Friday, January 23, 2009

When you resent happiness!

This was when i went around repeating to myself, and to anyone who cared to listen, that people like myself had become irrelevant. This pathological disorder was not limited to me; many others felt they had lost their place in the world. I wrote, rather dramatically, to an American friend: "You ask me what it means to be irrelevant? The feeling is akin to visiting your old house as a wandering ghost with unfinished business. Imagine going back: the structure is familiar, but the door is now metal instead of wood, the walls have been painted a garish pink, the easy chair you loved so much is gone. Your office is now the family room and your beloved bookcases have been replaced by a brand-new television set. This is your house and it is not. And you are no longer relevant to this house, to its walls and doors and floors; you are not seen."

What do people who are made irrelevant do? The will sometimes escape, I mean physically, and if that is not possible, they try to make a comeback, to become a part of the game by assimilating the characteristics of their conquerors. Or they will escape inwardly and, like Calire in "The American", turn their small corner into a sanctuary: the essential part of their life goes underground.

My growing irrelevance, this void I felt within me, made me resent my husband's peace and happiness, his apparent disregard for what what I, as a woman and an academic, was going through. At the same time, I depended on him for the sense of security he created for all of us. As everything crumbled around us, he calmly went about his business and tried to create a normal and quiet life for us. Being a very private person, he focused his energies on safeguarding his life at home, with family and friends and on work. He was a partner in an architectural and engineering firm. He loved his partners, who, like him, were dedicated to their work. Since their job was not directly related to culture or politics, and the firm was private, they were left in relative peace. Being a good architect or dedicated civil engineer did not threaten the regime, and Bijan was excited by the great projects they were given: a park in Isfahan, a factory in Borujerd, a university in Ghazvin. He felt creative and he felt wanted, and, in the very best sense of the term, he felt he was of some service to his country. He was of the opinion that we had to serve our country, regardless of who ruled it. The problem for me was that I had lost all concept of terms such as home, service and country.

I became again the child I had been when I would indiscriminately and waywardly pick up books, slouch in the nearest available corner, and read and read. I picked up Murder on the Orient Express, Sense and Sensibility, The Master and Margarita, Herzog, The Gift, The Count of Monte Cristo, Simley's People--any book I could get my hands on in my father's library, in secondhand bookstores, in the still unravaged libraries in friends' houses--and read them all, an alcoholic drowning her inarticulate sorrows.

Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran