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Etiquette

Iran: The Rudeness of the Taromsari Meal

069In Iran it is legal for a man to have more than one wife at the same time.  The reasoning behind this practice, along with other mysteries of Iran will be explored in upcoming posts.  For now, following on from my last blog post about reaching Taromsa for a selfie; being bundled into a car; driven through the rice fields and arriving finally with my life intact to a house.  A house belonging to my late Grandfathers late brother and his two wives …

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The woman who appears on the porch to greet me is Mohmeni, his second wife.  I should say at this point, I don’t know how this woman is related to me but the villagers are pointing to the surname on the back page of my passport and then to her.  No-one understands English, so no-one knows why this Scottish girl has appeared in their village of Taromsa. They know only that I was found wandering the rice fields, wearing a ruck sack, showing my passport to passer byes and pointing at my surname ‘Taromsari’, meaning ‘from Taromsa’.

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Mohmeni is well into her seventies and speaks no English,  But then I speak no Farsi.  The only tools we have to communicate are to look at each other and hug.

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Mohmeni sits me down on the floor of the sizable open porch, leaving me to look out over the rice fields as she disappears into the kitchen.  My roots belong here in these rice fields, amongst the generations and history of my ancestors and in all my years of travel I have never seen anything quite so sublime as the rice field in front of me.  I wonder how much of this awe belongs to the reality of now and how much of it is running through my blood.  A great sense of belonging overcomes me and for a reason unknown to myself my life up to that point begins to make sense.

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Myself and Mohmeni are sitting facing each other on an old Persian rug, a banquet of Iranian dishes spread out on a mat between us.  No words are exchanged.  Instead, our appreciation of food acts as the relationship builder, in place of conversation which is an impossibility for us.
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My face is red for the duration of the meal.  Not from the spices as one might imagine but from my own behavior and rudeness.  I keep giving the thumbs up to show what a delicious meal it is.  Unfortunately in Iran and unfortunately for Mohmeni, the thumbs up is the same as giving someone the middle finger back home.  So there I was.  Giving the middle finger many times to a women in her seventies who could hardly walk and had just cooked a wonderful meal for me.  And my rudeness didn’t stop there.  Another practice common when you share a meal but not the local language, is to make ‘mmmm’ sounds to show your appreciation.  I had been told off before in another Muslim country for making such noises whilst eating.  Much to my embarrassment I had been advised of the similarity these noises have to those made during an act other than eating.  Highly inappropriate for Muslim countries.  Proving that habit overrides knowledge; the ‘mmmm’ sounds keep escaping into the air between myself and Mohmeni.  Each time I give her the thumbs up my other hand grabs the thumb back down, matched with a look of horror on my face.  Each time the ‘mmmm’ sounds, my hand covers my mouth in shock and dismay.  I wonder what Mohmeni thinks of this girl from Scotland.

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After cleaning up from dinner, I thank Mohmeni greatly and explain I would be on my way.  Of course she understands none of what I am saying.  I feel a deep sadness to be leaving.  After so randomly finding her.  But unable to exchange words I am unsure if I am disturbing her.  I stand up and begin pulling my weighted ruck sack on.  Mohmeni hobbles over taking the rucksack between her hands and pulling it back off me.  She is making a ‘stay here’ movement with her hands. I smile, grateful to be spending a little more time with her.  I could wait until morning to begin the seven hundred mile journey to the south of Iran.  Mohmeni laid down some bedding for me on one of the floors of the two roomed house. That night as I lay in bed, my thoughts drift to Lucy and how her death had propelled me on this solo journey through Iran. Perhaps sub consciously reaching out and in search of the unconditional love which was missing from my life, in the form of family.  I missed her.  I didn’t know if Lucy’s soul was somewhere over rainbow bridge as the poem goes, or whether it was gone forever, but I was sure thankful she had blessed my life with the only unconditional love I had known.

I fell asleep, thankful to Lucy, on one of the most remarkable days of my life.

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Thank you for reading – it’s great sharing such a special journey with you.

WBG xxx