From BBC to Rumi

A story from the heart


From BBC to Rumi
by Fariba Amini

Amidst the madness around us, the joys and the sorrows, sometimes it is soothing to read or write about something that is very personal and light.

Two weeks ago, I was at the Philadelphia indoor food market where many vendors bring their produce and sell them at relatively low prices. Walking around I lost my Kafia, or let’s say someone picked it up after I dropped it. I felt really bad because I had had it for nearly thirty years; I had bought it in Iran and would wear it when going to meetings at Tehran University or around the corner at the many street gatherings, during the now long gone spring of freedom of 1979.

I was quite upset and I told my husband that it was an emotional thing for me, something that I had had from the past that I had kept it all these years, only taking it out a few weeks ago to wear in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Oh, well, he said, you can always buy another one! I guess being a Dutchman makes him more pragmatic.

But this is not what I want to write about. I want to write about two individuals who have shown me compassion and passion throughout my life: my parents. I have been so lucky, incredibly lucky to still have both alive and relatively in good health even though my father is very old and declining. He cannot walk anymore but he is still alert. He only moves from the bed to his chair, and cannot do it alone. Someone has to help him. I have always lived close by them but now I am further away.

The other day I came in with my bags to stay for the weekend. I had not seen them for over two weeks. I could smell the aroma of sabzi polo mahi, my favorite Persian dish, all the way to the elevator. I came in and as soon as I entered the room, my father just looked up and when he saw me, a smile appeared on his face and his eyes lit up. I was so happy to be back again. I used to visit them every other day, but now I can’t do that anymore.

Every time I would leave their apartment, he would call my name “Fariba, Fariba,” as soon as I was getting ready to open the door and leave; I always went b ack and would say, what is it Baba? And he, with a lame excuse, would say something totally irrelevant. I knew it was just his way of seeing me one more time before I left. My mom, who is so funny and sometimes just fed up with all the work she has to do for him, would tell me “just go, don’t listen to him, just go!”

My mom gets tired from all the chores; she was always a very active woman but now she is old, too. We just can’t see that. Fed up with my dad’s never ending demands, she occasionally gets annoyed at him. Like many Iranian women she has to put up with their Iranian men who are often selfish and self-centered. She has had to endure it for sixty-five years! Like most couples, they bicker and my mom complains but then she says, “Well I also feel sorry because he is helpless, he used to be at the service of everyone, from the very famous to those less well known.” It’s very true. He calls her every minute of the day, Nahid, Nahid, and at times, she says, “wait, I can’t walk either, just give me time to catch my breath or leave me alone! Just leave me alone!”

I know she doesn’t mean it. The other day when I came back after a two-week absence, we went to the drug store to get their medication. These days, the main topic of discussion in their household is about drugs and doctors. So we brought the many ones my mom takes and the only two that my dad takes, and, as expected, they started their very serious discourse on the medicines. Whether the pharmacist had made a mistake or whether the doctor had prescribed the wrong one, it was a hot discussion. The other question was which of their many Iranian friend doctors they should call to rectify the matter?

The question of medication lingered on into the evening. I finally got up and said “I am fed up with both of you, any more talk about medication and I am leaving.” My dad, who still has his sense of humor, said: “Okay, I promise not to talk about medication anymore but please don’t go!” We all laughed. I guess when you get old your world becomes smaller and the only thing you think about is how to stay alive. The more medications the better!

Another routine dialogue is when my dad from time to time, says: “I must leave now,” and I ask (knowing what he means) but looking innocent, “where to Baba?” He, trying to get my attention, then responds: “to the other world. I am just tired of this life.” It makes me upset every time he says that but my mom in her no-nonsense ways, and trying to humor him, says: “Well, one of these days we all have to go!”

She makes me laugh. At times when I used to come in during the evenings, my dad, who has always loved poetry and knows so many verses by heart, would ask me to take a certain book from the bookshelf -- he still knows exactly where every single book is -- and would ask me to read a few passages. I reluctantly would pick up Rumi’s Mathnavi or the divan of Hafez and start reading a page or two.

I must admit that, at first, I was not keen about it; but then the way he would engage me, would make me more and more interested. I curse myself that all the years when he was younger and would ask me, Fariba, come and read poetry with me, I would just ignore him or shrug it off. I had more important things to do… Yes, I am mad at myself. .. I could have learned so much more from him. But now he is too old and he is hard of hearing. Still, when I showed him a passage from a book, a difficult Persian text that I could not understand, he explained the whole thing.

I remember how we grew up listening to the radio all the time. First it was radio Iraq, then the BBC and next radio Israel. My dad had a big old shortwave Grundig; it was always on. This continues to this day. Now the radio is on high volume because he can’t hear well. The radio is never off, always set to the news. I grew up listening to the news and living with the news.

One day, one of my dad’s old friends who passed away, Mr. Ansari (Homay oun) Minister of Telecommunications during the Pahlavi regime came over and said to my father: “Mr. Amini, what do you get from listening to the radio all day, twenty-four hours a day?” My father, in his nonchalant way, said: “I like it! I just like it.” And he still does. Sometimes, I lower the volume, and he objects immediately.

Frankly I am sick and tired of all the radio programs, the 24-hour radio out of Los Angeles, the BBC, radio Israel and the rest. It’s all bad news anyway. They have a small sofa in their room. I usually get the best naps there. I am not sure why? After all, it is just a love seat and I have to bend my knees but I think I feel safe there. I have always felt safe around my parents. The fact is that every time I visit them, I know these times are very precious.

I am not sure how long more I will have them around or will see them together. The times with them have been an amazing experience, an adventure, filled with highs and lows, but I would not have missed them for the world!


Recently by Fariba AminiCommentsDate
Forgotten Captive
Nov 27, 2012
The Bride and the Dowry
Nov 27, 2012
Enemy Number One?
Sep 07, 2012
more from Fariba Amini

Fariba, you are a great

by RK (not verified) on

Fariba, you are a great daughter to your parents. Thanks for sharing your touching story with us. It applies to many of us. Know that all your parents want and care about is your happiness, no matter how far you live. You are lucky to have them. You are lucky that you all are appreciating each other's presence and recognizing that you should take the most out of every minutes of being together. I wish you and your parents the best.

anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

Shirin said exactly what i wanted to say.  sad but at the same time, human and funny.  my parents are getting close... too close.  i only hope that i wil be as strong as you are. 

god bless you!


Dear Fariba

by Monda on

This is one of the most heartwarming pieces I read here. I wish you many memorable visits with your parents. You are so lucky to have the bond you feel with them.

Shirin Vazin


by Shirin Vazin on


Thanks for your story. It brought tears to my eyes and smile on my face at the same time since I could somehow relate to it.

I'm glad you recognize the precious time with your parents. I didn't. 

Enjoy them!