An Extract from the short story:
Anxieties from Across the
From the book: "Another Sea, Another Shore"
Persian Stories of Migration
(Translated and edited by Shouleh
Vatanabadi and Mohammad Mehdi Khorrami)
Copyright shall at all times remain vested in the Author. No part of the work shall be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the Author's express written consent.
It was early September. The morning mist, like outspread remnants
of silk, came from the green fields with a gentle breeze, passed over
the hills and faded away in the sky.
A middle-aged woman was sitting in an armchair beside a window that opened
onto a small garden with low hedges linking a mild incline to the hills
and fields. She was listening to nature's most magic symphony in the songs
of robins, buntings, swallows, sparrows, and nightingales praising the
rising sun, and in the ecstasy of that sacred tranquility, with the magic
of a dream, she was stepping into the faraway years, the years of her
youth. She had once directly encountered the field, the sky, and the silk
of mist in those summers when she went with her parents to her aunt's
house in Kelardasht1. And now for a few long moments she found herself
once more, swift-footed and full of energy, in that lost paradise, which
was like this quiet, peaceful village of Highworth near the town of Swindon.
There, every morning the sun opened like a flower in the middle of the
colourful silks of jugglers, and swarms of butterflies disappeared into
the raspberry bushes. Grasshoppers in darting flight broke the crystal
of the open air, and dragonflies with their quick leaps reflected with
their small colourful wings the sunlight on the pool and the water lilies.
It had been a few days since she left hot, dusty Tehran with its heavy,
polluted air and come to this corner of the world, to the house of her
daughter Sadaf. Her son-in-law had been sent to the Far East by the company
he was working for, and she was cherishing this sweet private time with
Sadaf. It was a few years since the mother and daughter had seen each
other. For the mother this felt like a few centuries. The first two days
she was so excited and confused she couldn't even speak properly. Instead
of talking, she had just looked around. Maybe she thought that if she
started talking she would wake from this wonderful dream. The daughter
was quite excited, too. She had filled the whole sitting-room table with
dishes of chocolates, cookies, and cakes, and yet every other moment she
went to the kitchen to bring more sweets from the refrigerator and cupboards.
The mother followed her around all the time, watching her every move,
and the daughter urged her to go back to the room and sit down. She made
tea for her, poured her coffee, sat down beside her and leaned her head
against her mother's shoulder with a sigh of satisfaction. She asked her
about her father and the family, and the mother told her more about her
father—he's worn out, but even in this state he keeps working. The
idea of taking a rest makes no sense to him. There is not a doctor in
the world as dedicated. And she thought, He even forgets his wife and
children! Otherwise, he would have agreed to come on this trip with me,
after all my begging.
She never said these things to her daughter, though. She had not written
to her daughter about her troubles. She didn't want to worry her. Her
daughter had completed her studies; now she was working full time in a
laboratory, but she wanted to spend all her time with her mother as long
as she was there. It was not possible. It was only two months since she
had started work. After lots of begging, the laboratory head had given
her a week's vacation without pay, and the week had begun two days before
her mothers arrival. Those two days were spent getting the house ready
for the joyous occasion. The remaining days passed like a carefree dream.
The five days during which she didn't have to wake up early, take a shower
half asleep and get ready and rush through breakfast and go to work. Mother
and daughter slept until ten, ten-thirty, and then ate a big breakfast,
and then the daughter took her mother in her little car to show her the
neighbourhood. She took her to the little market and showed her the few
villages in the area; once they went to the town of Swindon,
about half an hour's drive from their house. That golden week had gone
by like the wind.
When Sadaf woke up, she came out of her room very quietly, trying not
to wake her mother, and when she saw her mother wide awake waiting for
her at the breakfast table, surprised and embarrassed she said, "Mom,
why did you wake up so early? The sun isn't even completely up yet. And
you got everything ready. You shouldn't have. You should rest. Please,
when I leave, go back to bed and don't do anything. There is fried chicken
in the fridge for lunch. And for dinner we'll go to a restaurant. There
is a beautiful Italian restaurant in our neighbourhood. I want to have
dinner with you there. Promise me you won't do the housework."
And to reassure her daughter, the mother said, "All right, Sadaf
dear, I promise. And please don't worry about me. I'll take good care
of myself and won't do a thing!"
About an hour later the daughter, like the first day she went to school,
upset about leaving the house now filled with the scent of childhood,
kissed her mother and left.
And now the woman was alone in front of the green farms that went on to
the horizon and the large trees that, with their waves of colours, dark
and light green, turquoise, silver and dark red, were emerging from the
morning fog. And since autumn was coming, sometimes among these colourful
waves, scattered trees with red and golden leaves rose like flames, and
she watched them joyfully; just as during these few days she had watched
her daughter walking, sitting, getting up, the light in her black eyes,
her dimples when she laughed. During these days the daughter talked most
of the time; she talked about her worries during the Iran—Iraq War
and her separation from her parents, then about her present life and tranquility,
her husband Farrokh and their love, and she regretted that her parents
hadn't seen him. The mother had concluded that, contrary to her husband's
expectation that one day Sadaf and her husband would
return to Iran, her daughter and son-in-law were properly settled in England,
and it would be wrong to endanger that. She thought, I should convince
Javad to get our things together and move here so that we can spend our
last days with our children.
Before the trip she had argued many times with her husband, "I just
can't understand how you can be so indifferent. Sadaf got married, and
you saw that I couldn't get the damned visa from England and be at their
wedding. You didn't care. In no time she will have a kid, and once again
I'll be here, useless, without seeing my grandchild. I don't want the
same fate as my aunt. For years that poor woman cried because she wasn't
with her children. Her room was full of photographs of her son and daughter;
their pictures in their graduation gowns, pictures of their weddings,
then pictures of her grandchildren. Do you remember, every time someone
went to see her, she would take them to her bedroom first and pick up
the photographs from the shelves one by one, and tears would flow and
she would say, 'I know the pain of separation will kill me in the end.'
And that's exactly what happened. She died surrounded by those photographs
and never saw her children and grandchildren. It's every mother's natural
right to see her children every once in a while, to touch them, to be
present at the events of their lives, to see the births of her grandchildren.
To be there for their first laugh, their first word, their first steps.
How many years have I suffered. It's been ten years since Sadaf has gone
and I've seen her only once; five years ago when I went to Italy to see
Marjan. And my poor child had saved her money to come and see me and her
sister. Back then it was impossible to get a visa for England, but now
we can. If only you would agree, we could move there to live. I am miserable
And the husband, upset, would say, "There you go again, Mina! lYou
have become like a broken record. You talk as if they weren't my children,
as if I don't want to see them. Frankly, I'm the one
who should be tired of this life. I really have had enough of it. You
just close your eyes and say, 'Let's move.' You don't think about anything.
You don't see the situation. There are a million problems. You know my
degree is not from a European or American university, and it won't be
easy at all for me to find a job there. Besides, here is where I am needed.
Here I have my own identity; I am a doctor. What would I do over there?
Beg? Besides, suppose we could sell what we have and decide to go to England
as you wish. And suppose they give us residency permits without difficulty.
All right, what will you do about Marjan? Can she simply leave her school
and come and live with us in England right next door to us? You know,
you are driving me crazy. I just don't know what else I should do. Sadaf
said she wanted to go to England to study, and I said fine. Marjan said,
'I want to study painting and I have to go to Italy;' I said fine. I worked
day and night to pay for their schooling and their lives over there. What
more do you want from me?"
Every time they reached this point she got angry and said, "Whatever
we have done was our duty. Besides, it's been a year now since Sadaf got
married and we haven't sent her anything. Thank God her husband is educated
and has a good job. My dear child is working, too, and doesn't need us.
We really should thank our children for being so good and for having brought
honour to us. Sadaf finished her studies, and God willing, Marjan will
be done in couple of years and will start working and won't need us anymore."
Then the husband usually changed the subject and said, "That's enough.
You're making me tired. You talk as if I were responsible for you being
separated from your kids. As if I am in charge of the British Embassy
and all the embassies in the world and specially ordered them not to give
you a visa. In the six years since Marjan has gone to Italy you have travelled
there twice at least. Where have I gone? Of course I have been travelling,
too, but where? During the eight years of war I travelled back and forth
to the front, and I had a lot of fun! Besides, this past spring, if you
hadn't caught that damned pneumonia everything was ready for you to travel
to England. You know what? The problem is that you decided for no reason
to go on early retirement. If you had been busy these past five years,
you would have been occupied with work and wouldn't have bothered me without
reason. But then again I'm sure you would have found something else to
accuse me of. The same way you treated your employees... "
And the woman would grow even angrier. "Please, Javad, don't say
that! Back then you didn't understand my concerns as a human being, and
you don't understand them now either. When you, a doctor, don't understand
these pains, what can we expect from others? Oh my God...
The couple continued to argue until the night before the woman's departure.
But at the airport when they checked in the luggage, they realised that
in about one hour they would be separated from each other. Then they went
and sat down on chairs next to each other and the woman looked at her
husband and said, "You don't know Javad, how much I wanted you to
be with me so we could see Sadaf and Marjan together. I will miss you
a lot. Don't you understand? You will be alone here. Please take care
And the husband said, "You have to be careful while you are there.
Don't worry about me. You will have time. Think about our life. Stop dreaming.
Encourage Sadaf and Farrokh to come back. Farrokh's roots are here. It's
true he has lost his parents, but he has lots of family here. Be strong
and patient, and all our children will return."
And now the woman, surprisingly calm, was sitting on the chair in front
of the window and following her dreams. Suddenly the phone rang. Who could
it be? Farrokh or Javad? It can't be Farrokh. He called last night.
It was Sadaf, calling to make sure she was all right. Javad had called
twice in the past five days but she didn't know why she expected him to
call. She looked at her watch: ten-thirty. In her mind she moved the time
ahead three and a half hours and then realised that her expectation was
unreasonable because during that time of day her husband would be quite
busy in the hospital. She thought, What a wonderful dream. Now I am going
to do the dishes and tidy up a bit. Then I'll do the laundry that Sadaf
means to do when she's back. The poor child doesn't know what she's talking
about. She says I shouldn't do a thing, just wait for her to come back
from work and do everything. The idea! .......
1- Kelardasht: is a city in Northern Iran
"Another Sea, Another Shore"
Another Sea, Another Shore
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