Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mani's Conversion

I rushed to the kitchen to prepare food, sabzi polaw and fish, my usual fast food! My guests very graciously had let me neglect my duty as a host for few days, so I wanted to make it up to them in their last night’s stay in New York on Friday. Food was simple but the table was elaborate, with all my sets of green china and glasses to match not only my green dinning room but our Green Movement and our Green Youth and hopefully our Green Victory.

After dinner, my guests started to pack. Elahe has promised Darya, her granddaughter, to be in Montreal before 4 pm on Saturday. However Mani, my friend’s son did not want to go back on Saturday. I felt something very emotional was happening since Mani switched to French, the language that he is more fluent in, when he said grumpily, “I should stay for tomorrow and leave the following day by bus.”

“We all came together and we should all leave together,” His mother declared authoritatively.

“It is all my fault. I said I can go alone by bus and you all can come whenever you feel like coming,” Darya said with tears in her eyes.

“No Darya jan, your grandma won’t let you go alone. They feel responsible to take you back home as they promised to your parents,” Mani’s mother said.

“I can go by bus on Sunday. I know how to get the bus. I should stay here for tomorrow’s march,” Mani said, as if knowing he was crossing a narrow line.

“But we all should go back tomorrow, you knew it, and you agreed, didn’t you?” his mother said.

“Oh, please, we are not in court and we are not putting a kid on trial,” I wanted to tell his mother but I kept quiet.

“Ya, I did, but that was three days ago; do you understand? Three days is a long time, Mom! Something has awakened in me during last three days. I feel something now that I didn’t feel before; something that I did not even know existed. Tomorrow, everybody is marching, people from all over the world march for us, from South America, from Europe, form Africa, from Australia, they all march for us when I, who should be there, sit in the back of the car and drive to Canada to go the a party! No, I can’t do that, I must be here.” The words were pouring out of Mani’s mouth as if he had no control over them, as if he did not need to think about them.

“It’s entirely my fault, I should not have come, I know it is my fault, I ruined everything for all of you. What if I go tomorrow by myself and you can come after the march.” Darya said, almost crying.

Mani went toward her and gently patted her on the back and said, “No dear, it is not your fault. You did not do anything wrong. It is me who is changing his mind and can’t help it. You did nothing wrong, otherwise I would not talk to you.”
“But listen! Don’t be so childish …” his mother started to say but stopped suddenly and just stared at him as if in disbelief.

I felt an urge to jump in and give my unsolicited advice to his mother. I felt an urge to scream at his mother and tell her “the hell with the stupid party you want to go. Remember your own youth and your own rebellion. Remember when your father brought you from Tabriz, to Tehran to go to law school. And remember the promises you made to your father about staying away from the line of opposition to the Shah, and remember how you broke them all and did what your heart told you to do. Remember that you never regretted any of them. Remember that was some forty years ago, and you were a little provincial girl and not a young person grown up and educated in cosmopolitan cities such as Paris and Montreal, and remember that by breaking your promise you did not fall into disgrace. Remember that nothing happened. Remember that for years in law school, in spite of everything, again and again, you have used promise-braking as a paradigm for the most unethical behavior!" Yes, I wanted to tell her she broke her agreements with her father on such an important issue and she still became such a dignified lawyer. I wanted to tell her that a little contradiction and deviation of this sort seems inevitable at certain age. I wanted to tell her…

I had the urge to say even more. But I did not. I just felt the futility of it all. Not that she won’t recall what I wanted her to; very likely she would. But the futility of urging someone to do something that she is not willing to do. I felt it is irrelevant if Mani comes to the march on Saturday or not, or even if by some miracle everyone decides to stay for the march on Saturday, or simply letting him stay with my responsibility to arrange his trip back the following day. What was most significance was Mani’s spontaneity and his eagerness to grasp the new breath of his experience. Sitting in a rocking chair and swinging back and forth, he looked more like a mother nursing her baby with passion. Indeed, he was nursing a new born, a precious little feeling. It seems the last three days he was transported to another life and was returned with an adopted child which he did not want to let go of. “Yes, I must stay here,” echoed vehemently, though, it was uttered gently as a whisper. I felt the young man sitting a few feet away from me was miles away from the little boy I saw in 2000 with all the characteristic of a twelve year old so absorbed with his personal needs. Responsibility, compassion, sympathy, love, and connectedness towards millions unknown has found a venue for display, and he was wise enough not to loose the opportunity.

I felt no need for my interference. I felt what was supposed to be achieved had been achieved already. Mani in French expressed what his new friends, who were unknown to him up a few days before, would have expressed in Farsi on the streets of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz or Mashhad. I had no doubt that he would have marched with his friends in Iran somewhere without fear, without hesitation had he been there. He had truly become one with those millions in Iran.

It was three a.m. when I left mother and son to decide the way they usually make other decisions in life. A few hours later when I woke up they were loading their belongings into the car. Mani was going as well. He gave me a warm hug and said “Khaleh Mina, I’ll be back soon.” I responded with a much warmer squeeze and wished him well. I stayed on the road with a pitcher of water to splash at the back wheels of their car for a safe trip and watched until they disappear into the traffic.

I have no doubt that Mani gave in so easily because in reality he did not give in. I’m convinced he thought the way I thought. I’m convinced in his heart he felt it does not matter if he would march with us in New York City or ride in car to Montreal. In the reality of his heart, he had made a bond with his fellow Iranians that he felt no need to display.

I went to the march thinking all the way about Mani and his excitement. A memory came back to me. I recalled when some seven years ago I obtained my Iranian passport after twenty five years with a not-so-flattering photo of mine, wearing a black scarf, attached to its first page, along with usual personal information. I read that few lines of information at least hundred times a day for a while. The passport was placed on the night table next to the books I read at night. For months it was the last thing I would look at before sleeping and the first I would look at on opening my eyes. I even thought that photo was the prettiest I ever had. Even to this day I have never cherished anything more than that sudden sense of belonging given to me by touching that little red booklet or reading its content. I can never forget the sensation of reading my name and my family name, most significantly, the place of birth! I would never forget the pleasure and a sense of security I found within that little booklet. I felt I had found a place to live safely, among a clan who would give me refuge with love and compassion if it is needed. I felt I’m not lonely anymore, I felt I’m together with many, with so many. I felt “fear no more.”

I was marching and thinking of Mani in the back seat of the car, secure and safe, knowing he is not alone, knowing he is with many, and would “fear no more,” listening to his favorite musician, Alizadeh. (Mani is student in a music academy.) I thought he is as excited as I was with my Iranian passport. I wished I could have taken a photo of Mani’s feeling, I wished I would have been a painter and draw that sense of belonging, that sense of awakening, and then I would frame it, frame it with pure gold and place it in a high place somewhere, very high, close to God maybe, on a prayer mat, above the piano he plays, over the fireplace he gazes, at or simply next to his bed, to look at it every morning and every night, the first and the last.


داستانک said...

فعلن که باید با همین احمدی پلو بسازیم!

Xagros said...

Very nice!
But if it's possible in brief!
U describe like an naturalism author and a director who touch all scenes.