Going back to my roots
October 11, 2004
Recently the readers of iranian.com had seen some pictures
I brought back from Iran. I have received so many wonderful emails from those
who saw what I saw
through the tiny screen of my digital camera. I was amazed to find that so many
people related to the pictures and felt what I felt.
I arrived in Tehran into my family's waiting, open arms. Again, there were some
30-40 people in the airport, who had waited for hours to see me 2:30 in the morning.
They are either crazy or in love.
I kissed and hugged my younger sister, Mom, Dad, my older sister, and then cousin
after cousin. It's a ritual, we all go through, I guess. Mom complained,
as usual; "mordam maadar, cheghad entezaar bekesham?"
(I've died waiting for you). Well, it's Mom, what can you say? It
four years since my last trip.
The airport was a complete mess, as usual. So were the crowd, traffic, streets,
stores...as usual. Got to my sister's house and laughed at my cousin Mehrdad's
jokes until the sun came up and we all had "kalle paacheh" --
most of us! I won't even translate what "kalle paacheh" is!
A couple of days after my arrival my younger sister mentioned
that she had been to Aziz Abad, a small village near Arak, (central Iran). My
had a house
there where we used to visit on some of our summer vacations. She
mentioned that the house was still there. It was an old house and the fact that
it still stands shocked me and at the same time excited me. I asked her
in disbelief, "You mean the house is still there?" "Yes," she
"and in good shape."
I wasted no time. I told my brother-in-law to rent a bus with
a driver, we're going to go to Khaleh's house.
They all looked at me as if I was crazy. At the same time they
understood that the sentimental part of me would never pass an opportunity
to revisit the past with deep nostalgic feelings. Even though we were originally
planning on going to Shomal (northern Iran), plans were changed and before
we knew it twenty
of us got in a bus and headed for Arak.
The need to see the old house and pay my respects to a woman who was
such a great human being, was overshadowed by a group of nutty people who wouldn't
sit down for a good hour until we were well out of Tehran and had a flat tire!
They were dancing and singing, clapping and whistling. They made noises
I hadn't heard but in a football game. These guys were crazy!
It was mid afternoon, when we finally arrived in Aziz Abad. The bus could only
go so far in the dirt road. We got out and walked a half block or so until
we came to the entry door to the house. A metal one had replaced the old wooden
opened the door and I was the first to walk in.
A very old lady with a sweet
Araki accent that has a kind ring to it greeted me. She asked how my
Mother and Father were, without knowing whose son I am. She saw
my Mom behind me. She was another one of my Mom's distant aunts. She
seemed thrilled to see all of us. Apparently, her
and her husband lived
alone and don't have many visitors.
I started walking towards the old house and took a couple of pictures. All
of a sudden a huge wave of memories knocked me over and I found myself overwhelmed
by emotions of childhood memories and felt the absence of Khaleh Masoomeh,
the lovely lady who had greeted us in that big yard, in front of the old
house, with kisses
and hugs so many times.
I remembered her kindness, sharp wit, and genuineness that can
only be found in older generations in places like this small village.
down my face I looked around and saw an old
lantern. It was hanging on
the edge of
the wall, all alone. I could see nothing else but the lantern and how
it represented a life long gone so beautifully, so symbolically.
I went through the whole premises and looked at the barn. I went through
the house and looked at every corner. On one of the walls there was my
handwriting, the date: "12
Farvardin 2537" and
underneath that, "1357" (April 1, 1979, the day Iran became
an Islamic Republic in a referrendum). It was about six months
before I left Iran.
cell was still there,
the pictures in their frames, the beddings, the clay oven...
everything. It was as if they had been frozen in time. I had lost
track of time and space. I was completely drowned in my emotions,
memories, and Khaleh's enormous love and affection.
after a good 15 minutes of walking and snapping pictures just to find
crying and all of my cousins following me and wondering why are they
My very close cousin, whom I grew up with in Iran, was in the front
yard. I could hear him singing a song that in the recent years has
the passing of an old member of a family: "ajab rasmieh, rasm-e
aadamaa.... az oona faghat khaatere-haashoon be jaa mimooneh." (time
is cruel... people leave and only their memory remains). It is a wonderful,
sad, sad song about the hand life deals us.
It was a scene and a feeling I, probably, will never experience
We all went next door to the old lady's house. She asked us to
come over for tea. Amazingly, this 80+-year-old served
a total of
80 glasses tea in a matter of 20 minutes. Her love of what she was
doing and how she was serving us
was nothing but simple, pure, old Iranian hospitality.
Her husband showed up about an hour later, coming through the door,
ever so slowly, with a walking stick. He got closer but it seemed his
vision was impaired. Finally
of us and started crying. He couldn't hold back; he was so happy to
see old nieces and nephews and
We sat there, rather quietly, and absorbed the wonderful village air
with all the "dehaati" smells
one could imagine. We looked at the pictures through the very small
screen of my camera. "The pictures came out nice," was
the only thing my Dad could muster without breaking down. I think
he must have been thinking about his
own absence some
day. He's 74.
I looked over at one of my cousins, who had never been to the village.
He was looking at me with begging eyes. "Let's
stay here tonight," he said. "Here? Right here?" I
asked. Then everyone said "YES!"
We went out and bought some fresh eggs, tomatoes, and bread and prepared
a very simple omelet. That night most of us guys ended
up spending the night under the pure skies, while the others slept
The trip, the house, the night sky, were all an experience
of a lifetime. I took those pictures with
heart. I cannot explain it any other way.
When I came back from that trip and subsequently retured to the U.S.,
I was a bit more appreciative for the times my parents took us to places
Abad. As a child I
would roll around in the dirt, come back home with bruises and scraped
Khaleh would wipe my tears away, give me a piece of homemade
bread and make me forget all
about the pain and blood.
I'm glad that my childhood was not spent in front of the TV with
multiple video game machines attached. I saw sun sets and sun
rises in the
of Arak, where there were no jet traces, no pollution, and at night
counting stars would put me to sleep. There are many of them, still.