Category Archives: love

where the hell is matt?

A testament to humankind, kindness and compassion.  This is what life is all about. With best wishes to all of you for the new year:


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happy wednesday

Eid ul-Fitr mubarak to those of you who observe Ramadan. Happy Rosh Hashanah to those starting the Jewish New Year today. Happy Navratri to those of you who are Hindu. And a blessed and happy Wednesday to everyone. Please take today to observe the common threads that runs through us all.


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the good, the bad and the ugly

Mother and daughter preparing tea in Lavasan, Iran. All rights reserved.

He let his mind drift as he stared at the city, half slum, half paradise.  How could a place be so ugly and violent, yet beautiful at the same time?

-Chris Abani, Graceland

I came across this quote tonight while reading a book on poverty and the growth of slums worldwide. The quote really struck me because it reminded me of how much we judge people and places by their external appearances.  It has always been a (optimistic) belief of mine that in order to appreciate the beauty of anything, we have to take time to really see. But it seems that as we mature, it becomes more and more difficult to see the good. We start to lose a little bit of the optimism that we had when we were young when we see that despite our best efforts, we are powerless to bring an end to the bad: poverty, violence, death, cruelty, and struggles for money and power.

But reading this quote has reminded me yet again that the ugliness of life is a part of life itself, and it may even be this very ugliness of life that helps create life’s beauty. I saw a lot of the ugly life during my research this summer. But within the slums and villages that I went to, I also had the blessing to see the simple acts of kindness and love that make it all worthwhile: mothers and daughters preparing afternoon tea together, young cherry pickers laughing and working together, keeping each other company on a hot summer day, and strangers preparing sweet sherbets and desserts for visiting researchers that stumble upon their tiny homes embedded deep within the hillsides of Tehran.


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reuniting love

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but is it true even after 35 years? 

Yesterday there was an article on BBC about a man named Kashmir Singh who was released from a Pakistani jail after 35 years and reunited with his wife and children in India.  It was a Human Rights Minister in Pakistan named Ansar Burney, who worked for his pardon after Mr. Singh was convicted of espionage in 1973 and was lost in the red tape of the prison system.  But no, this is not a political story.  It’s a love story.  His wife, Paramjit Kaur, struggled alone to raise their three children as a single parent.  Below is an excerpt from the article: 

“Referring to his spouse using the honorific, ‘begum’, Mr Singh said that when he last saw her she was a pretty young woman. ‘She is still beautiful but has grown old now,’ he laughed admitting that he remembered very little about his three children. He said it was his memory of his wife that kept his hopes alive through the 35 years of solitary confinement. ”

 True love & respect doesn’t need roses and diamond rings; this is as good as it gets.

Paramjit Kaur - wife of Kashmir Singh - with their photo before he disappeared

 Mrs. Kaur waiting to see her husband after 35 years. 

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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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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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home & calcutta

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

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