I am grateful to you readers for spending time reading this piece of writing. I hope it is at par with your expectations and worth the value of your time. Even though one’s childhood memories are his/hers alone, sharing them with others will be immensely revealing. They can help to foster appreciation of our life and inform others about who we are and how we got to where we are now. Reading the memories of others will also help to bring to our focus many important issues that may otherwise remain unnoticed.
While the real story of one’s life begins with a scandal or with love affairs, my parents’ story began with marriage without any scandal or adventurous romance. I am sure my father had not seen my mother before marriage as was usual at their time and even today in many places. And, there was no love at the first sight. Their marriage was arranged, brokered, a blind marriage. It was like signing a contract and negotiating its terms and conditions afterward. It is really hard to imagine what would be your love life if you marry a person you didn’t know or even seen before. Remarkably, their marriage lasted for lifetime, until death do them apart. This gives some credence to my own theory that love is not the guarantor of a marriage and the necessary and sufficient condition for its continuance; patience, devotion, commitment, and unselfishness are. My parents must have also believed that love and friendship will follow the marriage gradually and it seemed they did.
Having no choices or flexibilities, it was really a difficult time to be a female those days. Being in love with a man for a woman, or even contemplating such idea, was something that would have stained the family name and was considered disrespectful to the sacred institutions that society honored for centuries. Being a girl was already enough of a burden for a poor family. You would not wonder if they rejoiced the occasion of sending a daughter to her husband’s home. It was a sense of relief, like an economic burden lifted or a major expense eliminated from their budget. For women it was a religious duty to marry and to raise good kids, kids that are religious and do not go off the straight path.
My mother, like other women in our community, managed her life feasibly well and seemed to have a fulfilling one. Family matters could be resolved easily. Women didn’t have, of course, much negotiating power, they were expected to be obedience and subdued. It was, therefore, an implicit understanding that they have to give up and submit to the men or to the institutions believed to be God-given and no one should dispute their validity or tries to alter them. I can’t envision what would have been the topic of their discussion at dinner table, I mean sofreh. I even suspect if they had any discussion at all. Whatever, it might had been, politics was not in their mind. The more complex issues, if there were any, could be resolved through mediation by a respected relative or an elder, rish sefid, whose verdict was final and the disputed parties should comply with it. Such arrangement seemed to have worked well especially for younger couples.
Women in my childhood era had their own chat club. They usually gathered at the front of a house in our alley sitting on the porch talking for hours, ekhtelaat, while doing the daily household tasks and analyzing the daily events. It was like a generic version of the View, the TV show. Almost every issue can be put on the table and be analyzed except the matters related to intimate life with their husbands. Women in those days were much more reticent when it came to private life. Men were not allowed to their club. Their presence would hamper the women from talking unreservedly about the issues especially those strictly pertained to women and made them feel uncomfortable because men were naa mahram.
Despite economic hardship, my father seemed to be fully content with what he had. I don’t remember seeing him complaining or feeling deficient. He was a devout Muslim in the real sense of the word which means total submission. After each daily prayer he declared his satisfaction with whatever God had determined for him. He was illiterate; nonetheless, he would read many of Koran’s Soureh relying on his memory. I remember, every night before going to bed, he used to read loudly several verses from Koran seeking God’s forgiveness and guidance. The highlight of his bedtime prayer was to reaffirm the legitimacy and the eventuality of death by repeating this famous verse; “we come from God and we return too him” He steadfastly resisted the temptation of indulging himself in the impulsive worldly pleasure in exchange for eternal gratification in the other world. Often, in my simplistic mind, I wanted to ask him please do not talk about death and the punishment of the judgment day, azab e rooz ghiaamat, so persistently. I was worried about the bleak mentalities that will be transpired from prolong exposure to death and punishment.
I remember vividly, my father used to defend adamantly his simple life and was proud that he had provided everything he possessed through his own diligent efforts, aragh jabin va kde yamin as he used to say. Conceivably, that was his only defense for what I considered a despondent life we had to endure every day. It was always perplexing to me why so many people, in our alley, lived in those unbearable conditions and did not appear unhappy at all and had no any desire to change things.
Although there were typical disagreements between my parents regarding many issues, however, when it came to raising their kids there was no incongruity especially about the moral codes and standards they expect us to follow and to respect. They were very meticulous to reinforce and to instill in their children good moral and ethical values and held them up to high standards. That was the one of the key goals of the life. We, the kids, often disliked their treatment as being harsh and even embarrassing at times, but they believed that was an integral part of being good parents. Even though they were strict, they were considerate and very knowledgeable about life’s important matter despite the fact that they were illiterate. My parents did not do for me any of the things expected of modern parents of toady. I don’t remember that they ever drove me to school obviously because we didn’t have a car, or read me books at my bed side simply because they could not read, bought me a toys, took me to dinner at a restaurant, or spend any quality time with me. But they were good parents, and that was what mattered. My deep reverence for them never allowed me to challenge their decisions, being irresponsible to their feelings, or raising my voice when talking to them. I sincerely believed that I had the best parents in the whole world and never felt I needed better ones.
Those days, it was not customary for the sons to move away. They were supposed to stay and be the sources of support for their parents when they age and unable to care for themselves. Like other older men, my father was at the mercy of his sons after he got older and could no longer work, especially the oldest son who was traditionally obligated to take care of his aging parents. It was so saddening for me to see men like my father, whose physical and mental capacities have been exhausted because of decades of hard work and serving society. Now that he was old and unable to support himself, society had completely ignored him, assumed no responsibility for him, and left him at the mercy of his sons who could hardly provide for their own families.
A hand-written document is the only thing left for me, the only reminiscence of their marriage. It is prepared by a mullah who, I assumed, conducted the religious marriage ceremony, sigheh aghd. It dates back to 1339 hejri ghamari, ninety years ago according to the lunar calendar. My mother’s dowry was fifty tooman, eat your heart out Heather McCartney! The marriage certificate, which is now on display at our family room, was mysterious been found by my cousin and was given to me while visiting Iran a few year back.
My parents were the lifelong members of unprivileged class ignored, pushed to the margin of the society, and being coerced into an impasse. They had virtually no voice when it came to social issues, had no control over what had been decided on their behalf or where they were heading to. The sad realization that they, like many other people, didn’t have a voice has generated a sense of resentment and frustration in me forcing me to stand up and speak out on their behalf. And tell them that I am here to represent you and your generation. If you didn’t have a voice back then, I can stand up and reclaim the recognition that you deserved but the society denied it from you for so long and still does >>> Part 4