The living room doesn’t get afternoon sun, but there is no need to switch the lights on. The soft greyish-yellow light of Tehran winter afternoon filters through the billowing net curtains hanging at the full-length porch windows. Beyond the windows lies Tehran city, shrouded in grey smoke.
But Iranian women are traditionally not concerned with what is happening outside. Or at least not supposed to be. Anyway. Inside is warm and lively. The women folk of my family, of four generations of us, are sitting around on carpets and the old, sagging sofas of my childhood. Like we always did, since time began. The imprint of our family’s face is repeated around the room, with variations in colouring, age, temperament and hair style. Looking at each other, we see ourselves. We talk and talk, sipping tea and more tea, eating fruit, fresh and dry. Sweet lemons and tangerines. Dried ginger and strawberries. The air is scented with fruit and coffee. We talk of memories “…and then, when your mother had cancer and had gone to England for treatment, and I straightened your hair and we went to a wedding that afternoon… and we walked up Darband…look at her now… she was only six then…” We talk of family relationships “…I wake up to the sound of their screaming…I bumped into his mother on the stairways and she asked me to pray and started sobbing…but what has gone wrong?… Nothing has to go wrong, grandmother, it seems as if husbands and wives simply wake up one morning hating each other… post modern marriages…” We tell jokes “…and so the turk said… and then the ghazvini said…” we bicker and accuse “but you were supposed to fry the onions…curse you, you left a voicemail and my husband listened to it first and realised we were meeting that afternoon… you couldn’t have kept your mouth shut, could you?…” There are things we don’t speak about, because if we spoke about them directly then the sky would catch fire and we would have to scream our hearts out, but then, we don’t need to speak of everything, we know each other, we are in each other’s hearts, we see ourselves in each other’s faces, the turn of the mouth, the glow of dark eyes. Some of us live together, some of us see each other everyday, some every month, and some once a year, some of us pray three times a day, some of us are religious but hate god, and some are atheist and don’t believe in him, but really, it doesn’t matter, because we are all here, now, in the moment, held in a billow of net curtains, a prism of cream flowery carpets and old purple sofas, held together by a weave of time.