Unsung heroine

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Bibi Zahra runs a tea shop in the village of Kang, near Mashhad. Her husband is a “Janbaz”, or an injured veteran from the Iran–Iraq war. Due to his post-traumatic stress disorder, he cannot work, and the meagre pension he gets has left Bibi Zahra as the sole breadwinner. Life is clearly tough, but you wouldn’t know it, looking at the smiling face of Bibi. Her daughter, Elham, was one of the top students taught by my cousin’s wife, Elmira, who teaches in nearby Torghabeh. Elham was accepted to go to University this year, but did not take it up because of the financial burden. Elmira found this out during our visit, and was not happy. Elham has promised her (and me) to enter next year. (I will be contacting asking about her regularly to make sure she doesn’t forget!)

Bibi is no pushover! While we were there a local villager walked in and asked loudly how much the aash (soup) was. She said 1000 (toomans). He contemplated, as if to barter a better price. She looked him in the eye and said if it is too much for him he need not pay at all. The man quickly agreed to the said price and sat quietly eating his aash, sheepishly asking for some bread a little later…

Some “city” folk go to Bibi’s shack, have tea and aash, but still look down at her as a mere villager. I look up to Bibi, and look forward to visiting her on my next trip.

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