Author’s Note: This piece is dedicated to Ali Gharib’s beard. Do not ask me why. I don’t know why either.
I have to do a google search to learn that this Persian New Year is the 1394th year. That makes it the 10th Persian New Year that I have not been in Iran. It is approximately a third of my lifetime, in earthly years, that I have not celebrated the Persian New Year (Norooz) in Tehran, with my family, witnessing in amazement how beautiful, charming and clean my hometown, Tehran, that crowded Persian bathhouse of a city, can be. About the same time that I have not seen the majestic peaks of Alborz mountain chain separating Tehran from the Caspian sea. Those wonderful blossoms on the trees in the streets, those excited smiles of the entire families on the streets.
I no longer care about Norooz. These days, I am afraid, I get more excited about Christmas. I blame it on my eyes. On my surroundings. I blame it on Obama. (Joking!! Also, Bill O’Reilly, love u!)
But, really, I have to work on my emotions, and try hard to get excited about the coming of the Persian New Year. But, what’s the point? Yesterday was the first day of the Spring in the south central region of the US, and I was in a coffee shop – during the commencement of the Spring – talking to a guy I had just met, Charles, about the Persian New Year. Charles was from Birmingham, Alabama. He seemed like a gay person, or maybe he was not, but talking to him was pleasant. I had asked my Iranian friends in Baton Rouge, if they wanted to get together to celebrate the moment the Spring commenced: One response was that the tradition was to celebrate the coming of the new year in your own home with your own family. Well, this responder, was a married one, and she was right as far as I my memories of Norooz helped. The other two responses were “We are going to a dinner party.” Needless to say I was not invited to either of the two parties. What I did was going to a fundraiser of a college radio station and listening to grunge and rap performances of the young and enthusiastic artists. It was fun. But, it did not feel right.
I no longer care about the Persian New Year. Its comings. Its goings.
Oh, I also did something else. Before ending up in that coffee shop, I went to a nearby restaurant called Al-Maza (Flavor in English) owned by an Iranian guy, Hamid, who is originally from Isfahan. He has lived in the US since the early 80s. He has always been friendly to me. Talking to him reminds me of all the warm-hearted, nice Iranian men who were my dad’s friends. Talking to him is reassuring. (Let me wipe my tears and then I will get back to writing again. Just a minute please.)
Hamid’s father, aged 94, had died three months ago -- and, I was not up-to-date on this sad news. I don’t go to Hamid’s restaurant often. This time Hamid told me about this tragedy. I became speechless. When my own dad died a couple of year ago, Hamid had called me about it as soon as he'd learned about it. I was ashamed that I had not done the same for him. But, what I could do was to listen to him telling me memories of his father. Of his life. Of his own relationship with his dad. And how his mother and brother and sister had asked him to not come to Iran, for everything was ok – and he had a business to run, a family to take care of. Hamid can go to Iran. He has no political or social problem with the Islamic Republic. But, his job has prevented him from going to Iran and visiting his father’s grave. I told him that I yearned to see a picture of my dad’s grave. He told me his family had sent him a video of the body of his father getting washed according to the Islamic code, a stage before the burial in the ground.
Anyhow, after a few hours of chatting, the customers started to come into the shop, and I took my leave. I wished him a happy new year. Whatever that means.
Funny was that Hamid also told me he no longer cared about the coming of the Persian New Year.
Happy New Year, guys.