Sunday, March 20, 2005

Bahar-e-delkash......rites of Spring

A very happy Norooz to everyone. Norooz-e-ton Pirooz! Today marks the first day of spring according to the Persian calendar, and is the biggest celebration for Iranians worldwide. And the weather gods of LA paid heed, because after two days of rather dismal clouds, there's beautiful sunshine outside. The last week brought some very good news for my dearest friend Emil, a great gift from the bounty of spring that will mark a very special Saal-e-Nau for him. There's a lot of happiness in these precious lazy days, when flowers are so absentmindedly beautiful, and the supreme joy is a cup of tea drunk leisurely with dear friends.

On Saturday a bunch of us danced all night in our apartment in anticipation of 4:30 a.m. LA time, which is the time at which the year was supposed to turn and the new year began. We had a traditional haftseen (seven S) on the table, put together beautifully by my roommate Nelia, and it was done with more sophistication and elegance than most haftseen I saw around town. All we missed were sabzeh (green sprouts) and a goldfish, traditional symbols of bounty and fertility. But even without them the haftseen was great. I wish I had taken pics before we dismantled it. There was much hugging and greeting when the arrival of the Norooz was announced on the radio, and it was quite amazing for me how an ancient Zoroastrian tradition had been taken up as the dearest celebration for the Iranians. The Norooz meal is special and sounds delicious (I'm tempted to make my own version): sabzi polo ba mahi (greens pilaf with fish).

The Gregorian calendar New Year is a global celebration now, and yet, traditional celebrations of a new year based on local seasonal variations and agrarian timetables survive in most parts of Asia. I had written about the Chinese and Vietnamese Lunar New Year before, and there was the Javanese New Year as well. And now Norooz kicks off a month-long period that sees the New Year celebrated in several communities in India including Bengal as well as in the form of Songkran (I think the Thai version of the Sanskrit "Sankranti") in Thailand.

And to invoke the musical strains that evoke Norooz, I listened to Mohammad Reza Shajarian's CD, arguably the finest living exponent of Iranian traditional music. Shajarian's brilliance is evident to even those completely unfamiliar with Farsi, in fact, I cannot fathom most of the very refined Farsi of the verses that he sings. However, his voice is so rich, with such exquisite timber, and seems to have such candour that emotion is communicated without the benefit of language. I'm really getting carried away here! But if you have the opportunity do listed to Bahar-e-delkash by him (according to a friend, the poet is Baba Taher, but I'm unsure).

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