Forever Under Construction

Dear MZ

Posted in Personal by homeyra on December 27, 2006

Almost none of my childhood friends live in Iran. It gives me a jet-set feeling 🙂

F& Z live in Geneva, R, C, F in Paris and Z & R are in Strasbourg. F & R ended up in Lausanne, M in Washington, S in Saint Martin, Antilles and MZ in New-York.

Among them R, thanks to her demanding family, comes over quite regularly. This seems a bit of an ordeal to her but for the time being she seems to have survived!

Another regular Teheran “habitué” is R. Fortunately he has also some family here and is devoted to them. He comes whenever he can for short visits and brings me F‘s news. S came once with his French husband and three beautiful kids, Z & R came this summer after 20 years for the first time, I was amazed to see their son in his late teens, speak fluently Persian and in love with Iran. I asked Z what’s wrong with him, apparently he was not even encouraged by his parents, but the grandfather, a former high ranking military, has been sort of subversive!

All the others have no immediate families in Iran. Most of us were students in Europe when the revolution occurred. Most never came back, others left the country.

We are all too lazy to keep in touch regularly, and our lives are different, but whenever we see each other it is as if we have never been apart. They have all shied away from showing up in this blog. Therefore I take the liberty to write whatever I want about them.

Last night through a forwarded email I found MZ‘s email – I didn’t even have her email address – I wrote a few lines. It didn’t take five minutes to have her reply, just as we had seen each other yesterday. I wrote back, late at night and found another reply this morning. I had forgotten how close she was. I had a good laugh, and was grateful once again to this great internet stuff. In her words, MZ lives in a sort of self-imposed exile in New York. Not the worst place to be exiled, you would say. In the last decades I have seen her once or twice.

We all live separated from things or people we love. In a way many of us are sort of strangers to our present lives, in exile. In our peculiar group, very few explored all the potential, most of us wasted our energies in confrontations with things out of our controls, or what we call among us our respective “Adams families🙂

11 Responses

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  1. Sian Gowan said, on December 28, 2006 at 12:58 am

    That last paragraph is what tears my heart out about the Iranian diaspora.

    As a native American who has spent a few weeks in Iran and many more weeks in the company of Iranians here in San Francisco, I’ve met many smiling faces with sad eyes.

    I won’t suggest that I understand the depth of the feeling, but those sad eyes spoke of more than just a basic separation from the people, places, and things they love. For a culture based largely on the connection of family and friends, being separated from each other seems to have created a profound identity crisis to the point that the question has to be asked: “What is it to be Iranian?”

    If a similar displacement happened to Americans, would we be asking “What is it to be American?”. With such a young culture, we would feel some pain but move on in the spirit of progress – as is the nature of our culture. Iran’s culture is much older and runs much deeper. Being separated from the glory of that ancient irreplaceable culture must be the sadness I see in those eyes.

    Ya loose hastam? Chi shoma fekr mikardid?

  2. homeyra said, on December 28, 2006 at 5:52 am

    Dear Sian, I’ll be back in a little while to write an appropriate answer. Your comment is too intense to write about it lightly. Cy later 🙂

  3. homeyra said, on December 28, 2006 at 10:42 am

    Dear Sian, your comment was “fully loaded”, I will just try to share some thoughts with you.
    You show a positive preconception about us. That’s something new 🙂
    To be honest, often we might just hide our own shortcomings or failures behind the exile.
    Sometimes I think that despite all the history, our nation has the mental age of a teen-ager. Sometimes I see signs of a mythical country that we share in our psyche … all the potentials.
    A poet, can’t remember who, wrote (forgive my poor translation) something like:
    It seems, all that should BE, is not in this world
    It appears all that should NOT be, is.
    We swing from one extreme to the other, the whole spectrum.

    It is true that the Iranian Diaspora has an identity problem, you should add to this entity an even larger number of those who live in their country but are a sort of second class citizens.
    A friend of mine once told me “Iran is like South Africa, we are the blacks”. Since, she has left to somewhere in the US.

    You are right about the importance of relationships, family, friends or just the “baghal” 🙂 I never feel lonely here as I felt, while living abroad, though I have no family and almost no friends left.

    I know the next question: Why aren’t you doing something about?
    I will try to explain my view of our “apathy”. I need to think it over.
    In the meanwhile, I thank you for your friendship to Eye-ranians, I hope you won’t be too disappointed 🙂

  4. Sian Gowan said, on December 28, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    Hi Homeyra,

    Yes, it’s the Iranian reverence for close relationships that triggers my emotions on this subject. And it’s not just an Iranian quality, as I’ve also felt it while travelling in South America. Basically, I’m jealous of it. You (and other cultures) have something I’ll never have as an American raised in an American/Euro culture. As you said, surrounded by friends/family or not, you are never lonely in Iran yet living abroad you were lonely (BTW where is “abroad”?). It’s a cultural divide on an emotional level. Even if I pick up and move to some other culture that values relationships in their everyday lives, it could never be as intense as it is for those who were raised in such a culture.

    That’s not to say that I think all Iranian/So American/et al relationships are close-knit for the right reasons. Of course, there are societal factors that inspire feigned “closeness” – and I’ve seen it in action with some Iranian cliques here as well. That teenage mentality you mentioned can be very entertaining at times.

    Nonetheless, I hope I’ve expressed my respect for that cultural aspect of relationships which I revere and know I can never completely realize for myself.

    I’m sure there’s some American out there screaming “family values” that thinks I’m living in a bubble and doesn’t agree with my general opinion of relationships in American culture. I’m also sure they don’t have a passport.

    ~S

  5. homeyra said, on December 29, 2006 at 6:26 am

    “That teenage mentality you mentioned can be very entertaining at times.” 🙂
    You reason like an Iranian here, as we seem often “amused” by our “faults”.
    The “real” world has no boundaries and if you find some qualities in Iranians (or other cultures) dear Sian, they belong to you as much as they do to Iranians.

  6. Delaram said, on December 29, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    Iranian Diaspora? It sounds a bit unreal in a culture that has been enriched by its power of reincarnation and reinvention. This is a culture in which its people, with all their close kinships and family ties, would not think twice before packing and leaving for a higher cause. This is a culture that owes its existence to its adaptability, change, and transformation. This is a culture that has picked and chosen the best from all the cultures it has hosted throughout the years and has offered extensive wisdom to many host cultures.

    As much as we, the Iranian diasporas!, want to believe that immigration, emigration, or whatever we want to call it, is a new phenomena and due to the revolution, and the sadness in our eyes, the result of departing the homeland, it is not. Iran is a nation and Irani (farsi) is a culture intertwined with mysticism, and I don’t mean it in the religious sense of it. This is a culture that values wisdom and experience more than anything else. The sadness you see in the eyes of many Iranians is not the reflection of their identity crisis in abroad. I’m not sure it’s from being separated from the glory of our ancient culture either because if you ask me we are not separated from it. It’s in our blood, it’s in the way we think, the way we walk, the way we live.
    The melancholy you see is similar to the wrinkles in the face of a grandmother looking at her grandchildren; that look that has many untold stories, that knows the ending of many unread books, that sees in the think brick wall what the youngsters can’t see in the mirror (sorry for the bad translation!). By no means am I suggesting we are all wise individuals but we are wise as a nation. If only we start believing in it again.

  7. homeyra said, on December 30, 2006 at 5:45 am

    Hi Delaram
    Your comment sums up what I called above the “mythical country we all share in our psyche”.
    I seems to me that often, Iranians who have left the country are sort of more idealistic.
    In the other hand there is this “mess”. I would like to know how you make sense of that 

  8. Delaram said, on January 1, 2007 at 2:40 am

    Hi Homeyra,

    I thought about the question of “mess” you raised for a long time. First I didn’t really get what “mess” you were talking about. Then I decided to answer about the kind of mess I often think about. A lot of answers came to my mind; none of which being THE answer. I will provide you with a couple. You pick and choose the one you think makes more sense:

    The Iranians abroad are different from a lot of other immigrants in that they have to hide their true identity. Let me explain why: as a citizen of a so-called terrorist country, we keep dodging the bad publicity by over-exaggerating who we are and where we come from. This is some ammunition that other nations of INTEREST do not have as much. We all talk about the great nation of Persia and all the glory of it to the degree that sounds so idealistic that is sad and frankly pathetic. We keep proving ourselves to those who don’t even matter, and we are stuck in this game, because in our effort to recreate the past that is WAY PASSED we lose our pragmatism. We become a talking machine. Our non-Iranian friends, mainly Americans, fan this fire more by showing great interest in the topic. They LOVE royalties… They love our stories and we love telling them. And this is how we get trapped in the web we weave.

    The younger generation in Iran is a different story. The apathy that we see these days is due to a combination of oil money, bad upbringing, lack of constructive opportunities, lack of pragmatism, and the amalgamation of tradition and modernity and the swift move to part ways from traditions in a country that tries desperately to enliven the 14th century traditions. If it makes you happy, though, this is not happening only in Iran. You can find the exact same phenomenon in most oil rich countries of the Golf.

    Ok, I stop right here. If I’m way out of topic, I apologize.

  9. homeyra said, on January 1, 2007 at 4:39 am

    Delaram,
    Very true. I agree all the way: getting trapped in our own weave, lack of pragmatism…
    and we must face it.
    Update! If we are good story tellers, and tried hard to charm others, I wouldn’t blame them 🙂

  10. Delaram said, on January 4, 2007 at 4:40 am

    Being able to tell good stories is not a problem, but being ONLY a good story teller IS a problem…
    I’m not blaming anyone, but I’m wondering why we need to charm others. Why do we need to get approval from others?…

  11. homeyra said, on January 4, 2007 at 6:13 am

    Hi Delaram
    I think you would agree that we are very sensitive to others.
    Maybe this exaggerated sensitivity is explained by our upbringing, and the rule of not offending others.
    Usually a great variety of people are included in our lives, and we learn to deal with all these differences from early age.
    I might not please some, but it seems to me that usually we are not very talented in being “intellectuals”. Often something does not sound right with those who try to be or think they are.
    Even if it is unconscious, we have a more holistic idea of life, therefore a tendency to make peace around us.
    In the other hand there is our general inaptitude to act as an entity, a group, a tendency to be malevolent to each other.
    As soon as someone does something, a sort of automated criticism starts, usually nothing constructive. Maybe we need to find peace somewhere else, as we cannot find any among us.


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