... are no more.
I went back to Iran last September, as I do every year. During the trip, like the ones before, I didn't
visit Abadan, my home town. I know the home my mother and father made so
beautiful for us kids, is no longer.
We had everything. We lived in the privileged oil company part of the city. We weren't rich but we had more than enough to be happy: A loving family and lots of friends.
Talk to any Abadani and she or he would go on and on about how great
it was. And especially, all the people who had a parent working for the
oil company, have tons of fond memories of places like the Golestan Club,
where each Thursday all the kids would get together for fun and games.
Back then we didn't care who was what. We had Jews, Bahais, Christians and Zoroastrians in our class. We knew them as "Farid," "Hamid," "Sevan" and "Kourosh." The only thing that bugged me at least, was that they had an excuse not to show up for religion class. You see, I was always looking for an excuse to skip any class I could. No luck.
There was no talk of politics either. We were too young to know anything about it. But I don't remember my parents or any other adult ever talk about politics. I thought the Shah was the coolest leader in the world. And the first time I ever saw a cleric was at my sister's wedding. I saw him sitting on the living room couch. I thought, "No way! That's the guy in 'Sinbad'!"
It all began to change when I left Abadan in 1976 to go to boarding school
in California. At first, I was thrilled to be in America. To a 14 year-old
like me coming from Iran, it was like one giant theme park. But it wasn't
too long before I began to miss my family and friends. And I missed my very
first girlfriend too.
Because of my half-American mother, I spoke English well. But I knew little about American culture. It was hard making new friends and I never became quite close to them as I was to my pals back home. But one thing kept my spirits up: I was an Iranian. I believed Iran was the greatest country in the world.
One day I was sitting with my history teacher and watching the Shah being interviewed on TV. I was brimming with pride. It was such a boost to feel that the king of my country was answering questions so wisely and confidently to an American audience.
Afterwards, my teacher asked me about life in Iran. It was great, I said. And the Shah, he asked? He was a great leader too, I said. Without trying to hurt my feelings too much, he said, "You know there are Iranians who don't think so." I didn't believe him.
I had never heard anyone say anything negative about the Iranian government. Soon after, I was talking to the only other Iranian at the school. The shah is a criminal, he said. And so did practically every other Iranian I met outside of school. I knew then that something was wrong. And it changed me forever.
A revolution and a war later, my family is scattered around the world.
So are my closest friends. Some are in Iran, most in the U.S. Until fairly
recently , one of the first things we talked about was politics. It mattered
if you were pro-this or pro-that. It mattered more than being a brother,
aunt, or life-long friend. It mattered more than being simply an Iranian
or just a human being.
Coming from a large family -- my maternal grandfather, mashallah, mashallah, had 17 children and I have six brothers and sisters -- I have relatives all along the political spectrum. I myself, after a failed marriage with political idealism -- the revolution and I decided it was not for the best -- decided to call it quits a few years ago.
I remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. At first --
I think I was five years old -- I wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved
digging up things, even in our back yard. Then, just before he died in 1977,
my father asked me the same question. I don't remember what I said, but
I remember his answer very well: "Never go into politics."
I don't know if politics is evil. It is an unavoidable reality. All I know
is that it has done some evil things to me. Did I become too idealistic,
perhaps? Did I want things to change overnight and at any cost? It doesn't
matter anymore. That's all in the past.
Gotta move on.