Jasmine and Stars: Reading More Than Lolita in Tehran

By Fatemeh Keshavarz | Go to book overview

1 The Jasmine, the Stars, & the Grasshoppers

In Shiraz of the 1960s, where I grew up, summer nights were a journey with a few clear stops. We slept in the courtyard under a sky full of stars, away from the orange, persimmon, and pomegranate trees, but still in the yard. Wooden beds would be brought out at the beginning of the summer. They would be covered first with light textured rugs and then the bedding laid on top. The first station in the night was the cotton mattress on the wooden bed a few steps away from the trees. I would lie there and just look at the sky with wonder, trying to do the hardest thing: fight off sleep just a bit longer. How could the whole neighborhood be sleeping? Most nights, there was the regular crowd of stars overhead. But once in a while there was such an outburst of glittering spots that I would just lie there enveloped in light. Then my gaze would wander around the sky in search of empty patches until my eyes could not stay open anymore. I was very young, and the problems I had then look insignificant now. Still, I did have things to sort out, and it was much easier to put them into perspective under the sky. Most things looked small by comparison anyway. Many years later, when I studied in England for my graduate degree, I missed a lot of things, most of all sorting problems out and putting things into perspective under the stars.

The next station was not a place but a voice. It was not there every night either. Some nights, close to midnight, a particular passerby walked through our alleyway and sang. I never got up to take a peek through the door to see what he looked like. I imagined him to have long hair and to wear a white cotton robe. Perhaps he was a wandering dervish, but certainly not a beggar. Had he meant to beg, he would not have come at midnight when no one was awake to give him anything. He must have gone to school, I thought some years later, because he sang poems that I recognized from my school books and my father's recitations. They were mostly about love, God, or both. But it was not the words alone that stayed with me; he sang them with a voice that was full of urgency and yet untroubled. That is what I loved most. He

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