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Not Without My Daughter-betty Mahmoody

Not Without My Daughter-betty Mahmoody

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Published by SindhuRam Ramidi

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Published by: SindhuRam Ramidi on Aug 26, 2010
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Not Without My DaughterbyBetty MahmoodyPUBLISHER: unknownISBN: 0312911939My daughter dozed in her seat next to the window of a British Airways jetliner, her red-browncurls encircling her face, tumbling haphazardly below her shoulders. They had never been cut.It was August 3, 1984.My darling child was exhausted from our extended journey. We had left Detroit on Wednesdaymorning, and as we neared the end of this final leg of the trip, the sun was already rising onFriday.My husband, Moody, glanced up from the pages of the book that rested upon his paunch. Hepushed his glasses up to his balding forehead."You better get ready," he said,I unbuckled my seat belt, grabbed my purse, and made my way down the narrow aisle towardthe lavatory in the rear of the airplane. Already the cabin attendants were gathering trash, andotherwise preparing for the first stages of our descent."This is a mistake," I said to myself. "If only I could get off this plane right now." I locked myself in the rest room and glanced into the mirror to see a woman on the ragged edge of panic. I had just turned thirty-nine, and at that age a woman should have a handle on life. How, Iwondered, had I lost control?I freshened my makeup, trying to look my best, trying to keep my mind busy. I did not want tobe here, but I was, so now I had to make thebest of it. Perhaps these two weeks would passquickly. Back home in Detroit, Mahtob would start kindergarten classes at a Montessori schoolin the suburbs. Moody would immerse himself in his work. We would begin work on ourdream house. Just get through these two weeks, I told myself.I hunted through my purse for the pair of heavy black panty hose Moody had instructed me tobuy. I pulled them on and smoothed the skirt of my conservative dark green suit over them.
 
Once more I glanced at my reflection, dismissing the thought of running a brush through mybrown hair. Why bother? I asked myself. I donned the heavy green scarf Moody said I mustwear whenever we were outdoors. Knotted under my chin, it made me look like an old peasantwoman.I pondered my eyeglasses. I thought I was more attractive without them. It was a question of how much I wanted to impress Moody's family, or how much I wanted to be able to see of thistroubled land. I left the glasses on, realizing that the scarf had already done irreparabledamage.Finally I returned to my seat."I've been thinking," Moody said. "We have to hide our American passports. If they find them,they will take them away from us.""What should we do?" I asked.Moody hesitated. "They will search your purse, because you are American," he said. "Let mecarry them. They are less likely to search me."This was probably true, for my husband was of illustrious lineage in his homeland, a fact impliciteven in his name. Persian names are laced with layers of meaning, and any Iranian coulddeduce much fromMoody's full name, Sayyed Bozorg Mabmoody. "Sayyed" is a religious title denoting a directdescendant of the prophet Mohammed on both sides of the family, and Moody possessed acomplex family tree, written in Farsi, to prove it. His parents bestowed the appellation"Bozorg" on him, hoping that he would grow to deserve this term applied to one who is great,worthy, and honorable. The family surname was originally Hakim, but Moody was born aboutthe time the shah issued an edict prohibiting Islamic names such as this, so Moody's fatherchanged the family name to Mahmoody, which is more Persian than Islamic. It is a derivative of Mabmood, meaning "praised".Added to the status of his name was the prestige of schooling. Although Moody's countrymenofficially hate Americans, they venerate the American educational system. As a physicianeducated and trained in America, Moody would surely be numbered among the privileged eliteof his native land.I delved into my purse, found the passports, and handed them to Moody. He slipped them intothe inside pocket of his suit.Soon the airplane entered the traffic pattern. The engines slowed perceptibly and the nose of the airplane dipped unusually low, producing a steep, quick descent. "We have to come downfast because
 
of the mountains that surround the city," Moody said. The entire craft shuddered under thestrain. Mahtob wakened, suddenly alarmed, and clutched my hand. She gazed up at me forreassurance."It's okay," I told her, "we'll be landing soon."What was an American woman doing flying into a country that had the most openly hostileattitude toward Americans of any nation in the world? Why was I bringing my daughter to aland that was embroiled in a bitter war with Iraq?Try as I might, I could not bury the dark fear that had haunted me ever since Moody's nephewMammal Ghodsi had proposed this trip. A two-week vacation anywhere would be endurable if you could look forward to returning to comfortable normalcy. But I was obsessed with a notionthat my friends assured me was irrational-that once Moody brought Mahtob and me to Iran, hewould try to keep us there forever.He would never do that, my friends had assured me. Moody wasthoroughly Americanized. He had lived in the United States for twodecades. All of his possessions, his medical practice the sum total of his present and future -were in America. Why would he considerresuming his past life?The arguments were convincing on a rational level, but no one knewMoody's paradoxical personality as well as I. Moody was a lovinghusband and father, yet given to callous disregard for the needs anddesires of his own family. His mind was a blend of brilliance and darkconfusion. Culturally he was a mixture of East and West; even he didnot know which was the dominant influence in his life.Moody had every reason to take us back to America after the two-weekvacation. And he had every reason to force us to stay in Iran.Given that chilling possibility, why, then, had I agreed to come?Mahtob.For the first four years of her life she was a happy, chatty child witha zest for life and a warm relationship with me, with her father, andwith her bunny, a cheap, flattened, stuffed animal about four feettall, emblazoned with white polka dots on a green background. It hadstraps on its feet so that she could attach the bunny to her own feetand dance with it.Mahtob.

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