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Monday, 30 November 2009

Family gatherings

When my parents-in-law were still alive, their five married offspring would meet at their parents’ house if not every week, at least every other week. When we came back to Iran in July 2007, I realised that now that both parents-in-law have passed away, the children of the family did not see each other very often. Not that they didn’t like to; but other commitments got in the way, and despite everybody’s good intentions, visits were put off: this week their children had got too much schoolwork; the following week they’d got other guests coming over; the week after sister’s husband was late from work… and so on.

The middle brother-in-law has three lovely non-identical twin girls, now just five years old. It turned out that the aunts, my sisters-in-law, sometimes did not see these little girls for as long as three months, even though they all live in the same city. Well, this was getting serious, Hossein and I thought, so we devised a plan that other families also practise. After consulting with the others, we agreed that we would all hold a re-union dinner in one of the houses every four weeks on a rotating basis. I usually draw up a provisional list of dates at the beginning of the Iranian New Year in March and distribute it to everyone. The five offspring in the family host two re-unions a year each, roughly one every six months. We leave out the last month of the Iranian year (21 Feb-20 March) because then everybody is busy spring cleaning, and we also don’t have a planned re-union during the month of Ramadan, when we might be invited elsewhere, or we may have other guests. We have also arranged to celebrate the children’s birthdays on these occasions, so the parents of the birthday child bring the cake to wherever the gathering takes place.
Sometimes the dates need to be moved or someone needs to have their date swapped with somebody else’s, but the system usually works well. After two years of this system’s operation, everybody is looking forward to the next re-union.

The recent dinner took place on 20 November at the eldest sister-in-law’s house, when we celebrated the fourteenth birthday of the younger sister-in-law’s daughter. The next occasion will be on New Year’s day (1 January) at our house.

Monday, 16 November 2009

In Memoriam

The previous Friday, on the seventh anniversary since her death, the family gathered over her grave to offer their prayers.
Seven years ago Maman-jun came to London to look after the children so that I could go to Athens for an operation. She arrived on 28 September 2002 and I left for Athens on the following day. Five weeks later, on a Tuesday morning I got home, and on the following day Ramadan would start. On that evening, the Iranian satellite channel showed the pilgrims who went to Mecca for the Ramadan. Maman-jun had had the good fortune to be in Mecca during the previous Ramadan.
“Last year I was in Mecca,” she mused, looking at the TV images, “this year I am in London… who knows where I will be next year.”
“God Willing, you’ll be in Mashhad next year, “ I replied. (Mashhad, a city in north-west Iran is the burial place of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam, and a favourite pilgrimage site for Iranians.)
On Thursday morning she had a massive stroke, and in the early hours of Sunday 7 November 2002, she passed away at West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth. Two days later Hossein escorted her body to Tehran for burial. She is now buried at the Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery, south of Tehran, in a two-storey grave which she now shares with Aqa-jun, her husband of more than fifty years, who passed away four and a half years after her. God rest their souls.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

How Life Gets In The Way of Work

This week began with my birthday on Saturday 31 October. A university lecturer whose paper I had copy-edited for submission to an American journal came over to bring the payment, and invited me out to lunch. We went to an Iranian restaurant with traditional decoration not very far from my house. I was very pleased to get to know her better and I hope this will be the beginning of another good friendship.

After finishing the copy-editing of the paper, I went back to a travelogue of the Persian Gulf that I am also copy-editing. This should finish in another month, but I very much doubt that it will. I am having problems concentrating, but, to be fair, too many things are always going on. On Sunday evening I had to go to the orthopaedist with an inflamed ankle, on Monday morning a publisher rang me with a translation proposal for an illustrated book on Iranian painting, so I went to pick up the book. He wanted an answer there and then, but I needed time, so I borrowed the book and gave him an estimate on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning I thought I’d try a Quran reading class at the same place where the traditional singing class takes place. This was the third session, but I was able to keep up. I think I’ll carry on; this has been something I’ve always wanted to do for many years, so now that I’ve got the chance, I’ll give it a go.

The traditional Persian singing class continues. Last Tuesday was the sixth session, so I have learned six “goosheh”, or melodies, to which any poem can be sung. As with my classical singing lessons two hundred years ago (in 1986-1987), I am holding my voice in, I don’t let it out free, for fear of…what? I thought that the years would have made a difference.