Writing Young Love: The general's daughter


Ari Siletz
by Ari Siletz

"Baba, what's a sar lashkar?"

"Some guy in the army," my father mumbled through his Etela'at."Why?"

"The new teacher is asking what each of our father's do?" I said. Which was the truth, but that's not why I was curious. When Roya said her father was a sar lashkar, the substitute teacher's air of authority over her had suddenly crumbled to a friendly-dog submissiveness.

Roya had always ignored me except when she brushed off her skirt every time I sharpened my pencil, even though I never got any pencil shavings on her. So I always ignored her back, even though her eyelashes were so long they reminded me of grasshopper legs. Every school day I looked forward to out-disliking her. But the sar lashkar incident brought a sense of loss, like a ball going over the school wall. Irretrievable.

"What did you say I did?" said my father.

"I didn't know. The ones who didn't know are supposed to find out for tomorrow."

My father closed his newspaper. He was frowning."You tell your new teacher that your father is a sar amaleh."

"For God's sake," my mother jumped in."He's only six."

"Is sar amaleh better than sar lashkar?" I asked.

"Much better," said my father snapping the paper open again. "We are kaargars, and kaargars are the most important people in the world."

Anticipation kept me up the whole night. I couldn't wait till tomorrow when Roya would find out my father was a sar amaleh. All morning, getting me ready for school, my mother tried to fix what my father had done."Your father is an economist." She would say. But the word was too hard and she knew it. Then she tried university professor. Even worse. The pride in my father's voice as he had said sar amaleh just wouldn't wash off the word.

When my turn came up, I stood up proudly and said,"My father is a sar amaleh which is a kind of kaargar who are the most important people in the world."I had no clue that sar amaleh was that much more important than sar lashkar, because as soon as the teacher heard my words, she turned red as though in shame, and stopped asking the rest of the students what their fathers did. I sat down satisfied that no classmate could ever top sar amaleh.

During recess Roya, dragging the entourage of girls who always surrounded her, walked up to me, her long eyelashes moist, a lump in her throat."I didn't want to say," she said."But my father is a sar amaleh too."


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more from Ari Siletz
Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

Great story Ari. You were more honest than her. And that's what still lovable about you.


Lovely piece

by Hajminator on

I really enjoyed reading it. Thanks Ari jan.

ps. Now we have the proof that university professors are the smartest people.

khaleh mosheh

Oosta Ari

by khaleh mosheh on

A well crafted story- Enjoyed reading it.

PS Is Roya on Facebook? May be you can rekindle the old flame my friend- She may not even hold this whole episode against you. 

bajenaghe naghi

Ari jan

by bajenaghe naghi on

What a sweet story. I loved it so much that I read it twice. Thank you.

Passing Through

Dear Ari

by Passing Through on

When I read your piece this morning, I enjoyed it very much .. However, when I read the last paragraph, it made me wonder whether this was a piece of fiction or not.

In any event, in view of your clarifications below to other friends, I would like you to know that it was a very sweet, and cheerfully evocative presentation.

Thank you



Ari Siletz

responses to friends(4)

by Ari Siletz on


I incline to the interpretation that her father’s title was sar lashkar, and that the narrator had turned the tables on Roya (also unaware of what sar amaleh meant), making her feel the same sense of loss at the unattainable that the he had felt when the shoe was on the other foot. Her boasting about her father being a sar amaleh may have been a six year old girl’s idea of “working on the relationship.” This is close to your take on the story about the wooing. The other interpretations proposed in these comments are just as valid. In real life, “Roya’s” father was a sar lashkar, though I have no way of knowing what motivated the real “Roya” to claim her father was also a sar amaleh .


Ali P.


Your explaining the reasons behind this Iranian classroom practice is insightful. For all I know, the teachers may have been instructing us on how our society really worked. They may have felt urging kids to politics is not their job, but the parent’s choice.  The narrator’s father chose to risk his son to ideals; other parents may want their children to learn ways of climbing the social ladder, activism be damned. It would be interesting to write the story from the teacher’s point of view. Any takers?

Ari Siletz

responses to friends (3)

by Ari Siletz on


Yes, the game starts young. Though, in the heat of the fight some writers and artists forget that the upper classes are driven by the same human motives. Do you think the poor have as much to learn from the rich as the other way around?




Was the brushing of the skirt a conscious act of communication, or was it just a “girl instinct?” As for the eyelashes, soozan e bakhieh is more like it. The hazel eyes cut you up, and the eyelashes sewed you back up. She’s probably a surgeon now.

Ari Siletz

responses to friends (2)

by Ari Siletz on


Thank you. If you related to parts of the story, then your interpretation was genuine. My kids went through American schools, and I am aware of that there is definitely a pecking order with hurtful aspects. It just happens that the social hierarchy isn’t as strongly inherited from the students’ parents. As you know, the order is improvised from more complicated interactions, as in real life politics.



My coolest cousin (by far) was a “karmand e sherkat e naft” who worked in public relations. If you ask me, sherkat naft (and navy) led the rest of the country in how to be “modern.”

Ari Siletz

responses to friends (1)

by Ari Siletz on

Nazy, Anahid:


There was one kid in the class whose father had died. She said her father was in Heaven. It seems her mother has prepared her for being asked about it. My father is in Heaven too. Probably getting himself kicked out for bringing God down a notch or two.



Glad you like the story. I understand you and Ali P were part of the brainstorming that led to the idea for this series.


Bijan A M:

Thank you for the very flattering compliment.



  با عرض تشکر از لطف شما، دوست هنرمند.   

Nazy Kaviani

Very nice!

by Nazy Kaviani on

Heeh! You made me smile! Of course a sar amaleh is a lot more important than a sar lashkar!

The day that question came up in our class, something bizarre happened. The second girl who was asked what her father did for a living said: "Man baba nadaram. Babam mordeh." There was dead silence in the classroom. We were all so sad. The teacher tried to manage the situation. She said "Khoda biyamorzadeshoon." She asked the next girl about her father's profession. She said: "Manam baba nadaram." I was next and before the teacher could ask me I yelled with the lump in my throat: "Manam baba nadaram." And all the other kids joined the chorus, saying the same thing. I never told my parents what had happened in class that day. I doubt that teacher ever asked this same question again without remembering that incident.

Thanks for the great read as usual.


What a great story!

by sima on

I loved it.

ex programmer craig


by ex programmer craig on

Nice story, and you told it well. I felt like I could relate to it even though I'm not Iranian.

EDIT: Oops! I misnterpreted the meaning behind the story! Removing the rest of my comment :)



by IRANdokht on

Nobody calls themselves sar-amaleh at home especially the ones who are. She was sweet to you and I knew it from the brushing off of her skirt. She was letting you know that she notices what you do.

I loved this short tender story. I am still trying to figure out how
long those eyelashes had to be to look like grasshoppers legs...  :o)


Ali P.

"Foreman" sounds good, "saramaleh" doesnt.

by Ali P. on

I suppose some teachers considered this an innocent exercise , to introduce different professions to students. Some did it to find out what the fathers do, so they can treat the kids accordingly.


And some did it to see if they can get their business taken care of- maybe free or discounted- by going through the father whose kid they taught ( That, I could understand, considering how vicious we Iranian kids were, and how shockingly low their salaries were!)

Ari jaan, great piece, as always!


Ali P.

P.S. Did you ever find out if her father was really a saramaleh?Could she just have said that to make you feel good :-)


So what was her father's title? Did she change it to woo you?!

by Anonymouse on

Maybe that was a given, I don't know so I ask! 

Everything is sacred.

Bijan A M

Thanks Mr. Ari

by Bijan A M on

I have yet to read a piece that you write without having to think after reading, whether I'm laughing or crying....

You are well respected, sir. 

Thanks again.


Multiple Personality Disorder

I replied by saying he was

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

I replied by saying he was working for sherkat'e naft (Iranian Oil Company).  Well, almost the rest of the kids' fathers also worked for sherlat'e naft.  So, my teacher, with a condescending voice and manner asked me what it was that my father did, che kar mekoneh, neh koja kar mikoneh.  I replied I didn't know.  The class burst in ridicule laughter, and I was embarrassed like never before.

My father was something like a foreman in repairs, karmand, in Abadan Refinery.  Cracking Tower name would come up often.

Very nice story Ari.  Thank you.


Darius Kadivar

Lovely Story Ari Jaan !

by Darius Kadivar on

That Was Sweet and Funny at the same time. It also says so much about the patriarchal nature of our society at the time too.

"La Lutte Des Classes Avant L'Heure ..." ;0)

Thanks for sharing,

Warm Regards,


Anahid Hojjati

Sweet story Ari, I remember my teachers asking fathers' jobs too

by Anahid Hojjati on

Nice and sweet story Ari.  I have couple of memories myself of the times my teachers asked students about what their fathers did and how awkward it was when some students had lost their fathers or their fathers' professions did not "measure up" to those of other kids. 

Red Wine


by Red Wine on

هر نوشته شما،یک نکته تازه به میان آورد که شیرین است و برجسته .

سپاس فراوان اری جان .