To the Youth in Europe and North America
“The awning of the date palm”
The sun was in the middle of sky. The heat was oppressive. The branches of a lotus casted a shadow over a mud tea shop with crescent ceiling and wide piers were moving every now and then. The flowing sand of the desert had rushed behind the walls of the tea shop which was the first muddy building of the village. The desert, like a vulture who flies over his bait and waits for him to close his eyes to attack him, waits to see the only subterranean canal of Turdan to dry up, so that it can swallow this village like others under its hot and flowing sand. It wasn’t clear that how many villages had been swallowed under tons of sands during the past few years.
The attacks of sands in desert winds had made the life of the villagers in Turdan like the desert itself. The only living color which attracts the attention of each newcomer was a red line which became maroon over the years.
Behind the wall of teashop were written: “Turdan, D.D.T. 1347”
Under the awning, in front of the teashop which was covered by a woven mat made from wild date-palm, ten to fifteen people were sitting on a large wooden bed and were fighting over water division. The war and anger were current between them for years and was always futile.
Next to the teashop, there was a goat which was tied to a young tree which was dying. The goat some times tried to reach to a box, full of dried seeds of pomegranate. Each time, he attacked the box, the tree moved severely and the goat desperately looked at the box.
The oldest man of that village who was hurt most in the draught wanted more share for water with stubbornness and threat. If they gave him water as much as his land, there wouldn’t be left any more water for the others. Everyone had gathered to solve this problem.
The old man cleaned the sweat under his throat with a silk handkerchief. Moved his heavy body and said: “it’s been 55 years that this law is in effect. Everyone who has more land will take more share of water. As you know, my land has reached under the Taftan Mountain. I am not the guarantor of your land. You should have thought about this in the spring. If you can, let it go.”
“What is going on here old man? Who do you think you are? Bark zaee? Who sits here and bully us? We tried so hard for our land, didn’t we? Now do you expect us to let them dry out? Who will answer our family? You? Today when Jesus comes, we will write everything clearly and it will be over”, yar Mohammad told the old man.
The howl of the wind was heard far from here. Sometimes, the heat of the wind scattered a pillar of sand in the air and made the camel caravan visible and invisible.
The old man moved in his place, pulled his long shirt from his bottom and corrected his shirt over his shoulder, peeped at yar Mohammad and said: “we thought we are in quarrel with “nokjuees” over water. Over 100 nokjuees will be frightened to death in front of us, now Turdanees want to bully us.”
Then he faced the others and said: “guys, I am from this God damn village too; I am not that primitive and uncouth, so you gathered around me. I write nothing and I don’t accept your writings. I will get someone to take my share of water to my land. I want to see who dares then?”
Rostam Ali sitting beside the old man raised his hand to calm down the old man and as he was pointing to him said: “don’t go too fast old man. Those days you got your share of water with the help of king’s guards. It’s been four years now, are still asleep? It’s right that this law has been in effect from the old times. That time, water was abundant. Now the situation is changed. Water becomes less and it’s not our fault. Water goes to the teasels of the homes of that upper land of Turdan, “dozd abeh”, in “karvander” village. It’s our destiny. We should get on together or think of something else. We are not enemy old man, back down.”
Yar Mohammad said: “what solution, rosatm Ali? If everyone becomes satisfied with their own share of water, we will have no problem. This is because some people want more share of water than they should have.”
And moved his hand so that everyone realized that he meant the old man and the old man saw that.
Moved his head forward, made his eyes smaller and said to Yar Mohammad: “a few dried trees doesn’t need water. Put some animals in it to graze or Sell them and get your money. I think I will get the money for my noor malek.”
And looked in the eyes of the others and continued: “now he becomes our commander in the village. They were eating rubbish in a black tent till yesterday, now he wants to impose us, Jesus will come and write us!”
Akhgar put the tea table on the bed and in order to calm him down, said: “Lashari people did the right thing and left “hishun” and “nengar” behind and don’t have these problems now. Do you remember “razagh zadeh” village? You are not higher than them, they couldn’t make it with all the system and water wells they had. That village became desert. Now you beat each other on the head for water and mud!”
Mirjan answered akhgar: “we have nothing but land. We planted trees since we were kids, now where else do we have to go? All people are not indigent like you. You came this long way from Kahnuj and opened a tea shop here, you may go to Jusk tomorrow and become someone else, but we have roots here. We should stay. Our problem is a few people. If they don’t go back on their words, every thing will be right. We have no enmity with others. This old man belongs to us, he is not a stranger.”
Ali yar has been standing beside the bed, said: “words and promises are not worth here. When Jesus comes here today, we will write down all the things and everybody will take his own share of water according to the list. Don’t be so ill-humored old man. If you want, take my share of water too. We are tired of these quarrels. Let’s forgive and forget.”
The sound of a Russian motor cycle is heard far from here.
Yar Ali arrived and said hello loudly. Took his long shirt by his hand and went up the bed. Shook hand with everyone and sat in the corner.
Since the day, his only son had gone to war; he wasn’t in a good mood, especially for such arguments.
He had heard that Jesus would come to tea shop. So he had come to see Jesus and give him his son’s letter to read for him. Abdol Ali had gone to war since spring and they had never heard of him since then. And now, in the middle of summer, he had sent him a letter.
The sound of a motor cycle which had approached went out. Jesus got off his motorcycle, took his sac and while he was opening a big scarf tied around his neck and head, moved its dust and approached the bed. He put his stuff beside the bed and took a seat on the top of the bed where was side stepped for him.
Akhgar gave him a cup of tea. Shaaban and Rostam Ali were still arguing. The noise became louder by coming of Jesus. Yar Ali, who was in a hurry, while seeing every one was talking, went and sat next to Jesus.
He gave him an envelope and said: “dear Jesus, I know you are busy, but Abdol Ali has sent me this letter, could you please read it for me? May God reward you”. Jesus drank the last portion of his tea and in deference to him, put down a few papers were in his hands. When he wanted to take off his hand of the papers, the wind scattered them, but yar Ali put the sugar-bowl over them.
Jesus opened the envelope, moved a little bit in his place, reviewed the letter once and started to read. The commotion made him to raise his voice. Every one paid attention to him.
“By the way, some of the Nukjubi boys have been dispatched with us and we are here together.” Hearing Nukjubi made every Turdani sensitive. It’s been years that they were in conflict with each other and their ancestors bequeathed this anger and grudge to them. Jesus read louder: “those days, they brought us to Ahvaz from Khash. We’ve been in Ahvaz for a few days. Then they brought us to the front line for defense. Here we are, called “Delijan Delta”, around the hills of Mish Dagh. Here is desert just like our Turdan. Hot like there. We have drought here too. That is there is no water at all and they brought us water by a tanker. We are lucky that we are used to living in a desert.”
A few days ago, Iraqis shot our water tanker. And we had no water for days. We had to collect all of our flasks and unified their waters. Four flasks, full of water were collected. The commander hung them beside the trench for everyone to use them. After a few days, finally they brought us water by motorcycle. Till that day, everyone endured and the flasks remain intact. When you are thirsty, it’s too hard not to drink water, when there is some.
Except Jesus voice, who was reading Abdol Ali’s letter, no other voice was heard. The wind was moving the edges of the mat which was hanging in front of the tea shop and its lash like sound was mixed with Jesus’ voice who was reading the end of the letter. The old man had lowered his head and was playing with a carpet’s string which was come out of its warp and woof. The anger and rage were decreased from his sun burnt face. The voice of the bell of the camel caravan became closer and closer.
Reading letter was finished. Jesus read the address written on the back of the envelope for Yar Ali. He said: “if you want, you can send him a letter. Of course I should write it for you. Stay here. I will write it for you today. There is nothing else we can do but writing. He put the paper of the letter which had a margin of flowers in the envelope and said: “may God help them” and everyone said amen.
The crowd gave Yar Ali hope in different ways. The old man who made a pillar of his hand over the bed, raised his heavy body and moved. He took his shoes from niche and threw them in front of his feet. He made the shoes right with his toes. While the old man was going down of the bed, Jesus said: “where are you going old man? Don’t you want to solve the water problem? Stay this time to solve it.”
The old man slackened his steps and turned back. Jesus said: “this literacy has caused me trouble; otherwise I have work to do for myself. I am a government official. For example I have come here to give you your letters and took the sugar bowl laid over the papers in a hurry and classified them.
The eyes were all looking at the old man surprisingly. Akhgar bended and took the empty cup of tea in front of Jesus and said slowly: “no, he wants to do as he said. He wants to have his way.”
The old man looked at Jesus, raised his hand and said: “write Yar Ali’s letter. It’s more important than our work. We made trouble for ourselves for nothing. It’s like that we are knocking each other’s head. I accept what ever you write as my share for water. If you don’t want to give me water, so you don’t. As a matter of fact, you or Yar Ali, I don’t know, anyone, be my representative. I accept your words.”
And as he started off, the wind was blowing in his long shirt and wide pants. The whispers became commotion after he left. A long time complication has been unraveled. As if the dryness of the lips became wet. The goat beside the tea shop was still trying to reach himself to pomegranate seeds box.
Dear Sir or Madam
I am writing to let you know about my social short story “ The awning of the date palm” which implies urban life. That if it is qualified, it would be published in New Yorker magazine.
Please let me know if you receive my letter or not.
.Mr.Mohammad Hassan Aboohamzehe Iran-Tehran 23Jan2015 Iran