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Khatoon Khanoom
Part 1
Part 2 / Part 3

October 20, 2004

Molly Maids: Naneh Youssef, va Ashraf Khanoom.

Do you have Molly Maids? They are a home custodial service organization, like what we had in Iran 40-50 years ago except that instead of Esmeralda, Yolanda, and Josephine, we had Naneh Youssef, Ashraf, va Belgheis Khanoom.

Unlike Yolanda, Naneh didn't drive. She took two buses to our house! Neither did she have a crew of 3-4 others, all arriving in a minivan. Naneh didn't even have a phone. If my mom forgot to make advance arrangements with her to help out for a party, generally outside of her regularly scheduled Wednesday visits, we would call her neighbor, Esmat.

Esmat Khanoom, who had a phone, managed Naneh's schedule. I suspect she handled a few others like Naneh. My mom, like all other Naneh's clients, always sent a little something every week for Esmat Khanoom's dispatching services.

Naneh and Esmat Un-Incorporated were more reliable than the American Social Security, less taxes than the IRS, and more effective than Social Services!

As kids, when my sisters and I were making up scary stories and characters, alongside LooLoo KhorKhoreh va Derakoola, va Jenn, va Aghaye Ex, Naneh was a regular. Her skinny "Abeleh-roo" [smallpox] face, with a scary bad-witch-of-Wizard-of-Oz-like laughter and high pitched screechy voice, was topped with a set of Dandoon Arieh dentures that she would regularly take out and snap them at us for absolutely no apparent reason, which scared the living beejeezus out of us, making her laugh.

My younger sister would always run to warn us: "Okh okh - Naneh oomad" [Uh oh - Naneh is coming] . We would hide until we hear my mom talking to her, which was a relief that for instance she did not eat our mom, after which we would start cautiously to come out.

In all fairness, she did help more passionately than Esmeralda. I think she felt more obligated and worked with more authority, not in a back breaking sense, it was light work, you know, chores that my mom "hoelasho nadasht" and did not feel patient enough doing it.

Naneh cleaned the bathrooms, Jaroo'ed [vacuumed] the house, did our laundry, washed the dishes, Ootu'ed [Ironed ] our clothes, and sometimes cooked. I still think my mom let Naneh cook to piss off my dad, who adamantly refused to eat Naneh's food -- "Inn vagheAnn mess le estefragh e bach-chas" [this looks like a kid has puked on it], he would say.

Naneh loved our parties, probably because she would gobble down a few large glasses of my dad's Vodka-lime pretending it was Sharbat e' AbLimoo [lemonade]. She was not just tipsy, but drunk by the time the guests were arriving. When I told her, my mom said: "Na pesaram, khastass [No my son, she's only tired!].

Ashraf Khanoom was a Mostakhdem [Maid] for an older couple down the street. They were diabetic. She helped other families in the neighborhood to earn extra cash. About the same age as Naneh, but her total opposite. Naneh was a motor mouth and would talk non-stop. Ashraf Khanoom hardly ever spoke. Naneh was shorter, Ashraf Khanoom was pretty tall. Naneh was very white and Ashraf Khanoom was practically black. Naneh only looked scary, but truthfully all of us kids were afraid of Ashraf Khanoom.

Naneh always laughed at her own non-sense stories, while Ashraf Khanoom never did. She reminded me of Barbara Walters whose skin has become so tight after repeated facelifts that she can no longer laugh. She always pulled up her chador around her legs and tied it behind her neck. It covered her body and her hair, yet amazingly, it did not get in her way of doing her chores. Remember the Ghamar Khanoom the sitcom? Like that.

Ashraf Khanoom would carry two 40-50 liter HUGE barrels of kerosene, the ones those painful skinny ring handles, from the Naftee to her house, every day. It always reminded me of Bahram e Goor va Kanizak who carried a cow to the top of the stairs on her shoulders -- remember that story? (Ask me and I will send it to you. It is one of my favorites).

Well, we inherited Naneh's services from my grandmother and when we moved to Amirieh, Naneh's services moved with us, more efficiently forwarded than our phone or postal mail. We couldn't just fire Naneh when we moved. No one ever fires PMMs.

PMMs -- Persian Molly Maids -- are life long contracts, consistent with our Persian and Zoroastrian class system. PMMs become sort of members of the family, of lower grade of course. They receive all the hand me downs or other extras, including left over fresh food after parties during which they helped.

My mom had told the neighbors that Naneh was my dad's cousin to justify why we did not utilize Ashraf Khanoom's services. [My dad always complained to my mom: "Couldn't you find someone better looking to make my cousin? Why didn't you say she is your own cousin?"] But she did not exactly succeed. This territorial issue between Naneh and Ashraf Khanoom did spill throughout the neighborhood. It was like being fans of opposing football teams, or like Republicans and Democrats, or Islamists and Shahists: enemies for life!

Anyway, we were cursed for life for supporting the opposing tea. Do you know much about dogs and their AlphaMale characteristics? Similarly, Ashraf Khanoom would say hi only to my dad, and would never acknowledge my mom, or the rest of us. Only my dad, her cousin! Yes ... We were the victims of the clash of the PMMs.

My mom and Khanoom Esfahani, our immediate neighbor to the left, and Khanoom HezarKhani, our neighbor across the alley, would never mingle and would reluctantly say hi to each other, because of it. We used to call Khanoom HezarKhani "Khanoom e HezaarLaayee [Thousand layers], when we grew older and learned to curse, we called her Khanoom Hezaar Kaani [Mrs. Thousand Asses]. My mom would always refer to Khanoom Esfahani as "Khanoom Gooz" [Mrs. Fart].

I was deeply afraid of Ashraf Khanoom. I always thought she was going to beat me up for no reason at all, or kill me, and drain my oil! I had therefore decided to avoid her, for eternity, at all costs, which was not easy.

I was the boy in my family and boys in my neighborhood (except for Amir AmirKhani) helped in doing the daily shopping. My dad bought meat and bags of rice. I bought the daily fresh bread, vegetables and dairy products such as yogurt, butter, and cheese.

Although I had modified my route many times, I was bound to bump into Ashraf Khanoom -- and I frequently did. When buying bread, I escaped running into her in the mornings by buying Noon Barbari or Noon Taftoon for breakfast. But I could not avoid her at noon or in the evenings at the Sangaki bakery.

Well, enough of Naneh and Ashraf Khanoom. Stay tuned for Jaffar Harroom-zadeh next. >>> Part 2

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Bahram Saghari


Book of the day

Napoleon and Persia
Franco-Persian Relations Under the First Empire
by Iradj Amini


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