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
Traffic in Tehran, Iran by tehranshake
I was walking home from work today and I could not help but notice an incredibly wonderful but indescribable city smell that reminds me so much of Iran. Becoming nostalgic about this smell has, for better or worse, become a habit of mine. It was in college when I first began to smell Iran in the United States. At random moments, I would get a whiff of this familiar smell of the oddest mixture: soil, concrete, water, roses… I remember how Fatima would always tease me for bursting out in a huge smile in the middle of our conversations and saying “It smells like Iran.” But I know that she always understood what I meant.
Having lived in the United States for a majority of my life, I nonetheless still consider Iran as my true home. And as a result, I always become ecstatic when I find a little slice of Iran in the most unexpected and hidden corners of the world. It is the sweetest nostalgia.
Isn’t it strange how powerful scents can be in jogging our memories? I always wonder if it is possible to make a “scent camera” that would permanently capture the scents of a place. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to just turn it on and be relocated back to a time and place where you can be at one with your happiest memories? Maybe for now we can all just take a moment to breathe in the familiar breathtaking smells that surround us everyday and allow them to help us make new and unforgettable memories.
Shideh & Manata, I really enjoyed reading your posts. When I think of the places I call “home”, it is defined by the people who are there. In the past 3 years I have lived in 3 different cities. And each time I have left one place, the new place never feels like home even when all my “stuff” is there. There is a cliche that says “home is where the heart is”. I find it very true. I speak of my “homeland” as Pakistan, though I have never lived there for longer than a few weeks. My “home” is still in the small town where I grew up, although I haven’t lived there in 7 years. I feel at “home” when I am with my family & the dear friends I call my ‘family’. For me, it is not the boundaries of our houses or the soil of a nation that make me love a place or make it a home. It is my experiences, the people and my association with that place.
Last summer I went to Calcutta, India as a chaperone for high school students who were traveling to do hospice work with the poor. Calcutta is where my father was born and where my great-grandfather opened the first optics shop that turned into the family business spanning three generations and four countries. Continue reading
I 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
Shideh, thanks for the post. The images are beautiful. One of the pictures that caught my attention: the one of the three men sitting with prayer beads dangling from their wrists. The image reminded me of one of my father’s friends, Mihan. He was from Iran; his wife was American and they and their two children were settled in a nice home with a pool. I would often spend weekends at their house playing with the kids. Uncle Mihan did not seem to be a particularly religious man and there wasn’t much in their household that would distinguish it as being distinctly “Irani”; yet, he would always carry prayer beads in one hand, clicking them one by one. The image of the men sitting in Iran made me think, what do we carry with us and why can we not let go? What is so powerful about our traditions and culture that we continue to carry them out even in environments where they seem to have little purpose? And what things in our culture can we compromise on and what should we never let go of?
Uncle Mihan tragically passed away from cancer, may he rest in peace. He may have been surprised to know that one day I would remember him after seeing a picture of men in Iran. It is interesting how he, like so many individuals we encounter, left an indelible impression on my life.
A friend sent me this website today; I liked the music and images very much and hope you’ll also enjoy watching these slides:
The art of dancing is truly a gift. It is an amazing feeling – the power in group dances – especially the ones with lots of energy, movement, singing, colors, and joy. I only saw these dances in Indian movies when I was a kid – we never had that experience growing up in Tehran. It seems as if Tehran is the America of Iran, where many people from different villages, cities, and provinces migrate to in order to provide better opportunities for their next generation. It is a busy city with lots of people, high rises, and traffic jams. Tehran has become the melting pot for the country, a city where people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, languages, and costumes from around the country migrate to and learn to live next to each other. But in many cases, these individuals sadly forget their own backgrounds and costumes. As a result Tehran may have lost its own unique identity. Perhaps it’s hard to define it or perhaps this is what Tehran’s identity is: a melting pot. But why didn’t I, as a Tehrani girl, ever experience a Tehrani group dance like kids who lived in Gilan, Mashhad, south Bandars, or the nomads of Qashghai experienced?
photo courtesy of Ballet Afsaneh
Now in Berkeley, I am learning dance techniques of classic Persian, Qashqhai, Gilani, Tajik, and Afghani for the first time! And I realize what I had missed all my life. There is so much energy and unity in these dances that words can’t express.
Why not come up with a Tehrani group dance that can create this sort of synergy among the youth of this city? I would argue that group dance would help solve many of the problems that young people are currently facing, such as group work, confidence, and hope. In order not to cause any problems, the classes could be designed for males and females separately. And this group dance could be colorful even though Tehran and most other cities in Iran have widely lost their old costumes and are using western outfits. And even though most people in Tehran seem to have become extremely “black” oriented – meaning they mostly or only wear dark and black dresses and mantos (overcoats). Perhaps new costumes and dresses could be designed that fit in with the exiting young culture of Tehran – costumes that are a combination of old Iranian and Western styles, but with lots of colors this time. Imagine what a beautiful dance that would be!