Then, after a wet and nervous summer, in 2014 Iran happened in my life.
I have often wondered if we choose our journeys, or if the road chooses us. In other words, is there any reason, any sense at all in our decisions? A pre-established path we cannot but follow? Is there something certain we can rely on in moments of tension and loss?
This kind of questions rolled around in my mind as I strolled near the Mole Antonelliana in Torino in winter months, when the most important monument in my current city is adorned by the so-called “Fibonacci sequence”, a series of positive integers in which each number is the sum of the previous two.
In a very poetic but unfortunately unknown Italian movie, titled “Dopo mezzanotte”, this mathematical sequence is explained by the male protagonist as follows:
“Try to count the petals of a daisy or the scales of a pineapple or the seeds of a sunflower. The number is almost always a Fibonacci number. The sequence suggests that the universe has a kind of magical order. This compels us to suspect that perhaps this world has, in some ways, some sense”.
For those of you who understand Italian, this is the link to the part in the movie where these explanations are given by Martino, the main male actor:
This is another story, though. I was talking about Iran.
I had been thinking of travelling to Iran for many years, before 2014. I was supposed to go there around 2008 with two friends, who are neither a couple nor friends anymore. In a certain way, I had to wait for Persia to happen for a long time, but I believe that a journey starts well before you board a plane or you get a new visa on your passport.
Well before that moment, your eyes begin to confidently imagine your adventure. Rugs, a thousand minarets, spicy colours: this is where my eyes wandered before I left Italy. While my personal view on this journey was extremely positive, the look in the eyes of those that learnt my destination reflected, instead, dismay, horror and disbelief. Someone’s eyes grew bigger, like they have in Japanese manga cartoons; others (the worst audience) just remained silent and looked at me like I had three heads. Their silent disapproval was disturbing as it showed once and again that the Other was a sudoku way too complex: why starting it, then? Lack of curiosity will kill this world, or at least slow down the evolution of our fragile species. If curiosity dies, the Other (whoever they are) grows more dangerous and uglier in our eyes. The Other becomes too close and never far enough. My Iran-sceptics’ country of residence does not matter: before my departure I had the feeling that the whole world was suffering from the Tel-Aviv Syndrome – no place is safe, your murderer is your next door neighbour. Fear is, in general, a bad advisor: being afraid of those that are different from me is like splitting History into two parts – it is like focusing on battles and on counting the dead, while forgetting the peace treaties. It is like killing a mockingbird.
The most hilarious questions I received are reported here for the sake of remembrance: “How are you going to manage in Iran with the war?”; “I thought women could not enter Iran on their own: how come you got a VISA?”; “Will you go to Baghdad?”; “What if it ends up like in <Argo>?”; “What if ISIS takes you away?”. Why, why, what if, what if. What if I go out tonight and I get knocked down by a tram? Why have I run to take that tram instead of the next one?
The only valuable question I replied with joy was about my reasons to go to Iran: why Iran among all countries in the world? Because Iran is Persia, Persepolis, Darius, Cyrus, Xerxes and Artaxerxes, because Isfahan is the half of the world, because Iran is also the Towers of Silence and the silence of Masshad, because it is not only “Argo” and Khomeini but it is also “Argo” and Khomeini; because Iran mean jihabs and an almost endless series of colourful bras in one of the many bazaars. And if Iran is frightening, then each country or nationality was, at some point in history, some sort of Terrorising Other. Only when you get closer, metaphorically or not, you can begin to notice the beauty of their features, and you start laughing at their jokes.
One of my best laughs, though, happened a month before I left for Iran: I was in Porta Palazzo, trying to buy my first and last jihab. Stay tuned – the story has just begun.