Delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Future Can’t Wait today. For my stop I have a wonderful guest post to share with you on the authors own Persian Wedding. Enjoy!
A gripping story of a mother’s love for her daughter.
The Future Can’t Wait is a contemporary novel set in multi-cultural Birmingham against a background of growing radicalisation of young people sympathetic to Islamic State.
Kendra Blackmore’s half-Iranian daughter Ariana (Rani) undergoes an identity crisis which results in her cutting off all contact with her family. Sick with worry and desperate to understand why her home-loving daughter would do this, Kendra becomes increasingly desperate for answers – and to bring her estranged daughter home…
MY PERSIAN WEDDING 1979
The Future Can’t Wait features Kendra Blackmore who married to an Iranian during a particular dramatic part of Iran’s history – The Islamic Revolution. Rani, her daughter is half Iranian. These characters were written from my own experience of being in a mixed marriage and raising dual heritage daughters.
Here’s a brief account of my unusual wedding and some of the issues I faced in its aftermath.
Reactions to my relationship with an Iranian student veered between curiosity and mild hostility but the overt racism from my some of my family and neighbours is something that I struggled to get over. When I announced we were getting married, my parents, through the mouthpiece of my father, told me never to “darken their doors” again.
The political situation in Iran didn’t help. The country was in the grip of revolution fever which meant my future in-laws were worried about us going out there for the main wedding i.e the only one that counted in their eyes. I had to get married three times! An Islamic wedding in Birmingham which I didn’t have to attend, a civil wedding and the two day all singing and dancing pageant in a country where foreigners, once welcomed, were leaving in droves.
I remember the night we arrived. It was my first visit and although for years I’d been educating myself in the culture, history and language of the country, culture shock kicked in as we left the airport. My silk chador ( veil – in Persian it means tent) kept slipping down much to the horror of those around me. Graffiti was scrawled across public buildings – Death to America – and there was an explosive feeling in the air.
A noisy gathering of my husband’s extended family were waiting outside the house to greet us. A myriad of stars twinkled overhead in a navy-blue sky. Various rituals were carried out including the sacrificing of a sheep for the wedding feast. I fainted as the blessing was said and the knife was drawn. A special breakfast for the men called Kaleh Pacheh was made from the entire sheep’s head but you don’t want to know any more than that.
The women in my husband’s family were buzzing with curiosity and asked many, many questions about life in the West, our opinions of the new regime and whether or not it was true we had sex before marriage. The younger ones sat at my feet, stroking my hair, giggling at my attempts to correctly put the parts of a sentence in the right place (the verb goes to the end as in Latin and I believe German). I would like to say here that Farsi is not Arabic. It’s an Indo-European language.
As it was Persian New Year ( Noh Ruz – the Spring equinox), it was a very busy time for a wedding. The family argued over every single aspect of it. Exhausted from smiling, vocal chords sore from producing sounds from the back of the throat, I became unwell and ended up on a saline drip a few days before the big day. My husband blamed me for causing the upset. My mother in law fussed around with ginger infusions. All I wanted was to sleep and go home.
The first day involved six hours in the beauticians. A nightmare for someone who hates dressing up. As it was the religious festival, the Iman came to the house for the formal ceremony. I had been coached in the right way to behave – no looking at him, or any other men, no smiling, no fidgeting. I really had no idea what I was saying yes to. The dowry of gold and turquoise was presented and the bride price was fixed at £1,000. It’s equivalent to a pre-nuptial financial settlement. It was conducted around a sofre –tablecloth, the mirror representing, in tradition, the first time the couple see each other. (See picture)
The wedding feast was chelo kebab, the Iranian national dish, rice, salads and endless platters of cakes. I couldn’t eat a thing but had to pretend. Quite a lot of food ended up in my handbag. It was a question of saving face for them and survival for me.
The second day was more relaxed. Same dress, different hairstyle, more distant relatives who had travelled from across the country. These celebrations merged into the New Year’s festivities so by the time we came home, I was very sick. Three months later, I began to realise that the cultural differences were so great and his family were so disappointed that their only son had married a foreigner. By that time I was expecting my first daughter. What I didn’t know at that time was that his family would try to claim her as their own.
I stuck with the terrifying circumstances I found myself in: – getting trapped in Iran on one of the forced visits, having no personal freedom, fearing that my daughters would be abducted ( almost happened), for fifteen years.
People ask me if I agree with mixed race marriages. I can’t answer that. It’s an individual choice and things can go awry even if you think you know what you’re doing. From my experience, it’s not the marriage per se that brings the problems, it’s the raising of the children. A post for another stop on the tour!