Monday, June 12, 2006

The Ugly Duckling...

MIT's graduation ceremony was a blast. It was beautiful, my first time in a US commencement ceremony. Mira, Takis, Dimitri, Hazhir, Maryam, Rouzbeh and many other friends were marching in those long gowns (well, I need to switch my vocabulary: robes, as they are called here), and joy and pride was floating in the air. The class of 1956 were there too, for the 50th anniversary of their graduation, all in red jackets. It was moving to watch them, having made it to here, to Killian Court again. There were only few ladies among them.

yesterday, we lost the game to Mexico, there is more to the world cup tension though than just games. While watching the game, me and my fellow Iranians, were reminded on and on how political a world we live in. It was very unprofessional on the commentator's part, to constantly summarize Iran's political issues instead of reporting the game. It was distracting and humiliating. I don't understand this. Neither do I understand this crazy world anymore; how people kill people and no one does anything; how those written-on-stone- (and paper) rules of the international organizations are of no use or meaning in our world; how paranoia has taken over; and how we have become so numb, so de-sentisized to all this. We live in this paranoid schizophrenic world -or rather panoptican- of fear and terror, and nothing explains it. Games over games, and I cannot make sense of it anymore.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I belong there, and I don't know where that is...

The sense of belonging to some sort of a group, community, or people, is what we are all looking for. This uprootedness, this displacement that we go through as a people, is what blinds us to this very lost sense of belonging. It hit me at the IAMA (Iranian American Medical Association) meeting in NJ last week -where I had the greatest time with old friends as well as newly met ones- that we are all but a part of this mystique of words and sounds and emotions, called Iranian-ness. No matter how far or how long away, no matter where raised, one would feel it when the US-raised youth dance passionately with Iranian music, get emotional by Rumi's poetry, and excuse their backs when they sit in the row in front of you. It feels safe, it feels familiar, it feels "us". I was almost giving up that it actually existed. But I felt it there, the same sense of family, the same grace and honour, the same catch phrases and famous sayings. It felt so right, and I was so grateful just to be there. I felt I belonged to somewhere, to some virtual/invisible homeland, one that lives in our hearts and minds and words, one that we try hard to preserve in our souls, one that may never exist anywhere.

There was a moment, when a young doctor showed me a poem he had written, in Pinglish (Persian, in English writing/letters). I shall never forget that moment, when it just hit me that something new is about to happen, something different, something unexpected, yet inevitable. What is this thing about this language, that you can write a poem in it even without knowing how to write it... The pinglish poem was so honest, so pure, that I realized a new chapter in my people's history is about to begin. To me, the persian language is the feel of those beautiful words, woven into each other in a beautiful work of calligraphy. That is what I was raised with, what I know as my language, the couplets of Rumi written in Nasta'ligh, Ghazals of Hafiz painted in words. Right. But I cannot help but see the coming of a new time, a new era, wherein my children's children may create their feeling of that language in a different way, a way that I might not understand after all. I am attached to that language, to those letters, to those words. I know them the way I lived them, they way I felt them. They will learn it their own way. It will not be the same, never. I might not even like it. But it will be pure, from the heart, and honest. It will be a choice nonetheless. I shall remember the moment when I read that poem: those Persian words were so unfamiliar, marching before my eyes in English letters. It was such a strange feeling, yet it was fuled by the honesty and purity of those words. That moment was like a close-up of what the Diaspora is about. It was so moving.


" I remember flying from tehran to London, and then from London to Oxofrd, and thinking to myself: How is it possible that I was in Tajrish, on Pahlavi Ave in Tehran some 8 hours ago, and now i suddenly found myself on Queen Street in Oxford. I remember vividly that I could not make any sense of it. My feelings, my mind, even my body was stretched between continents, and I had to accept it. It was strange.

You will have a lot to ponder about this week, to find yourself back in London, and to make sense of what you feel now that you are back. You know, an iranian friend is going to London this weekend for 2 months for an internship, like many others. I had to show him last night, on the Tube map, the whereabouts of his office and his flat. After so long, i used that map, and felt I am getting in touch with a lost part of my mind. That map felt secure, safe and familiar. It was in my pocket for three years, I knew the order of the stations of each line, the red one in particular. Marble arch or Baker st was where i always got off from the oxford coach and invited myself to a long walk and coffee on oxford street, behind selfridges in those italian cafes, where many of my poems are signed and dated. The last time though, was when I left the american embassy on Grosvenor Street, and went to an old cafe -i don't remember the name- and wrote a poem called "the embassy". That was my last visit from London, followed by an evening in Zuma, and a trip back to Oxford. Now that I look at this map, I realized what a large portion of my childhood, my formative moments, as well as my twenties, is left there. I woul do anything for a short visit from that city this summer, but you know it is sort of not possible now. I don't know how long I can handle this anger, this frustration, for not being able to get out of this country without risking my studies, my visa and my return. Last time I was in london was 19th of June, the embassy day which turned out to be a beautiful day and eve, once I was over the long queuing for my visa interview. It will soon be a year, but i feel it is ten years already.

It is pouring here, the rain will not stop until the weekend. It is Mansoon season here I guess. A bit gloomy, and heavy, heavy rain... I envy the sky, I wish I could cry like this now. I can't, it is a while that I am carrying this unknown thing , clogged in my throat, and it wouldn't become tears. I need to fly."

From a letter to a friend who works in London - June 2006 - The other Cambridge, MA