A Persian Film and a Prepubescence Memory
There are numerous scenes from many different films that have stayed with me with their lingering effect, exhilarating my mind with the power exuded by their beauty to make me ruminate over them for months, sometimes years. But only one such scene has stayed with me as a lesson for life.
In Majid Majidi’s brilliant Persian film “Âvâz-e gonjeshk-hâ” (The Song Of Sparrows), the protagonist Karim, portrayed poignantly by Reza Naji, gets paid a 1000 Tomans for his services as a Motorbike Taxi Driver. The man who pays him the money doesn’t realise that he has actually handed Karim 2 Notes of 1000 Tomans each. By the time Karim realises the man’s mistake and tries to give him back that extra note, the man had already left. So Karim decides to keep what he got. He pockets the Notes in his Shirt, rethinks a little, and puts the extra note separately in his Trouser Pocket. On his way back home, he stops by a road side fruit vendor to buy some Gooseberries. They are priced at 1000 Tomans per Kilo. Karim asks for a Kilo, and remembers the extra 1000 he has and decides to take 2 Kilos instead. He ties the fragile polythene bag carrying the berries to the back end of the seat of his Motorbike and heads home. Unfortunately for him, there is a hole in the bag and most of the extra berries that he bought with the money that he didn’t really deserve to have, ends up falling on a stream by the road. Karim doesn’t notice his loss, which wasn’t even supposed to be his gain in the first place!
The scene reminded me of a wonderful moment I once experienced as a kid. I was out with my Uncle, my Jethu, and he took me to the Post Office. Both my Father and my Uncle are very good at interacting with strangers, something that I haven’t completely imbibed yet and I want to with all my heart. The Post Office was empty and Jethu got busy talking to the guy who took the letter from him. They both got so lost in the conversation that once it got over, Jethu shook his hands and came out without even paying him and the guy forgot about it too. We had almost reached home, when Jethu realised his mistake and went back to the Post Office to pay him. It was just 10 bucks, the guy and Jethu didn’t know each other and it was hot. He could have chosen to just let it be. But he didn’t. Looking back, I feel extremely proud of that moment.
Coming back to the scene, it wasn’t just something that I remember for its masterful writing or direction, I remember it for the lesson it gave and Persian films are so full of such beautiful, humane and epiphany inducing moments.
What is not mine, I shall not keep – I’ve read this in books of Religion, heard it from moral discourses by elders and also felt it from my own observation of good and honest middle class Indians in their day to day lives; but nothing made me put it down as one of the most important tenet of life like this small scene did. And it only provided a whole new impetus to my childhood experience with Jethu and etched it out in my mind with an austerity that was subtle and an adoration that was rambunctious.