With care, I unravel the vibrant crimson thread, passing it between my fingers, preparing to craft the first glove ordered from the carpenter’s shop. A whisper, “In the name of God,” escapes my breath. The melody that dances in my mind finds expression in my hum, echoing a soft, gentle tune:
The zephyr soft upon your veil it plays,
To Gozargah, for you, my heart sways
Since the first time I heard this tune, years have drifted away, yet it’s a treasure trove of refreshing, delightful memories. This melody alone takes me back to those fond days, not of the school itself but of the road leading to it, where Shazia, my dear friend, and I spent eight academic years strolling and humming the same tune. The entire journey was like an artistic masterpiece, but autumn, especially its concluding October days, held a distinct emotion.
As the daily routines of homework and classes neared their end, just before the yearly exams would engulf us, my friend Shazia and I deliberately took slower steps on the way from school to our homes. It was our way of avoiding the oppressive school corridors and the cozy yet restricting rooms at home. We sought excuses for extended conversations to animate our dreams and aspirations during those talks. We looked for sanctuary amidst the educational pathways, seeking a safe space for the winter days. Our simple desire was a generous serving of hot soup from a modest vendor, followed by a relaxed stroll along the park’s alleyways beside the sidewalks.
During those days, the benches under the towering, ancient trees were often occupied. Some elders rested, while others, fingers adorned with prayer beads, shared vivid tales from near and far with resonant voices. Their stories enticed us to listen in, grasping the essence of their narratives. Shazia and I frequently pondered what conversation could be so significant that these individuals could engage in it endlessly under the unwavering autumn sun. Yet, unraveling the mystery mattered less than the haven those benches and the path offered for our shared moments.
What mattered to us was not the significance of these discussions, but rather the camaraderie between my friend and me, even if the weather wasn’t rainy and cold. We’d still wear our red handwoven gloves adorned with white pearls and pull back our white headscarves, revealing the sheaf of wheat-like strands of hair that started from our foreheads and cascaded to the ends, all for everyone to see, hoping to catch more attention and draw their focus towards us. I recall vividly those days when we were repeatedly bombarded with advice and wisdom, admonitions, and teachings about ethics and propriety, “Don’t talk loudly. Don’t laugh out loud. Don’t take long strides. Don’t tie up your hair too high…”
But those teachings fell on deaf ears, they didn’t affect us.
Shazia and I spent all the final days of those school years on those paths, now irrevocably etched in our memories, with all its coolness, the ceaseless banter, warm, scorching, and brimming with affection until we reached our destination just before the city dimmed. In those days, we were newly matured, just beginning to comprehend what freedom truly meant. We were just starting to figure out how to not be burdened by weariness and worries. We had just learned not to judge and let judgments slide off our backs. Colors had just started to catch our eyes, and voices had only begun to leave imprints on our minds, striking a chord of happiness in our hearts.
But suddenly, the pages of time turned to another era. I looked and saw that those red pearl-stitched gloves had become small in my hands. The three sheaves of hair, once starting from the forehead, now barely formed a single bundle, no longer prominently displaying themselves due to a few strands of white hair nestled among them. The white