Friday, May 11, 2007

Iranian Friendship

The best thing about Iran is its mothers and the second best thing is its friends. I do recall years ago I met a client of mine, a fashion designer who, when she noticed I’m Iranian, told me her ex-husband was Iranian too. I tried to find something appropriate to say, considering her bad experience, when she continued that although he was not a good lover and husband, he was her best friend and still is. I felt relieved when she continued that not only was he such a good friend, but his family and particularly his mother were such amazingly loving people. That was not an isolated incident and it was not the comment of only one individual. It never surprises me to receive that kind of acknowledgment. The impact that this particular aspect of culture has on our life had never lost its high value to me.

My trips to Iran would not be so exciting if friends were not part of them. Not only the old ones; classmates, college buddies, neighbors, and colleagues, but new ones as well. Those I met just few years ago in conferences, in meetings, in concerts, in parties, and occasionally in art exhibits. I go to Iran mainly to visit them and talk with them. Whenever I return from these trips, I feel a little awkward to explain my happiness just by saying “I was with friends.” Even my husband, who is so familiar with Iranian culture and tradition, has a hard time to grasp the concept of “wonderful times” in terms of just being with friends. My recent trip was very special to me since I had few reunions with old friends.

I met few of my high school friends in a restaurant for lunch after some forty years. They all were married and some of them had grandchildren. All of them were professionals, physicians, chemists, sociologists, environmental scientists and biologists. (We were all in the Natural Science School. I was the only one who left the field for the humanities and the arts.) The most impressive aspect of it was the fact that we all came from very modest lower to middle class families. We all attended a local public school which did not have a library. There was no public library available (the Library of Parliament was the only public library in Tehran at the time) and believe it or not we did not even have laboratories at school. Our parents were mostly involved with various problem of life with not much time to tend to our needs. There was no entertainment either. Sports facilities were non-existent and books were such a rare commodity that if anybody had one we would all borrow it and pass it around. A book which was borrowed would never return to the original owner, it would have gone through so many hands that it would have been impossible to trace it back. I do recall once my brother borrowed two volumes out of three of Anna Karenina (second volume missing). Being such a lengthy novel we could not wait for any of us finish the entire book, so we divide it and passed it around and read it and shared our portion with each other; and since we could not locate the 2nd volume we had to guess that part of Tolstoy’s writing. It did not even occur to us that we were doing something that we were not up to: to fill up the gap in Tolstoy’s novel.

In our reunion, we all remembered that novel which probably was our first one to read on seventh grade. We remembered even each other shoes or dresses; we remembered our exams and even the mistakes we made on our exams. We remembered very well that none of us knew where we were heading; none had any role model except our female teachers. There was not that much ahead for us to follow; our mothers were very different than us; all they knew and insist on was that we study and study.
However we had each other. Talking to each other was the second big luxury and entertainment next to “contemplating.” Now that I think about it, I feel how fortunate we were. It was just between these luxurious activities that we discovered and formed ourselves as well as we could. There were some errors as well, such as when Nahal and I both decided we were tall enough so we should never need to wear high heel shoes. I’m 5' 3" and Nahal was 5' 3.5".

I met some of my friends from our old neighborhood. We lived in a neighborhood called “Chaharsad Dastgah” means four hundred units. This neighborhood prided itself on a few things. The most important was its small triangular clay soccer court which was the birthplace of Iran’s National Soccer Team. Almost every member of the team was trained in this humble court which was not made for this purpose but had been usurped by soccer loving youth of our community.
We all gathered in the weekend place of one Armenian friend. Lots of friends were there. It was so exciting to see those old friends who had changed by now. However, after fifteen minutes they were all transformed into what they were just forty years ago, only a little grayish and wrinkled. We talked and recalled the good old days. My brother was talking about my mini mini skirts which apparently was a favorite topic in some circles, when Fariborz, a famous soccer player in National Team arrived and asked whose skirt was short? Mina’s? When? We all laughed. He would drive me to and from work for three years and never noticed my exposed legs? I did not know if I should be flattered or insulted. I decided to be just nostalgic for the passed days of honor and trust, for the days that we were the guardians of goodness, the days that not everything was “me” and not every end was “my feeling,” but the days when we took pride in our discipline and restrictions.
It was so touching that Mrs. Habibi, the pretty wife of captain of our National Soccer Team still remembered, not my legs, but the name of the movie we saw together: My Fair Lady.
A visit to the cemetery was also an achievement on my part. I had avoided it during my last two visits back home. When we buried my father there in 1972, the cemetery was new. Now it has turned into a huge green park which is the eternal home for some dozen more beloved. It was not exactly the same as visiting the friends, but visiting the loved ones, who did not wait enough for to see our better days and departed untimely (is there any good time for that kind of departure?) would bring a feeling of grief mingled with feelings of liveliness. It tells us to extend our love and affection we had for them to those who are still around. Lots of aimless love was hovering in the cemetery. I manage to gather a bag full of them with me to share with others who are still with me.
Among those I visited, was the grave of a handsome young man, Aman Teymori, the only son of my friend Eftekhar. He was killed in an accident caused by an avalanche just less than three mounts ago. At his grave I was filled with dismay and grief, more so than over any of the other losses I ever encountered. I did not even dare to suggest his parents to share that love with others; it was too cruel, although, I learned they have not wasted any time and bonds of love are already established between them and the survivors of one of the ski resort keepers who died trying to save their son. (
Besides the mothers and friends and the landscapes and parks, taxi drivers should have a proper place as a contributing factor to the beauty of Tehran. Yes, what would a city be without them, those temporary “friends” who patiently drive us from one part to the other part of the city safely, in the city that some ninety percent of drivers do not like to use their turning signals, those who can give us the most accurate information about any place we want and those who—I do not know how—remember all those labyrinths of northern Tehran, those who, when they finally take us to our destination would tell us “ghabeli nadareh” meaning their service is not worthy of us, we do not need to pay. Most of the time they are just being polite, but it still feels good. They are mostly very educated and well informed and also very political. I think the kind of free zone that we enjoy in every taxi owes its freedom and independence to these brave, outspoken and intelligent drivers. One can talk to them about any subject. Not only the most accurate news is being broadcast in their little kingdom, but also one gets pampered like never before in adult life. They stop without nagging so you can buy a bouquet of flowers or an ice cream if you want to. They can even stop at the bakery and pick up some fresh bread for you. Once they take you somewhere they remember it for the next time, and they go out of their way to leave you on exactly the same side of the street, even if it means driving few blocks back and forth; all these while carrying on a conversation about the elections or the candidates’ qualifications for office.
In this trip I also met several interesting drivers, whom I can never forget. One of them, Ali Akbar, while driving my to the dentist, talked about the blessing of having children. When I told him I do not have any, he turned back and said, “You sound as if you have so many, you sound as if all the children in the world are yours.” I wanted to cry. The man did not even know me, but sure he listened and did not give me a usual cliché response. I look forward to seeing him on my next trip. Do not be surprised; in Iran, personal relationship does not have a fixed boundary.


Ali Sanaei said...

nice blog.
well done, keep it on ...

Mina said...

سپاسگزاری میکنم
به کمک امثال شما

Robert said...

Wonderful post!I'm glad that you met with your old pals.I am aware of the friendly ways of Iranians.I had a very nice friend who was from Iran and she was very helpful.Though I have lost touch with her now, I really value all that she did for me.Wishing you a very happy Best Friends Day(June 8th)!

Nazy said...

Mina Khanoom:

Quite by accident, I came upon your blog tonight (well, it's already this morning!). It is an amazing space. I have read three of your posts so far tonight, and I know that I will come back to see and read more. You write very well, and you have stories to tell--the combination makes you quite interesting. I know that blog etiquette requires writing a first comment on the blogger's latest post, but this post gripped my heart. When I read the last paragraph about the cab driver, I cried, because I understood the originality of the man's message and its impact on you. I, too, have a blog. Though my Farsi is arguably a lot better than my English, I write it in English. I do this so that younger Iranians who can't read Farsi very well can read about Iran and Iranians, and Americans who are interested in Iran can come, too. Keeping up a blog at my age and station is not a terribly easy thing. It is a labor of love I give for two countries and two nations which I love dearly and appreciate deeply. I don't even know who comes to read me, but I doggedly keep it up, so that more positive representations of Iran and Iranians and their lives help promote better understanding in the world. Reading your blog, reminded me so much of myself and my own life, maybe a few kilometers to the east from you in Tehran (in Tehran Pars), and now a few thousand miles to the West (in Northern California), but still so close in meaning and manner and heart. You and your "Iranian Friendship" are my gifts tonight. Be good Mina Khanoom. Come and visit me sometime.

Mina said...

Thank you, Nazy, for your comment. I am so glad we met in the blogosphere. I am posting your URL,

on my blog.

Linda said...

Yes, true.Iranian friends are great!Mina, it was great to read about your reunion with your old friends and a nice glimpse of Iran. Cheers!

maria said...

It's amazing how true it is what you say about frienship. My ex-boyfriend is iranian and it's true he is a better friend than a lover. I learned throuhg him to love iranian culture, from what I did not know anything. It's been very sad , he only had a closed group of friends and most with the language barrier in between, but those few always welcome me as one of them. I still love my iranian ex-boyfriend, you guys are very nice people....I wish I had more iranian friends...

Anonymous said...

Mikhastam beporsam ke tuye chaharsaddastgah khanevedeye abtin ro mishnakhtin?

Anonymous said...

Hey there, I read your blog and I love it. I'm dating an Iranian-American and we're in a serious relationship (fairly new.) What are traditional gifts to give his mother? I'm Lebanese-American and thought about bringing some yummy food but I'm curious to know if there are any traditions that I might not know of when meeting up with his mother at her home. Thanks if you can help. :)