Category Archives: Short Stories

Stories have impact on our lives.

Our Jewish Teacher

Back in Tehran, school year of 1970-1973, I had an elementary teacher known as Mrs. Jewish teacher. This teacher was obviously Jewish and she was called by her religion. It is incredible how we recall labels and not names. I guess dividing people due to race, religion, and ethnicity has always been around in my home country. Without a doubt we never called our teachers by their name, only with a title: Mr. or Mrs. Teacher.

In the hierarchy of power, teachers had their own ladder in that top to down human relationship. Respecting teachers was not only encouraged but it was part of the package that enforced a more fear based respect. Blind obedience was definitely part of this package.

Our Mrs. Jewish teacher happened to be living in the same neighborhood as I did, in fact just a couple of houses away from mine. Walking by her house I always wondered how she lived her life. In school we used to have our own fantasies about our teachers, whether they disciplined their own children or whether they eat the same kind of food as we did. Our childish imaginations had no borders.

Our Mrs. Jewish teacher was really a nice lady. I guess I recall her because I used to feel good to be in her neighbourhood. She used to encourage her students to write neatly and to keep their school books clutter free. Although our parents paid for the school books, this teacher frequently asked us to donate the books at the end of the school year to the school. The contributed books would be given to the next year students from less income families.

At some point, our Jewish teacher did encourage us to look beyond that little donation. She taught us to recycle our note books. In those days note books and writing materials in general were real commodity, a type of luxury that our parents did not have in their childhood. My parents used to make statements about how they were unable to imagine having those fancy writing material. Back in their time paper was a luxury itself, if now note books were for us. They meant to say that we were getting spoiled while going to school was a battle in their time.

I knew implicitly that not all children could afford those fancy 40 pages or 60 pages note books. My own cousins living in a small village south of Iran could not even attend school, because school was itself an extravagance is small rural villages. Thinking back now, those note books did not cost more than a penny still the culture of recycling was dynamic aspect of our school work.

In the commencement of school year we would receive a long list of specifically required school materials such as books, paper packs, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and even uniforms. The note books we had to have, been sold in the stores in form of 40, 60, and 100 pages lined note books. I recall how the list was exciting for us children, yet, not for our parents.

Our Jewish teacher would tell us that we could erase all the scribbles in our old note books from previous years and reuse those papers. Even she would give us ideas that we could use the extra pages left at the end of the note books that belonged to either us or our siblings. For those children who did not want to take the extra work of erasing pages and pages of pencil scribbled papers, she would ask them to donate the notebooks to her.

I guess she would think that some other children whose parents were poor might want to do that extra effort in order to have access to some school martial, although second hand. I am not sure how she would approach those parents about her genius ideas on recycling note books, however she did teach us that we could always be considering others who are less privileged. I guess I recall this story now because recycling is a big issue for our overpopulated world. We have to learn to reuse and to use our resources carefully. It is both healthy and thoughtful.

Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles February 13. 2009 by this author.


Ali Divaneh

This story goes back to life in Tehran. With some calculations it must have been 1969-1970. I was in grade one or two. Those of us, who lived in Behbodi-shademan Street in Tehran, may recall this character.

In the commencement of the school time around First of Mehr, there were rumors going on. We heard that we had a “divaneh/crazy” man in our neighborhood who tend to behave inappropriately in front of children. Some of us were most curious to see how this man looked like. A few of us could see him in the porches and corners of the street. I think in my fantasy I visualized him as a very scary man, most probably due to the stories being told about him. I am not sure.

This man was known for his noticeable mental health issues. People called and referred to him as Ali-divaneh. The public attribution as divaneh is still common among us Iranian, we give people labels that is hard for them to get off it. Divaneh had become this individual’s last name and it was sad.

One day in a strange way, I met this guy as a human being. Until that day I had no idea how a “crazy” person looked like.

It was a warm and sunny day in fall, when a new breeze was in the air. In our daily path to school we could see the changes of the season.

One day around lunch time, something strange happened. Ali-divaneh just walked into our living room in our first floor apartment in a two story building. At that time and around noon in every neighborhood of our city, Tehran, there was a symphony of lovely, loud, and cheerful sound of kids who were coming or going to school. I guess Ali-divaneh missed being part of those childish and happy experiences.

He entered into our living room while we had no idea of his intention for this visit. My mother had made a delicious food as usual as I recall and we were just having our first bites. As he walked in I could tell that my mother was shocked and a bit uncomfortable, however, she managed to keep calm. Ali-divaneh was a tall guy in his mid twenties or early thirties. With him coming in as an uninvited guest, my mother tried to pretend that we had a guest. She gently asked Ali divaneh if he wanted some food. He shook his head very slightly visible. My mother quickly put a plate of food in front of him. Soon before we knew, our guest was eating. He looked hungry and he ate as much as he could as quick as he could. As he was swallowing big chunk of food, we started to get a sense that he was no threat to us, he was only hungry. He ate while looking at each one of us. I guess he was wishing that he had a family like ours. His eyes were telling us stories that we could not understand at that time. In no time, he had emptied his plate and with no word to say, he exited from that door he had entered in. He was gone and we sat down stunned.

Now looking back I could see that he was in a defense mood while he was eating. I guess he was ready to take off if he felt unwelcome. He had a poor hygiene, still, nothing unbearable. I remember his large black eye, his long eyelashes, and his innocent face.

He came and disappeared, he left me with many questions as a child. My mother blamed me for having left the entrance door wide open since I had just arrived from school. That was possible, yet, there were no time for any confessions or any excuses. That evening when my father came home, I heard my mother reporting to him: “Ali-divaneh came for lunch.” Later on I realized that some kind ladies like my mother, they did take time to offer Ali-divaneh food once he showed up. I guess Ali knew where to go when he was hungry.

After that day, I never asked my mother what she thought of this incident. How was that she was not scared of a stranger just walking into our home, how come she offered him food and how did she knew he was hungry.

I am still wondering what Ali-divaneh thought that day, whether he had gone to other peoples house like this, and whether he would always be treated nicely.

We could see Ali divaneh most of the days in one porch or another. He seemed to enjoy the sound of happy children who could go home for a warm lunch. He seemed to be nice most of the times, he laughed and he made funny noises. We did not know what was wrong with this guy.

In my childish mind I used to imagine whether Ali-divaneh was a regular guy who only missed having nice people around. Maybe his family had disowned him because he was divaneh. I was wondering how come he did not have his own home with warm food and nice clothes. I had many questions that could not be answered by anyone. We did not know about him more than the rumors. We neither knew about mental health issues and the cause for that, nor did we know about the treatment of people with mental health issues. I remember that Ali-divaneh was bullied a lot, people made fun of him and I know that he knew he was not being treated with respect.

Instinctively I could connect his mental health issues with lack of family life, respect, and dignity. A couple of years later, while I was in secondary school, again, we were hearing stories of Ali-divaneh and his inappropriate behaviors. I remember my girl friends were saying that they had seen him in a corner close to our school while he was trying to show his male organ to he girls. Once the word was spread, our school principal intervened. I was sure that once again Ali-divaneh was trying to say, that he needed help, that he needed to belong, that he needed people care for him. I am not sure what happened subsequently. Somehow the school principal and teachers were able to keep him distant from our school as we did not hear of him again. That was the last time I heard of Ali-divaneh.

Notice that Ali-divaneh was a male. The reason that his story gets to be told is that he was visible and out there, even though he was known as being “divaneh.” Girls in his condition would be kept invisible and unheard of. Who knows?

Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles October 6, 2008 by this author.


Halloween Can Trigger Trauma

Halloween is a time when people dress up to something they admire, fear, or like.

This is a time when you expect to enjoy the physical transformation,although in a superficial way. You pretend being a character maybe close to your heart or maybe something that challenges you. You like to convey a message or to portray an image of you that has been hidden or forgotten. Most probably, you like to like the challenge the status quo.

The decision by which you dress up as a ghost, a beggar, a Dracula, a superstar, or a role model, are very personal. There is a childish excitement involved in choosing and wearing Halloween customs. Surely we can observe that the choice of customs are being quite fashionable and diverse. Halloween customs are supposed to offer a different experience, something beyond the ordinary. I guess anything that is above our level of imagination, yet an image that challenges our creation and invention. In any case, Halloween is a tradition that people take distance from their every day life character and they have an opportunity to become mysteriously or glamorously unique.

However, the aim of this article is to raise awareness on how some people are being re-traumatized or triggered by seeing someone wearing clothes that just reminds them of a traumatic event. Although, we are supposed to be scared on Halloween nights, yet in an exciting and funny way. Now to the story:

Years ago, I met this young woman that I call her Mina. Her story of a real Halloween night is quite fascinating considering the invisible cultural and political elements involved in her experience.

Mina was young and in her 30’s. A short while after her new life in Canada, once she was invited to a Halloween party. As a new immigrant, she had issues to tackle, while having fragmented ideas what her sadness overall was about. She welcomed the invitation and the party was described to her as a quite fun event.

She recalls attending that party expecting to forget about her daily life. She could not dress up much, she wore a pair of funny glasses that to her was a huge transformation.

In the middle of the party, some new characters or dressed up people entered.

One of these new faces had worn the traditional dress that “mullahs” wear in Iran and elsewhere.

Mina, whose mother and a relative had both been executed in the hands of the injustice system of Iran and in the hands of these “mullahs.” found her heart beating to the maximum and fearing the most.

Mina was aware that she was in a safe place in a suburb of of Vancouver, still she could not stop her experience of flashbacks, extreme sense of threat, and excessive anger.

For a short moment, she taught that the “mullah” was a real person, so she came to think of how she hated this group of people who had killed her loved ones.

Mina started thinking how her home country is in blood because of these group of people called “mullahs” who have only caused misery and suffering for a nation. She started to feel numb and nauseated.

Mina was standing there stunned, cold, and broken in her heart, trying to calm herself.

She had not seen a “mullah” after she left Iran many years ago, arriving in the middle of no where in a refugee camp in Turkey. Now she was relating the loss of her mother and other loves ones to this single person dressing up like a “mullah.”

The laughter of some friends and the jokes being told all around her, made Mina to return mentally to where she was standing. Mina could recognize her deep layered pain in her heart. She realize that her friends were having fun by staying behind their masks, dressing up like crazies, and acting like they were someone else. But she was in pain.

Mina did not know what to do or how to leave the room. She came to think of how her mother was thrown in jail when she was quite young and how they just heard of she being “shot” in the jail.

Mina recalled how she and the grandmother went to a scary cemetery, where people all were wearing those traditional long black dresses. She started to hallucinate thinning whether that cemetery was indeed holding a Halloween Party.

Mina had heard stories about how her mother was “shot” by the Iranian government only a few days after she was arrested on one street in Tehran. She was only 5 when mother was taken away from her. Her mother was killed because she had attended a rally while she had a political magazine with her at the time of her arrest. Mina was 12 when she and an aunt made it out of Iran to Turkey. Since then, she was trying to forget how her mother was murdered by people dressed up like ‘mullahs” or being “mullahs.” Mina was not sure if Halloween party would be any fun that night, when she finally left the party all in tears.

No one realized why she left and she told no one until that day.

This article was published originally in EzineArtciles October 27th, 2010 . Now it is being republished in the author’s own website.


A Mother with Broken Heart

Years ago back in 1990.s I met this Iranian woman who was living with enormous emotional pain.

I was working as a Social Worker in a Government Social Assistance office. Upon my own interest, most Iranian clients would be refereed to me, not only due to the client’s language barriers but also due to the cultural challenges in which most of what clients said would be lost in translation.

Since the first moment I met this lady, I saw a deep sorrow in her kind eyes. She seemed to be simple, quite, tired, elegant yet chronically hopeless. She had come to apply for some financial assistance that most low income families had the right to ask for.

This lady presented herself with few words. She made it clear that although she was in need of social assistance still she was not a “beggar”.

She briefly explained that her small amount of social pension she had, was not enough for her expenses. She would manage her finances somehow magically every month, however this month she was behind her electricity and phone bills. She feared the most. Her tone of voice was low, toneless, and joyless. She showed me all her documents that showed her phone bills were really high. I enquired about her usual habit of keeping her low economy together and she kindly explained the ways in which she managed everything. Basically she would buy cheap food to manage her low budget. About family members she told me that her three daughters were all grown up and they lived with their families elsewhere. She lived all by herself as a new immigrant while not speaking the language. She was about 60 years old then.

Through her broken sentences I learned that her husband had died a couple of years ago. She manage to come to Sweden after her daughters had their refugee status and permanent residents accepted. After some small talk, we did take care of her application and the process in which she needed to get help.

She told me that I was the first Iranian she had spoken to in a long time. I was stunned to hear that, since there were many of us in that city, so how come she was that isolated? After that visit, this lady called me another day to tell me how much she felt good to talk in her own language with me and she asked me to go see her if I could. As making home visits were part of my job, I agreed to visit her in the coming week. That day, we were quite busy in our office and I was in a mood to cancel that home visit, yet I had a feeling that I have to go. I managed to get out of the office in that cold winter day and in no time I was in front of her simple apartment in a neighbourhood most immigrants lived.

I rang the bell. She opened the door and welcomed me warmly by hugging me. She had made a good Persian tea that was irresistible. She showed me to her small and neat kitchen table. I could smell a motherly home, a place I could feel a mixture of energies I was not sure about. I could sense sadness and low mood in that home, a silent that had a killing effect. Something was very sad.

She poured tea in a cute little glass type tea cup. I liked to well fuse tea that could only found in mother’s home. We started a conversation that came to be memorable for me.

She was a teacher back home. One day, like millions of other Iranians she had a life, she had a home and a lovely family. After year 1980, all the turbulence started. She had two sons and three daughters who were all brought to be caring young people. In those early months of 1982, when the regime started to kill hundreds of young boys and girl who had a sympathy for any right or left political party, this lady’s life turned upside down. The horrible phone call came after a week of her two sons age 20 and 18 had gone missing. She and her husband had searched all hospitals, morgues, and jails. No answer! While that horrible person on the other side of the line told her that her two sons were arrested and executed. She was told that her sons had gone to “hell” and she was not allowed to grief because they were not worth it. Soon, she learned that a part of the big scary cemetery out of Tehran, the “behesht Zahra” was the place many bodies would be dumped in the middle of the nights. Families started to go out there to find the place where their loved ones were buried. Families would be threatened and intimidated by the God’s Army, having any ceremonies for those killed children would cause more trouble. Here my host could not help her tears while explaining how much pain she and her family were left to live with. After her sons were killed (murdered or executed), she was laid off as a teacher, with the false accusations that were nonsense to her anyways.

She knew back then that there is no way they could ask for any justice, when the government was the main offender. Life became harder for her three daughters ages 28, 26, 23, who had all gone separate ways. None of her daughters would ever be able to attend university in Iran because her family was labelled as whatever that regime did call people for names. She was receiving threatening calls if she tells someone about her sons, the rest of family would be in danger. She took the threats seriously and she knew no one was safe anyways in her home country, she knew it and she feared that still the worst was still waiting for her.

A year after losing her two lovely sons, her husband died of a heart attack. She was sure that husband died due to broken heart after the tragedies they had to live with. This grieving lady knew no way out of this enormous pain. Her life had been turned upside down.

Year 1986, her three daughters had left Iran, one way or another. She lived in a constant physical and emotional pain, knowing that life was never to be the same. Years after with the perseverance of her daughter, she managed to arrive in Stockholm to find a refuge, a place of peace, while no peace were to be found anywhere for her. Being immigrant, not knowing the language, not having energy to learn the language, not having the peace of mind to integrate with the host society, and thousands other small concerns that she had, were all the reasons for her living a lonely life now. Her daughters lived in different places far from one another, each one having their own issues, according to her.

After a long pause, she started talking again. This lady believed that now she is on her own and she has to deal with many memories that are unbearable. She said that she keeps blaming herself with all the unfolding. She had lost hope. On a daily basis she would look at herself in a mirror to tell herself that she was a bad mother. She believed that if she had been a tougher mother, then all these tragedies would not happen. As she decried her daily life struggles, I could understand that she was living in the circle of many psychotic breakdowns, yet she had no help or support network.

I ended that home visit with a load of questions and emotions: what could I possibly do for her?

After weeks and months of sporadic contacts I refereed her to a psychologist, yet she refused to take that referral. Certainly, I had a sense of appreciation for her struggles in relations to her reality. She denied having any mental health issues while agreeing that she was heartbroken. I guess this is a terminating disorder that we Iranian have and always have known of since we always refer to it as being the reason for someone’s death. She meant that no one in the world would give her family back to her. She just waited to die soon as there was nothing left for her anymore. Her daughters were living harder life themselves therefore she would not even bother them talking about her own miserable life. I could not disagree, she was right; she and her whole family had become victims for crimes and traumas. I just wished that she would be able to find support somewhere. My comments would not be heard anyways as this lady’s reality was much more complex.

I never heard of her again as life had another plans for me and I guess for her. However, I have kept this lady in mind and still thinking about what happened to this mother with broken heart.


We Tell Stories

Our Next Generation need to know many stories that we carry with us.

There is a burning desire in every one of us in telling the story of life of someone very special that has significant meaning for us.  If we search, we can find individuals who lived their life to pave our way for a better life.  If we just concentrate on what was about someone that impacted our worldview, we will find people in our circle of family and friends.
There are many individuals whose life made ours better, we should keep their legacy alive.  There are numerous men and women among every nation who do extra ordinary work because they are / were extra ordinary ones.
In western cultures, these people get acknowledged, but not in our Iranian ones. We do our best; still we need more organization and management in this area.
Myself, I wish to look at a woman’s life, someone who has left a great legacy behind.  She was a brave woman. . She was a woman of dignity and self-respect.  She was a humble and ordinary woman. Her story illustrates constant challenges and hard work.  This woman she showed strength and willingness to stand up for herself, despite the dangers out there.  This is simply a life story of a regular Iranian woman, however, a brave, strong, and resilient woman who deserves to be introduced to our next generation. Her style of life followed a pattern of self-formulation and self-determination.  The search for happiness and meaning made her special at least in my mind; because no one could do what she did.
In storytelling, it is however important to remember that there is no attempt to picture or idealize someone or to create a super hero.  We can write about real individuals whose life was a silent action against oppression and status quo.   For my part, I will tell the story of ordinary people with ordinary needs like the rest of our human community.
I encourage the readers of this article to do the same type of documentation for our next generations. We can write about the experiences and existence of our parents, uncles, aunts, and whose being had a significant meaning for us. Our writings however should be accurate, objective, and unbiased, as much as we can. That said, we need to recognize our own ideas from what has been expressed to us or what has been observed.

We have a responsibility to keep our story telling culture alive, story of real women and men, story of people who learned to fight for their rights just through insight and self-respect.
I encourage you to document life stories so that our younger generations would be able to get to know our ancestors, something that my generation or the generations prior to our parents missed.
For this reason I want to Introduce Mamman Aziz to you, in the next article.
This story is a vivid memory of a grandmother who was giving her granddaughters ideas about her internal world, her family, and her childhood with help of stories. The main goal of this retelling is to keep the legacy of a woman who taught me how to be strong.
Keep reading.
April 25, 2009
Poran Poregbal

In story telling it is important to acknowledge our subjective view on how the events unfold. Remember, despite all the attempts, this story is for no reason objective since it is only a lifelong encapsulated memory.


Our Little Culture Clash

The other day we went to a Christmas party.  The hosts were a couple who live in a beautiful and peaceful neighborhood.  This couple are naturally two calm and quite individuals with no interest for loud music or noises.  Living in a condominium does also give this couple extra concerns about the noise that might cause any inconvenience for their neighbors.
The couple introduced us to a family member who had just come for a visit from Iran.  This visitor was here in Vancouver for the first time.

As the evening was unfolding and we were enjoying the great food, we could hear this quest talking about life here in “Canada.”  His comments were interesting and made me to listen more carefully.

This quest made a comment about the quite life here in Vancouver.  He meant that people were not visible out there.  He said that he did not see much life here.  He had expected a bar on every corner of every street.  He had expected seeing people dancing on the streets.  Finally he had thought that life in a free country such as Canada must be more exciting.  People who were around started talking about the activities here in Vancouver and how citizens spend their evenings if they wish so.

However, in my mind we were talking about the level of personal freedom in relation to societal resources.  This conversation made me realize how much the busy traffic in Tehran and the overpopulation has become a normal life.
This man told us about all his music instruments and electric equipments back home, as a way to tell us about his passion for music. He added that all evenings long he could play his instruments and sing along. I thought that was a very good hobby, the healthiest I could think of. However what he meant was that he could play loud music and people are generally happier. This last statement made me however a bit concerned, because every time we Iranian say this whole big general concept, it means we are exaggerating. If people were much happier in our home country, why millions of us have migrated? Anyhow, I did not feel like making any comment. I just thought of how much our reality is complicated.

This quest reminded me how much the social restrictions back home make people to look for excitement elsewhere, whatever it is.  Now in this case playing music is the best you could do for you to keep your mind intact.   I am wondering about the rest of us, those who are less fortunate compare to our friend who can play music.   Most probably the peace and quite on the streets here in Vancouver was heavy for our friend, because back home peacefulness is an far-fetched idea.

He mentioned that in Iran families get together almost regularly and partying; this is what people (like him probably) do. He meant that this is the most exciting thing that is occurring because life out there is a jungle.

Listening to this man, I was thinking how much our values have changed.  This was not and will not be the one discussion about how everywhere is compared to Iran.  Listening to these comparisons between here and there make me always think of the big culture clash among us. Immigration has touched us all very hard. We have hard time what to believe. We come here and forget how things are back there. Still, we are trying to adjust by comparing, contrasting, and hoping all the time. This is good, I guess. We can learn too.
Jan 3, 2009


My Unknown Hardworking Friend

Everywhere I go I tend to meet people who are in need of emotional support. These people could be from any culture, any shape, and any belief system. I have my 9-5 job at a non-profit organization in the heart of downtown Vancouver. One of my daily routine is to walk over to a local grocery store, a couple blocks away from my work and grab a bite to eat in their deli section. I am a regular customer and I enjoy sitting in their common area, where I have my daily sandwich and coffee.

As I have become a regular face here, I have some eye contacts and non-verbal greetings from the cashiers or workers. It feels good to be welcomed even implicitly although with few exchanged words. The introvert personality I have gives me the gift of enjoying my quiet moments, just being with myself, planning my days, mentally relaxing, or at times watching customers mostly coming for a hot soup or some fresh salad.

In this public grocery store I go to, I have met one hard working Iranian woman who has stuck with me since day one. Indeed I have not met her, I have found her. I believe I started noticing her about four years ago, year 2004 sometimes. I always have an eye for people from my own culture. I guess this is my human characteristic, looking for the same, checking for those who belong to a cultural context of mine. This is nothing unique. However, I tend to say hi to some people whose faces or gestures tell me they are reachable. For my hard working friend, it took her a while to respond back to my eye movements and silent greetings. From the very first time, I found this woman a little bit shy, distracted, stressed out, displaced, and somewhat depressed. These are my biased judgments coming from me being interested in the field of psychology.

Once in a while I would see her around in the food area where she was mostly cleaning or preparing food, I used my chance to say hi to her. Soon I noticed that she does not speak English well and indeed she uses a few words sentence structure to handle her customers. Those moments when I use some Persian words to greet her, I could see that her eyes shine, as if her day was empty of any joy.

Some days her quick, bewildered, and lost eyes would tell me that she is unhappy with her life. In those very short moments of saying “Salam”, I would sometimes have a shy respond back.

As time passed by, my hard working friend started to recognize my face as a more “regular” guest. About two years ago, when I was there on my lunch break grabbing a bite to eat, she said a couple of words in a low tone. She said; “I will say good bye to you”. I asked: “why”? She continued saying; “we are moving back to Iran”. I was a bit surprised, as we had never talked much before, now this lady was saying goodbye to me.

Soon after that day, I again ended up back at the store and saw my unknown friend. She again shortly explained that they are moving back and these are her last days at work. I wished her good luck and acknowledged her search for finding the life she needed back home. Without verbalizing my thoughts I knew that this family was unhappy about their immigrated life.

Again this story was not unusual; indeed, I thought this untold story is more of a usual case scenario. Now there are over five millions of us around the world. Many of us move back and forth to Iran, without finding any joy in either place. We have lost our identity and our roots. Many Iranians leaving Iran and immigrating to western countries feel lost in that sense of not belonging to the new place.

In the course of my 23 years life out of Iran, this was not the first time I met a person moving back home (Iran). However, in my experience, people would not be able to enjoy the return, as obviously life back home is harder than ever.

We Iranian tend to like the western values of individualism while having hard time acknowledging it.

We tend to like the peaceful life, the organization, and the respect for human rights in western cultures, without knowing how to help our complex life in our home country.

You cannot ignore those faces that are empty of happiness, those embodied souls who have lost their spirits, and those individuals who have never have taste much love. For all these reasons I knew somehow I would see this woman again.

These past two years I kept going to the same grocery store. I kept using my time to plan the day and pray for the days to come, while sitting there enjoying my break.

Just recently, about two months ago, I saw that known face again. My hardworking friend was back at work and had obviously moved back to Canada.

I was not surprised, I scanned her face again, even more desperate than before. At one point, once she was taking care of the cash register where people also order food or drinks, I could observe her more closely.

A lady asked for “chai” and my hard working friend was not sure “what chai was.” My hard working friend asked the lady who was ordering chi, to spell the chai for her. I could see in her face that she was totally embarrassed, stressed out, and even angry with herself and life in general. She had moved across the continent to come here and serve food, still she was unaware of the simple name as Chai tea. This is our Iranian daily hot drink.

I guess she did not know that maybe just in the past few years the word chai has been unofficially replaced the word tea. I guess my hard working friend did not know this buzzword of the hot beverage world. I did not wait to see how she would handle that simple task, I guess she let someone else get involved and serve that lady her Chai.

I was able to see how she wanted to be invisible. The harder she tried, the more stressed out she seemed to me, at least.

To make the long story short, my hard working friend is now more or less settled in the workplace. In the past couple of weeks, I have seen this woman around being more in charge of the food and drinks being served to the public. She is a real hard worker woman.

Just recently, as I went for my regular quiet coffee time, my friend saw me from over the counter where she was making sandwiches. She managed to loudly say hi to me. She explained that the other day she met me and due to the rush hour and many people around she did not have a chance to say hi to me. I was a bit shocked that she liked to make contact with me now. I was happy at the same time wondering if she is feeling a bit better about herself and her life in general. After I purchased my lunch and coffee, I settled down in one of the high chair-tables where I usually sit. That is the place I can watch the life out there, the rushing pedestrians, the moving cars, the ambulances, the fire trucks, and the buses.

This is the turning point for me to watch people and perceive how they are thinking. I usually like to observe people based on their moods, showed affect, appearance, and movements. Now having my hot soup, I realized that my friend had come closer to me. She was pretending to clean up the table close to me. I knew she was using this excuse to exchange some words with me.

My intuition was that she liked my short company, even the few words was exchanged. I did not want to push her for talking to me as I could see she was distressed enough. Now that she had got close to me, she greeted me like we Iranians regularly do. I told her that I was happy to see her again.

She explained in few sentences that she could not stay back in Iran; her children liked it here more. She kept saying that now that she is back she has got a hard time with her children. They did not like to go to school in Iran, and they do not like to study here. She was saying that she has a problem with her children not doing their job, which is in our culture, only studying.

I think my empathic tone or my friendly words that was used to confirm her being upset about her story went a long way. She continued that this was her greatest fear, now that she is back and her children are not doing well in school. I asked how many children she is talking about. She said three children, the oldest being 18.

She was particularly concerned about the 18 year old daughter that did not like to go to school, stayed in her room all day long, chatted on the computer, did not like to talk to mother, and did not show any interest in anything in general. Now that this friend was giving me lots of information, I started to feel concerned about her and her explicitly hard time. She stated that she cannot work full time because she wants to be home around the kids who are exhibit low mood, depressed, neither liked Iran, nor here!

Somehow I started to think that this family needed help. I started to say that the most important thing for all of us is to have a healthy family first. Now that she had to go back to make more sandwiches, she left me thinking, wow, this is the hidden aspect of migration; lack of support and loss of hope in finding a stable home.

After a couple of minutes this woman came back to my sitting place again. Now she was pretending to check with the newspaper left on the tables. I guess she was afraid her manager would catch her wasting the working hours. Now she asked me what I do as a job. I guess she wondered how come I told her about the hardship of migration for adults and children. I did emphasise that children sometimes have a harder time when the family is not stable. Their sense of belonging, loss of friends, loss of attachments, and lack of hope for a family life, makes them fearing the most.

Now that I explained to my friend that I am a counsellor, she asked what I do, meaning, what exactly being a counsellor means. After some more few explanations, she thanked me and went back to her duties. Now for the third time she came back again after a few minutes, apologizing to take my time, she asked how she could help her children. She added that she would like her children being seen by a counsellor. Maybe they need help as she was unable to do more than she managed. She continued asking if she could have my card and contact number.

As I did not have any business care, she went to bring me a pen and a piece of paper. She asked me about the charge for counselling and I told her that can be worked out. She again thanked me and disappeared. For the fourth time she came by asking if she could pay with her care card. This is the most common question; Iranians always ask if they can pay counselling with care card, believing that this is a service being provided by the health authorities. My lunchtime became a counselling session, which does not bother me. I was left with the thoughts that how this woman and her children would find a healthy happy life here. I wondered if the daughter is depressed and hopeless.

I kept thinking that many Iranian families living with this ambiguity about where to live, here or there. I am not sure of what will happen next but I do know that it is my duty as a citizen and student of clinical counselling to give her all my support.

I recall, as I was preaching about hardship of immigration, her face turned red. She said, it is not that only. I asked how so. She said: I am from khoramshahr. I realized that there is more to her story.

I asked if she remembered the war.

She said: “more than remembering.” At that moment I realized that life has not been the easiest for this woman. With some simple words she said I am one of those “war-hit” families. These two words told me a whole deal. Having been hit by the war for many Iranian families mean having lost homes, sense of belonging, and people they knew.

I have heard, observed, and experienced myself these sometimes unimaginable attachment injuries when losing things that matter the most. In some simple words she started to describe her recollection of what was once a home for her.

In 1980 once the Iraqi soldiers invaded Khoramshahr, up to that point, this woman had a life. She was married about three years. Her husband was an oil engineer working for the huge oil-gas company in south Iran. He was well sought and well paid due to his knowledge and skills. She was married three years at that point and she had her first child about a year.

Her short term childhood was spent with playing around the date and palm tress in that hot southern weather. She pointed out shyly was now feeling quite contempt and in love. The little she knew that world around her would soon fall apart and turn into hell while her country would be defenceless and invaded.

Giving me this new information, I forgot totally about her children and their lack of interest in school. I kept thinking this woman being displaced and depressed, what else could be in her baggage? In this western culture, a woman like her would be easily put on medication if she went to a doctor for any of her low mood symptoms. However, would meds be enough for someone with her layers of experienced trauma and hardship?

In deed just being alive today and working in a grocery store, serving food, and not knowing about “chai tea” is still called resiliency and strength. If there was a noble prize for being resilient, this woman would for sure deserve that. Up to this date I have not heard from her. I will go back to the grocery store to see if she could use some more few moments to tell what she needs to tell. I wish she would call me to ask for a counselling session. I would do anything to help her.

Note: I have changed some details and some aspects of the story to protect the privacy of this person.

Poran Poregbal

June 9, 2008



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Our Older Generations



How much do we appreciate Our older generation?

How do we embrace, appreciate, and treat our older generation? How much time do we spend in listening to their experiences, stories, and advice about how life should be as they have passed through the many patterns of “cold” and “warm” tastes of life? How do we acknowledge their anguish, their sacrifices, and their hard work while they are still living? How do we keep the awareness around of the gifts of learning from our older generation’s accumulated knowledge?

Yes our older generation does have a gift to pass on to us, to let us know how they lived their lives and what the secret behind their successes and failures is. It is to be recognized that sometimes the older generation too often puts their noses in what their adult children do. This is something to be kept separate from the notion of a live testimony from an older culture, as our Iranian one, which is passing by our eyes, sometimes unnoticed.

The type of life we Iranians live, both inside and outside or our home country is such that we rarely appreciate our older generation’s lives in a proper way. Our parents’ and grandparents’ lives have seldom been studied within a historical, socio-political, psychological, or financial context, and also within the context of the everyday life of a people who have been witness to many historical shifts.

Anthropologists gather information about how people live their lives from day to day and how they make sense of their own “being-in-the-world.” There is a huge doubt that we Iranians have such research, as the whole notion of our individual, community, collective, ethnic, and even national identity is under constant turmoil and under the greyness of migration as a phenomenon. In that sense we are often confused and lost in which aspect of our Iranian life should receive priority in terms of research and discussion.

As Iranians, we struggle enough to make sense of the hard reality back home, a reason for not paying enough attention to our older generation, their lives, their hopes and wishes for us and themselves. Do we know if our grandparents lived a happy, sad, quiet, busy, employed, respected, loved, hated, or intellectual life? Do we know if our parents (deceased or alive) were interested in art, music, poetry, religion, philosophy, history, or life in general? How did they do? How did they live their lives and how did they pass it on to us? What culture, because of our parents and our upbringing, have we been accustomed to?

Sometimes we as the younger generation, feel tired of the advice, of the top-down orders, and of our perceived lack of respect for who we are, as our parents sometimes treat us like children who still need discipline. This might be a reason for ignoring the wisdom of our seniors. If we have them around we still have a chance to learn from them. If we do not, we can still do some research and find out how life was like in their time.

Let us talk about one area in which we all have biased opinions, the area of death! Once we lose a loved one we consider the level of affection we had towards that person, or idealize the person to the level of exaggeration, or we cry for the lost relationship with that person. All the “should have” and “could have” discourse takes us to the ocean of anxiety and grief. Already our Iranian culture is traumatized enough and already many of us have mountains of untold stories. We have to learn to live with those around us as long as they are alive. We have to live with the live ones before we can cry for the dead ones.

Sometimes we mix love and hate in the form of either exaggerating or minimizing all the hard work our older generation has done to provide us with better resources. We hate our past because, sometimes, we feel betrayed in the history, yet we love to hide our fear of vulnerability in the shadows of a past that has gotten us confused.

In appreciation of how our grandparents and past generations lived their lives and passed on their ideas to us, I will start writing about people who have never before been acknowledged by anyone. These people are regular people who lived their simple lives by offering their families the best they could.

October 22, 2007



Stories is part of our daily lives. All of us.

Remember those old good days? We would hear the stories of Princes and Princesses from our grandparents…

I remember many summer nights when the heat of Tehran was cooling down and our beds were offering a resting place from the daily childhood games and the plays outside on the street. Oh, how many games I can recall: leiley, tanab, keshbazi, these are just a few.

My grandmother would try to quiet us and make us go to sleep sooner, so our pleas for a gesehe or story would be met with a ”khob, bashe” or a hesitant “Okay,” on the condition we lie down in our beds and not to say a word!

There were only three of us children in our home with me being the eldest. I would use my authority to get my siblings to listen while they were giggling!

The story of the kind, generous, and beautiful Princess who would go out and find the world without falling for her status or name, would always amaze me. This Princess would go and sit with people living in faraway places and just enjoy the sharing of little food yet much happiness!

I wonder what my children will tell their children about the stories they heard from us, we being caught in the sorrow of migration, drawn in ourselves, with the guilt of having left our parents behind, and the nightly tears for missing home! I’m not sure about myself, yet I am sure that I have at least tried to keep a happy face and present a hopeful life for my children who were growing up away from our real home.

How about you? What stories have you told your children? Share them with us.

May 27, 2007