I dreamed of Abadan last night. I often
I dreamed I was watching a silent
black-and-white film about our family and our home, No. 110
Braim. The film began with my sister Soraya putting something
into a large car or van. It looked as if the family was about to
go on a road trip.
I remember seeing myself, in my early
teens, running through our house from one end to the other and
out in the yard. I slowed and stood in front of the camera,
smiling. I think I had my legs slightly apart and my hands on my
After a few seconds the camera lifted,
showing our house from above. Everything looked sharp, clean,
orderly. Perfect. The konar trees looked particularly massive,
more like walnut trees. The fence around the house was not the
green, bushy shemshad but made of wood and painted white, like
the ones around American farm houses.
The camera, still high above the
ground, began to move slowly to the left. It passed over our
fence and the Pars American School into a foggy area where the
ground was uneven with patches of mud and grass. There were a
few dark, large objects that stood about 30 meters high. They
looked as if they were man-made but not in use. A bit rusty,
maybe. I don't recall where this place was, exactly, but I still
thought it was somewhere in Abadan.
The film in my dream was not an 8mm
home movie made by an amateur. It was a professional job. I
guess it could be interpreted as a sanitized, Hollywood version
of me, my family and Abadan. In truth, neither I nor my family
were that happy. And Abadan was not that perfect either. But it
was home, damn it. It was home.
For the longest time I've wanted to
start a section about Abadan. I just wasn't sure how to go about
it. I guess I wanted it to be perfect.
The good old days ...
...are no more.
I went back to Iran last September, as
I do every year. During the trip, like the ones before, I didn't
visit Abadan, my home town. I know the home my mother and father
made so beautiful for us kids, is no longer.
We had everything. We lived in the privileged oil company part
of the city. We weren't rich but we had more than enough to be
happy: A loving family and lots of friends.
Talk to any Abadani and she or he would
go on and on about how great it was. And especially, all the
people who had a parent working for the oil company, have tons
of fond memories of places like the Golestan Club, where each
Thursday all the kids would get together for fun and games.
Back then we didn't care who was what. We had Jews, Bahais,
Christians and Zoroastrians in our class. We knew them as "Farid,"
"Hamid," "Sevan" and "Kourosh." The only thing that bugged me at
least, was that they had an excuse not to show up for religion
class. You see, I was always looking for an excuse to skip any
class I could. No luck.
There was no talk of politics either. We were too young to know
anything about it. But I don't remember my parents or any other
adult ever talk about politics. I thought the Shah was the
coolest leader in the world. And the first time I ever saw a
cleric was at my sister's wedding. I saw him sitting on the
living room couch. I thought, "No way! That's the guy in
It all began to change when I left
Abadan in 1976 to go to boarding school in California. At first,
I was thrilled to be in America. To a 14 year-old like me coming
from Iran, it was like one giant theme park. But it wasn't too
long before I began to miss my family and friends. And I missed
my very first girlfriend too.
Because of my half-American mother, I spoke English well. But I
knew little about American culture. It was hard making new
friends and I never became quite close to them as I was to my
pals back home. But one thing kept my spirits up: I was an
Iranian. I believed Iran was the greatest country in the world.
One day I was sitting with my history teacher and watching the
Shah being interviewed on TV. I was brimming with pride. It was
such a boost to feel that the king of my country was answering
questions so wisely and confidently to an American audience.
Afterwards, my teacher asked me about life in Iran. It was
great, I said. And the Shah, he asked? He was a great leader
too, I said. Without trying to hurt my feelings too much, he
said, "You know there are Iranians who don't think so." I didn't
I had never heard anyone say anything negative about the Iranian
government. Soon after, I was talking to the only other Iranian
at the school. The shah is a criminal, he said. And so did
practically every other Iranian I met outside of school. I knew
then that something was wrong. And it changed me forever.
A revolution and a war later, my family
is scattered around the world. So are my closest friends. Some
are in Iran, most in the U.S. Until fairly recently , one of the
first things we talked about was politics. It mattered if you
were pro-this or pro-that. It mattered more than being a
brother, aunt, or life-long friend. It mattered more than being
simply an Iranian or just a human being.
Coming from a large family -- my maternal grandfather,
mashallah, mashallah, had 17 children and I have six
brothers and sisters -- I have relatives all along the political
spectrum. I myself, after a failed marriage with political
idealism -- the revolution and I decided it was not for the best
-- decided to call it quits a few years ago.
I remember being asked what I wanted to
be when I grew up. At first -- I think I was five years old -- I
wanted to be an archaeologist. I loved digging up things, even
in our back yard. Then, just before he died in 1977, my father
asked me the same question. I don't remember what I said, but I
remember his answer very well: "Never go into politics."
I don't know if politics is evil. It is
an unavoidable reality. All I know is that it has done some evil
things to me. Did I become too idealistic, perhaps? Did I want
things to change overnight and at any cost? It doesn't matter
anymore. That's all in the past.
Gotta move on.
By Jahanshah Javid
December 28, 1998