Bibi Djan: Part 6

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Bibi Djan, The Rug Weaver

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

 

Part 6   Bibi Djan gazed at her and could not understand her, as the woman pronounced g instead of gh, and h instead of kh.

“What is the khanoom saying?” she asked the other woman.“You must excuse me, but I don’t know what she is saying.  God forbid, khanoom, who says I am short because I have worked in the rug factory?  It is my kismet.Inshallah, may God grant me tall and healthy children.”

“If you want your children to be born healthy you should do as we say.”

“Upon my eye, khanoom, I am your maid-servant.”

“Now, listen, Every Thursday, you must come to our home for the meeting. And you must let us know the day you expect the baby.”

“No, thank you, thank you very much. You need not bother. The doorkeepers mother at the factory is a very good midwife. I must call her, and if I do not, she will be offended, for she had brought me up as her own child.”

“No, Bibi Djan, you cannot bear your child easily. You must go to the hospital. There is a good man doctor there. You…”

At the word hospital, Bibi Djan’s heart leapt, and she cried out. She had heard about the hospital. That was the place where those who went never came back. “No, no, I would not go to the hospital. I would never step out of this house to go to the hospital, even if you cut my head off!” she said.

 

(to be continued)

 

 

Bibi Djan: Part 5

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Bibi Djan, The Rug Weaver

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

 

Part 5   “Khanoom, I think I must have been 10 or 12 years old when I first entered the factory. I pulled out my first tooth there. I remember one day when that tooth was loose I pulled it out with a string and the blood stained the rug and the master was very angry and did not pay me for that day. ”  The women laughed.  “How lovely the blond woman looks when she laughs,” thought Bibi Djan.

“How long have you been married? asked the woman with dark hair.

“Since last spring, on the first Thursday of our New Year. Perhaps it is ten or eleven months ago,” said Bibi Djan, wrapping her chadour so the visitors could not see her shape.

“Bibi Djan,” said the girl with blonde hair, “we are midwife nurses. We have a mothers’ Society here in Kerman, and we want you to join it.  It will be very helpful to you, and we shall be glad to help at the time when your baby is born.  We give special lectures for women rug weavers and we want you to attend them.  Do you know why all the rug weavers do not get tall and have small waists and are so pale and skinny?  It is because they pass their lives in the dark, damp cellars of the rug factory.  Bibi Djan, you started to work when you were only five or six years of age.  Now you may be sixteen or seventeen, perhaps even younger.”

 

(to be continued)

 

 

Bibi Djan: Part 4

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Bibi Djan, The Rug Weaver

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

 

Part 4   Habib, the man who brought the yarn to the girls’ looms each day, was scarcely taller than she. All the girls seemed to like him. The time came when he fell in love with Bibi Djan. He offered her presents, which she refused at first, but soon she came to like him, and they were quietly married.

Bibi Djan was happy. Habib loved her very much. He would put his money in her hand every time he was paid, and she would never have to repeat any request except one. He smoked opium and would not give it up. The smell of opium upset Bibi Djan’s heart. Everything in the house, the beds, the curtains, even the clothes in the chest, smelled of opium. Sometimes he would promise to stop smoking because she thought it would be harmful to the baby who was to be born, but as soon as his smoking hour came he forgot his vow.

Seven months had now passed since their marriage.  Bibi Djan sat before the two strangers, gazing at their faces trying to figure out her own age.  When the woman with dark hair, smiling broadly, repeated the question, Bibi Djan understood her much better and replied.

 

(to be continued)

 

 

Bibi Djan: Part 3

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

 

Part 3   She could not remember her father, who died when she was a baby. Her mother died soon after Bibi Djan went into the rug factory. Thus orphaned, Bibi Djan took the few furnishings of her home–a black earthen pot, a tin samovar, a teapot, a water jug, a broken heater, a tattered quilt, an old carpet–and moved into a corner of the single room occupied by the doorkeeper of the factory. Now she had been a rug weaver for many years, under the same master. Every one in the factory liked her and she was the best rug weaver in the town.

She had always thought that she must look like the girl who sat next to her on the loom, whose upper lip was cleft and her face pockmarked. But one day a girl gave Bibi Djan a piece of mirror and for the first time in her life she saw her own image. Her eyes were big, with long black lashes and thick brows, her small white teeth glistened and her oval face was pale. She was glad she looked pretty. But she was worried because she was very short for her age. None of the girls in the factory were taller than 4 feet, but Bibi Djan was the shortest of them all. “It must be my kismet (fate),” she thought.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

Bibi Djan: Part 2

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

Part 2   She invited them to sit down on the carpet, as she sat cross-legged, facing them. When they had removed their hats she saw that they did not have long tresses as she had, but wore their hair combed backward and gathered up behind.

When the girl with the blue eyes began to talk, Bibi Djan listened carefully but could only make out a few Persian words.

“How old were you when you started to work at the rug factory?”

With some efforts Bibi Djan caught the meaning. She thought, “How do they know I have been a rug weaver? Must I answer them? But really, how old was I when I started to work? And how old am I now? Wouldn’t it be a shame if I told them I did not know my own age? ”

Never before had she thought of her age.  She remembered when she as a child in the dark, damp cellar of the rug factory.  A row of small children like herself sat upon narrow benches before the large looms, with their little hands moving with mechanical speed among the large balls of colored yarn hanging before them.  The master, design in hand, read out the colors in sing-song fashion, “One green, one red…two blue…Have you got them? Now two rows of blue and then a row of red.”

(to be continued)

 

 

 

Bibi Djan, Rug Weaver

Average age back in the day before child labor laws, about twelve.

Introduction   Grandma Helen (Heghineh) Davidian spent early mornings at her writing desk.  She didn’t sleep as much as the rest of her family, and the extra time was invested in telling stories about the lives of young Persian women in the early 1900s.

Part 1   Bibi Djan finished her housework and watered the flowers around the pool in the yard. As she stepped down into the kitchen to start a fire for the samovar, she heard a knock at the street door. It could not be her husband, for it was too early for him to come home from work.

She climbed the kitchen steps and called, “Who is there?”__then covering her face carefully and gathering her long chador nemaz around her waist, opened the door slightly and peeped out.

Two Persons were standing outside the door. They seemed like women, but they wore hats. One had beady blue eyes and blond hair, the other had dark eyes and jet-black curly, hair.

“They must be men,” she thought. She had never seen women in the street without a veil. But the strangers greeted her in soft tones and when they smiled she said to herself,”They are both women,”she uncovered her face and led them into the living room.

(to be continued)

 

 

 

Family Measures

When Dad died, some surprising family dynamics emerged.  My youngest brother disowned me, vowing to never return.  My “older” brother (I’m the oldest) was executor, and blocked me from understanding what was going on.

Later on, the older brother gave me a lecture.  He declared our family dysfunctional and decried the ineffectiveness of holding a grudge.  He was diplomatic enough so that I couldn’t be sure who he was accusing, if anyone.  I sat there attempting to be a calming influence given that he had a lot on his shoulders, even though I found his words inconsistent and insulting.

Months later, my younger brother returned to our fair city.  His wife has cancer, and our hospitals are world famous.  We learned they’d come and gone too late to visit or offer support.  But this event did trigger a discussion among our little family about what it means to be a family.

Here’s my take.  More importantly, it’s something that you can measure and record.  It’s one small step towards making all those soft sciences a little bit harder.

Sharing information.  Let’s not worry about what’s true or false, what’s gossip and what’s important.  In a tight-knit family, information is shared quickly.  In today’s age, it can be shared among everyone instantly.  It doesn’t matter if it’s about Mom’s breakfast or sis-in-law is town for chemo.  Who knows what and when, among the family, is very important.  In our case, we found out through a very roundabout non-family member.

Mi casa, su casa.

Many times in the past my older brother came to town, sometimes with his wife, but never notified me, and never stayed with us.  They could have, but generally I didn’t find out that they’d arrived until they’d always booked accommodations.  Yes, we extended an invitation every time.

In the case of the sis-in-law, they also booked rooms.  In fact, their hotel wasn’t too far from us.  In both cases, they could have stayed with us.  The comforts of home, more time to spend with each other, more time to share experiences and give emotional support.

I know of families that always stay with each other, even if they live in trailers.  They can’t stand it for too long, after all they are human.  But they try.

You might argue that it’s a money thing, or a culture thing.  You’re partially right.  But you can ignore those factors and look at the willingness of people to be together, to be close.

My older brother lectured me that families are comprised of people who are different.  That’s a given, everyone is different.

What defines a family is the willingness of “different” people to be together, argue politely together, and support each other.

Measuring how fast they share information, how closely they spend their limited time together when able, how open their homes are to each other, that’s a great measure of family integrity.

My extended family scores fairly low, but our nuclear family is tight.

How about yours?

 

Jane Austen Meets Emily Dickinson

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Imagine, if you will, such a meeting of two incredible women whose writing have touched the hearts of the world.

Consider this.  Jane’s works have NEVER been out of print since they were published 200 years ago.  Since movies were invented, her stories are repeated at least every ten years.

Emily’s poetry has also NEVER been out of print.  She’s now credited with being the INVENTOR of modern poetry.  Not only do her words touch hearts of so many, but the very way she wrote continues to DEFINE the way we speak.

So what else do they have in common, for me?

If it wasn’t for Jane, I wouldn’t appreciate Emily.

In order to properly write a romantic comedy, I wanted to learn from the best.  So I took the approach familiar to most men.  I analysed her.  I took P&P apart, quantified it, organized it, and put almost every part under a microscope.

I didn’t make much progress.

Suddenly, one day, (truly!) it hit me.

Understanding P&P using logic, using numbers, using traditional masculine components was awesomely wrong.

Jane Austen was writing in a language I barely understood, but was willing to learn.

She wrote in EMOTIONS.

Once I understood that Jane used words to paint scenes in emotional terms, the book opened up in ways I never realized.  I finished my own pale imitation of P&P recently, so trust me, I’ve gotten to know Jane’s style pretty darn well.  And I have nothing but admiration for her.

Something funny happened to me along the way.

I have a new, deep appreciation for emotions in art.  And I have a new, deep appreciation for women who think in terms of emotions instead of masculine concepts.

I understand why men complain about women wanting to talk about emotions, because the men don’t comprehend the language of emotions.  Women do, largely by nature.

Emotions are HARD.  Getting them right is TRICKY.  No one did it better than Jane.  Learning how to read, and possibly even write using emotional language is what I learned.

But here’s the really funny part.

Now that I appreciate those emotions, now that I better understand the language, suddenly it’s like entering a whole new world that existed in parallel to my old one.

I picked up a poem by Emily Dickinson, and suddenly the emotions poured forth, entering my heart in ways they never would have before.  I looked at another, and another, and it was as if light was coming from her lines.

Two years ago, before I truly read P&P, this never would have happened.  Now it does.

So, my new girlfriend is Emily.  But I never would have appreciated her if it wasn’t for Jane.

Eventually they will have to meet.  After all, I love them both, along with my wife.

And we’re all going to get along famously.

I can feel it.

 

Vaccinate Your Daughters

Medical science has proven that we can teach our immune system how to deal with a nasty bug BEFORE the real bug infects us.

This saves MILLIONS of lives every year.  It’s one of the reasons so many people are on Earth today.

... and against the bogie man.

There is another kind of vaccination we can get, and it doesn’t involve a needle, only words.

It’s a psychological vaccination, and this sort of thing has been known for centuries.

And you can do it yourself.  Here’s how.

First, think of the bad thing you want to teach your kids about, like a house fire.

Then talk about it.  Act it out.  Use pictures if your child is small, or go visit a fire station and talk to a firefighter if they like field trips.  The whole point of the exercise is that you are preparing your child for an event that you hope never happens.

Except it does, all too often.

There is lots of proof that the people who have been “inoculated” for a particular emergency do better than those that aren’t prepared.

People who aren’t prepared tend to have more injuries, suffer more in the long term, and are more likely to perish.

What about our daughters?

There’s a kind of emergency that happens to them far more often than it happens to boys.  There are “emergencies” that they can experience even as young women, whether they are on a date, in university, or trying to get a better job within their company.

It’s time to start creating a program that teaches our young ladies, ahead of time, what to do when they come up against harassment, exploitation, and glass ceilings.  It’s time to give them options now, before they are surprised.

We’re talking about reducing pain, enhancing recovery, and improving their survival.

Aren’t they worth it?  Yes, they are.  So, mothers, dads, relatives, prepare your psychological syringes and get to work.

It’s time to play doctor – for real.

 

The Immortal Emily Dickinson

Rocking your World since 1884

How many of us want to live?  How many not only pursue longevity through exercise, diet, but also surgery and cosmetics?

Our society is obsessed with youth.  Extreme adventures, public approval, and ever-increasing risk-taking is the obvious trend.  The equally obvious conclusion can not be far distant.

Given that the richest among us also strive for immortality, it seems strange that their ability to observe the obvious has failed them in their greatest desire.  Who among them has not seen the richest of all humans, Rameses II, and his quest for immortality through a monument that we call Pyramid?  No tomb, no edifice, no building will ever equate to his tomb, yet many of today’s rich try and immortalize themselves in structure.  They will fail, even as Rameses II failed.  We know the Pyramid, but do we know him?

The richest also try to create a legacy of “good works.”  Even as they try to cure the world of hunger or disease, their complete efforts amount to a small fraction of what the world’s original richest man has done for the world.  Rockefeller helped the South rise above the hookworm, even curing the world.  He created an institute that has done more for the biological sciences than several major universities combined.  He also helped popularize the modern version of the medical school.  Yet, for all of this, who remembers his name?  Who truly equates the good that he has done to the man?  Do YOU know him?

And there is Emily.  Quiet, small, taking care of her sick mother, crying over the many friends she has buried, and doing her best to hide from the world.  Yet she wrote.  And wrote.  And wrote, breathing life into words.

In those words she expressed raw emotions of such power and purity than it’s likely her words, her feelings, her insights and her name will outlast any of the rich men the world has ever known… including Pharaoh, Rameses II.

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

Thank you, Emily.  I love you.