OPED: California Dreaming

California Dreaming

By Ana Hojjati

It was January 20th of 2009. This was a day for a new beginning and a day of so much celebration. She was happy that Bush years were over but there was something missing amongst all the celebrations. After 8 years of Bush, US economy is messed up. In California, legislature and governor cannot agree on a budget. The world economy is in pretty bad shape and on top of that, there is the recent war in Gaza. Against this background, her joy in Obama's first day is muted. She was bored with watching all the different Inauguration balls on TV and listening to the pundits. Slowly, her mind drifted to her teenage years during late 1970s in Iran.

She was remembering some of the writers and poets who had influenced her growing up in Iran. She remembered people like Siavash Kasrai, Ahmad Mahmoud, Mehdi Akhavan-Sales, Ahmad Shamlou, Forrough Farrokhzad, etc. Fourough died in a car accident many years before Iranian Revolution but the rest all died after revolution. Many of them died in exile or isolation. During their later years, some of them could not get their voices heard as they deserved it.

Later at night, before going to sleep, she continued reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez's collection of short stories titled: Strange Pilgrims. She had read couple of the stories few nights before and on this night she read some more. She liked few of the stories but some of them left her wanting more. After all, this was a work by a winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. She thought how sad that none of those great Iranian writers and poets ended up with a Nobel prize. Some of them sure deserved it. Who can forget the sadness when you read the first few lines of Akhavan-Sales's poem titled "Zemestan". Part of this poem as translated by "Iraj Bashiri", goes like this:

They'll ignore your greeting
Amid this depressing weather
Doors are shut
Heads on chests
Hands hidden,
Hopes are cruelly cut.

Marquez can be celebrated for all his novels and short stories but writers like Ahmoud Mahomoud and Bozorg Alavi died without the true appreciation they deserved from their people and also from the world.

She remembered a poem by Siavash Kasrai titled Arash Kamangir; Arash the Archer. In this epic poem Arash puts all his might in his bow so Iran can have more land. In one of Marquez's stories, there was a man who fought for more than twenty years so the Pope would declare his girl who had died very young a saint. But at the end he was the saint for all his belief and his steadfastness. Like that man, Kasrai is the true Arash since by his words he contributed and still contributes to true meaning of Iran and Iranian. You can change the borders of a country, you can have different governments. You can go from Kingdom to Islamic Republic of Iran in matter of months. You can be Police of the region during Shah's time and declared part of the axis of evil by George Bush few decades later.

However, true Iran in many ways is Iran of Ferdosi and Hafez. Iran is Iran of Aref Ghazvini and Eshgi, Iran of Jalal Al-e-Ahmad and Simin Daneshvar. Iran is Iran of Forrough Farrokhzad who wrote; as translated by Ismail Salami:
"My lot is a cheerless walk in the garden of memories."

Maybe some day Iran will be a better land for its exceptional writers and poets and my walk will be more cheerful. With this sweet thought of spring, she fell asleep.

Hours later she woke up and remembered the strange dream she just had. It must have been result of stories of Garcia Marquez, especially the one about woman selling her dreams. In her dream, Khatami; president of Islamic Republic of Iran during late 1990s and early years of new millennium is on a plane. He falls asleep and he dreams. He has a dream that in Iran, there were unrests and student demonstrations in winter of 2009. In Khatami's dream, people are unhappy but then Khatami announces that he is indeed participating in presidential election of 2009. In his dream, as soon as he announces his decision to run, people are overjoyed and there is no more unrest. It is then that Khatami wakes up and asks himself:
"God, Do I have a dream to sell to people?"

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