was a genius
Father addressing son
July 11, 2005
"Raphael was a genius, even as a child."
announcement caught him by surprise, even though it should not
have. Mealtimes were always subject to interruptions and elucidations
by his father on matters he deemed extremely pertinent to their
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Yes sir,” he whispered anxiously.
These pronouncements were
usually delivered for his benefit. Even his siblings knew this,
which is why they immediately looked in
his direction as if to check his readiness.
His mother avoided his
pleading glance by nervously tending to the baby.
"He was a great artist, EVEN AS A CHILD!" He stressed, yelling.
His father proceeded with his lecture.
"The newspaper had an article on an amazing child prodigy this evening."
"Are you listening?"
He was not surprised. The newspapers
in Tehran frequently used such stories as fillers in the 1950's,
as if to offer the populace
His father seemed to be an expert at finding these
articles and as an added supplement he would bring home books on
such as Gandhi, Lincoln, Mozart, Einstein etc. These books were
required readings for his children; the potential prodigies.
"It was reported that a young child, about your age, nine or ten,
entered a grocer's shop and asked if there was any work available
in exchange for food. The grocer took pity on the poor, hungry
boy and told him that he could paint the wall at one end of the
shop. He provided him with some paint and left him to the task.
Are you listening?"
"Yes sir," he whispered again.
"Then put down your spoon and seem as if you are!"
By now he had lost
his interest in the food anyway. He was trying to avoid his brother's and sister's
gaze by seeming busy with his
food. His mother was still busying herself with the baby.
his spoon down on the edge of the plate.
"The grocer came back a few minutes later and what do you think
"I don't know sir."
"Of course you wouldn't. Well I'll tell you. He discovered a beautiful
mural gracing that previously drab wall!"
He leaned forward
across the Sofreh and glared inquisitively in the boy's face.
"What do you think about that?"
Well, he was thinking about the grocer
at the end the street. Mohammad Ali would not have trusted any vagrant with
his drab walls. In
fact he would have chased him out of his shop and threatened
him with a good beating if he were ever to return.
"That was very
"Not like you with your caring parents and expensive art lessons." His
There was a chilled silence.
"What do you think?" He repeated.
He was wondering how the grocer
knew the little bastard was a genius. How many colors did he
give him? Why did he have so much paint
on hand? Why did he leave him alone for so long? Wasn't he afraid
of being robbed blind or of his wall being completely trashed?
"I think I am very fortunate sir."
"Yes, very fortunate but never grateful, your art teacher tells
me you still have problems with relative proportions. Is that true?"
"I am trying sir."
"How many expensive art lessons do you think Raphael was privileged
He knew this was a crucial question but no particular
answer had ever guaranteed his father's satisfaction in the past.
"I don’t know sir."
He felt the sting of the backhand across his face.
"None, you moron, NONE!”
Through the welling
tears he could see the distorted smiles on his siblings’ faces.
His mother, biting her lip, was nervously wiping the crying baby's
"Raphael was a genius," His father murmured.