No other name could have captured as neatly the expression
of this man's essence
December 29, 2004
Fewer words in the Persian language convey so much than amou and
khaleh. The first is a title that when is earned it embodies the
familial with the familiar in one accessible sentiment. The latter
is equally meaningful but with the additional significance -- as
the refrain magar khaneh khaleh ast suggests -- nowhere on earth
is as welcoming a place than khaleh's.
The late Manouchehr
Marzban was the amou who kept khaleh's all the more
inviting and enchanting.
With a half-expression of self-indulgent amusement and half-expression
of disbelief ever radiating from his mild and attractive face,
the man who passed on in his sleep a week ago wore that enigmatic
smile all his life. It is impossible to remember him without it.
No doubt, it was an integral part of his living the true meaning
of his name -- Manouchehr -- which in the Persian of his ancestors
and descendants still means 'face like the paradise' and
no other name could have captured as neatly the expression of this
His wit, generosity and regal bearing, his talents and strengths,
stations in life and diplomatic assignments, his frailties and
weaknesses are the stuff of biographers. What I choose to remember
is the three times that I experienced his affirmation of my own
sense of being.
"Last night," he wrote on one February 14, "we received
the good news of your success and had a drink to your health."
Some twenty years later, his missive still has a place among the pages
of the working copy of my doctoral dissertation, like a pressed
flower from a loving soul. He himself had received his doctorate
before anyone else in the extended family and in fact he had
been ahead of the curve in many regards.
By October 1998 he had shown the signs of aging -- his walking
had slowed, as had his talking. Yet still quite alert by anyone's
standards, he had shown the determination to arrive and quietly
without notice assume a seat in the audience assembled at a
meeting of the Iranian National Front, where I was to give
my very first
"grown up" presentation in Persian.
I scanned the assembly
of familiar faces, to calm my nerves. In Yasi's eyes and
Mac's always-reassuring smile I found some measure of solace,
but nothing like when I spotted the unexpected presence of
Manouchehr Marzban in the crowd. He gave a slight nod of
his head with a
lowering of his eyes in my direction. When the lecture was
over, he left
just a quietly as he had arrived, leaving me to bask in the
afterglow of a presentation that he described to others -- khoub
goft, hamash-ra goft, 'well said, all said.'
In July of this year, I saw him one last time. Confined to
a wheelchair, advance of age showed no signs of retreat.
of Amou still lit up the face, room and my eyes. When on
the prompting of my aunt he repeated my name in acknowledgement,
I looked deep
into his eyes, closed mine and planted a kiss on his forehead.
Then, as today, I could hear the echo of his chetor hasti
pesar joun of the years past. I am fine, Amou Manouchehr.
Guive Mirfendereski practices law in Massachusetts (JD, Boston
College Law School, 1988). His latest book is A
Diplomatic History of the Caspian Sea: Treaties, Diaries, and Other
Stories (New York and London: Palgrave 2001)
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