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.


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