The Iranian


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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


October 3, 2000

Healthy and wealthy

I enjoy reading most of dAyi Hamid's articles. When I read his recent one, "Elm behtar ast yaa servat," I felt compelled to comment on it. A few days before I was talking to an American friend about how all Iranian students in Iran, at some point in their schooling, had to write at least a few compositions about "Elm behtar ast ya servat," (Is knowledge better or wealth?) and "How did you spend your summer/New Year's holiday," and as dAyi Hamid mentioned, I explained to my friend that nobody could write the truth.

On the whole, Iranians are very reserved people. In the past, maybe more in the villages or small towns, parents, especially fathers, would kiss their kids only while they were asleep. It was not common for people to talk about their feelings and dreams. You were considered a good kid if your head was down while walking or talking to your parents or teachers. Married couples barely talked about their feelings. It is said that this is why Iranian girls have beautiful eyes, because they transfer all the feelings in their heart to their eyes. Of course, time has changed and so has the ways to raise the children and communicate feelings.

In those days, for the school writing assignment, elm was always said to be better than servat. Writing compositions was very different in Iran than it is in the U.S. - the more complicated the words, the higher the grades. Telling the truth was not the purpose; writing what the teacher wanted to hear was.

Writing the first sentences was the hardest part for me. So I used to memorize a few lines taken from the book of some famous writer or poet, or from the newspaper. Sometimes our neighbor's son would start the paper for me and I would finish the rest. You would be guaranteed a higher grade if you quoted a few poems here and there.

I was a very good student and loved to go to school (I was not a real nerd or teacher's pet, but maybe a little of both) and my family was not rich. I thought that servat was pretty good. Of course, given the Iranian custom of not expressing your true feelings, I never mentioned this in mycompositions.

Those days are over now, and as I grew older, I came to the conclusion that there is no doubt that one needs education or "elm." But there are a few more things that I now think are also very important in life. These have become my motto, which I like to put on a sticker one day,"Happiness is being healthy and wealthy." Later on someone asked me to add "... and in love!" and I thought, why not? But on the other hand, I believe if you are healthy in mind and body, you will find love too.

If I had to choose between health, wealth and love, I would definitely choose "health". What about you?

Simin Habibian


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