Book Excerpt Persian Dreams
A historic novel of love, Poetry, war and revolution
He answered in an angry voice. I am her uncle and she will be in my care. Please pack whatever you have here.
What happens to Shiva; do you care? She just lost her father, and now you want to separate her from her mother?
He coldly replied, ?I am her father now and my wife will be her mother.?
I was the one who carried her in me and gave birth to her, I was the one who cared for her and raised her, now your wife is her mother? asked Talah incredulously.
"Yes, that is God's will. My wife will be her mother" he said.
"God said that mothers have no rights? What kind of God is he?" she replied bitterly.
He said, Bite your tongue and do not blaspheme. Since God is great and He knows better than us, I am obeying God's will that after my brother's death I have custody of my niece.?
She could not argue or say any more. She could be whipped to death if she told him what she felt. God is not just and that's a fact, she told herself. But then she remembered that she would be burned in hell if she continued to think that God was not just and continued to ask why women have to go through so much.
The way home seemed too long and the day was too hot with the black veil on her head and her face. ?What did women do to deserve such a harsh way of living? she asked herself.? I have to be under this black robe from my head to my toes. I have to tolerate this heat and tolerate the pain of being away from my child because my husband died. I have to be thankful and to surrender and say nothing because I am a woman!? Tears poured out of her eyes and made her veil a little
Was Shiva aware of her rights as a mother? she wondered. Shiva was too young to understand the pain of being separated from her child but she soon found out the hard way.
One day Roozbeh came to the house in the morning and told her that she had no choice but to marry him.
What do you mean I have no choice? Talah asked. Well somebody has started a rumor that we are having an affair.
And you know the law of the land, if we do not get married soon, they will .og us. It is supposed to be two hundred lashes and I do not think you can survive that!? he said hurriedly and very seriously. But we did not, and we are not having an affair,? Talah said calmly, How can they lash us when we did not touch each other? He shook his head and said, But nobody knows that. The neighbors signed a petition that I come to this house everyday and you are here too, so they have concluded that we are having premarital relations, which bears the punishment of two hundred lashes. Besides, if we can tolerate the flogging what can we do with the gossip of it? Can we look anybody in the eye without shame? Can you imagine in
this small town how people will react to our flogging?
Talah could not believe this. She had heard of the flogging and stoning of adulterous men and women, but she always thought they had done something wrong. She never thought an innocent talk with a relative would cause public humiliation and flogging. How could they even think about this!
Once again she wondered about her rights as a woman in this society. How could he divorce me without my knowledge? she thought. Lady, can't you see that as a woman your life and death, your wishes and desires do not count? Don't you see that you are the property of your husband as soon as you agree to marry him? There is no need to ask for a divorce
since you are his property and he can throw you away if he wishes, she told herself tearfully and in silent anguish of realizing the truth.
There has always been a strong emphasis in the Moslem population to fight their sensuality. They always seem to find themselves choosing between their temptation and their faith. Babak was not that devoted,
though. He was young and had a long time ahead of him.
Then another thought came to his mind. The same idle thoughts that prevented him from becoming a cleric a few years before. The same kind of rage he felt when he was prevented from going to school abroad to study medicine. The same questions which came to his mind when his brother-in-law punished him for drawing the face of a human being. Why? Why is our religion so hard to follow? Why should it prevent you from any kind of fun imaginable? What is wrong with playing music or drinking a cup of wine? His answer came from the Persian poems of mystic divinity: But now Khayam?s idle poem came to his mind:
Put my lip to the lip of a goblet, drinking greedily the wine
To find that ethereal mystery, the secret of long life,
And to my lip came the lip of the goblet, bringing me wine
With a whisper it said
Those who have died do not return to tell us of the divine.11
He knew if Islam was hard to follow for men, it was worse for
women. They did not care to drink, or play tar, or music. All they
wanted was a loyal husband to be their own and not to share with
anyone else. And if they were not happy in their marriage they had
no choice but to stay.
Do not scare me with God's punishments; he already punished me
when he made me a woman.
You call our love a sin but you refuse to see my marriage as a sin.
I was nine when I was sold,
this story should be illuminated; told.
In other parts of the world, this is not acceptable,
and seems unnecessarily cold.
He bought me from my father in the form of marriage of course,
Then without asking me, took me as his spouse,
And all these years I have been a prisoner in a palace-like house,
All Moslem women are in prison of course,
But at least some have love and a warm loving domain,
Is it safe to sleep in this desert? his mother asked.
Yes, ? Babak replied proudly. ?It had not been possible before Reza
Shah. These roads have always been full of robbers that were waiting
for prey but now nobody dares to bother anyone. There are police
stations everywhere and they protect passengers like us.? Babak was
right. Some called Reza Shah a dictator, but he brought calm and
security to the country. The country had started to show some
progress after almost two centuries of idleness and backwardness. He
had shut down the small tribal authorities and made a strong central
government, which was the dream of all intellectuals at the time.
Furthermore, he ended the unwritten caste that only privileged children
could read and write or get government jobs. Anyone with some
literacy was able to get a job with the government and although the
top-ranking jobs were still reserved for the previous privileged princes
and clerics? sons because of their higher education and influences,
normal people, Babak amongst them, were able to acquire a government
job and a chance to exceed with ability, rather than through a
relative's influence. Also, the introduction of modern schools in every
town made it possible for all children, rich or poor, to learn and be
Well sir, with all due respect, you are a man
and can not understand the woman's world. We are the property of
men. We can not decide for ourselves what we should do. Look at
how the society calls us! I was Ali's daughter before my marriage,
then I became Taghi's wife and when he died, although my son was
only five years old, I became Akbar's mother. See, people never referred
to me by my name but my relationship to my male relatives.
We are not allowed to argue with our elders. We are supposed to bow
and submit to our men. You can not expect any girl or woman to try
and oppose a marriage against her father's wish??
see, we are trapped in these old spider web
customs of ours. You see so many books full of beautiful poems, all
written by men for their lovers. It is okay for them to spread the word
of their love. But if a family hears that their daughter loves a man
they kill her, or worse, they force her to marry her .rst suitor. It is
considered a shame for a family to acknowledge that their daughter
is in love.
His thoughts wandered to history and he started to ask
himself, when had Persian women become secluded from society? At
the time of Achaemenes, pictures showed the queen with a crown on
her head. In Sasanid's era, a couple of women had even become king.
Even now in remote villages no woman covers her face or even all
her hair. Their clothes are colorful and beautiful, he thought, they converse
freely with men, and there is no seclusion of the sexes. But in cities we see
such different pictures. The women are hidden in houses, covered from head
to toe with black robes if they come out in the street. Is this going to be different?