabs. Could that be why they are trying to change the name of Persian Gulf into Arab Gulf?! I watch the news from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Egypt, and Iran. As time goes by, their resemblance is more explicit. It’s as if the media has put all of Middle East in a Blender. Knowledge is immaterial for, had I not been so proud of my heritage, I could have solved the damned puzzle!
As always, I try to look at the positive side. The error in that puzzle seems to have been the kick I needed in my guts. It has told me that even if the world is not celebrating, it’s up to me to make a small haft seen, light Norooz candles, and pray for mankind. After all, this ancient feast is all that’s left of my Iranian-ness, it will forever define my identity and is the legacy I shall leave to my children. I can’t allow anger or sorrow to mar the optimism of vernal equinox. There are still three days before the Persian New Year and I am confident it will find its way to my home and into my heart.
Once again I will greet Norooz with the scent of hyacinths. I will welcome its sweet tastes and draw light from its candles. I know that if sorrow and anger have subdued the vibes, pride shall restore all.
Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies.