TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran (November 26, 2007) – In a short inadvertent chat last winter with a fellow MSUan and batch mate who is presently based in Toronto, she asked naively, “It’s too hot there, isn’t it?” To her astonishment, I retorted “Yes, it’s extremely ‘hot’ here as it’s the peak of winter now”. “Do you mean there are four seasons there in Iran like here in Canada?!” she queried. “Yup,” I quipped.
As the Middle East region as a whole is commonly associated with a portrait of camel-driving nomads in a vast arid desert, there is no blame if someone outside the region is unaware that Iran has four seasons. In fact, even fewer outsiders know that its calendar, whose basis of reckoning is centuries older than Christ, is accurately divided quarterly according to the four seasons. It commences on the very first day of spring (March 21 or 22) and ends on exactly the last day of winter.
Since September 23, it’s been autumn now here. Skies turn grey. Leaves of trees change their colors, usually turning into a reddish or brownish hue and begin to fall. Rain showers and at times downpours are frequent; hence, a natural boon to the polluted Tehran metropolis. The days get shorter and cooler while the nights get longer; thus, a rare opportunity to those who are keen to perform optional fasting. In short, it marks the transition from summer into winter.
Just as deciduous trees have different colors of leaves at this period, so are the meanings of autumn to different people.
To the tillers of soil especially in the temperate zone of both the northern and southern hemispheres such as the Philippines, autumn means time of reaping and fecundity. To me as a schoolboy then in the first half of 1980s, harvest season meant variegated and relatively cheaper fruits such as atis and rambutan at the Cotabato City Fruit Stand which is just outside our school.
During my college years in early 1990s, this season meant mushrooming of madang/marang fruits in certain spots of MSU Campus such as in front of PLH, Commercial Center, 5th Street, and Baryo Salam. Unless provoked by certain PLH dwellers, I would evade buying marang in front of PLH as the price was somehow heavy to my pocket. Instead, Baryo Salam which is near the dormitory where I stayed in during my first three years in the campus was my favorite hub where I could buy one marang as cheap as 2 pesos–after three to five minutes of bargaining, nevertheless. Around this time, lucky were those who had classmates or roommates who are from the nearby town of Balo’i because invitation to their hometown meant free-of-charge marangs to the heart’s content.
To the poets and ‘outdoor’ individuals like my wife’s Trinidadian friend, the fall season means melancholy and gloominess as the chill of winter and forced indoor retreat are in the offing, nay imminent.
To a bachelor or spinster, fall season may be linked to strong feelings of sorrow as it symbolically represents his or her own ageing self. It serves as a nagging reminder that like the natural world, he or she has also reached the prime of his or her youth while having no offspring.
To the mystics and spiritual wayfarers, autumn constitutes a stage of journey toward perfection as well as yearning for the forthcoming and sought-after reunion with the Beloved and the attainment of the state of felicity after life-long smashing of the idol of I-ness.
To the leaf peepers, this season means the time to come out of their cocoons to enjoy the mellow sight of fall foliage. It is therefore a seasonal godsend to the tourism industry of Eastern Canada, the New England region of the United States and Eastern Asia including China, Japan and Korea where colored autumn foliage is most famously noted.
To the Iranian households, autumn (and winter) means more consumption of gas as the source of heat energy.
To the Palestinians, this year’s autumn means possible reenactment of the Madrid Conference and its dismal repercussions while to their cousins, it means more incentives by forging diplomatic and/or trade relations with [Persian] Gulf sheikhs.
To the inmates of the world’s largest concentration camp called Gaza Strip, this fall and the approaching winter signify further suffering and starvation.
To the “coalition of the willing”, this year’s autumn means further dwindling with the impending pull out of the Australian buddy. To the Australians, in turn, the same means self-rescue through the ballot from the five-year old quagmire that is Iraq.
To me, every autumn means more emotionally charged reminiscence and re-experiencing of the MSU-Main Campus climate though, unfortunately, without the soothing panorama of Lake Lanao and the centuries-old serenity of its Sleeping Lady.
(An excerpt from my book “My Tehran Diary” (2015))