On route to Tehran via Amsterdam

Published June 29, 2009 · Estimated reading time: 3 minutes · 2 responses so far
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I am currently sitting in the boarding queue in Amsterdam, only a few hours away before landing in Tehran. We arrived in Amsterdam at about 7:30am local time (01.00+ GMT), and our connecting flight to Iran is due to leave at 4:30pm this afternoon.

001 klmbird
A tiny bird somehow had found its way inside the airport, feasting on leftover McDonald’s meals. The twitter bird in real life.

Crossing the Atlantic, we lost about 6 hours. These were six hours that we had gained the last time we crossed the other way about ten years ago, a good enough motive to move westwards of course. The Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is quite large and looks promising for exploration. I didn’t have much sleep though, so my desire to explore so is subdued by my need for a nice bed right now. There are very comfy “sleepy” chairs here in the airport across from me (second floor up from the international gates)… oh and the Egyptian Youth handball team heading to Switzerland…

This trip has been on my mind ever since we booked it a few months ago, and now is a good time as any to finally write about it. I left Iran when I was a little girl, and I’m now returning as a young woman. I left at a point where the foundations of my identity had been rooted, to another country where my identity matured.

When I left Iran I was a child enamored with my surroundings, culture and history. So parting from that, at the time, seemed like a departure from everything I knew. Estrangement. But everyone learns to adjust and so did I – I learned a new language; I made friends, and grew up.

But as if the self-consciousness that comes with growing into an adult wasn’t enough. In a post-9/11 world, my beliefs and values, what I looked like and what I wore were being challenged in every headline. I had to traverse through identities and ideologies, trying my best to distinguish who I was from who I was being told I was. And all this time, I anchored myself in memories held in solitude, kept safe in their fragile impermanence.

When I planned this trip months ago it was to be a personal experience, a rekindling with old memories… After all, the last time I crossed the Atlantic, I never envisioned that I would not see Iran again for so many years. I hoped that the country that I left would be a better country when I returned to it. But no one seems to have had anticipated the events that have transpired in the past few weeks in Iran. Like many other Iranians across the world I’ve been glued to the news, trying to understand what is happening. What is evident in the reports and the searing images that have emerged is that there has been a rapid change in the mood of the country.

There is a point in the film Mononoke Hime by the divine Hayao Miyazaki where the character Lady Eboshi asks Prince Ashitaka, the main character “what exactly are you here for?” referring to his journey to the west. He replies “To see with eyes unclouded by hate.” In this journey to the east, back to my home of long ago, I hope that I too will be able to see with eyes unclouded and convey what I see through my words.

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi

Yousef e Gomgashteh/Lost Joseph

Published June 16, 2009 · Estimated reading time: 2 minutes · 26 responses so far
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یوسف گم گشته (حافظ)
يوسف گم گشته باز آيد به كنعان غم مخور
این دل غمديده حالش به شود دل بد مکُن۱
گر بهار عُمر باشد باز بر تخت چمن
دور گردون گر دو روزی بر مُراد ما نرفت
هان مشو نوميد چون واقف نه ای از سر غيب
ای دل ار سيل فنا بُنیاد هستي بر کَند
در بيابان گر به شوق كعبه خواهي زد قدم
گر چه منزل بس خطرناک است و مقصد بس بعيد
حال ما در فرقت جانان و ابرام رقيب
حافظا در کُنج فقر و خلوت شبهای تار
کلبهٔ احزان شود روزی گلستان غم مخور
وين سر شوريده باز آيد به سامان غم مخور
چتر گُل بر سركشي ای مُرغ خوشخوان غم مخور۲
دائماً يكسان نباشد حال دوران غم مخور
باشد اندر پرده بازيهای پنهان غم مخور
چون ترا نوح است كشتي‏بان ز طوفان غم مخور
سر زنشها گر کُند خار مغيلان غم مخور‏
هيچ راهي نيست كانرا نيست پايان غم مخور
جمله ميداند خدای حال گردان غم مخور
تابود وردت دُعا و درس قرآن غم مخور

Lost Jospeh (Hafez)

Your lost Joseph will return to Canaan, do not grieve
This house of sorrows will become a garden, do not grieve

Oh grieving heart, you will mend do not despair
This frenzied mind will return to calm, do not grieve

When the spring of life sets again in the meadows
A crown of flowers you will bear, singing bird, do not grieve

If these turning epochs do not move with our will today
The state of time is not constant, do not grieve3

Lose hope not, for awareness cannot perceive the concealed
Behind the curtains hidden scenes play, do not grieve

Oh heart, should a flood of destruction engulf the world
If Noah is at your helm, do not grieve

As you step through the desert in desire of Ka’aba
The thorns may reproach you, do not grieve

Home may be perilous and destination out of reach
But there are no paths without an end, do not grieve

Our state in separation from friends and with demands of foes
The divine who turns circumstance knows all, do not grieve

Hafez, in the corner of poverty and loneliness of dark nights
Until your words echo prayers and lessons of Quran, do not grieve.

Translated by Marzieh Ghiasi
June 2009

*References used: Ganjoor collection of poetry & Dehkhoda’s Loghatnameh.
*Photo Source: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

*Note: I tried to make this translation verbatim and minimize interpretation, however Hafez poems are very challenging to ‘translate’ because (a) a large part of the meaning of his poems are carried implicitly in the rhyme and structure of the couplets (b) many of the words Hafez uses have a multitude of meanings for which there is no single English equivalent, so any translation is much more simplistic than the original poem.
[1] Alternatively “ای دل غمديده حالت به شود دل بد مكن” depending on the Divan.
[2] Alternatively “چتر گُل در سركشي” depending on the Divan.
[3] Translation modified from “The spheres of time are not constant, do not grieve” to “The state of time is not constant, do not grieve” in March 2012.

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi

“As Iran Votes, Talk of a Sea Change”

Published June 12, 2009 · Estimated reading time: 2 minutes · One response so far
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Or so goes the story from the New York Times. I have to admit absolutely loving the number of headlines today that appear to mention A Sea Change, not in reference to this blog, but in reference to the Iranian elections that are going on today.

This past year has been full of elections excitement. There were the Canadian general elections back in October that while were not terribly exciting, did lead to unique shifting of alliances in the parliament and some very unprecedented events. But to raise our spirits, there was the Novermber 4th, 2008 US elections which had the air buzzing, graffitti on the wall, and all of us glued to the television here in Montréal (and all the way to Tehran). The outcomes, historic and a true sea change if there ever was one. Then, this year, there was the massive Indian General Election which concluded on May 16th with an incredible 700 million voter turn-out. And on a more local level, a few days ago for the first time in history, the NDP sweeped the votes in Nova Scotia.

Of course, today I am awaiting eagerly to hear the results of this election, as I am sure are million of Iranians and others around the world. We saw the 20 kilometer human-chain in a show of support for the reform Candidate Mousavi on June 8th. I can only imagine the air now must be electric in Tehran…

While cynicism remains strong and every candidate can be criticized and rightfully so, I can’t help but admire those who go to the polls to make a sincere effort towards a better tomorrow. They go with optimism and the hope that promises that have been made will be delivered. Whatever the outcome of this election, with a vote-turnout that is expected to reach into 80% (pretty incredible!), I am most glad that Iranians are so passionate about the opportunity to vote and take their fate into their own hands. I hope the same kind of fervor and call to responsibility is carried on in the post-election era because as it goes… any day without apathy is a good day.

*Pictures source (Associated Press/MSNBC) and even more pictures.

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi