Artifacts of A One-Liner

I am most vulnerable when I write. But my writing makes me feel safe.

I feel vulnerable when I write. I also feel safe.

Writing is where I am both safe and vulnerable.

A place for safety: writing. A place for vulnerability: writing.



I don’t have a favorite just yet. And I’m still thinking of more renditions of this one-liner.


Wire and Rewire,



Lean in Collage

Almost everyday this past month, I’d pull on my manteau, slide into the most comfortable shoes and stroll to the closest newspaper kiosk. Sifting through different publications, almost everyday I’d pick up the latest copy of همشهری newspaper. I’d then bring home the news to connect my grandpa to the city buzzing outside his window.

By the time I’d round out my walk home, I’d finish scanning the big print news: — news from plane and bus crashes to news covering last night’s soccer game. Before breakfast, I’d have a rough sense of the tragedies and triumphs that knit that people of Tehran together. I find the newspaper name, همشهری, to be very fitting. After all, همشهری means more than just fellow citizen. It brings in connotations and tastes of companionship beyond living in the same city.

(lil’ thoughts about my collage) Lately, I’ve been collecting the ه characters from the mastheads: once I got a sense of the city through its writing, I’d tear out the ه and put it in the back pocket of my notebooks. These ه characters (both literal characters of the alphabet and the characters of human beings in Tehran) lean into each other just as the women in Ness Lee’s illustration, found in the feminist publication called Room Magazine, lean into each other. Lean in for support, for empowerment, or just to get through the news of the day.

Wire and Rewire,


Magnify the Menu

I recently read a book about coffee culture — Fika specifically. A contributing factor to people’s enhanced quality of life is taking an hour or two out of one’s day and gather to converse and reconnect with one’s loved ones over coffee, or tea, or what-have-you. For the past few months, I have fostered a newfound appreciation for taking breaks at coffee shops. The process of going to a coffee shop, choosing a treat, waiting on it, and enjoying my beverage throughout a conversation has also challenged my relationship with coffee. Rather than a hasty pick-me-up, coffee is slowly becoming a companion to my conversations, or the little prize I give myself after a challenging task.

Appreciating coffee culture during winter break in Tehran led me to a unique cafe: the other day, as I settled into my sofa at the Hestooran cafe, I was taken aback when the waitress brought on the menus to our table with a set of magnifying glasses.

“بگردید و ببینید دلتون چی میخواد/Look and see what your دل wants.”

In farsi, the word دل means both the heart and the gut. The two vital organs — heart and gut — lead the decision-making process in the Persian language: what do I want to taste and what do I want to experience between the sips or bites I choose to order?

What one eats affects one’s mood and decision-making — this is what research about gut-brain axis covers nowadays. Waving the magnifying glass on the margins of the menu, I spotted small, detailed notes about the benefits of certain seeds, herbs, and legumes, and their relationships with different humors: Sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Like Greeks and Oriental traditional medicine that focus on such humors, Iranian traditional medicine is built upon the temperaments. Food is meant to nourish both the soul as well as the body — and the notes on the menu’s margins wove this tradition into our modern-day experience at the cafe.

Magnifying glasses, coupled with the earthy color and texture of menu call for a voyage into not only personal experiences with tastes and traditional medicine, but also nostalgic stories. Creating an experience of antiquity, the menu elicits conversations between generations: past generations who experienced the atmosphere of the cafe — stocked with old furnishing and traditional Iranian ambiance — on a daily basis and the younger generation that seeks novelty in such traditional settings. For our table, the menu was a starting point for my mother to share the lighter memories from her late teenage years. Over warm coffee, served in earthy-textured pottery mugs, generations reconnect.

Though a gesture, the magnifying glass accompanying the menus at Hestooran make visitors tune into what treats their gut and their mood. Taking out more time in choosing our foods might just be the tool we need to cherish the short breaks we take between work. It allows us to reconnect with our loved ones, and synchronize with our thoughts and gut.

Whether or not you visit the Hestooran cafe, allow the magnifying glasses to influence your journey in listening to your gut.

Wire and Rewire,


What Followed A Fever

6 months ago, I walked across the DAR constitution hall stage in a burning fever. I graduated — but no pictures really remain from after the ceremony, as I rushed into our car, drove home and dived for my bed. Sick at grad?

It turns out sickness after long periods of work is something common in our society. After long stretches of hard work and stress, natural killer cells are on the low and our bodies are more susceptible to illness.

I think I’m going to remember the untimely fever more vividly than the chords that hung around my neck, or the people sitting next to me during the ceremony. It is a lesson of one transition from one chapter to the next. As Martha Nussbaum puts it in her essays about compassion, we become merciful when we behave as the “concerned reader of a novel.”

I became more concerned about myself when I was at my most vulnerable state — sick.

The walk across the stage for my diploma was one drenched in sweat accompanied by a high hammering fever; after that I was forced to sleep and rest.

That summer, my journey into concern for myself began


In June 2018, I started meditating. Staying still was and still is one of the hardest activities for me to bear, especially when my phone, my emails, my writing nudge at me to jump at them first thing in the morning.

Some days, the few minutes I spend on the mat are more enjoyable than the night I spent thinking and not sleeping. And some days I only stumble through a few flows just to get something to eat. My practices are not perfect. Sometimes I check my social media and emails while sitting atop the mat. And some days I even manage a handstand — some days I’m a buddha, some days I am not.

I think the stretching and breathing helps to elicit concern for myself. I think that letting my head hang below my knees first thing in the morning has helped gauge how much concern I a lot to myself and how much concern I leave for my surroundings.

Wire and Unwire,



Bumps I have to Thank

Accidents happen — I’ve realized so much good and growth comes out of them.

This year, I’m thankful for the accidents, the bumps, the unforeseen, the schedule ruiners, the things that cut against the grain.

I’m still trying to find the good part about having a mouse intrude my room. But, besides this past accident, I think the accidents that occurred this year have made me grow and reflect in ways I did not think I’d be able to.

I accidentally came across a beautiful Persian classical piano score. When I play it reminds me of my favorite bookstore — Shahre Ketab in Niavaran, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, of days when I’d sit in front of my grandfather and the TV tackling crossword puzzles and English quests.


Lost, Found, then Slid Aside

I ran my thumb against my fingers and found no metal bulge. I lost my ring.

“خدا به پشت و پناهت ” my grandmother had uttered when she gifted the ring with the name of God on it. It is an idiom Persians use as they bid farewell. My last night in Iran with my grandmother, I felt a great deal of responsibility and support glide onto my fingers as I put the ring on.

In my first or second weeks of school – away from home – the ring had slipped off. As I stood infant of Hamilton Hall, I felt the support the warmth of home fade away too.

Panicked, ringless, and tired, I tried to sleep that night and woke to a typical New York rainy day. walking to class alone, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and let my thumb search frantically for the bulge of that ring. Every time I got nervous —  trying to find s notorious IP, meeting new people, doing groceries — I ran my thumb across my palm, in hopes that the ring would return.

As I went by my weeks, I started to get accustomed to looking down and seeing no name of God wrapped around my fingers. During Yoga, my palms would’t be pierced with the ring’s ledges or creaks. I played piano without considering taking anything off from my fingers. There was nothing holding me back.


Looking down at my hands, no formula or name told me about my choices. My choices were mine to make, and I learnt not to rely on a reminder from the name of God to decide. But just as I grew independent, the ring found me this time. Cached between inner and outer pockets of a jacket.

Instead of support from the ring, I felt constrained. I slid it on, this time not with exuberance but with reluctance. I’ve constantly questioned how much I want to be led by God and the greater sense of moral he brings. And as much as I felt protected and supported with the ring, I needed to lose it and wear it again in order to realize how much I really do not need a reminder of greater support or guidance — Yes, it is thought that makes me feel lonely — but I think it makes me stand on my own feet and make decisions for myself.

A Letter to Her Roommate

Dear Aileen’s roommate,

Here’s some essential things you need to know about my bud.

Lately, Aileen looks a bit tan. Truth is, her mom is trying to make her skin tone go back to chalk white. Her inner Cali-girl, however, is rebellious.

Aileen rarely smiles. She beams; even when it came to agreeing my dorm sheets resembled dead saliva.

In taking photographs with Aileen, do not try to replicate her signature pose. It really only flatters her: something about her hips. Trust me I’ve tried.

She’s sometimes indecisive about lunch menu items. This is great to practice your persuasiveness. And if your temptations resurface in shopping, like mine do when i shop for greeting cards, give her a call. She’s a good listener — and has tolerated my painstaking memoirs over DECAF coffee.

Her presence is a gift. Take care of each other.

From another state,


Painful Must Read:

Doctors know more. Don’t they?

They are seen as reliable storytellers. They box in the symptoms and track down causes and correlates. Patients can’t do so; often jaded with diseased thoughts and fragmented narratives.

Doctors have the world of Latin and Greek etymology to utilize when retelling their stories. Patients don’t.

I am ashamed that I cannot fully explain my migraines. But when I came across Virginia Woolf’s relatable confession that neither could she, I felt relieved at first. Then panicked. How come the language I hold so close to my heart can not communicate the most fundamental elements of being human, vulnerable, and … sick?

I now know that I am not alone in this mystery. when a doctor asked Porochista Khakpour, author of Sick to name her disease, she didn’t. She couldn’t.

That’s heroic.

With words, doctors seem to circumscribe symptoms into a diagnosable illness, a box. Left without this device, Khakpour embraces the undefinable, both in medicine and society.

She admits honestly, “outside me there was all sorts of possibility; it was the inside that was the problem”(79).

Words, she lacks. Metaphors, however, she owns. With simple vocabulary, Khakpour bridges what she feels with what she cannot express, leading us into the reality of human fragility.

Her voice jampacks all her thoughts in long, unwinding lines of personal dialogue. That was only her racing thoughts. In times of panic and worsened health, Khakpour’s sentences shrunken; my breathing shallowed in reciprocity. Jabs of pain and an undercurrent of anger toward unswerving doctors scream from her pages: something necessary in the age of ever-persisting medical dogmatism.

Chronic disease is becoming more enigmatic, especially for doctors. So maybe doctors need to put their jargon aside and listen a bit more. As for the rest of us, maybe we need to endure the pains of reading this needle-like, even irritating, truthful memoir.

Home is a Pungent Place

I never thought I’d return someplace that smelt of home. At least not anytime soon.

Coffee is too promising; freshly baked cake is distracting; whiff of dad’s old cologne deceiving, and that of a rusty stack of old photos enlivening. Grocery stores in Tehran are redolent with that growth hormone apples get. Streets whiff up dust and wet paint into my nostrils. Cars whip on a track of potent gas on my headscarf. I remember when spring crept into summer and the smell of hay in between water coolers saturated the house. Grandma sneezed, mom suffered from migraines, grandpa turned the cooler up just another notch.

I no longer encounter those smells here in DC. Most things are clean. The metro seems to tidy itself up and the air gives off a sense of sterility in the mornings. It is numbing when I take a breath and smell almost nothing. It is uncommon to have everything smell so nice, something I could get used to.

I’m moving away again. I’m leaving for somewhere much like Tehran. Bustling and loud, a tad more polluted, unpredictable. There will be more burnt coffee, apple-smelling grocery stores, and way too many rusty taxi cabs. It smells of a promise of home, however, one of reflection on the past. And one of exploration that springs from a sense of belonging, belonging to the pungency. As an individual who knows Tehran pretty darn well, I look forward to those familiar smells in New York.

On Yellow — a film by Mostafa Taghizadeh

Beautifully put together, Painfully realistic.

Brief Overview

The plot revolves around 5 academicians who plan to leave Iran for Italy and pursue the rest of their Innovative Engineering project. These 5 friends minimize their lives. But a liver failure and a road accident puts one in the Coma, costing the other 4 most of their own and families’ savings. 2 women and 3 men, these friends fight with and eventually for each other.

This film had much less law enforcement involved in its production than do other political dramas. Issues of organ smuggling, unchecked greed, and brain drain are not only rampant in the fabric of Iranian society, but also in palimpsests of most middle eastern cultures. No doubt about it. Tehran is known to reenact Ponzi Schemes, each close of this city laced with corruption. But this political drama did not only speak for corruption and the resulting brain drain from Iran, but most middle eastern countries.

From problems with in-laws to smugglers, women in this movie are consistently more level headed than their counterparts. And compared to other Iranian films, women display less hysteria and tend to keep a straight face, as if hinting to us viewers to follow the storyline through the men and their brawls. A woman’s straight face was accentuated by her heavy gaze, her vigilance, and her sharp perception. Her silence spoke for her.

Through its portrayal of women, Yellow views us women as reliable and stable — something society these days desperately needs. In this politically charged moment for Iranian women, silence may truly be a skill. Women in Iran have a handful of rights. Our voice and war cry only lands us where we started. But coupled with better communication with men, leadership in communal crises, women become the diligent drivers of change. Riots and movements are effective. But in a society that has a habit of mass incarcerations of women who speak up, maybe working under the covers is a better long term solution for gaining our rights.

Yellow reveals a different perspective on the power of women through their diligence. The film also addresses a fallacy in dealing with developing country: people, not just the autocracy, are corrupt.