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Travel through Tehran, Athens and the memories of a lost time. Get your copy today… Happy Reading!
The story follows an Iranian woman transplanted to Europe by the revolution of 1979. Searching for a way back to the Iran of her youth, best-selling author Urma walks through adult life incomplete. She isolates herself in Athens, Greece, wallowing in memory of betrayals perpetrated by the men she has known. Connecting with school chums from Iran only serves to remind her of what she does not have. When the love of her life returns after a twenty-five year absence, Urma must search inside to find the kernel of home she has carried all along and open herself to accept what is rather than what was.
A simple but riveting narrative, Urma is about an orphaned Iranian girl who was forced to migrate to Paris to escape the heat of the 1979 revolution. Departure from Tehran had its own stakes for her – not only was she displaced from her homeland but she also had to leave behind her childhood friends and her lover, without any hopes of seeing them in the near future.
Using the in medias res narrative technique, the book opens in 1978 when the protagonist, Urma, wakes up to the first snowfall of the season. Remembering that the day was also her parent’s seventh death anniversary, she expresses her premonitions about her cocooned and happy world coming to an end to aani. Urma’s aunt consoles her, little realizing that all the dreams of the 18-year-old Urma would be shattered that very winter.
All the chapters being divided in terms of spatial location, the book smoothly transitions to 2004 Athens, where Urma wakes up after a nightmare, perspiring profusely. Athens had made Urma a celebrated author of two books. Despite this, her nostalgia about Iran and her lost love, Orash, did not subside. Urma remains in touch with her three closest friends – Shereen, Aanahita and Ladan. However, she has no contact with Orash and the reason for him refusing to migrate with her remains a mystery. She frequently remembers Orash with great sorrow and regret and yearns to be back in Iran.
Urma seeks relationships with a number of men; she marries Masood. However, in the lack of intellectual stimulation and humor, Urma realizes that no one can take Orash’s place in her life. To escape her miserable existence, she flirts with Aatish and spends more time with aani. One wintry day, aani passes away. Urma faces that fact that she is alone in the world as her last blood relative is dead. Soon after this, Urma divorces Masood, against his wishes.
As fate would have it, Urma is invited to deliver a speech at her Khoabgah’s convocation. She is excited about the opportunity to return to her school and home. Throughout her journey to Iran, she remembers her first date with Orash, the drive in the mountains where they had kissed. However, when she lands in Chaloos, the place where Urma lived with Orash, she is dismayed to see the dilapidated houses and the change in the landscape. Although school stirs some fond memories, Urma realizes that her homeland is empty without her dear friends and Orash. Her pining for Orash only increases.
Does Urma meet Orash? Why did he betray her? Is Urma able to return to her long lost roots? The shocking secrets are revealed only at the end of the book.
Alternating between the voices of the omniscient narrator and the ‘I’ persona, Urma is a life narrative and a sort of bildungsroman. The novel invites the reader to be both a spectator and participator in the events that proceed with a sense of immediacy. This, along with the book’s narrative structure which fluctuates between past and present with a certain authorial efficiency, keeps the reader’s interest in the book high.
I was barely 7 years old when I bid adieu to my best friends in India to join my dad who was posted in Iran as a surgeon. I had no idea where I was going and thoughts of a new life clogged my mind! Soon I landed in Tehran and was greeted by my dad and the days that followed changed my life completely! I did miss my friends back home but made new friends and started going to a British school. At home I would be glued to the TV, watching Tom and Jerry and Pink Panther in Persian and listening to Persian songs. Videos of Googoosh, Sattar, Leila Forouhar and many others bonded me to Iranian Music and drew me closer to Persian Language and overall Iranian Culture.
I learnt the language and started enjoying local food, as that’s all we got in restaurants. My dad would come in the evening and we would go for drives or have dinner at boulevard weekends. We would drive out to the countryside and sit by freezing streams of crystal clear water at the foothills. I have fond memories of immersing whole watermelons in the stream with rocks tied to either side in order to cool the fruit, while we got busy setting up our barbecues!
I loved the snowfall and made snowmen with my sisters and friends in our backyard; often we’d have elaborate parties, with Indian doctors visiting our home from various cities in our province of Kerman! Dad’s Iranian colleagues would come with their wives too. I remember those Iranian friends as stunning, with short, colored hair that would change in every party, and perfectly made up shimmering faces, and dresses that were never longer than their knees! To me, they were like life size Barbies!
I can never forget those typical evenings with my dad in the drawing room and his Iranian or Indian friends sitting and discussing medicine… the whole gamut of it! Boney M or Carpenters would be playing in the background and there would be several rounds of Iranian tea, pistachio cookies, fruits, dry fruits and other goodies! I also remember weekends when unknown Iranians would stop by our door and give gifts of huge sacks of fresh pistachios or boxes of oranges, strawberries, cherries or persimmons! This would be a way to thank dad for performing successful surgeries on their loved ones!
Life was a dream! And then came the revolution… and life changed forever!