Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami
Translated by Natalie Haghverdian



Memoirs of Sabah Vatankhah

Interviewed and Compiled by Fatemeh Doustkami

Translated by Natalie Haghverdian

Published by Soore Mehr Publishing Co.

Persian Version 2019


We all went to school. We sat in the old classroom while the construction of the new classroom was in process. Our school was on the banks of a big and beautiful river. The bank of the river was filled with white and flat stones. The stones were like marbles. Hosseinabad was located between two green hills. We used to play in the green outskirts or the hills after school hours.

The new classroom was ready in one month. The students of first, second and third grade stayed in the old classroom and students of fourth, fifth and sixth grade moved to the new classroom, which was bigger, and the walls were covered in white plaster. The old classroom had a big and old heater and barely warmed the classroom. My father bought a new wood burning heater for the new class.

Mr. Khaleghi was the teacher of both classes. He set the curriculum in a way that he could manage both classes. He taught one class, gave exercise, and then moved to the next class.

Mr. Khaleghi was a compassionate, religious person who liked hygiene and took good care of the children. He checked our nails every day. He recommended to use oil on our hands and threatened to punish us if we didn’t comply. He recommended putting oil or butter on our hands. Daughter of chief of village used to bring one small container of animal oil for us.

Those students who were naughty, did not study or do their homework, were punished.  The assistant of our class had repeated the same year for many years and was older than us. Everybody was afraid of him. When it was time to punish a student, they lied him/her on the floor and hit the bottom of his/her feet with a wicker. Mr. Khaleghi was very rigid in punishment. Even the daughter of chief of village, who was in the same class with Shahnaz, was also punished. Daughter of chief of village and my sister were among the best students of the class but they were punished for something, which I do not remember right now.

Mr. Khaleghi had included Shahnameh in the curriculum and used to read one part of it for us each day. He kept us for another extra hour each day to read Shahnameh to us. He placed all students in one class and read for us. He read Shahnameh and provided us with a description. I still remember the day that he was reading the killing of Sohrab by Rostam, we all cried.

Mr. Khaleghi was a kind person. When our new classroom was built, he used to take all of us inside the class and tell us to jump. This flattened the floor. When we jumped up and down, we read:

In a pottery workshop which I had gone yesterday,      I saw two thousand pots of talking and silent;

All of a sudden one of the pots got angry and said        where the potter, the buyer and the seller are?

Or we used to read:

I am losing my heart                the mystery will be solved

We have lost our shop            hope that we meet our friends again

The school bell used to ring at 12 o’clock at noon and he instructed us to go to the river, do ablution, wash our socks and return to school.

He took good care of the students. He had appointed a care taker even during the breaks when we were near the river. We, girls, we washed our socks and swallowed them, then turned them in the air to dry them quickly. Each one of us read a verse. I used to read these lines with the Borujerdi accent:

Little birdie, I’ll give you bread

Little birdie, I’ll give you water

You dry this for me

The meaning of the poem was: little birdie I will give you bread and water and instead you dry my socks for me! In my childhood dreams, I thought that a birdie will come and dry my socks!

We did the ablution on the banks of the river. I learned to do it while looking at older children. Then we used to wear our wet socks and return to school.

Mr. Khaleghi used to say the prayer himself. We read our prayers in the yard. We had decorated our yard with the stones from the bank of the river. He taught us how to say prayers. He stood in the first row and we followed him.

I have good memories while living in Shiraz. During the weekends, my father took us to visit Shah Cheragh. Then we went to Vakil Bazar, Hafeziyeh and Sadiyeh. We ate ice cream and shopped.

During Moharram months, Hossein Abad village had a special atmosphere. My father set a big tent in the playground in the heart of the village. Villagers gathered around and did the mourning ceremony. My father used to do special religious ceremony himself. He had special beliefs in his religious acts. He did not allow us to buy Pepsi and drink it. He believed that the money of that Pepsi goes into the pocket of Israeli traders. He believed that the company belonged to Bahaiis and the profit went to Israelis. He said that Israeli people have occupied Palestine and if we buy Pepsi, this means we are partners in crime with Israelis. We had got used to this fact and never bought Pepsi.

First grade finished with good memories of our village and our good teacher. During summer time, my father got another mission to Borujerd. I studied the second grade in Borujerd. I have no good memories from that grade since I was punished a lot by my teacher due to my bad handwriting. I used to start the line correctly but ended the sentence in the wrong place. Every time this happened my teacher hit us with a wooden ruler and made me cry whereas she could teach me the proper way. In the harsh winter and autumn of Borujerd, my hands were frozen, and the ruler was so painful.

The next year, my father got a mission to Bardsir in Kerman. We moved to Kerman. In Bardsir my father rented a big house with garden. We settled in two rooms and Mr. Barat resided in the third room. He was my father’s assistant and had a wife and two daughters. His younger daughter, Sakineh, was the same age with me and played with me and Saleheh. The landlord had planted lots of sunflowers in the garden and there were lots of berry trees around the house.

During the first days of our arrival in the house, Shahnaz and I went to the garden and picked lots of sunflowers. While we brought them home, Fouziyeh got very angry and said: “you did a very bad thing. The landlord might be upset. Why did you ruin his flowers?”

I studied the third grade in a school in Bardsir. In the month of Khordad, my second brother, Abbas, was born and made our family environment friendlier. In the summer holidays, my mother took all of us to a lady in the neighborhood who taught Quoran. She was an interesting person. During the learning sessions, she taught us only a few small verses and then sent the younger ones to pick berries and made us wash her dishes. She just lied down and took naps. She did not have the nerves to deal with children!

Next year, we moved back to Borujerd. My father bought a big house in Imam Khomeini Avenue and Jashniyan Street. We had a well in our house and had to pump water. My mother was afraid that one of us might get near the well and fall inside it; therefore she made a story saying that there is a strange creature in the well called Khijeh who has very long hands. It will drag all those who lean to look inside the well. We all believed her story. When we wanted to pump the water, we did not dare to look inside. Sometimes, Fouziyeh and Shahnaz had a competition in pumping water. The winner was who could bring more water from the well to the pool in the middle of the yard. We used to swim in the pool during summer time when my father was not home. He did not like us swimming in it.

My father loved nature and hunting. During summer time he took us to the nearest village to his work place and rented a house. We enjoyed the nature and he could visit us more after work. They were working on the asphalt of Borujerd – Arak road therefore he rented a house in a village called “Zaliyan”.

When we were in Zaliyan village, many relatives visited us. Once auntie Maryam from Khorramshahr and uncle Gholam from Borujerd were visiting us. They wanted to walk around and asked me and Saleheh to accompany them but they did not say where we were going.

We went with them and walked to the school of the village. The door was locked. Ahmad and Khosro knocked. Nobody answered. When they were sure that nobody was inside, they jumped over the wall and opened the door. We walked in. The boys dragged the ex-regime flag down and started running and dragging the flag in the mud and dust. None of our relatives liked Pahlawi dynasty and this was the reason that the children of our family also disliked them.

It was harvesting time. All farmers who had harvested their beans and peas had brought them to the river to wash. When they saw us with the flag, they started shouting. At night when my father returned home from work, told us that this act has been reported to him by the chief of the village. He also said that the chief was so frightened and said: “do you know what will happen to you if the officers of the government will find out what disrespectful act your children have done to the flag of the government? They will take you to prison. Please ask your children to stop doing such things.”

My father was happy with our courageous act from one side but was also worried that this might have consequences, therefore he asked us not to repeat this act.

My father had a hunting rifle and went for hunting with his co-workers. The bullets were of different sizes. Some rifles were bigger with more shots and some were smaller with fewer shots. My father said that the big rifles were for hunting big animals like bear and the small ones are for smaller animals and birds.

Once my father went for hunting with friends and co-workers. Two-three days had passed by them had not returned. We were so worried. We had no access to get information. We were sick worried until the morning of fourth day that my father returned. He had a Capricorn on his shoulder. We were so happy with his hunting and his return.

He drank tea and after resting started skinning the Capricorn with great care. Then hung the skin with a nail in one corner of the yard to dry. He also instructed us not to touch it. Then he returned to the remaining of the animal and opened the stomach and cleaned it.

We had kebab for lunch. He also gave a few pieces of the meat to the neighbors. He was very committed to this act. When he did a hunting, he gave some pieces of the meat to the neighbors saying that it is not right that they only smell it. The meat of the hunting was very soft and delicious, and we remembered the taste for a long time.

In our childhood thoughts, we had created a hero of our father during hunting. A hero who goes to face bears and wild animals and brings delicious meats of Capricorn, Ghazal and … we liked to accompany him during hunting.


To be continued…

Number of Visits: 81


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