The 7-year-old ‘Persian’ who wanted to go home
By Mahwash Tahir
Driving to the Airport
Sleepily I peered through the jeep window, my head resting on the glass. The huge orange ball slowly rising up in the horizon reminded me that I was travelling a familiar route. My seven-year-old self was both excited and distressed by the impending air travel. I have always suffered from travel sickness, but the thrill of meeting my cousins helped calm my nerves.
Pakistan International Airlines (PIA)
In the late 70s, a PIA shuttle bus would transfer passengers from the usually deserted Faisalabad Airport to the office in the city. This “Arrivals” section was where my cousins would be waiting for me.
I kept planning what I would like to do for the short three months I’d be there. But, my daydreaming was interrupted by the bright summer sun, now almost white in the blue sky. What I had imagined were shadowy road side bushes were actually tanks. It was the summer of 1979.
Persian is as Persian does
Like all Persians (And I sincerely believed myself to be one) my favourite pastime was watching TV for news about the Shah of Iran and his family. His wife, Farah Deeba’s magnificent jewelry still sparkles in my memories.
I thought fondly of my home with its textured walls that still carried a small pellet fired from my brother’s air gun. My brother was no longer with us but I always felt his presence when I looked at the tiny pellet stuck in the wall. Thinking of home made me wonder what new treasures my friends, Fardeen and Aazita, would discover in the forest behind the boundary wall of our home. I never doubted Fardeen when he told me, and his sister, that dead people climbed out of graves and up the trees in their white shrouds on weekends when we weren’t at home. I also never wondered why they didn’t come out when we were home. I promised myself I would search for treasures with them once I got back.
Farsi or Urdu, or both?
Then my mind turned to the Urdu expressions I could still remember. It was embarrassing because during the year I would forget Urdu and ended up using really simple words to communicate with my family in Faisalabad. When I returned home after three months, I had usually forgotten most of my Farsi. My answer to all of Agha Noori’s jovial questions would be: من فارسی نمی دانم. “I don’t know Persian.”
Maybe one day I would be able to remember both languages.
At the airport Agha Mohammadi had teared up as he hugged me. This was unusual because though he was friendly, he was always a little reserved. I thought he was thinking of my brother who was no longer with us. I promised to bring back some gifts for his babies whom I loved dearly.
The little ‘Persian’ in Pakistan
I had a great time in Pakistan. Then summer turned to autumn, and then winter arrived. I was homesick and restless. I wanted to go home, to make a snowman with Aazeeta, to have a snowball fight. I kept telling everyone (mostly bragging really) about the loveliest multi-coloured creatures that lived by the creek behind Agha Noori’s home. (I found out later that they were dragonflies, and we have them in Pakistan too.) But I missed my walks through the woods behind our home. This is probably why I remain fascinated with Robert Frost’s poetry.
Plans to celebrate my 9th birthday with cousins did not cheer me up because I had realised that I was not going home. That small yet beautiful house in Parehsar Tawalish was not going to see me ever again. And that the garden planted by Ammi would have to be tended by strangers —if it survived the bombs.
Click here for more of Mahwash Tahir’s musings: Diamond Moods: Shakespeare & I
Mashwash Tahir – through the eyes of her daughter
Amma says a lot of things, and sometimes I wonder if other mothers say the same things too- well they don’t and their expressions and attitude are never like those of my mother. My Amma says things in a way that make you smile, and she laughs along with you like a friend should, and she stands up for you like a father should. So, I don’t mind when she says things that I might not initially agree with because in the end I always return to her words and believe her. Once when she told me to accept things not in my hands, I started to compromise and I understood not everyone is as sensitive as Amma and I. And she smiles when I laugh and says she loves it when I smile, so I start to smile more. I remember the time she hugged me when I came back from a flight —I didn’t want that hug to end. Amma says a lot of things and at times I don’t agree with her, but I hate it when she stops saying the things she says because that means she is hurt. So I hope she continues to say the things she does because they warm my heart and soul.
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