‘Boneco’ – personal essay


Arian Salamat writes creatively each day.

Arian Salamat, Guest contributor

Note: Below is senior Arian Salamat’s personal essay, which earned honorable mention in the New York Time’s third annual Personal Essay Contest

Dolls in stores seem so distinct: black, brown, white, yellow, teal. They’re made from similar materials. I’m not one of these dolls so

Which doll am I?

In Brazil, I play my violão to cover the somber sighs of Uncles getting drunk. I play soccer atop coarse asphalt alongside cousins to pull joy from cracked streets. I fish with grandma to reel-in euphoria instead of letting misery escape my line. I handwash clothes with aunts rather than smoke cigarettes aside Uncles. I sell orange juice at the fair to make myself happy providing for others rather than selfishly imploding with toxic masculinity. I spend time around my cousin’s and mom’s side of the family — something I cannot do in the United States.

They say Brazil is a country full of corruption, crime, alcoholics, and crazy “macacos.” Part of that is true. I’ve lost family members due to the power of alcohol, nicotine, hardcore drugs, and more. People try to pour the bad atop of the good. It’s like putting creamer in coffee without mixing it: A veil over the drink.

Across the globe you’ll reach Iran: a jewel that the outside world has kicked dirt upon, a country said to be full of bombers and terrorists. Families fled in 1979; Khomeini’s regime overtook the “Westernization” of Iran. My father and his family immigrated to Los Gatos, California, a place that wasn’t as pompous as today.

At “Mehmooni’s,” I play the Daf for my family, curtaining familial conflict and past with rhythmic taps of melody that resonate within the soul. I dance to Andy with my family so they could relive their once free lives in their transformed nation. I cook Sabzi Polo with my grandmother so that we can aid my grandfather– a carpetmaker packed with knowledge and stories that I seek to dig and uncover. Whenever March comes around, we gather at my grandmother’s home to celebrate Nowruz — the start of Spring. We wash our hands and faces with rosewater to reinforce love and gentle medicine for the heart. We spend time around each other, laugh, express ideas, something we cannot do in Iran.

Formal, uptight, patriarchal, heteropatriarchal — all “common” Middle Eastern beliefs. I feel like a butterfly trapped in a cage; an unhatched cocoon. I try to escape the beliefs that I disagree with, the beliefs that would turn me from fluid water to dry and dense ice — immovable. The guilt of not upholding cultural standards overshadows like a dense cover.

We don’t have it easy; I don’t have it easy. Many people would think being a Brazilian-Iranian is a curse: two vastly different cultures intertwining forming a poorly sewn doll — threads break loose, seeping sighs of remorse, regret.  But the truth is veiled in white lies set forward by the cover of the book; we don’t open it because we believe the story is all on one page.

What a warped reality we live in.

I am this warped reality. In the United States, even with its problems, I can somewhat feel the two parts of me become whole rather than trying to fit myself into the role of a certain culture whenever I’m visiting certain parts of my family. Appreciating culture is a part of who we become. If we neglect what’s inside of us, we become hollow shells. We must accept what we are, who we are, wherever we are–It’s not perfect.

So this poorly sewn doll is me. Not picked from the store, but made from raw material gathered from two split cultures, furbished in a land of relinquished content.