At father's place of eternal rest
May 5, 2004
Ahmad Mirfendereski, who died in France at the age of 86 Sunday,
was Iran's last foreign minister before the fall of the monarchy
in 1979 [BBC news].
His son, Dr. Guive Mirfendereski, is a frequent contributor to
iranian.com. He dedicated this piece to the memory of his father.
Also see the late Mirfendereski's thoughts on diplomacy here.
The spring-time memory of my fifth grade in our neighborhood school
in Golhak is a collage of enduring images of pain and pleasure.
The pleasure, as little of it there was, included a sense of inevitable
ascendancy to the top of the school's pecking order, a mere
summer vacation away from becoming a sixth grader. The pain was
pervasive. Corporal punishment was issued with religious fervor,
and the religion itself was honored when the school marked the
end of the principal's triumphant return from pilgrimage by slaughtering
a lamb at the gates of the house of knowledge.
In the fifth grade, the assault on the senses was one thing,
the violence to the mind was something else, and much of both were
administered by the school
disciplinarian who was also our calligraphy and composition teacher. Often
he would sit on the edge of the desk, with his feet freely dangling,
with his head
bowed attentively over his large manipulative hands, skillfully sharpening
and styling with his penknife our reed-pens needed for the next
we busied reading quietly, he would murmur his anti-regime opinions, leaving
tears in one's perceived order of things, as one knew it.
In the fifth grade, we also learned from him the use of composition as a method
of torture. The writing of essays and then reading them out-loud in front of
the class were despised; it all became even more excruciating when the disciplinarian
would assign a difficult topic. Neither then nor since has any subject stirred
my emotions more than the day we were instructed to write an essay entitled
"At Father's Place of Eternal Rest" (bar sar'e mazaar'e pedar).
To have written about death was hard, to have written about the
death of a parent was even harder, and to have written about the
death of a living parent
Yet for some reason, I believe that from that singular experience has come
my eventual love for good writing. I did have a point of departure.
My paternal grandmother had died in the late spring of 1962,
when I was in the third grade. On the day of her passing, when
father arrived from the city,
about Goudar's health and he paused for the longest time and eventually wrapped
his arm around my shoulder and escorted me into the veranda, overlooking
a modest patch which passed for a flower-garden.
Father sat in his usual spot and placed me on his lap.
As I slung my arm
around his neck, he began a soft declamation about life and death in reference
the seasonal cycle of the nearby flowers. "Today," he said, "Goudar's
autumn arrived and the bloom is no more." I cried hysterically, most
of all because I had not gotten to thank her for the bicycle that she had
for me just recently. I did not know then that I would work father's flower-garden
speech into a composition two years later, or to revisit the topic forty
years later to the season.
Last Sunday, around the noon hour, I summoned my family to the
edge of the flower-bed in our backyard to give the news of father's
thirteen-year old grandson seated on my left in his own chair, I concluded
my remarks on
botany of life by saying, "Son, a few hours ago, Papa's autumn arrived
and the bloom is no more." From Jonah Javad's quivering lips moist
with his quiet tears I heard him say, "I will miss playing basketball
with him." The
sound of the ringing of the bells at a nearby church added to the solemnity
of the moment. [News]
Soltan-Ahmad Mirfendereski (1918-2004) considered organized religion
as the root of all evil in life; he believed the place of public worship
religion is devil's own workshop and that God, if truly as omnipotent
as he is, requires
none to do his work but the individual who shall cultivate his own
heart. He believed in the existence of a supreme being and had
to be respectful of the power that evil can wield over unsuspecting
souls. He was keenly aware of one's place in the struggle between
good and evil,
a night-owl he often experienced the existential meaning of it all
with a setting of the sun and yet again with the rising of the
sun. He considered
and moral clarity as the two pillars of his personal faith; to the
remained on time and unapologetic.
On occasion he had stated to those near to him that, on his passing,
he be rendered into ash and his ashes be committed to the currents
To oblige his wishes, his will shall be done, as wrong as it may
appear. As a seyyed and descendant of the House of Imam Musa Kazem,
a mode of disposition for his corporal remains different from what
is usually reserved by our national religious traditions for the
and refuse. To dispose of the ashes over a river, where the city
sewer empties, would
be a double insult to the memory of his ancestors. Yet, in many ways,
father's bucking of the establishment is all too familial. For example,
Hakim Abol-Qasem Mir'e Fendereski, the sixteenth century sufi and
the Persian and Indian courts had refused adamantly to go to hajj
because he did
not wish to be a part of any ritual that required the slaying of
When father's ashes scatter at Pont Mirabeau, the wind shall
halt for a moment as it gasps to inhale his dusty remains. May what
was good in him repose
in the living. I, a veritable pedar sukteh, for one, shall not miss
him, for in my garden that flower knows no autumn. [See excerpt
on diplomacy by Ahmad Mirfendereski]
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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