Lightness of simply being
April 14, 2003
A couple of years ago, on a gorgeous August Sunday morning, my mother and I were having an early lunch in a Chinese restaurant in the beautiful downtown Vancouver. Having cooked and consumed Tehrani food all her life, and this being her first trip abroad, I was certainly taking a chance shock introducing her to a foreign cuisine; but to my pleasant surprise she demonstrated remarkable cosmopolitan zest as she chomped on shrimp cannelloni, slurped shark fin soup and greedily eyed turnip pudding.
The restaurant was alive with the bluster of brunch crowd; families in small and large groups; two, three generations packed into each other feasting on colourful plates of steamed and deep fried dishes as they gossiped between bites and devoured in between stories.
In one of those comfortable silences while we were waiting for the next
round of delicious dim sums to arrive, I noticed my mother deep in reverie,
smiling to herself as she scanned the panoramic length of the large dinning
room. I was curious what had caused her whimsical smile. The
ease and lightness with which everyone existed in their skin, responded
my mother the philosopher; carefree families on a Sunday brunch forgetting
their daily problems, simply enjoying themselves.
This time around though I couldn't help notice certain heaviness in everyone's
voices, a tone of fatigue. No, battle weariness is the more proper
word, for what passes for life in contemporary Iran, is often best described
as a battle. And I remembered again that Sunday August morning.
In a traumatized society where every aspect of life is scrutinized and
individual freedoms are questioned on a daily basis, living can certainly
be wearisome. The line between private and public sphere is ever
shifting, mostly in favour of the state. The minutes of everyday
life, the simple unremarkable rhythm of daily existence is overwhelmed
by the epic scale of politics. The artist may be able to sublimate
this unbearable heaviness of being into poetry but the ordinary citizen
is crushed under the weight of it all.