Daughters of Tehran: A Story of Friendship, Loss & Discovery

Daughters of Tehran: A Story of Friendship, Loss & Discovery

Salam” I said over Telegram.

Aleyke Salam” the next voice followed suit.

Salam be rooye mahetoon“, said the third melodic voice.

It’s the familiar voice of our dear friend, Shima, greeting us back from 7000 miles away. 

From Iran.

Our birthplace- the sweet soil that has suffered so much and was left bereft of us, her daughters who resentfully fled to far away lands seeking safety, security and autonomy.

Neither rose nor nightingale are spared the pain of love and separation.  One rends its garment, the other crying yearns.

My Iran, known for its delicious epicurean gastronomical delights, beautiful handwoven carpets, detailed miniature paintings, collections of Poetry handwritten in calligraphy, breathtaking architecture decorated with exquisite mosaic tile work,  haunting chant of the muezzin calls, Sufism alongside Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity and The Baha’i faith.

It’s of ancient Iranian instruments, the Donbak, Sitar, and Kamancheh playing soothing, almost hypnotic melodies of classical Persian music meant to help listeners escape their thoughts and emotions and feel closer to their spirituality.

It’s from a bygone time in our childhood where dreams and hopes have been replaced with unforgettable memories.  Memories engraved into the hard drive of our mind’s data base.   Can we even remotely and coherently articulate nostalgia?

Honestly, conjuring memories to language seems too linear and flat.  It’s a relentless challenge similar to trying to write a novel with half the alphabet.

Shima is visiting her family for the next six weeks in Tehran. The mere thought of her back home makes me longingly ache, yearn and  hopelessly crave to be there with her. 

Shima makes us an offer we can’t refuse.  She asks us to join her.  Sure, why not?

Indeed,  Azita and I decide to travel along with her.  Well much to our dismay, we are not exactly physically traveling with her to Iran. But we will be going on a virtual trip and exploring the next six weeks vicariously through her and visiting all the sites, smells and tastes of our childhood motherland. 

Join us on this dreamy tale as we tour and implore the Iran of our youth as we knew her and as we get to know her all over again.

“OMG, describe what you ate…every bite, including the faloodeh. Tomorrow I want you to have kabob with rice and the egg yolk mixed in and then Pashmak for dessert, then the grilled balal. After that go and have the gerdoo khees,”  Azita breathlessly demands.  Her excitement exceeding her usual calm demeanor.

I’m silent.

My brain completely turns into mush as I’m transported back to when I was five.

What seems a simple salutation amongst three friends has in actuality far more profound implications.

It’s of fond vivid, if also selective, memories of my distant past being a carefree child, playing and enjoying life in a fluid, flexible manner.

From time to time, we tend to drift back and reminisce our precious childhood memories and it hypnotically engulfs us.  It reminds us of the simple joyous things  when we were buoyant, elated and full of life.

Our mind, like a video, begins with recollections of the most innocent phase of our life and we sporadically get these flashbacks of the past and suddenly we’re in the middle of our old school conversing with our best friend. 

My oldest memory is of my best friend Roshanak.  It’s the first day of school filled with magic and wonder as eight year old Roshanak and I jubilantly giggle and hug each other.  I still lucidly remember as we would show each other our newly bought school briefcases filled with school supplies and smell the multi arrays of new fruity erasers we had discovered.

Unfortunately, Roshanak joonam, you’ve also taken residence in my memories as I lost track of your whereabouts back in 1980.  I heard you emigrated to France.  I terribly miss you #Roshanak.   Do you remember as we used to trick the Lycee Francais security guards to pass and go across the street and eat the most delicious pizza at Shahram’s Pizzeria?  How about the Maltese with her puppies under the temporary built classes?


Shima snaps me out of my reverie by sending us a picture of  her lunch “Kaleh Pache” (a Persian delicacy similar to Menudo only with beef) and captions it “ Don’t judge me! I only had the Zaboon (tongue)”.  I pour myself three fingers of  of 18 year old Macallan,  give them a virtual cheers, gulp down the dignified smoky spirit and reply back “Don’t judge me as I take this shot with my virtual Kaleh Pacheh!!!”

Meanwhile, Azita altogether and might I add, exhaustively negates the entire “Kaleh Pache” and has her heart and soul well-endowed that Shima will deliver us with a better menu. I’m guessing she doesn’t care much for that delicacy!!!!

At this point, Shima sends us a photo of organic green olives marinated in olive tapenade and pomegranate molasses. As I’m salivating and thinking how I can possibly replicate the recipe, Azita, clearly agitated by not seeing the menu she desires, responds in farsi, “maan zeytoon doost nadaram (I dislike olives)…this picture does nothing for me…why are you not eating the stuff Nora and I talked about with you…..I never mentioned olives…..tou een hameh cheez rafti zeytoon mikhoree (In all that you could eat, you found olives to eat)?? ey vay, boro baba”

At this point, I’m dying of laughter, rib-tickleling-rolling on the floor-belly-ache laughter, thinking along the same thoughts as Azita but still excited about the new and improved Iran.  Shima has other ideas…..she cooly responds “those things don’t exist any longer.

Oh that irked Azita as she responds, “ ehem, what?? what do you mean, it doesn’t exist anymore….get with the program girl…where’s my toot, my corn, my kabob and my gerdoo khees? Of course, it exists.  oh my god, I feel ill! Nora, looks like I’ve got to get up right away and go to Iran myself!!!!”

She half-jokingly says, “what have they done to my country?” 

As if on queue, I’m once again regressed back to long ago.  Now, I see in my mind’s  eye, a wistful movie of family pool parties.  They were an immense source of pleasure to me.  The AC is broken.  It’s too hot and humid to stay indoors so we all decide to jump in the pool.  Sitting on “Dayee’s” (Maternal uncle) shoulder as he flips me backward into the pool was probably one of the most diverting, entertaining buffoonery of my childhood.

Innocent mischief clear in my movement as I cunningly steal a succulent piece of chicken kabob marinated in lemon juice and saffron, right off of the skewer on the grill.  Afterwards, as the heat of the glistening  sun scorches, we take refuge under the shade of the Senjed tree while enjoying mouthfuls of sweet and refreshing Faloodeh and Akbar Mashti Ice cream.  The savory delectable cream disolving and melting on my taste buds.  While I’m enjoying the soft lingering taste of ice cream heaven, my sister Terry is grabbing a piece of cold, crunchy watermelon, (famously  to be eaten on during the feast of Yalda, the longest night of the year).  I hear the cracking noise as she tears into a piece of the melon and the aroma hits my nostrils. To this day, every time I bite into a watermelon, I’m reminded of those tender amiable days…..those childhood days, when we felt fully alive.  When we felt the unconditional pure love of our family.  Sweet are the recollections of childhood, filling our minds with joy, passing its days in the midst of affection of grandparents, aunts and uncles, where anxieties did not trouble our innocent minds.

I snap back to the present and realize I have 34 missed texts on telegram.  As I update myself to the current text, I see the fast and furious inquiry from Azita dictating to our friend Shima, that she should absolutely and without a doubt, bring us Sohan (honey saffon brittle) and fresh Lavashak (fruit rolls) but only the most sour type and the real ones, not the “ashghalee” pseudo-distasteful one we expatriates buy here in US. 

We realize we have a lot to cover.  We reminisce visiting Shemroon at night while munching on Gerdoo Khees ( fresh walnuts) and white toot (mulberries) or better yet let’s go down the third alley off the main drag in Tajrish, and visit a traditional teahouse adorned with Shirazi themed paintings.  I can see in my mind’s eye as we recline, sip tea and eat a traditional Persian omlette.  I’m suddenly transported back in time to 1940’s cafe Naderi, the infamous intellectual hangout for the A-list literati exchanging fresh ideas.  I inhale a deep breath and think to myself “I was born in the wrong era”.  I realize I forgot to exhale.

I snap myself back to the present and ask Shima if she’s had a chance to visit kasba and Chatanoga restaurants where our favorite pastime culinary dish was chicken Keeveeskee and Cafe Glasse for dessert. 

Azita adds, “ Don’t forget to visit Bazarreh Safavieh and please please take a picture of our schools and Yousef Abad street”.

I excitedly add “ and Parke Shahanshaheee (king of kings park circa 1979)”.  Shima informs us that Parke Shahanshahee, the beautiful acre upon acre of lush green land and aviaries at the foot of the Alborz mountain; my childhood playground, where I spent my friday afternoons absentmindedly rollerskating and scratching my knees from falls, is now called Parke Melat (literally, the Nation’s Park).  And now includes a cineplex with four grand theaters called “cinema Pardeesan”, and “Bashka Shahanshahee is now Bashka Varzeshee Enghelab”, and  “Khiyaboon Pahlavi is now Khiyaboon Vali-Asr”.

Shima continues on “also, They (meaning the new theocratic non-secular Islamic ideology) destroyed “Shahr-e Bazi” (The City of Games- the largest amusement park in northern Tehran)  and built “Niyayesh Highway” in its place and renamed it “Rafsanjani Highway” in honor of the late president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani”.

Dejectedly, we realize the Iran of our childhood is just that…..a beautiful sealed chapter of our past….a remote distant cousin of present day Iran.  Our memories are replaced with images of new highways and old streets named in honor of Ayatollahs.  Albeit, amid the media portrayal and the news of the Trump administration setting to sign sanctions against Iran and it’s nuclear missile that is reportedly capable of carrying multiple warheads, Iran is one of the oldest civilizations and Iranians remain the most friendly, considerate, generous, hospitable people in the world.

I once heard, the only thing that is constant is change.

This couldn’t be more true of Iran.

For many Iranians, shopping has become an obsessive ritual.  Marketplaces have been replaced with mega modern shopping malls 150,000 sq meters with over 200 shops, restaurants, Hyper markets, an Atheletic center and movie theaters to complete it.  Some malls cater to the elite and carry only luxury designer brands such as Lalique, YSL, Chanel and more.   Street vendors of the past in Hassan Abad next to the Bazaars, have been replaced with food truck straight out of Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach, California. 

And Asian Fusion- yes, you read correctly! Tehran has one of the best super trendy Sushi restaurants with impeccable food presentation and  complete with loud, dark ambiance perfect for a night out with friends.  Mother, may I?

And let’s not forget the broadway style shows and concerts entertaining people with the likes of “Shahnameh, Rostam-o Sohrab, Ayenehayee Rooberoo, Zal-o Soodabeh” with Shajarian singing in the background.

At this point, we ask if Shima had a chance to see the new and rising stars of Iran,  Reza Golzar, Hooman Seyedi, Farzad Farzin, maybe Shahab Hosseini!!

Nah baba, they are vacationing in Kish” Shima calmly responds.

Um, does that mean we are going to Kish next to see Reza in concert?..” is my and Azita’s sassy rebuttal.

Tehran seems quite the seductress with its ideals of old and new so beautifully juxtaposed , where you will find Michelin style restaurants and little hole in the walls, both of whom have seen reigns of kings, prime ministers and clerics pass by its windows and dine elegantly inside.

Everywhere in Iran seems to be equally, a place where you go for both a friendly banter or for deep political discussions.  One things for sure, with Iranians, don’t forget to bring your social skills and intellectual wit as it will surely be a test in cerebral fitness!!

We get a text from Shima….. “Girls, I’m at the Dubai airport awaiting my flight back to LA”.  It’s a text but I know she has bittersweet feelings.  She longs to be back in LA and resume her routine and life.  And yet, she will crave, yearn and long to be back with her mom, dad, relatives and just the pure aroma of home.  Her heart is in her stomach.  Separation is miserable.  Distance sucks.

Just like my childhood Memories…..

And yet, right behind the wall of pain, of getting our edges bumped, is growth- Both for Shima separating from her parents and her life and also for me, separating from my memories.

In retrospect, I did not always notice or appreciate my happiness as I was happy in the moment.  But those bygone days left a deep impression on me.  As an adult, I find, in the hometown of memories, the key is to be fully connected in the moment, paying attention to the details of ordinary life, and rejoicing in them. 

Shima, Azita and I collectively understood from this journey into our past, that living itself has a deadline.  Our lives are strung on moments, making memories and of one discovery after another that one day will become cherished memories.

Life itself is one great metaphor.  It’s always a journey.  Sometimes, it’s a 3-ring circus, sometimes a roller-coaster, or a puzzle, a dance, a river giving way to the ocean, or a poker game.  Most of all, life is like cooking.  It’s all about what ingredients you add, how you mix it, follow a recipe or wing it, and be careful not to burn it.  And even more important, don’t tell me what you cooked but who you ate it with and what conversations you shared.   

All the ordinary seemingly meaningless realizations: working, cooking, playing music, traveling, writing, loving, helping, bonding, friendships, listening with empathy- they all make us feel that the fabric of our lives has purpose and meaning.

Our lives are our novels.  We are the authors and every day is a new page.  Our memories are the photographs we capture and develop from the negatives.  Our stories- yours, mine; it’s what we carry with us on this trip we call life.  We owe it to ourselves to respect our stories and learn from them.  While we may not always notice and appreciate it, there is always beauty around us.  We’re surrounded by natural beauty of the mountains and oceans, magnetic sunrises and sunsets, and good people with good intentions.  We owe it to ourselves to discover this connection.  There’s certainly something indescribable when we make a connection with someone and the beautiful energy and vibration rooted deep inside their soul.

And as if magically, we realize soul is more important than the physical, and love, faith and authentic relationships are not only a luxury but an absolute necessity.

At the end of Shima’s journey, we three women discover we were actually on a pilgrimmage.  A Pilgrimmage to the green heart of Iran. Our itinerary was to revisit the tastes and smells of our childhood.  Instead, we traveled back in time only to discover we made a pilgrimage into our souls and hearts and realized with divine grace that the best time to be in is the present.

We realized our memories are our stories of the past….if we’re not careful, these stories can become fences, restricting us…imprisoning us.  If we respect them and leave them in the past, they can offer us a serene sense of security and when we want to go further into our future, they won’t block our way.   These stories we tell ourselves and call them memories shouldn’t shackle us but give us the space we crave for unlimited expression and growth.

We debunked the myth, made full circle and realized the hardest part of leaving our hometown, wether as a child or an adult, wasn’t leaving our childhood memories behind in a distant land, it was understanding that our hometown was a land from the past.  And that the past itself is a foreign country and they do things differently in the past.  We will always remember, even though the past is prologue, we don’t belong there.  And we’ll try to  remember the past only to learn and grow from it so we can enjoy the present and leap happily into the future. A future that is truly only illusion…as there is joon future. Everything is now.

Let’s also remember, in the oh so wise words of LM Montgomery, “Nothing is ever lost to us as long as we remember it”.  In the end, we are our choices. And we will build ourselves a great story!

Hopefully, in the not-so-far distant,  Shima, Azita and I can visit Iran not via virtual reality but indeed via physical reality!

Honey, that’s just life!

Copyright, 2017, all rights reserved


Versatile Blogger Award

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a message and find that my blog had been nominated for an award. I would like to thank Kay at His Perfect Timing for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please check out her inspirational blog. Her posts are so uplifting and encouraging. She talks about everything from book and movie reviews to healthy living and more.

Thank you again Kay at His Perfect Timing for this nomination.

The Rules:

1  Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

2 Share seven interesting things about yourself.

3 Nominate seven blogs.

1- I’m covertly taken up with life as an adventure constantly learning, growing and evolving. And Writing is a way for me to hear my own psyche and reflect.

2- I can often go out and have hours of fun being the life of the party, but suddenly find that my energy has dropped, and all I really want to do is go home.

3- I find drinking a macchiato with a scone is a cure-all and a sure way to pacify any stress induced event!

4- my motto: Either forgive or forget

5- I’m strong enough to be gentle

6- I believe the most amazing place you will ever be in your life is where you’re at right now.

7- understanding begins, but does not end, with the act of perception

Seven Blogs I am nominating for this award












Community Pool

Hi everyone! My name is Nora and I started into my first experience with blogging a few months ago.
I welcome e you to check out my posts as well as the rest of my blog.
If you enjoy my posts, please feel free to comment or follow. I’m eager to follow some great blogs as well.
Thank you for your time
Best, nora @ Radical Honesty

Source: Community Pool


cropped-screen-shot-2017-05-25-at-4-27-01-pm1.pngSome people sit around waiting for “serendipity” to strike. But let’s strive to be different. Let’s create our own opportunities and actively seek out what we know we want.
There comes a time in life when we learn that principles such as hard work, honesty, kindness and integrity are not the outdated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which we must build a life.
All the while trying to achieve our goals- a fundamental aspect of life.
Through lessons and experiences, we learn, grow and evolve to the amazing human beings we know we can be.
One things for sure, change is the only law in the universe, and the only way to deal with it is to embrace it with open arms.
Of course there’s insecurities. Doesn’t everyone have them?
The rule is we must refuse to let them control our lives.

We learn that we don’t know everything, and we are not entitled to our opinion only our informed opinion (after all no one is entitled to be ignorant, right?)
We learn, it’s not our job to save the world and that we can’t teach a pig to sing. We learn the only cross to bear is the one we choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

We realize we only get life once and that ‘alone’ does not mean lonely.
We learn to embrace it fully.

So we learn to take more time to rest. To travel. To just sit and inhale and ponder the moment. To know it’s happiness when we are happy in that moment. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels the soul. So you take more time to laugh and to play.
Then we learn about love. We learn to look at relationships and friendships as they really are and not as we would have them be.
We get hurt and we ache and we reminisce the memories but we love nonetheless and learn to never demand, never assume and never expect.
We learn to simply accept.

So Suck it up buttercup! If you keep waiting for serendipity to strike you’ll never be at the right place, or the right time or the right situation, all you’ll find is yourself waiting on your deathbed with a list of regrets about things you never did.

So live, love, laugh and this thing called serendipity—the process of “stumbling” toward discovery is an illusion for those waiting for the big-win.
There’s no accidental stumbling.
Dahling, you gotta go out and “claim” your own luck!

Honey, that’s just life!

Copyright 2017, all rights reserved

Kindness Matters

The heart feels, the soul bleeds; The heart mends, the soul grows

I once heard wit is an intermittent fountain, Kindness a perennial spring. It’s true. 
Kindness is enduring whereas wit is sporadic. 


You don’t need higher education to earn a degree in it-

You don’t need money to possess it-

You don’t need status to claim it-

You don’t need connections to achieve it-

You need not travel the world to find it-

You need only travel the inner journey of love to inherit it. 
It’s the easiest entity to possess and said to be the highest form of wisdom. 
Then why is it very few know its secrets?

Is there more malice and sadness than love in the hearts of all wits who’ve chose to replace their heart with a stone?

And at the end of the day, Kindness helps not only others but yourself as well. It unites us all.

I could never tolerate the feeling that I made someones day worse. I remember In middle school, eighth grade precisely, when Alegna, a girl 2-3 years my senior intentionally pulled the chair from underneath me as I was  about to sit. I was wearing a skirt and I sat on air instead of a chair in front of what seemed 20-30 boys and girls in the same age group. 

I was humiliated, mortified, red-faced and crushed as I heard bursts of laughter as Alegna further pointed me out with hysterical shrieking and guffaws.  

Drunk on my pain doesn’t elevate your gain. 

I frantically got up with a throbbing ache in my tailbone and wrist from the pressure of the backward fall. With tears welling up in my eyes waiting like a pregnant cloud ready to explode, I gathered what little dignity I had as a benevolent young girl named Pauline raised me up and scurried me away from the malevolent eagle-eyed glares.  As I got up I could see the calculating malice in her narrowed eyes. She was giddy with joy. 

It amazes me how different people can be when it comes to personal morality. 
Although the stunt bitterly hurt ( both physically and emotionally not to even mention my bruised ego) I couldn’t even be mean back to her. 

Sometimes you need a kind heart just to help you mature and develop. Alegna lacked this back then. I see her now in different gatherings and social events. She’s a very beautiful, accomplished socialite.   I sincerely hope she’s been able to accomplish that selfless purity and kindness in her heart as an adult. 

I think I’ve always felt bad for people such as her and others who needed to be mean to feel good.

I’ll never fully understand why Alegna separated and chose me for her mean-spiritedness and why my embarrassment was such an immense entertainment and joy for her. 

Joubert said it wisely, “There are some men who are witty when they are in a bad humor, and others only when they are sad”. Perhaps she was both. I’ll never know. And it doesn’t matter. What matters is she taught me a lesson. She taught me exactly who I don’t want to be. 

Why limit human kindness? 

As I grew older and wiser, I convinced myself that perhaps Alegna needed to feel the center of her existence at that moment. even as she was innately misguided to shove my need aside and have her personal fulfillment come before morality and right-doing. 

Unfortunately, people fail to discern that all their words and actions define their reality and the world they live in. 
And yet, everything in life is a lesson and an experience. And life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. What seems nasty, painful, or evil can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. I decided to have an open mind and learned kindness from the unkind!

As Mahatma Ghandi said “Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances”.   As I reflect on this quote, I hope that that girl from long ago has found peace from within. I know I have. 
So folks, kindness matters-

Today, have a pleasant disposition and give one of your kind words or a smile. 

Today, be someone a little nicer. 

Today, listen with a caring heart. 

Today, bend the truth, if you must, to be kind. 

Today, be a paragon of virtue and ethics. 

Today, decide to let your faces be imprinted on the hearts of those who are kind to you like a blessing.

I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is entertaining. 

It’s that simple. 

How wise must one be to always be kind!

Honey, that’s just life!

Copyright 2017, all rights reserved

I Die a Little Inside only to be Reborn

patkOften I ask myself the fleeting question: Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Sometimes I feel I throw myself into these routines that have no ending in sight, just an ever-spinning mouse-wheel of monotony.  Sometimes I childishly wish to be lost in an intense verdant green paddy field, lush forest, or in the streaming waters of natural hot springs, tucked among fragrant cedars.

Other times, I want to swim in an endless ocean without a shore and hear the currents talk in riddles, each wave a word a secret said, fulfilling my desire for adventure.

Sometimes, I forget to count my blessings and I feel as though my seemingly stagnant lifestyle bores me and makes me lose sight of one of life’s most precious gifts: Curiosity and living life….truly living it alive.  Please understand I’m not wallowing in self-pity.  I’m just recognizing a despondent situation and wanting desperately to understand and accept it.  Submit to it.

Sometimes I ponder life’s mysteries and lose sight of its meaning and feel I’m dying a little inside.  I’m not being negative. Oh no, actually, I just feel I should simply submit to life.  And by submission I don’t mean become passive or weak.  I mean to submit to the essence of life.  A life filled with tranquility and peace.  I think self-revelation is not for the squeamish and continue to ponder…..

My voice swindles under the weight of what I’m about to say.  But here it goes-

I die a little inside when I see the agony and suffering of a mother who is bereaved of her child,  a friend who is robbed of his soul brother’s young life, a dear friend battling a ruthless disease, of  large groups of  wonderful human beings dealing with the injustice of discrimination,  and of helpless children being born into  poverty, hunger and violence.

I die a little inside when I silence my right to express my despondency.

I die a little inside when I let fear of scrutiny paralyze my creativity.

I die a little inside when I neglect my feelings and intuition.

I mourn a little inside when I forget my significance in the great tapestry of life.

I mourn a little inside when I tame my passion and fire.

I mourn a little inside when I conform and my uniqueness is trapped in a tornado of pleasing the social norms.

I suffer a little inside when I don’t trust my inner voice, my instinct, my inspiration.

I suffer a little inside when I’m on auto pilot and unmindful of my meaningful journey.

I suffer a little inside when my cellular, spiritual divine and ethereal vision is blinded and chained.

And yet from the dying, mourning and suffering comes a rebirth, a happiness, a healing as if my true self was waiting….waiting to reveal the role I have chosen to unleash the treasures in my soul.

I imagine the universe is under no obligation to conform to my expectations.  It is what it is wether I exist or not.  I realize, as a daughter of Prophet Abraham, my life is littered with over 5,000 years of myth, superstition and dogma.  I can’t confuse the truth of my reality and the meaning for my life with what society dictates.  I can only respect my ancestors and their destinies.  I can only be wise enough to understand that we only take our stories with us and we owe it to our ancestors and ourselves to respect and learn from these stories.

And so my restoration through the pain is revealed to me one day as I stand spellbound by the azure  ocean in front of me.

And I realize the most gratifying pleasures in life are free and available to everyone.

A smile

A compliment

A hug

A kind gesture

A prayer or blessing…..

As the blue liquid lips of the ocean kiss the golden sand, a white blanket of froth forming as the tide gradually approaches the shore, the sound of the tranquil waves lapping on the beach, with a slight splashing wave that sounds like bubbles fizzing and as the amber lukewarm sun glistens elegantly in the sky a dozen colors of crimson, I look into the boundless ocean and get a glimpse into infinity.

I humbly kneel before the oceans’ vastness and am truly awe-stricken by its freedom.

And I pray. I pray to God or to the creator, higher supreme light,  Almighty, Infinite Spirit, Hashem, Yahweh, Father, Allah, Holy Spirit, or any other hundreds of name god has…. Truth is, I prayed to the Divine Almighty – the religionless Universal life force….the sustenance and keeper of all souls.

It is then I discover the meaning of life.  It’s not to look for answers to the countless questions unresolved in my heart.  It is simply experiencing everything and seeing them as the lessons they are.  I need to live the questions.  And perhaps gradually, without noticing it, I will find myself experiencing the answers.  Submission….accept the rose with the thorn.

Basically at the bottom of life, which seduces us all, is to be truly free and alive.  We heal when we become conscious that our time is limited. Think about it, we all go out of this world just like a candle flame.

We never know when we may die.  We may take our last breath today or we may die every single day while we are still alive.  In the end, life is only about kindness, giving love and getting love, depositing in the bank account of loved ones and cherishing the wonderful times we share with family, friends and friends who become family.

Honey, That’s Just Life!

copyright 2017, all rights reserved



Reflections Under the Moon- My Story of Immigration

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I was a statistic.  But statistics don’t tell the story of immigration.

I’ve landed in United States of America. To foreigners, this is an imagined world infused with newcomers permeating with great hope; the land of opportunity, the land of hemp milk and honey, laden with extraordinary richness, abundance, comfort and luxury.  That’s the Pollyana view.  But assimilation is seldom smooth and rarely filled with such irrepressible optimism.

The challenges all immigrants face isn’t new.  But the personal stories are.

I guess, in every life a little rain must fall! Except my rain felt as though it came from a super loaded cloud.

I came to the United States in 1980 as the Islamic revolution began to break out. The secular Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was overthrown and forced into exile and the theocratic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini lorded over as the new supreme religious leader along with his guardian council of aging mullahs, and renamed Iran: The Islamic Republic of Iran.

For the secular, this meant life would no longer exist as we knew it.

The new regime was strong, dynamic and absolute.  And there was no indication that the supreme leader and his circle of ayatollahs had any intention of giving up their control. They would reign over their newly found power.

The antipathy for the new Islamic regime by the shah-supporters and non-muslims began. It was evident we had to leave.

At the time, I was 9 years old along with my older sister and my mother.  My dad remained in Iran to sell our home and business.  I vividly remember my dad coming home one night as he said, “Nora joon, you, your sister and mom will have to leave Iran tomorrow night.  You will be on TWA flight 837 to Israel and then on to America.”

I knew we’d eventually have to leave but this felt so sudden, unplanned, and impulsive.  I was shocked, confused, shook up and scared.  The questions came fast and furious. 

I querried my dad, “ dad, where in America would we go? What about my school? My friends? What about all our stuff? Our home, my toys, my books, our photo albums?”  In retrospect, I realize all we took with us were our memories.

He half-whispered, “ I’m sorry Nora joonam (a term of endearment)…you can’t take anything with you.  It’s too dangerous making your departure obvious.  We have to make it look as though you are going on a vacation and that you’ll be back.  And we may, in fact, come back when this all clears itself out.”

We never went back.

I rapidly inhaled deeply and exhaled forcibly as I tried to make sense of all that was happening. What does what my dad say even mean?  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t even speak a word of English. Why couldn’t we go to France?  At least I spoke French. I cried myself to sleep that night and tried to download the images, of my house, my bedroom, my den, my backyard, my school, deep into the hard drive of my brain where no regime could take it away from me.  Saying goodbye was difficult.  I clung to my dad and didn’t want to ever let him go.

I didn’t know it at the time but I wouldn’t see my dad until two years later. 

Some scars are not visible but they nevertheless exist and continue to haunt us.

Next thing I knew I was on the infamous TWA flight to Israel.  Fear took over me as I realized I was sitting in a plane at 36,000 feet elevation, outside temperature is -86 degrees, wind hauling and I had no anchor except the plane I was sitting in.  Right now, my life feels as though there’s no anchor.  The flight attendant desperately tried to no avail to calm my nerves by handing me different puzzles and games to occupy my restlessness. 

And so my story begins.  We came to America seeking a future safe from revolt, prosecution, fear, restraint and paranoia.  In hindsight, I profusely admire my parents for their courage.  They foresaw the future of our country.  They didn’t wait until it became blatantly evident that people couldn’t have an opinion, or could be taken to jail for no reason at all and even killed.  They didn’t wait until it became apparent there would be no clear laws to keep us safe from the new regime, who could overrule any public change by a pseudo-elected president who would in the near future become wildly out of touch with the general population.

My earliest memory of America was the lush green landscape from above as the plane was landing.  The land was filled with freshness, cleanliness, and tidiness.  Could I finally have order back in my life here?

But I was also eminently scared .   I didn’t speak a word of English and couldn’t communicate with anyone.  I was terribly hurting and morose.   My dad wasn’t with us. And he wouldn’t be with us for the next two years.  The longest two years of my life.  I felt dreadfully insecure.  At the time, I felt abandoned by my country, by my sovereign, by my father and by God himself.  The fear of the  unknown embedded in my every pore and essence.

I would have to diligently work on myself for years before I could successfully resolve and rid myself of this all-encompassing distress, anxiety and constant unease.

The first two years were the hardest.  We didn’t have any family besides my paternal grandparents and, from a child’s point of observation, an unwelcoming uncle with whom we had to share a tiny house on Centinela Avenue in West LA. After close reexamination, I realize he didn’t have to take us in but did so as a direct respect to my dad.  Nevertheless, I was unabashedly depressed, had sleep disturbances, and lost my appetite during the first few days and leading into the following months.  I was utterly helpless and lacked any control on my life.  It felt as though I was a mere character in my own life cast for a part I didn’t even audition for.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was the change to my daily routine, the different customs and language barrier, and the lack of family and friends.

Awkwardly, we had to sleep in the den on the floor at my uncle’s and my grandmother told us we needed to quickly wake up in the morning before my uncle and clean up as to not be in his way.  One night, I couldn’t sleep and was daydreaming about the comfort and privacy of my bedroom in Iran.  My uncle had a habit of eating in the middle of the night.  And this time he wasn’t aware of where he was walking.  He stepped on my feet and I remember it hurt so very badly but I kept my mouth shut as to not wake my mother up who had earlier cried herself to sleep.  He continued on to the kitchen mumbling about the burden we’ve put on him.  Apparently, my mother had also been awake and heard the entire rambling.  The next day, she looked at several listings in the newspaper and within a few months she found us a one bedroom 800 square foot apartment in Beverly Hills.  She had heard Beverly Hills offered the best schooling system and wanted her two girls to attend.  My parents could no longer afford to send us to a private school like the Lycee Francais we attended in Iran.

 It wasn’t easy transitioning to a new school in the States.  The misconceptions and misunderstandings Americans have about foreign born people are monumental.   They would contemptuously laugh and taunt me. I once heard,  “expectation is like quicksand”  but I think discrimination is like quicksand.  You drown slowly and there’s nothing you can grip on to pull yourself out.

“Go back home to Iran.  We don’t want you here.  You don’t belong here.  Go back to Khomeini. You killed the Shah”, students would scoff at me as they recited their mantra.  It was very difficult for me to make friends and even interact on a basic level with my classmates.  It appeared my presence offended them.   Later, I became friends with a few Americans but it didn’t work.  The culture was too different for us to be able to intermingle. 

You see, all those who aren’t “us” are “them”.  I was the “them”.

Assimilation takes time, sometimes two generations. 

One day, on a proverbial bad day,  I met my first Persian friend, I was immediately emotionally affected.  I was grateful to have met someone like me. We instantly became friends and she’s my good confidante to this day. After all, we only had each other.  We instinctively understood one another when no one else accepted us.  Things got slightly better in High school.  There were more Persians and we all hung out together and made a little Iran for ourselves.  We called it Persian Alley and marked it our territory!!  The school officials and staff got involved trying to make the Persians and Americans interact and befriend each other.  It was to no avail.  We were too different and neither side concurred.

 As I started college,  I finally felt semi accepted as an American citizen but didn’t quite feel it in my soul. I even Majored in English Literature!!  But in the end,  I just got comfortable with being uncomfortable.  We began to celebrate Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve became a new tradition. But I continued to miss the soul of Iran, the smells of the mouth-watering food, the beautiful sights of the streets, the warm and hospitable people and the way it warmed my heart.  We continued to stay true to our heritage and culture by celebrating Norouz (the Persian New Year welcoming spring).  This helped me remember the essence of Iran and hopefully pass the tradition down to my children.

Any visitor who spends significant time in Iran or with Iranians will find ample justification for the Iranian’s reputation for open-mindedness, artistry, intellectualism, and an almost fanatical reverence for culture.  The most popular poet in Iran is Hafez, a national hero who is more readily quoted by most Iranians than the Qur’an or the Torah and is filled with a rich rhetoric.  His poetry is full of wine-soaked revelry, unrequited and requited love and a palpable hatred of religious hypocrisy.  I terribly missed my dad reciting and interpreting Hafiz for me.  When would he come back and hold me close as he chanted the prophetic stanzas?

I find it noteworthy to mention, Iranian-Americans are among the top 20 highest educated people in the United States.  Iranians are in professional occupations more than any other minority group. And we have excelled in education attaining a bachelor’s degree or higher.

We have historically excelled in business, generating a total net income of over $6 billion, and in academia, the sciences, and arts.  We have successfully in the past 35 years assimilated to a new culture and way of living.  However, our integration into the US society hasn’t prevented us from keeping true to our roots, our heritage and our rich culture.

Unlike many immigrants who left their country because of economic hardship, Iranians emigrated as a result of a religious revolution.

And so now in 2017, as I sit outside the porch of my house, and sip French Boujaulais wine with my husband and three kids, contemplating on the trajectory my life followed,  I reminisce and chunks of my haphazard memory forms as tears in my eye and rolls down my cheeks.  I ruminate my life and the lessons I’ve learned so far.  In truth, life is always full challenges and I’ve had to learn to be happy in spite of those circumstances. 

The moon is full and its light reflects and illuminates the sky, in the same way America illuminated my development and progress. 

My husband lovingly looks at me as he caresses my arm. In vino veritas,  I think.  After 37 years away from Iran, after transforming from a child to a woman, I realize that as much as my heart and soul bled for leaving my native country, my heart mended and my soul grew in my adopted country.  The cloud of anxiety and confusion didn’t burst and the heavy burden I carried with me has been replaced with laughter as I make, cherish and value the memories I make with my loving husband, children, family and dear friends.  You live, you love, you laugh and yes you cry a little too!

My heart and mind will forever yearn for Iran and I will never fully realize what could have been had the Islamic republic not taken over.  But I could have never remained in a country that in the months and years following the flight of the Shah and the triumphant return of a zealous ayatollah and his control over the liberals and progressives crushing any opposition to his totalitarian ideology.

America welcomed me with open arms.  My soul’s voice has been expressed.

I no longer sit and wonder in a wordless dialogue whether I should shed tears at my half-horrific memories or be amused at my half-comic reality.  I have order in my life.

I’m home and I’m at peace.

Honey, that’s just life!

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved

The Landscape of my Life

I became aware of a growing schism in myself. I suppose there are millions of us this very moment in the same pain. Recently, someone asked me about my worst fears. I came up with a few all in regards to my children. And they all related to the future and my lack of control thereof. But I didn’t dare voice them in fear they would magically manifest. So Instead, I decided to reroute my thoughts and their destinations.
I decided to go outside. I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t bring my cellphone. I started walking until I no longer knew the road like the palm of my hand.

Because I walk the same road day in and day out, I could no longer see.  I realized I’ve taught my muscles to work without thinking. And I was doing the same with my thoughts.  Suddenly, I start to notice.  I start to hear the silence.  So much is being said in the silence.  I didn’t want to get anything out of it except the silence.

I just walk, breath in the sights and finally decide to sit down and just Be.  The birds are chirping in an otherwise quiet alley totally void of noise.  They seem to be recording everything.  In the far distance, lies the majestic ocean, too far to hear its waves crashing into shore.  The quiet is delightful and yet I can hear the hands on my mechanical wrist watch incessantly ticking in an endless repetition of tick-tocks.  Is this my life ticking away?  I think to myself I need to be productive, active, be doing something.  Why am I just sitting as if confined to a wheelchair?

The ticking sound brings my attention back to my watch. The dial sitting on top of the movement grabs my attention.  It’s one of the most important ways of giving a watch its own distinctive personality.  I surmise it’s the same with people.  Our faces, through our eyes, are the mirrors to our soul.  There’s a universal truth, across time, religion, culture and race that connects us together in eternity.  The essence of this connection to me is to be aware of the importance of  individual personalities and to respect and honor our uniqueness. Indeed, it could even move us towards the complicated idea to become whole, harmonious and (do I dare say) even perfect?   I’m floating out of my head. The question remains to be answered.

As I sit for what seems eternity contemplating my life, the rhythmic ticking is becoming a most pleasant companion.  My life is not ticking away.  I’m living it in the exact way I was destined to live it.  There’s a whole world out there to see….so much adventure without climbing a mountain or jumping off a plane.  I just have to be in the moment and hear the silence give me the answers I seek.  The irony is not lost on me as I watch (pun intended) the silence around me and find the secret or perhaps the simple answer in a most unlikely place-my watch.  I will not tell my kids how to live.  Instead, I will live and let them watch me.  I will be…..Just Be whatever it is that I am with whatever I have and realize that that is enough to be happy.

Honey, that’s just life!  

Copyright 2017 all rights reserved