Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

The love between Heathcliff and Cathrine was a tragic one that destroyed many lives, not just their own.  They were children together and grew up playing, exploring and learning and finally falling in love with one another.  All they had and cared about was each other; they were happy together and cherished each other as a confidant and a friend, truly the love of each other's lives.  Heathcliff and Cathrine were two bodies with one soul and lived one life, as the latter said herself, "I am Heathcliff". 
Heathcliff had no standing in the society in which he lived in as he was a bastard with no family or income, secluding him from 19th century England standards of being a gentleman.  This did not alter how Heahtcliff and Cathrine felt about one another, however it had a heavy impact on the fact that they could not be together.  Cathrine, being the daughter of a gentleman and having a place in the distinguished society could not marry a bastard.
When Heathcliff overheard Cathrine telling a trusted friend that she will accept another man's marriage proposal, his heart was shattered into pieces; he left then and there without one word to a soul.  He left so quickly and with such pain in his soul that he did not hear Cathrine continuing on with the declaration that she will never love another the way and as deep as she loves Heathcliff and the fact that she is marrying another in order to help Heathcliff climb the ladder of society.
Heathcliff returned as a wealthy gentleman years after running away with his crumbled heart in his chest and found the married Cathrine still as much in love with him as he was with her.  Not being able to get the love of his life back, he focused his attention on ruining the lives of all who contributed to his misery as a child and as an adult.  With knowledge and power, Healthcliff was able to drive those lives down the dark path of doomed fate while continuing to only think about and care about one thing in life, Cathrine.  And Cathrine, not being able to bear the life without her friend and true love by her side became severely ill and died.  This fueled Heathcliff's fire and increased his rage to unimaginable heights.
Heathcliff spent the rest of his life focused on continuing to get revenge from those who had a hand in the way his and Cathrine's life turned out.  His emotions, rage and anger were so deep that his plots even ruined the next generation including his own and Cathrine's children.  All through it all, Heathcliff's heart was throbbing for Cathrine and remained devoted to their love, feeling her presence with himself nightly.
When Heathcliff finally leaves this earth, it is from a broken heart and it is to reunite with his true love, Cathrine, and it is after altering the fate of all who surrounded them.  Heathcliff and Cathrine's spirits are known to have lingered on together at Wuthering Heights.
A heart wrenching story about love, loss, hate, revenge, innocence and betrayal, Wuthering Heights has many significant details and even more complex characters.  More than one pair of characters share names and some have last names as first names, some do not even have last names.  The story extends over two generations from childhood until adulthood and takes us through marriages, births and deaths without overwhelming the readers.
I can not help but wonder about Heathcliff's love for Cathrine; does such extreme love truly exist in a real life human heart? A love that one would go through a lifetime of misery to overcome.  Many of us fall in love, but eventually we either fall out of love or move on or get up, dust off the dirt from the fall and start walking again.  Has anybody kept that passionate, throbbing, crazy, out of this world love in their heart just as it was there on the first day?  I think the key word here is crazy, maybe you have to be crazy to fall in love that hard and stay down where you had fallen forever.  Heathcliff committed acts that only a crazy person would do... for love.  One time he dug Cathrine's grave and laid next to her corps just to be close to her.  Is that romantic love or crazy lunatic behavior? There seems to be a fine line between crazy and in love
But the talent of a writer is to make you feel a character's pain and suffering and relate to him and last but not least to have empathy, root for him, want him to succeed... even if it is to ruin all the lives around him.  Emily Bronte did that with Heathcliff.

If you are interested in seeing this classic story come to life, you have many options, but I recommend that you chose the one with the very sexy Tom Hardy playing Heathcliff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Life throws a lot of unexpected curve balls at us that we have to deal with, sometimes we hit it out of the ball park, sometimes we miss and sometimes we get fouled out. Through it all I wish that I did not know better.
I wish that I was a religious person and believed in god and heaven.  I wish that when things became difficult, I would go to a religious center or to the foot of my bed and prayed for a solution or a helping hand and hope and wait for a change.  I wish that when I lost loved ones I could have believed that they were going to a better place and that I would one day be reunited with them.  I wish that I believed that there is a higher and stronger power looking over me and protecting me and thinking of me and loving me.  I wish I was part of a community that all believed in something, had a strong bond and put our faith into it together. I wish I had faith!
Life would be peaceful and hopeful and easy if I believed.  If I could put my fate in god's hands and think that whatever happened was because it was god's plan and that there was a good reason for it.  To think that no matter what happens, I am being looked after and I can sit back and let him take care of things.  To think that all I need to do was to pray and pray and things will change or improve.  Life would not be lonely if I talked to god daily and believed that he was listening and understanding and not judging.  To believe that no matter what happens in this life, there will be another life waiting for me after I leave here.
Because life is scary and lonely without all of that.  To know that there is no god and no heaven and that we are in this universe alone and on our own is terrifying.  To know that we have to deal with the tragedies of life without a higher power looking over us and to know that accidents are truly accidents and not an omen is horrible.  To not be able to put your hope and dreams and desires into the hands of something more powerful is immortalizing.  To lose a loved one and know that their spirit will not stay close to you and be with you or that you will not see them in another life is depressing.
That is why religion is a necessity for human beings to have in their life, in order to be able to survive and stay calm and be happy.  Unfortunately some of us are deprived of that "blessing".

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mahin Khanume's House

After a month of living in a hotel and no hope for an early departure from Ankara, my parents thought that it was time for a better and more cost effective lodging. So we moved to a room for rent in a big house owned by a lady called Mahin Khanume, which my parents probably found through our new social circle, other Iranians in the Ankara limbo.
Mahin Khanume was a single Iranian woman I believe in her late 40s (but then again, I was 12 years old then, so she may have been much younger and seemed much older to me, she could have been my age now!) who owned a large house with 4 bedrooms, taking one for herself and renting the other 3 out to others. Her pool of tenants came from Iranians in Limbo who came to Ankara with hopes of immigrating to the US or other countries and becoming stuck there, like us.
Mahin Khanume was kind and sociable who spent a lot of time with us, talking to us and trying to help us with her knowledge of the city and her history with people like us. She also seemed to have a big desire to help me in particular!
Mahin Khanume loved fortune telling and she did it by playing Solitaire with a deck of cards, so she sat with me and taught me with great patience how to play Solitaire and how to "tell fortune". Basically the way it works is one (the one whose fortune is being told) asks a question in their head (from the fortune gods) while putting their right hand on the deck of cards (with their eyes closed).  After shuffling, I try to complete Solitaire and if I do, the answer to their question is Yes and if I do not, the answer is No. Mahin Khanume and I would play and practice Solitaire daily, she would tell my "fortune" and I would try to tell hers or anybody else I could find to humor me. Mahin Khanume also loved knitting and decided to pick up a project of teaching me how to knit. I had been taught the basics of knitting in my last year of school in Tehran, which could only produce a scarf (long rectangle, going straight up, no turns, no twists and no complicated maneuvers). However, Mahin Khanume was determined to teach me how to knit complicated styles of things that experts make. She bought yarn and knitting supplies for me and asked me to think about what I would like to knit. Together we brainstormed and decided to create gifts for me to take to America and present to my loved ones who I was going to meet, a sweater for my brother (who I had not seen for 4 years) and a dress for my niece who was about to be born. Mahin Khanume spent hours with me taking me through step by step of all the difficult maneuvers to make a large multi-colored (red and gray) men's sweater with designs in front of it (squares within squares!) and a multi-colored (blue and white) baby girl's dress with stripes and squares and ruffles! It took me days and a lot of energy from both of us but the finished project looked so good that both of us were so happy and proud. I could not wait to see my hand made clothes being worn by my family. The other project Mahin Khanume had taken up with me was not so much fun. The thing was that it was October and the school year had started and I was not in school. My parents, afraid for my education, had asked relatives from Iran to send us textbooks from the grade that I was supposed to be in at that time so that I could keep up with studies in case I had to go back to Iran (if America rejected us). That (the arrival of books) was a total buzz kill for me since now I had to study on my own. The person who took it upon herself to teach me and give me daily reminders about studying was Mahin Khanume. She would not give up and was pushing me harder than my own parents, so I tried my hardest to hide from her and keep my distance. One last and interesting thing about Mahin Khanume which I will never forget was this: there was a glass door in her kitchen that led to a long and narrow balcony which took the entire side of her kitchen. In this balcony she had vases and vases and pots and pots of plants and flowers, so many of them, so many different kinds, different colors, different sizes.  She watered these plants and flowers with love and care every day; nothing weird about that, right? Well, when she did step out to her balcony, Mahin Khanume would start talking to her plants and flowers with such joy and excitement and had extensive conversations with them. She would say good morning to them, ask each how they were doing, she would speak to each of them with such love and call them with heart warming terms of endearment. She spent a big part of her morning with what she called "her children", talking to them, watering them, pampering them. I had never seen anything like that before in my life and that put Mahin Khanume in the category of "crazy lady" for me.
The other two rooms in Mahin Khanume's house were also rented out to people passing through Ankara.  We all shared a kitchen that we used to cook and prepare our food as well as the living room where we sat together and talked and watched TV, so we got to know each other.  The first room was occupied by a young man, I believe in his mid twenties, trying to leave Iran and migrate to another country.  The country of his choice I have no recollection of, as a 12 year old I did not retain those big picture details of information.  I also do not remember this man's name, so let's call him Single Guy (SG).  SG was a happy and simple guy, from a big family from the simple parts of Iran, he seemed naive and hopeful, always talking about a bigger and better life.  I remember sitting around the kitchen table talking and SG brought out his wallet and showed us pictures of girls, a number of white girls (these were professionally taken wallet pictures) whom he was "pen pals" with.  He told us all of their names, where they lived and a little bit about them.  He said that he had been writing letters to these girls and learning English through this "pen pal" program.  He was going to go to [country] and meet those blond girls in those pictures.  And one thing I never forget about SG is this: as I said, we shared a kitchen, a kitchen table, so naturally we shared a salt shaker on the table as well.  I remember sitting next to him watching him talk to my parents and Mahin Khanume about his life and future plans when I suddenly noticed what he was doing.  He would put his forefinger on top of the salt shaker, turn the salt shaker upside down, lick his finger, and repeat over and over again (insert shock face here)!  That was when I stopped using the salt shaker in Mahin Khanume's house.  If my very poor and vague memory serves me right, SG never made it to his desired country from that attempt.
The second room in Mahin Khanume's house was occupied by a family of three, a mother, father and their daughter.  The daughter was a young and attractive girl with long black hair who had become engaged to an Iranian man living in America and was on her way to go to marry him, to her destiny, accompanied by her parents.  I am very bad with names (honestly I am not even 100% sure if Mahin Khanme's name was Mahin!), so let's call her Mail Order Bride (MOB).  Although her parents were nice, MOB had a big chip on her shoulders and had a little bit of an attitude, she did not talk much.  Well, she did not talk much with us, she talked on the phone with her fiance for an hour or more each day.  She would take the phone (with a cord!) into the hallway with herself and sit there and whisper and smile and blush while her parents watched her and smiled and asked questions and informed everyone that she is on the phone with her fiance in America!  The fiance's calls from America was the highlight of their day.  MOB was trying to get her papers in row to be on her way to her future husband and life.  I did not hear about or do not remember the details of her engagement, but I do remember how nervous and excited she always seemed.
Our days in Ankara at Mahin Khanume's house passed by smoothly.  We were going out more (I bought a purple sweat suite that I loved), we watched the Golden Girls in Turkish, which we were starting to understand more (I could count to 10 in Turkish) and we waited.  During this time we were given the news of my niece being born in America which made us very happy.  I even had a birthday in Ankara, my 13th.  It was not celebrated because of "our situation" as my parents explained and I understood.
Our final visit to the American embassy was when a yellow haired young man behind the counter smiled and said we were good to go, and we went indeed.
Thinking back now, I wonder if SG ever made it to the country that he wanted to go to and if he ever met any of those golden haired ladies who's pictures he carried in his wallet.  I wonder if MOB is living a happy life with her husband and family or if America and her husband turned out to be a big disappointment to her.  But mostly I wonder if Mahin Khanume was happy, why was she living alone in Ankara? Where was her family? Had she always talked to plants and flowers?
Well, I was never able to knit another complicated clothing item ever again and went back to knitting simple, single colored, plain scarves.  I did not have to study those text books since I never went back to school in Iran.  But let me tell you this, the only game that I play on my iPhone now is Solitaire, thanks to Mahin Khanume from Ankara.

A Hotel in Ankara

It was September when Maman, Baba and I left our home in Tehran and arrived in beautiful Istanbul.  The picture I have in my memory of Istanbul is of the glamorous sun shining down bright and super sparkly on the fast paced, metropolitan, modern, clean and beautiful city with beautiful people.  It is only one snapshot of a picture because Istanbul was just a quick stop on our way to ugly Ankara, where we spent the next two months of our lives.
The original plan was to quickly get our paperwork in check while in Ankara and move on to our final destination, America, so we checked into a hotel close to the American embassy for easy access and paid for one week of stay.  Things did not turn out so much as planned.
We would spend our days going to the American embassy and waiting in line outside of the building hoping to get in to see an American agent.  The long lines outside, next to the short wall surrounding the embassy gardens, consisted mostly of other Iranians trying to get their paperwork in check as well.  After a while we became acquainted with those in line, seeing them and waiting with them day after day.  We got to know their stories, why they wanted to leave their home, where they were hoping to go and what their hopes and plans were.  Most of them were parents who wanted to join their children in America that they had sent aboard years ago, or young people trying to make a better life for themselves.  Whatever their story was, they did not want to go back to their country, they all wanted a better life for themselves and their family and their chance of that in their home was gone. The people in line outside of the American embassy became each other's confident and support who encouraged each other to keep hope high and spirits up, they became each other's temporary friends and family.  At times we would actually end up inside the embassy building where we would meet with an American agent who would tell us something about more forms needing to be completed and more time needing to go by waiting for approvals.
The lobby of our hotel was another place of gathering for Iranians in limbo.  A large rectangular room with chairs and sofas lining the walls and a small TV at the far end.  A number of large dark rugs covered the floors and tables were set up in front of the seats for tea glasses and ashtrays.  The lobby was filled with Turkish businessmen on one side and Iranian families on the other side.  The Turkish businessmen were unattractive, drank extremely dark and strong teas in little tiny tea glasses one after another, chain smoked and glared at the Iranian families.  They watched TV or talked to one another and seemed annoyed that the Iranian families were at their hotel.  The Iranian families shared stories of the status of their paperwork with each other and would say things like "you will hear from them soon" or "we will leave this place in no time".  In a strange country where the language was foreign and the purpose of our visit was not to see new places or have fun, we the Iranians in limbo, became a temporary supportive family to each other, outside the embassy and inside the hotel lobby.  Sometimes it felt like a party at the lobby, families laughing together and sharing fruits and snacks with each other as well as stories of their lives in Iran and plans that they had for the future.  This seemed to annoy the Turkish business men even more!
Others seemed to come and go but we had become a constant part of the hotel, knowing all the staff's names and shifts and continuing to pay at the front desk, extending our stay at the end of each week.  I made a friend in the hotel once, a young obnoxious little boy who made me go up and down the elevator which resulted in one of the hotel employees yelling at us.  I vaguely remember even having a crush on one Iranian boy in limbo staying at the hotel with his family.
Eating out every day started to hurt our pockets so we started to change things up.  One day we would eat the fresh Turkish Kababs in the restaurants that my dad loved, one day we would buy a whole chicken and bring it back to the room and my mom would make yummy chicken sandwiches with fresh tomatoes, one day we would buy french bread and cold cuts and eat sandwiches with pickles at the room.  Our room with two beds was our living room, bedroom and kitchen.
The window of our hotel room faced a high school which became a source of entertainment for me.  I would sit at the window and look down to the school yard at the time when school let out or during breaks.  I watched the girls and boys come outside and talk to one another, stand around the yard, get picked up by cars, sit and read, walk around, etc. I was fascinated by their uniforms (crisp white shirts and navy skirt for the girls and khaki or navy pants for the boys), the fact that the girls did not have to cover and had their beautiful hair waving around, the fact that both boys and girls were allowed to go to school together and to even talk to one another.  I got to recognize some characters after watching them day after day and even made up some stories about them in my head, like a soap opera!
In Ankara, every morning, noon and evening the sound of prayer echoed around the city calling out to everyone to stop what they were doing at once and kneel down and pray to their god, which they obeyed.  That reliable and punctual music became a constant part of our lives.
When we finally checked out of the hotel in Ankara, it was like saying another goodbye to another set of friends and family.  It mostly consisted of the hotel staff who we had become accustomed to seeing every day (they actually gave us hugs and one of them shed a tear!) as well as some of the hotel guests who remained still in limbo.  These goodbyes were getting tiring. 
We never saw or heard from the people we met and became close to in that hotel again.  Yet, looking back now, that hotel in Ankara was a world of it's own, all those who came and left with their lives being changed, the joys of a new life, the tears shed of disappointment, and the memories and hopes they shared with one another.  So temporary in time, yet so permanent in mind.  That hotel in Ankara was also a chapter in my life with my Maman and Baba, a short one, but definitely a memorable one!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I have a very vivid memory of being 12 years old and walking around the house and thinking "I should really appreciate and enjoy the life that I have now, because it is all going to go away soon".
Our large and beautiful home, my big and bright room with the pink walls and red window coverings filled with all of my beloved toys and belongings, and my lovely parents right there with me, just the three of us living a peaceful and happy life.  I had wonderful friends in the neighborhood as well as in school, I enjoyed my school and was great at it, I was popular with the kids and the teachers loved me.  I was growing up and learning new and exciting things, I was starting to venture out independently more and experience new things and have more and more fun.  Everything in my life was going wonderfully and I knew that it was all going to end soon, and it did.
It was in the middle of summer when my parents started packing up our things in the home and started packing suitcases for us.  It was really happening, I was being taken away from my home, my friends, my school, the only life I ever knew and loved.  All of my objections and complaints did not seem to have any affect on what was happening, I felt desperate and helpless.  The memory of packing is not as vivid for me, not as much as the memory of the pain I felt in my heart and the feeling of helplessness as I knew I could not stop this.  It felt like I was being pushed by a strong tide and no matter how hard I tried to swim against it... no use.
The goodbyes started happening sporadically with relatives and distant friends, but it was not until the last night when our home was filled with family and close friends who were there to say goodbye to us that it became unbearable.  
That night every moment was heart wrenching.   I remember being so angry at my parents for doing this to me and "ruining my life", I was happy and they were taking it all away from me.  I shed countless tears while saying good bye to each person who left our home at the end of that night.  No one could console me.
I did not not think about the future and where I was going, I did not feel joy or excitement and did not look forward to a new life, I only thought about the wonderful life that I was leaving behind.  I knew that a great chapter of my life was coming to an end and I was not ready for it.  I remember feeling like I was losing  a special and privileged life and no one seemed to understand or care.
I have no or very vague memories of the moment of leaving our home for the last time, the airport, the final goodbyes in the airport or even the airplane.  My true last memory is the night in our home with all of our family and friends in it.
Looking back now, I was right, my life was at it's most perfect shape then, a privileged one which was never ever the same again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Remembering my Baba

He was the first born to his mother and had three younger brothers and one younger sister.  From the beginning, not only was he different than all of his siblings, he was different than most others as well.    He was a gentle sole,  happy and one of the most unique people anyone would meet in their lifetime.  
He appreciated beauty, tenderness and love in all things such as art, music, poetry, movies, scenery and people.
Although career ambition and money was not on top the list of his priorities, he was smart enough to manage to provide a comfortable life for his family.  He did however have great ambition to focus on becoming a better and deeper person every single day of his life and he encouraged and educated everyone around him to do the same.  He educated himself on art, literature, religion, politics, philosophy, sociology, science and history every day of his life and never seized to learn or teach.  He appreciated and promoted comfort and fun in life while always choosing the right path.
He loved his wife every day of their married life and showed her so with care and tenderness.  He raised his children in a home filled with jokes, laughter, fun and games.  He loved them so much, that the love was visible and took a physical form to them and others.
He was so different than any other person who walked this earth that he left a mark in each and every person's heart who crossed his path.  Be it either a unique joke, a special idea, a funny comment, a life-changing advice or an act of extreme kindness, he left them with a special memory of himself.  Every person who met him, if it was just for a moment or if they knew him for years, loved him and never, ever forgot him.
One message that he tried to pass on which he practiced himself was to enjoy life to the fullest every day.  He stopped to smell the roses, he created beautiful art, exerted love to others, touched so many lives and left a sea of memories to be cherished by those who had the privilege to have a moment or two with him.
We all miss him terribly.

Monday, January 7, 2013


I open the door to my usual morning coffee shop and enter to get my morning cup of Joe. I stand in line as it is during the morning rush and like me, many others are also in need of their dose of caffeine. Suddenly I look up and notice that I am the only one with my head and eyes straight up. Every single person who is standing in line has their head bent down and focusing 100% on a little device cradled between their two hands. I look over to the counter where others are waiting for their coffee and breakfast and I see more people with their heads bent all the way down, staring at their little devices, holding it so tightly and with care. They are holding it with such tenderness that I can feel the love between it and the person. They all look like they are taking care of very important business that cannot wait another hour or having a very deep or crucial conversation with someone, something that must and needs to be taken care of right there and then. As my curiosity heightens, I maneuver my body and head in certain ways to discreetly take a look to some of the screens. Of course, all the screens that I get a glimpse of are of facebook feeds, pictures, texts and games. This makes me sad.
What have we become? Robots? Anti-socials, hermits? Dysfunctional? Rude? Sad? The saddest part is that I am one of a very few people in the coffee shop who may have that mind set, the others are completely oblivious to this change in the human race. I am in the minority. It makes me sad.
I think about all the things these people are missing in their lives. It could be looking at another person and smiling, may it be a stranger, and getting that energy you get from a stranger’s smile, looking out the window and seeing the sun shining on the side walk and making last night’s rain sparkle, seeing a mother play with her baby which makes almost everyone smile, and so much more. It makes me sad.
But apparently these people prefer looking at pictures of someone who they went to high school with 20 years ago and have not seen since, or texting a friend who they never make time to talk to on the phone or in person, or read an article about last night’s football game, or just pass the time by playing a game of solitaire. They do not care to look up to see how the little boy eating his muffin is enjoying his breakfast so much with his daddy, or see how impeccably a business woman is dressed or, or, or… it makes me sad.
How long until we do not see each other anymore? How long until all we see are screens? Screens of conversation, screens of smiles, screens of messages, screens of friends, screens of coffee perhaps? It makes me sad.
It is sad to see strangers completely detached and isolated from other real people, but it is devastating to see friends, family and loved ones who are distracted by screens and prefer to look at a picture posted by someone they knew 15 years ago than to look at and talk to you. THAT makes me scared.