Wednesday, December 15, 2004

dwelling in farangopolis

Mapping the house and housing the map, the peddler who carried shahr-i farang on his shoulders walked through my childhood alleys, where my young ambivalent female body, not marked by a deviant desire yet, deviated from school to the world of sight-seeing.
شهر شهر فرنگه بیا و تماشا کن... از همه رنگه بیا و تماشا کن
It was this rhythmic song that drew my seven-year-old body to pleasures of scopophilia. Shahr-i farang, the house-shaped box that sat on the shoulders of a man who traveled through my -then familiar and now unfamiliar- city, Tehran, shaped the porous frontiers of my traveling imagination. Putting my ten Rial coin in his scabbed hands, I would wait for the tired peddler to ground the four-legged box and open the round window to the liminal space of this house that contained the world. My left eye (always stronger than the right one!), would connect my body to the peephole, not blinking once. I would let my imagination travel through time and space with the narrator’s voice, as I tightly framed the boxed foreign cities with my young eager hands.
Not too many years from then, the same hands would turn into fists and write anti-Shah slogans on the walls of the revolted city. In another ten years, those hands would be laid on a cold table in the house of immigration to be mapped for their marked foreignness. Having changed their status of alienation, my hands would be summoned to be fingerprinted in the home they had inhabited-but not considered to be habituated- for fourteen years. And with a permit to dwell and travel, the same hands would increasingly be under surveillance for the possible “threat” they could pose to “homeland security.” Yes, my fellow farangopolitan, the same hands, a quarter of a century after framing the window to foreign cities in domestic alleys on a mobile house, would type these words and touch the keys to the house of this box, reaching for other diasporic bodies.
This blog is my grownup diasporic shahr-i farang. This time I look to touch, both optically and haptically, across geographies to imagine a community of Iranians on-line. I take this journey knowing that not all bodies travel and not all dwellers move, except perhaps phantasmically. “This that you see, my child, is Taj Mahaaaaaaal and we are in Hindustan nowwwwwww… This one is the Statue of Libertyyyyyyy, and here is Americaaaaaa. ” This rhythmic voice and the box of pictures that housed my dwelling and motion, are all distant memories now. Liberty remains nothing but a statue.


The sidebar image is taken from Mahmoud Pakzad's "Old Tehran", Did Publishers, 1994. Thanks to Jahanshah Javid (www.iranian.com) for sharing it.

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