What Omid said is a faded memory but I understood from his tone of voice and facial gesture that I was doing something bad and I stopped doing it. We were in third grade and I was sitting on a concrete step in a tucked away corner of the school yard and watching the ants march in and out of a little hole. Neither of us expected him to be appalled. He from walking over to see what I was up to and I for showing him how I crushed some of the ants with my finger.
A bunch of years later and halfway around the world in the United States, one day my friend’s Mom in a nonchalant way said that she just lets the ants come and go as they pleased.
What? Even on the kitchen counter?
Bewildered with jaw dropped I can only imagine what I looked like to them as I was trying to process this new notion. She kept a clean enough kitchen that ants visited not that often and calm enough attitude to make me aware of a force more powerful than squishing or poisoning the ants.
Another bunch of years went by and I was studying the application form for U.S. citizenship and I saw the question about name change. If the ‘yes’ box was checked a line was there to put the new name!
It’s that easy to change my name?
The family name in my Iranian passport would take some effort to spell for the rest of my life and my brain is setup to process logic as well as compassion and ignores undefined and unexamined loyalty and social order, often unintentionally. Also by that age, 28, my character had been developing to seriously question patriarchy, and hierarchy in general. It’s noteworthy to mention that my father once in a discussion in our 1960s VW bug in Tehran just as we were approaching Ce-rah Takhte Tovos said to my mom, “You want me to take charge? Fine. I’ll assignee you the job of being in charge”. And my mother many years after I had become a U.S. citizen would say things like; Yes he’d give me his salary to manage the household — which she added to her income from midwifery practice and salary form working at the hospital — until he wanted saw something he had to have.
In any case it simply made sense to choose a simple Persian name as it did to get the U.S. Citizenship since going back to live in Iran had become less of a reality.
That year I met someone over the phone whose surname was Omidian. I was with an Iranian-American friend and we both said, “What a nice name” about the same time. In Persian omid means hope. Used also for boys first name. There were other short and sweet names in Persian language that I could have chosen but a voice down from my guts, or where ever those clear inner voices come from, said; Choose Omid.
A few days ago, almost fifty years since third grade, I sat down to to write my first story for Medium. — Incidentally today, the day I get to publish this story, coincides with the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. God bless Ma. — The image of Omid and I sitting on that corner had been in my mind and I thought maybe I’ll write about that but mainly tell how I never told anyone that choosing my last name had something to do with the kid I sat next to in the first grade. Also I didn’t anticipate remembering or rather realizing that Omid didn’t hang out with me anymore after that.
I turned out to be more than a name change story or recalling a memory of a past incident but of an awareness of an awakening which took place in between time and eternity. Yes it did have the time and location components and a nine year old kid involved but the effortless effort it took for him to reach out right through my ego and mind into my soul to wake it up and say, ‘Look at what you’re doing?’ That didn’t just come from time, space or Omid but from an eternal source through them.
This birds eye view and seeing how that experience shaped me would have been a good enough day but I got to see another. Two moments or rather experiences which made me aware that ants were living souls, not little things to be squished or get angry at for invading “our” space.
Does this mean today is a special holy day, sacred, or just another day in front of the screen and keyboard? What would you call a day when you realize a couple of very short and simple interactions with two people decades ago were in fact precious moments that significantly shaped who you have become? A simple but sacred day in front of the computer? A special day of grace showered by Satguru ji?
And a day that a far-fetched possibility showed up: What if I have the potential to cut through stuff and say hello to someone’s soul and Truth?
Oh right! They even have a name for that in India; Namaste which means I bow to the God within you. A simple gesture to remind people of our potential.
*Photo by Jamshid Farajvand farda جمشید فرجوند فردا (possibly in 2017–18). So it’s not a picture of Omid and I or my classroom in 1967 but I’d like to think we had happy moments like this. I’m sure we must have especially if a cool photographer came in and wanted to take a picture of us. Omid and I were about the same age, height and size and lived in the big city of Tehran. Back then there was only one picture above the blackboard and he wasn’t a man with turban but a military hat. Our blackboard was about the same and we also had the English alphabets on the wall near the blackboard which were strange things to me. It took more than three years for me to learn them for I fought hard not to. They won. Now I have the English alphabets memorized but not the Persian alphabets. Must have had some unique learning ability :) that the educators around me didn’t recognize.