By Katayoun Riahi (translated By Roya Monajem, Tehran)
A note from the translator,
With the oral permission from the author,
There are a number of noun-names in the following poetical piece which like most Persian noun-names have a meaning in addition to being a mere noun. The following miniscule Iranian- English dictionary seems necessary for interested readers in order to fully understand it.
Mihan Mashreqi is the first and second name of the first actress (played by Katayoun Riahi) in the movie Last Supper which won the prize of the first actress of a prestigious international film festival of Egypt, some years ago. Mihan means "homeland" (motherland, fatherland), Mashreqi means "from the East." The second name used in the text, Darband is the name of a famous old street and a residential quarter in the north of Tehran beginning from Tajrish Square (the third name), on the southern down-skirts of Alborz Mountains. On the other hand, the same word darband means "in prison." Resalat meaning prophecy, vocation, what a messenger carries, is the name of a famous Highway in Tehran connecting east-west of the city. Azadi (ex-Shahyad) is the name of the largest and by now an internationally known square of Tehran as it has been an important center of public demonstrations both before and after the Islamic Revolution. Azadi means Freedom. Vali Asr (ex-Pahlavi) Street is perhaps the longest and most beautiful street of Tehran mostly because of its two lines of old plane trees (at least for a good distance) housing thousands of crows and sparrows. Beginning with the noun in the parenthesis, Pahlavi first associates the ancient Partian tribe, who ruled over this land some 3500 years ago according to Western narration of human history, but much much older according to extant archeological evidences, leaving alone native narrations recorded in Ferdowsi's epic Epistle of King - shahnameh, for example. Pahlavi also brings to mind another word, pahlavaan, meaning knight, like Zoroastrian Rostam, Shiite Imam Ali, European Chevaliers, Japanese Samurai and... Pahlavi is the mother-tongue of our contemporary Persian or Parsi language (now called Farsi - due to absence of the letter 'p' in Arabic language which Arab rulers imposed on natives after the advent of Islam). Finally, Pahlavi is the chosen family name of the last dynasty of monarchs ruling this land before the revolution. (Interesting that just by mere accident, one of the TV serials in which Katayoun Riahi acted and was selected as the most popular actress was called Knights will not Die. She won the same title twice more.)
Now the new name of this old street, i.e. Vali Asr, literally means the Warden of Era and refers to the absent Shiite twelfth Imam, also called Imam Zaman with the last word meaning Time in P(f)arsi (why not calling our language Irani, with the intention to put away the whole past in an all-embracing way?)
Greeting to Existence
Whose equilibrium is in Peace
I have read your kind letters, but the bitter-sweet games of time kept postponing the reply to this day.
Almost all the letters I read began with this sentence: I don't know from where to begin...
I know, it always seems hard to begin, but as the Persian mystic poet Halaj says:
Just walk into the Way and stop asking
The Way will itself tell you how to move on
I am glad it began
Now, where on the way are you each?
I am worried
Like a mother
For all my children
Is worried for the children of her homeland
My dear children where are you on the way now?
At Darband or Tajrish
Or on Resalat Highway
Or near Azadi?
All ways end in Vali Asr
May Warden of Era be your companion, protector
How are you now?
Sound and healthy, or with broken wings?
Humiliated or proud?
Heartbroken or heartened?
My dear children! Are you learning your lessons?
Together with your classmates
Or alone with stars?
When we were children
Whenever we did our homework well
Our teacher put a star in our notebook
A brilliant star
Star is star
And shines every night
The darker the night
The brighter shine stars
I swear to God I am saying the truth
I swear to God, who is the greatest teacher
And does not overlook a single soul
Sir, may I!!!!
Eh, forgive me
God, May I...
I have a question
After all these repetitions
After all these mistakes
After all these charges
When would Human Being
Learn the lesson???
I don't know whether the above introduction was necessary or not.
Nevertheless, I said all this to say:
I have a present for you
One is a watch
Called Peace Time
So that whenever you look at it
You would remember peace
Whoever knows me
Whoever has a note from me
Knows that I am a messenger of peace
My other present is a story
From the days of War
But talking about Peace
I thought you might like to know
Where I am on the way
And what I have put behind on this way
Perhaps you like to know
How I looked at the world
And see it with my green eyes!
Wishing wholeness and peace for the whole world
Winter 1388 (2010)
An old house with a little yard, an old walnut tree,
And a little blue-tiled pool
With two red fish,
One big and the other small
The outer entrance door opens
As in every evening
Somebody enters the yard
The shorter one has a bent figure
With cotton white hair
She must be the grandmother
By spraying water around the yard, the air is refreshed,
The scent of soil spreads
While unfolding a gelim (rug) on the ground
And turning on the samovar
Her locked lips opens, her low trembling voice is heard:
"Come and sit here, my children."
Two other figures appear, happy and laughing
One is older, the other younger
The older is the grandmother's daughter
The younger her grandchild
The little boy looks around
On seeing the little pool
As though growing wings out of joy
His eyes twinkle...
And this is actually when the story beings
With appearance of those sparkles in his eyes, thousand questions start, with each question, thousand stories.
The little boy runs to the pool. Unable to restrain his laughter, he bursts out laughing and laughing. Inside the little pool, the bigger fish is startled, but all of sudden she notices her little son also laughing hard.
At last the little boy begins to talk:
Look mother, there are fish in this pool. Come and see how beautiful they are.
And he immerses his hand into the water and counts: one... two red fish. Come mother and look for yourself.
His mother walks toward him and sits by the pool. With one of her fingers, she makes traces on the water, as though tracking her own childhood memories.
Dipping his hand deeper into the water, the little boy asks:
"Mum, is the bigger one the little one's father?"
The bigger fish escapes and hides in a corner.
"My goodness! Your sleeve is all wet up to the elbow, look."
"It doesn't matter," said the little boy and continued: Is the bigger one the little one's father? I asked. Why is it hiding?"
"Your hand scared it," answered his mother.
"Is it really frightened? I didn't do anything to it. Please answer me: Is that one his father?"
"Perhaps," the mother whispered.
The little boy seems extremely curious and like all other children is not satisfied with dubious answers of grown ups.
Little boy: "What do you mean by 'perhaps?'"
Mother: "I mean that it could be its mother."
The little boy looks at the fish sadly and asks: "Then where is its father?"
His mother keeps silent and seems thoughtful. She knows if she starts answering his questions, she would have to tell thousand stories.
Thousand stories about thousand fathers of thousands little boys!
The little fish which was listening to them thought: "It is so obvious she is my mother. But if so, where is my father then?"
While constantly pulling her sleeve, the little boy stubbornly kept asking his mother: "Where is his father, I asked you?" With her eyes gazing at the dance of sunrays in the water, the mother was wondering how to answer him. She looked at her son's tearful eyes. With damp eyes, the little fish too was waiting for her answer.
Suddenly a thought sparked in her mind; she turned to her son and asked: "Would you like me to tell you a story?"
"What story?" the little boy asked.
A story about a little fish; a Little Black Fish, answered his mother.
The little boy rejoices and seems to forget his question for the time being, but like all other children who never forget their questions, no doubt only for the time being, and that only because he loves stories.
"Wow! You want to tell me a story? Come on tell it," said earnestly the little boy.
The little fish too forgets its question and whispers: "I love stories too! But can fish be black too?
The mother and the child sat by the pool. So the little fish moved closer to them. And the mother began her story. Both little ones were all ears and throughout the time when the mother was telling story, they did not even budge. They kept looking at each other and by the time the story ended, they both seemed totally immersed in their little thoughts.
All of a sudden, the voice of grandmother was heard saying: "Tea is ready. Hurry, before it gets cold."
"We're coming." The mother answered. Then turning to her son she asked: "Shall we go my dear?"
"Yes, let's go. It was such a beautiful story mother." The little boy answered and immediately asked: "Granny, may I have some bread and butter with jam too?"
"Of course, my dear," answered his mother gently instead.
Then as they walked away from the pool the boy continued: "Mum, perhaps the little fish's father has gone to the same place as my father."
"Perhaps my dear," and wondered what else could she possibly say.
"By the way mum, what do fish eat their bread with?" The little boy asked...
Quite baffled, the little fish thought of all those unfamiliar, strange words it had heard in that story: River, Sea, and all those other fish...
The pool was the only place the little fish had seen since birth and the only other creatures except its mother were these two and especially the little boy's grandmother who regularly came to the pool to perform the ritual washing before standing to pray, no matter whether it was summer or winter. So in a way, it wasn't really surprising that the little fish was shocked to hear words like river and sea. Yet, the strangest word of all, still sounding in its little ears was the word 'going.'
"Is it really possible to go? Go where? How?" And not reaching anywhere with these questions all alone, the little fish went to its mother in search of answer.
As usual, the mother was busy performing a mother's daily life-affairs when the little fish approached her and asked: "Mum, what is sea?"
Not being that much surprised, the mother cast a deep look at the little fish. She already knew that sooner or later the little fish would ask this question, because as long as the world exists, there is fish and sea and so such questions. There is no way to escape it, even when the sea is behind thousand mountains and the fish is in a little pool far far away from the sea.
"My dear," assuredly began the mother and continued tenderly: "Although I have never seen the sea, but when I was in the river...
Taken by surprise that the mother could really have something to say about this sort of things, the little fish was elated to hear that its mother used to live in a river and cried out intrudingly: "Do you really mean that you were once living in a river?"
"Yes my dear," replied the mother. "We were in the river...
"No, first talk about the sea, please." The little fish implored.
Feeling nervous a little, the mother said: "I will if you let me talk."
With that the little fish realized that there is no need for so much excitement, took a deep breath and tried to be calm.
"O.K, I am not going to bombard you with questions anymore. So tell me." The little fish promised.
"Then listen carefully," said the mother. "When we were in the river, we heard about the sea from salmons.
"Salmons? They have seen the sea?" asked the little fish.
"Yes my dear. On their journey back to their source in river springs, where they shed their eggs, and on their way back to the sea, they tell all river fish about the sea." The mother explained.
Once again, the little fish heard new words which made It realize how little It knows about the water world. Where is the spring? Why do salmons which have the whole sea to themselves go back to springs?
The little fish came to itself and before being taken away by another flood of questions again, It asked: "Mum, is getting back to the source as difficult as reaching the sea?"
"It is much more difficult. In fact, only salmons can do it. That's why some say, salmons are the messengers between the spring and the sea." The mother replied.
The little fish was startled by her reply. It was dying to know what salmons said about the sea.
So It turned to its mother and asked: "What did they say about the sea, mum?"
"Who?" asked the mother in an autocratic tone.
The little fish whispered quietly: Grown ups are so forgetful and then asked in a loud voice: "Salmons of course."
"Oh, a lot," the mother replied.
The little fish felt quite irritable, almost imploring for more details. "Like what?" It asked nervously.
"They said for example that the sea is a very vast water world." The mother answered.
As though tickled by her reply, the little fish moved its little fins, turned around itself exclaiming: "How nice. You said a world, it means, it means... and while looking around as if looking for something, the little fish asked: "You mean as big as this yard?"
No wonder if the little fish imagined the world to be the grandmother's little yard! That tiny pool was the only place It knew since birth.
"No my dear, it is much much bigger." The mother answered laughingly.
The little fish looked thoughtful. "What does bigger mean?" Turning Its little head up, thrillingly It exclaimed:
"Oh, I got it. It must mean as big as the sky."
Staring at the sky, the mother said thoughtfully: "I don't know. May be. I have never seen the sea."
"Whatever the world is, it must be very nice." The little fish commented delightfully.
However, little by little, the mother was getting worried and concerned, fearing that the idea of 'going' might seize the little fish's mind. That's why she said: "No my dear. It is not that nice."
As though the whole world was demolished on its head, the little fish asked distressfully: "What do you mean it is not that nice. Then why did the Little Black Fish go there?"
Hearing that name, the mother realized where her child's questions are coming from. She guessed what kind of thoughts might be crossing its little head. That's why she did not wait longer and said: "But the Little Black Fish is a story. Of course, it might be just a story. Who knows? Who has seen such a fish? Who has seen such fish with its own eyes?"
The little fish fell silent. The silence covered his whole world like a black feather. Its head went dizzy and its eyes kept turning in their sockets. But before getting really impressed by those words, once again the unending trail of questions began to bubble in its little head. With a voice coming as though from the depth of a well, the little fish asked: "Why didn't you go to the sea? Why did you come to this tiny little pool from the river?"
"I didn't want to come here on my own will" said the mother. "They caught and captured me and then brought me to the city. The old woman bought me for their new year's ritual. At that time I was pregnant. Once the New Year ceremony was over, she threw me into this pool and you were born here."
The little fish sighed and said: "I wish I were born in the river. It is impossible to get into the sea from here."
Feeling sad and upset by the little fish's deep sigh, not only because the poor little thing had never seen and might never see the river, but also for her own homesickness, she thought what if her child leaves her. Then she would be ever more lonelier and desolate. That's why she said: "My dear child! What are these things you are thinking about? Forget them. They are just stories, fables."
The little fish was totally bewildered now and thought: Why should they be stories. Does this mean that everything is a story?
The mother was staring at the bubbles on the water surface. Certain memories brought tears to her eyes. She turned to the little fish and said: "No. Your father was not a story. But now I don't even know where he is. Perhaps he is in stories, perhaps in another pool, perhaps...
As though cheered up, the little fish did not let its mother finish what she was saying and exclaimed: "And probably in the sea?"
The mother wiped her tearful eyes with her fin and said: "I don't know. I haven't heard from him since I came here." And she fell silent and swam away.
The little fish was in turn overwhelmed by its own thoughts, so much so that It did not even notice when the night fell. With those thoughts in his head, it seemed nothing made any difference any more, neither night nor day. It wished somebody would tell It more about the sea. The little fish had thousands questions, each bigger than the other with the sea as the biggest. Although It did not know anything about the sea, but It had heard anybody who wishes "to go" will go to the sea. "Well, I want to go there too," thought the little fish and wondered: "But how? From which way? Has any fish ever managed to reach the sea from a pool?"
Perhaps the mother knew, but she must be fast asleep by now. So the little fish began to go around the pool. Silence ruled everywhere and the night had drawn its heavy black quilt over everything. Even the light of grandmother's room was off.
The little fish looked at the sky. There were no stars, no moon, no light. The little fish couldn't remember ever seeing such dark night.
Frightened by all that darkness, the little fish wondered: Why can't I sleep tonight. I don't like to be awake in such a dark night. What is my fault if my mother has given birth to me in a pool? If I were born in a river or a spring, I could reach the sea, but can one possibly go to the sea from a pool? So why should I think about the impossible? Besides didn't mum say that these things are just stories? So it is better to sleep and forget everything.
The little fish tried to sleep. It even tried to forget everything, but It did not know that forgetting the sea would be even harder than reaching it. That's why It could neither sleep or forget. Its eyes were fixed at the black sky. The little fish tried to open them as much as It could in hope of finding a spot of light, but alas darkness had conquered everywhere. Once again It tried to close its eyes, but even with closed eyes It kept thinking about the sea. The voice of its mother saying: "Sea is a very vast water world," kept resonating in its ears until the sudden sound of water drops brought the little fish back to its senses. Feeling quite scared, the little fish slowly opened its eyes again. The sound was getting louder and louder. Rain drops were falling more and more heavily on the pool. After that primary shock, the little fish was now enjoying the music played by raindrops. The more it poured, the more the pond water rose up until the little fish could even see the top border of the pool. Suddenly an idea crossed the little fish's mind and It thought: "Now that the water has raised so much in the pool that I can easily throw myself out, I might be able to reach the river by getting into the waterway over there and once I reach the river, I can then definitely reach the sea as well.
So the little fish swam upward to reach the top border of the little pool to see the outside better. While looking around, It remembered what the little boy's mother had said: "All waters reach the sea; the rain comes from the sea and goes back to the sea."
With that the little fish felt confident and thought: "I go after the rain, I follow it to wherever it goes. If it is true that rain goes back to the sea at the end, then that is exactly what I want."
The little fish rejoiced first, but then remembering how lonely its mother would be after its departure, It felt very sad. So It began to think which one It likes more, its mother or the sea. Looking back, It saw its mother sleeping comfortably and calmly in the corner of the pool. The little fish found it so difficult to choose. The agony of separation pressed its little heart.
That's why It lost control and burst into tears. It was crying so hard that the whole pool was covered with bubbles. Each bubble was a knot in the little fish's throat that burst out. Each bubble was its wishes disappearing in front of its eyes. The poor little fish was now totally confused. Its little heart could not put up with so much pain and agony. It thought its heart too would soon burst like one of those bubbles and stop beating. In that case, not only its mother would be left alone, It would not see the sea either. The thought of its possible death made him sob harder. Fearing to wake up its mother, it tried to move to the other side of the pool where It could cry more easily and talk to itself loud.
"Tomorrow I will talk to my mother and will tell her that I should go, otherwise I would die. But then she would feel even lonelier. No doubt, she will not stop me because she loves me and doesn't want me to die out of grief."
In this way the little fish calmed itself down a little bit. Alas, that didn't last long as another idea crossed its mind.
"What if it doesn't rain tomorrow?" The little fish wondered. "Then how can I reach the sea. No, I can't wait till tomorrow. I have to make up my mind this very night."
Outside the pool, it was still raining hard, as though it was pouring just for the sake of the little fish to make up its mind and decide. The water was now overflowing down the pool, just like the little fish's patience. Everything seemed so confusing. The pool which up to a few hours ago was the little fish's whole world had turned into a prison now. The little fish looked up and explored the heart of the sky with its round wet eyes. Strengthened by all the complaints about its fate, the little fish cried out loud: "God, what shall I do?"
As soon as the little fish said that, a single raindrop broke away from the heart of the sky and fell directly into its eyes which began to burn. While irritably shaking its head, the little fish slipped and fell out of the pool.
When It opened its eyes again, It found itself in the narrow waterway circling around the pool. The little fish felt totally flabbergasted.
"Now there is no return." The little fish thought.
Tears had already dried out in its eyes. True that the little fish was extremely frightened, but still thoughts wouldn't leave It alone.
"Now that I have accidentally fallen into the waterway, I should go all the way to where it ends in the sea."
Bravely It allowed its body to float on the water and be taken by the flow. It was hard to swim in the little water running along the waterway. But now hardship didn't mean anything. It was the idea of going which made the little fish go on and the rain was of great help. It took quite a long time for the little fish to travel the whole length of the waterway. The little fish just moved its fins every now and then to propel forward. All other thoughts except the thought of 'going' had disappeared from its head. As long as the little fish could move forward, there was still hope. Gradually, the little fish reached a slope where it was no longer necessary to swim hard to move forward.
"I suppose this slope would lead rainwater towards the river." The little fish wondered.
The thought had not yet disappeared from the little fish's head, that It slipped down and its head banged against a hard object. The little fish did not know how long it took to come back to its senses. When It opened its eyes, It realized that It has fallen into a whir-pool. The water turned around itself and went through small pores of the lead covering the opening of the waterway. But the holes were too small for the little fish to slip through. When the little fish realized that, it was as though the whole world fell on its chest. Surprisingly, the little fish did not regret it. Instead It looked up. The sky was no longer black. The little fish felt the last raindrops caressing its body. The sun was gradually waking up, turning the black sky into blue with its light. While staring at the blue sky the little fish whispered: "The sky too is a large water world."
By now its body felt all cold and its little scales were getting dried. The little fish felt It is going through the last moments of its life. Despite that and while still looking lovingly at that immense blue world above its head, It heard a noise. The little fish listened carefully. The sound was getting nearer. Aha... it was the sound of grandmother's footsteps.
As she approached nearer and saw the fish, her heart sank. At first she thought the little fish is already dead. But when she bent down and saw its little fins moving, she quickly picked It up with her old hands. The little fish smiled at her.
"My little beautiful fish," cried the grandmother, "why did you come out of that little pool? Did you hear that story too?" Then while pouring water over the fish's body with her hands, she continued: "In the past all waters went to a large waterway which flowed into an aqueduct. From the aqueduct they reached the spring and from the spring, the river and finally, the sea, but now...
I am so glad I had put the lead over the water hole, otherwise you had fallen into the sewage. Ah, my little, in the old days, stories ended differently."
The grandmother then put the little fish back into the pool. Once in the pool, the little fish turned around and once feeling revived, It first watched grandmother performing her ritual washing before the morning pray and then It looked up at the sky.
The little fish did not reach the sea
Yet It had thought as vast as the sea.
The little fish's head turned into a sea
Now coming back to its little pool
It was just like the sea coming back to the sea
When it is raining
 The name of a story by the very popular contemporary writer, Samad Behrangi.
... Payvand News - 02/17/10 ... --