The rose gardner
Shy, soft spoken, unassuming teacher had instilled in us a great awareness and appreciation of the art of the Persian language
January 16, 2006
I wrote this eulogy two days after hearing the news of the death of my high school teacher and it shares the sentiments of many of my classmates. It is celebrating the life of a great man who touched many lives and the story of how the class of 1981 at Adventist High School in Tehran first found each other, then went to search for their teacher of Persian language and literature, Mr Mohammad Massoudi.
Thanksgiving be to a Deity of majesty and glory; for submission [in prayer] conciliates his presence, and a sense of gratitude towards him increases his munificence. Every breath that is inhaled is an elongation of life, and when it is exhaled it exhilarates the spirit; accordingly, in every single breathing two benefits are forthcoming, and for each benefit a thanksgiving is owing. Sa'di's Golestan - The Rose Garden - translated by James Ross, 1759-1831
The man who was instrumental in making me realise the power of these words died yesterday (3 January 2006) in Tehran. Mr Mohammad Massoudi was a teacher of Persian language and literature at Adventist High School in Tehran. He retired soon after the Revolution having taught his beloved subject for over 25 years. Throughout his academic career he passed on his love of Persian poetry and prose to several generations of Iranians.
The football match between Iran and the USA in Pasadena in January 2000 became an excuse for the Adventist High School class of 1981 to have a reunion in California. The reunion was impromptu and got organised in less than two weeks, but it attracted classmates, now living in different continents, to converge on Beverly Hills at the house of a fellow classmate's parents.
Most of us were seeing each other for the first time in more than 20 years. It became apparent to us that evening that Mr Massoudi had been no ordinary teacher. Some of us, now living the expatriate life in one or the other corner of the world, remembered fondly that evening how that shy, soft spoken, unassuming teacher had instilled in us a great awareness and appreciation of the art of the Persian language.
So, what became of Mr Massoudi? We wanted to know:
Did he ever marry?
Does he still drive his VW Beetle?
Is he still full of anecdotes and quotes from the treasury of Persian language?
We wanted to know what became of this man; also to let him know what became of us; and to thank him for what he did to us -- now that we realised collectively that which we had known subconsciously and every time we read from Ferdowsi, Nezami, Sa'di or Rassoul Parvizi.
It was imperative for us to find him, but it took almost a year. The efforts of our classmate, Dr Mohammad Behnia, whom through sheer persistence and ingenuity found our old teacher, are singularly commendable. Here is the edited extract of the email he sent me to say how he found Mr Massoudi:
I remembered one day in 1357 Massoudi called me to the office and gave me a composition written by one of his students in another school. He wanted me to read the composition, saying, "Although his father is a poor worker, he has a brilliant future. I am proud of him."
The subject was about revolution, freedom, martyrdom and such things. I remembered that the name of that high school was printed on the headings of the paper but I could not remember what it was. A few days ago, I had a patient in my surgery whose name was Marvi. All of a sudden I remembered the name of that high school. It was Marvi High School.
I contacted them and an old employee remembered Mr Massoudi and provided me with his contact details. Contrary to our previous belief, he is not from Hamadan, but was born in Tehran. I wasted a lot of time looking for him in Hamadan, Touiserkan and Asadabad...
And so it was that Mr Masoudi was re-united with his former students, albeit for some, contact remained through telephone calls, letters and video clips (See video clip). I last saw him three months ago during a short trip to Tehran. He was recovering from a medical complication and was justly praising his former student, physician and friend Dr Mohammad Behnia.
Mr Massoudi never married and did not have any children. He left instructions in his will against any memorial services for the 3rd, 7th and 40th day mourning ceremonies and directed his family to donate the proceeds and what remains of his assets to charities. He will be buried tomorrow (5 January 2006) in Tehran. This testimony is a fitting memorial to a man who touched so many lives now living in so many places in the world.
Arman Farahmand-Razavi now lives in the United Kingdom.