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"I love you" instead of "ghorboonet beram"
In response to Nahid Rachlin's "Subtle differences"


December 5, 2005

I became familiar with Mrs. Rachlin's work in 1991 while living in San Francisco. On one of my routine visits to City Light bookstore I came across her books.

I have read all of them not because they are great work of literature but in them I felt that the writer tells her sense of nostalgia as well as longing for things "Iranian" through her characters. The stories always involve an Iranian and an American.

She tries to show that an Iranian woman having married an American has a car and a bit more freedom and indirectly tries to justify their actions and suggest that somehow having a bit of a material independence makes up for having to wake up next to someone who is totally different.

Her best story which shows an educated Iranian woman who has it all (picket fence, cultured American friends, and an educated American man) and is living the American dream (in Mrs. Rachlin's definition which frankly for someone like me who actually leads a very independent life filled with activities find quite boring) because in addition to having the material possessions, she gets to interact with educated Americans and go to cultural events (Western ones of course).

Reading that book made me laugh really hard because I wondered if this author has truly lived among Iranians to understand the culture and the fact that many of us (Iranians) go to ballet or opera or symphony and jazz concerts and do not think that is such a big deal and we take an Iranian concert filled with Iranians where we can dance and hang out with other Iranians and tell the latest jokes any time.

Anyway, the character in that book ends up in Kashan with an Iranian doctor who was educated in America but preferred to live in his homeland (the only character in the book I liked). Of course when her American husband comes to Iran, she is distant and the reader has to decide whether she is intelligent enough to live that "pretending to be happy" life with the American or, stay in Iran with the educated, exciting Iranian who has made her feel whole again. No doubt some retards imagined her back in the arms of a cold fish who would say, "I love you" instead of "ghorboonet beram" or "fadat saham" which sound heavenly in comparison.

Reading the stories purely for entertainment values, I drew the conclusion that most of the Iranian characters were really Mrs. Rachlin expressing her longing to be more of an Iranian but I also realized that her comprehension of her culture and heritage is very limited. That is the result of coming to US at a young age and precisely the reason I fought to stay in Iran and go to college there so my personality would develop there.

Her conclusions about Iranians are so wrong it is sad. Iranians have no ambition? The whole nation? What kind of stupid remark is that? Has she seen the work Iranian women are doing to improve the lives of women and children in Iran? Does she know that females outnumber the males in colleges in Iran? Does she know 33% of doctors in Iran are women? Out of the top ten students seven are girls? What do you call their characteristics?

Does she know how many Iranian women have businesses and how many work? Obviously she defines ambition by stupid Western standards.

I happen to live alone but I am never lonely. I love going to events that I help organize with my other Iranian colleagues. It is wonderful to sit around with a group of successful, educated and professional Iranians and having to discuss serious issues that impact the community we also get to joke and laugh as well.

Does Mrs. Rachlin know that many highly successful Iranian are buying homes in Iran and go there all the time? They can have all the "Privacy" in the world but they prefer to be among peopel who are lively and breed life.

I do not know what cave she has been living in but only a small percentage of people are in arranged marriages. These days‚ girls meet their mates in colleges and universities and at work. As for the women bathing naked and placing ads for sex, that is not freedom. That is down right sign of lack of self worth and dying for some form of love to fill the emptiness.

I suppose Mrs. Rachlin thinks that lonely Americans filling the bars on Friday nights are a sign of independents and privacy too. No my dear, these are miserable and lonely people who seek companionship for a few hours to soothe their lonely souls.

Just because you observed a few who did not want to work you cannot assume that everyone else is the same. If we were such lazy people (as a race and culture) then why is it that we are all so successful around the world? Why do we have the highest per capita income in the US? I suppose you do not attribute that to our Iranian heritage and think having lived in the US has magically transformed us to hardworking and ambitious people.

Did you see my college professors in there 70s who loved going to work? Why do you think my beautiful sister remains a social worker in Iran and rejected a marriage proposal form a rich surgeon from Massachusetts? Why is my baby sister a lawyer and a court inspector? They are Iranian and Iran is filled with people like them so don't you dare say otherwise.

I am sick and tired of ignorant assumptions like yours. I personally do not mind when an ignorant American asks me if I were as independent in Iran. In fact, I love the look on their face seeing my pictures with gowns showing my bare arms sitting next to my dad or standing next to my fashionably dressed women as well as pictures showing me in sports, etc.

I have news for you in case you are oblivion to how many Americans are on one or more form of antidepressants. That is the result of their "private" lives. I know some of you who think you are well informed are going to tell me "it is because chemical imbalance in their brains". Save it because I am better read in the field of medicine than many doctors. The loneliness in the heart and their emptiness trigger the mind and you figure the rest.

Iranians are smart and they know the value of being around people who make them laugh and give them a sense of belonging. The mother of my ex-boyfriend has owned a beautiful apartment on the beach in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the US (she also owns a huge place in Elahieh in Iran) yet she only stays for a month when she comes to see her son and grandkids. She is smart enough to know that having people around and making her feel whole is the reason she is healthy and has lived such a long life. America is a lonely place where families get together for thanksgiving and Christmas and reluctantly for birthdays or 4th of July where they hide their loneliness by drowning their longings in alcohol.

Contrary to your conclusion, we Iranians want to be around other Iranians so we can eat Iranian food, tell Iranian jokes, dance to Iranian music so the next morning when we go to our daily lives of having to interact with Americans we realize how lucky we are that concept of privacy simply means living our personal lives according to our own rules. That is all!

For letters section
To Azam Nemati

Azam Nemati




Book of the day

Crowning Anguish
Taj al-Saltana, Memoirs of a Persian Princess 1884-1914
edited by Abbas Amanat

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