Author Archives: Shideh

baby with 2 faces

I was speechless when I read the news.  I only hope this baby’s parents will allow doctors to check her internal organs and make sure surgery is not needed for her health.  It is interesting how different communities look at an event/outcome from different angles based on old beliefs/traditions and that an extremely negative situation in one society may be viewed as a blessing in another society. 


12:24 PM CDT, April 8, 2008


SAINI SUNPURA, India – A baby with two faces was born in a northern Indian village, where she is doing well and is being worshipped as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, her father said Tuesday.The baby, Lali, apparently has an extremely rare condition known as craniofacial duplication, where a single head has two faces. All of Lali’s facial features are duplicated except for her ears–she has two. Otherwise, she has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes.

“My daughter is fine–like any other child,” said Vinod Singh, 23, a poor farm worker.
Lali has caused a sensation in the dusty village of Saini Sunpura, 25 miles east of New Delhi. When she left the hospital, eight hours after a normal delivery on March 11, she was swarmed by villagers, said Sabir Ali, the director of Saifi Hospital.

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international dance

Last week, on Sunday morning while the streets of New York City showed small signs of spring but cold winter winds could still freeze my bones early in the morning, we got on the bus to go to Manhattan for a special event.  The Iranian community in New York (and many other parts of the world) had organized a parade in the city for celebrating the Persian New Year, Norooz of 1387.  I was a part of one of the dance groups representing a nomadic tribe in Iran, the Qashgai’s.  We got ready on the bus and by the time we got to our destination, the sun began to shine to some how help us through.  The wind in Manhattan gets blinding sometimes, especially when you are used to the California weather.  When our bus approached the location of the Parade, we saw little kids with the Iranian flag painted on their cheeks, young people holding the Iranian and American flags together, yelling “Norooz Mobarak” meaning Happy New Year.  When they saw us, the color of our costumes made their smiles wider and voices louder, they waved at us showing their excitement and support.  A huge crowd of Iranians and non-Iranians were gathered on the two sides of the street, holding multi-national flags, cheering us on.  When we started dancing, I was cold in the beginning and my eyes were watery due to the wind.  After a few seconds, I forgot all about myself and immediately melted with the energy of the crowd and what was going on around me.  It was like a slow motion experience, when I was watching the crowd from above.  I looked around me to see my friends dancing with me or the people yelling “dametoon garm, thank you, beautiful” and saw many different faces.  In our group of Qashqai dancers, there was only one Iranian and one half-Iranian, the rest were from all over the world.  There I was among a group of dancers from the U.S., Italy, Japan, Mexico, Israel, Tajikistan, and Iran, dressed in traditional Qashgai costumes, dancing like the nomadic women of the mountains in Iran.  I bet the Qashgai women have no idea that such an international group was trying to be like them in the streets of Manhattan on the other side of the planet.  Next time I go to Iran, if I go to the mountains and stay with the Qashgai’s for a few days, would they believe me when I tell them about my experience in America? How would they feel about it?






We are living in a magical age, experiencing so much unity and having access to much information is bringing us closer to each other.  Despite the current direction of the governments that try to advocate separation while demonizing others, we are moving toward unity at a fast pace, in my opinion.  I felt this when I was in the middle of the Parade dancing and I feel it today as I see people with many nationalities here in the streets of Berkeley, protesting against the Chinese invasion of Tibet.  I felt it when an Indian taxi driver in New York asked me what this event was about and when I told him it’s for the Persian New Year, he said: “oh yes, Happy Norooz to you and to all Iranians.”  Becoming global does not mean to forget about our backgrounds, cultures, costumes, histories, and traditions.  In my opinion, unity and globalization is about being aware of what a girl my age is going through in Baghdad, what a mother needs to do to survive in Darfur, how a young boy struggles to earn money for his family and study at the same time in southern Tehran, what games children play and what they learn in school in Kabul, how many people spend their youth in prisons in China, and how Qashgai women dance in the mountains of Iran.  We don’t need to travel to all these places to know how; we only need to care and once we sit behind the magical screen and type the name, hundreds of links show up to take us to the places we like.  We only need to care and it is my responsibility to get to know you on a deeper level and go beyond our surficial differences, so that we can together prevent hatred and war in the future and among our children and grand children.  

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It is this time of the year again; I feel the nature’s longing for spring, I feel its heart beat for spring, its open arms to welcome spring as the trees, flowers, and every living creature (on the northern hemisphere) show their excitement for the New Year and are once again filled with life, waiting to greet a new day, Norooz.  I want to deeply clean our house this weekend, clean every closet, every little detail that has been neglected for a year.  I want to wear new clothes, get a hair cut, learn new things, meet new people, and send letters/emails/text messages to people I have already been fortunate to know.  I want to be all prepared to greet Norooz this year, to be in phase with my surroundings in welcoming Spring into our little house in Berkeley, this wonderful Iranian tradition that I can’t imagine living without. 


My mother has grown “sabzeh” for everyone in  my family this year (a type of plant/herb, a “haft seen” item as a part of the Norooz tradition).  Every morning I wake up to see that it has grown noticeably, as if it has realized that Norooz is coming in a week and it has to grow to a decent size before Norooz enters the house.  Flowers in our little yard are all prepared and full of excitement and life while quietly waiting, as if they are holding their breath, looking at each other with their shiny eyes, hiding their smile, waiting…    Continue reading


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It was a cold day in late February, a Friday afternoon busy with homework and exams during high school.  My aunt had a “khaastegar” (translated to a suitor) that night!  Well, in Iran like many other countries, when a man is introduced to a girl or her family (either independently or through family or friends) and wants to formally meet the girl at her parents’ house, introduce himself and his intentions, and make sure that the girl’s family approve (before actually asking for her hand), a formal but very small gathering is arranged.  My aunt is still young and was much younger then (she’s only 9 years older than me) — she has been like my older sister.  I was afraid that she would like the guy and get married, to be honest.  I was afraid of losing her. The groom to be had come from the U.S., he had a Ph.D. in some type of engineering, and wanted to marry a beautiful and nice Iranian girl as soon as possible!  In this case, he had no idea who my aunt was and what she looked like.  He was simply introduced through a family friend.  My aunt was first resistant to the whole concept, but my grandmother convinced her that she should at least meet the guy and then decide.  Well, long story short, the khastegari session was arranged. 

My aunt being a modern girl did not like the traditional setting where the bride is supposed to bring tea and the groom’s family would check her out and make sure she knows how to serve tea, that she is beautiful and polite, that she is not too nervous, that she smells like roses, that she has a nice smile on her face, etc. etc.  As a result, I was charged with the task of bringing the tea instead of her, while she would sit politely and ask random questions.  I had no intention of doing a good job, because I simply did not want her to get married and leave.  I had also heard horrifying stories of what happens to girls who marry men who apparently came from somewhere in Europe or America pretending they were educated and led good lives, while they had faked everything and turned out to be crazy and abusive husbands.  I did not want to see my beloved aunt experience such a  horrific fate.  Therefore I was determined to do everything in my power to disappoint the groom to be.

[Story to be continued…]


Photo courtesy of Vista

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power of colors

On our way to Iran from San Francisco, we stopped in Amsterdam to change planes.  Shawhin and I got our coffee and orange juice (I’m the coffee person and he’s the healthy one) and we were on our way to find the gate for the KLM flight to Tehran.  It turned out finding the gate was much easier than expected.  All we had to do was to follow the large number of familiar eyes who spoke Farsi very loudly.  It’s not common to speak loudly among Iranians, but somehow it seemed like we all wanted to make sure others noticed that we are Iranian, kind of like a signal, a way of communicating, a way to make sure other Iranians see us and can come to us if they are lost or need help of any sort.  

I felt the excitement of going home after 8 years; it was amazing being among all those familiar eyes, familiar accents, familiar smiles, or familiar complaints.  I realized in the middle of my excitement, however, that those eyes and accents were not our only guides to the right gate.  It was something much more visual and obvious: the black clothes!  Sadly I must acknowledge the current trend of fashion among my fellow countrymen.  Black, black, black.  All I could see was black, dark blue, dark gray, dark green, basically all sorts of varieties of black with different shades.  I told Shawhin if he noticed that we were the only ones not wearing black at the gate while we were waiting for our flight.  He laughed and nodded.  I saw that his happy eyes transformed to something more like worried happy eyes.  Well, I did not want to ruin this experience for him so I changed the topic.  I was however deeply concerned about the effects of this color on people’s everyday life back home.  Imagine living in a black city where colors are not widely accepted, are thought to be cheap, or are not even allowed in many public places.  I wonder if anyone in Tehran or other big cities in Iran worries about this, but there I was waiting at the gate deeply struggling with these thoughts and emotions.  I was emotional and excited with the thought of landing at the Mehrabad airport, seeing the Azadi tower when the pilot does a turn around it before landing, kissing the ground of my city, the city that really belonged to me.  My fear of black, on the other hand, was constantly on my mind.  I wanted to get the microphone from the flight attendant and ask all the passengers to change their outfits and wear brighter colors and was frustrated with my lack of power to do so. 


A girl in Sanandaj, Iran, wearing traditional colorful costumes. Photo courtesy of Ddokosic

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babak’s castle

I bought a calendar with lots of beautiful pictures from different parts of Iran during our last trip in September.  This morning when I came to school, I turned the page and found myself stunned by the power of the image in front of me.  I had discovered an astonishing scene in east Azerbaijan (a province in the north west corner of Iran) that mesmerized me for a few minutes.  I imagined hiking these mountains while feeling the fresh air and the history of this castle amazingly built on a high cliff around 1000 years ago.  The calendar says that the castle belonged to a Persian soldier named Babak who fought against Iran’s foreign invasion and managed to protect himself and other soldiers in this castle for 20 years.  I don’t know how accurate this information is but I am determined to see this place next time I go to Iran.  It feels like I have been there before.  There is something in this picture that is too familiar, either the tale behind the image, the scenery, the castle itself, or a combination of them all.  Or perhaps it reminds me of the stories my grandmother (Beebee) and my most beloved secondary Beebee (Khadijeh) used to tell me when I was little, stories that always involved some sort of love story, betrayal, heroism, sacrifice, and beauty.  They were all happy ending when I was little, but somehow magically transformed into more realistic scenarios as I grew up. I miss them both very much but their stories continue to live with me and guide me as I move on.  


Image courtesy of majid_cs

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tehran-milad.jpgI left Iran when I was 16 years old, after getting my high school diploma in math and physics. The name of my high school was (is) Kooshesh (which translates to “hard work” or “effort”) and it was located in Jordan Street, at the intersection of Ghobadian and Jordan Ave. It seems like a different life when I think about it, the memories are awfully distant. However, there are some images and feelings during those high school days that are as fresh in my mind as ever. I lived in Niavaran, north of Tehran, which meant a long drive or bus ride to school every day. My best friend, Samira, lived on Yakhchal St., which was on my way to school. We usually walked together for a while before taking a taxi or the bus home every day. There was a pastry shop on our way on Mirdamad that sold delicious “Noon Khamei’s” and cups of chocolate mousse. I still remember the taste; how lovely it was to spend the little money that we had on those pastries. Some times we got a slice of pizza on our way home too, which usually drove our mothers crazy as they had prepared a meal and were waiting for us at home while we would arrive a bit late with ketchup all over our uniforms and not too hungry!


Image courtesy of Mohammadali

I remember clearly that one day as Samira and I were walking on the Shariati Avenue with a mouthful of chocolate mousse, I told her how much I wanted to come to the U.S. to go to college. I told her that if a miracle happened and I ended up in the U.S., I would finish my Ph.D. and would return to Iran to teach. She didn’t understand why I would want to leave Iran; everything seemed to be great, we had an amazing group of friends, and our parents were doing well. We had hopes of studying engineering in a top university and didn’t worry too much about the future. We would probably get married at some point and have kids and we’d be friends, always. Why leave? Why change? Continue reading

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