Yaquti, Mansur, ed., Pusht-e Divar-e Barf, Collection of Children's Essays of Pak Rusta,
Tehran: Shabgir, 1352/1973.
Pusht-e divar-e barf - 'Behind the Wall of Snow'
p.5. Ismail Amjadian, Class 3: Letter
With the help of my friend the wild olive tree which is in front of the 'blind spring': 'I am a good and beautiful tree, wild olive of coffee colored skin, now you are by the side of the 'blind spring' and snow is covering your branches and your roots have become dry. I haven't visited you for three or four months now and I'm really unhappy for you. I know that some of the children come and break your branches.
My good tree - do you drink water? Don't you get thirsty? There is water there that you can drink to quench your thirst. Don't say you have forgotten me, I am always thinking of you and saying to myself what is my friend doing now?
My dear friend, I am waiting for spring to come and for you to be covered with green leaves and full of blossoms,
p.6. and I'll come and give you water and rest for a while in your shade. In the summers, your red wild olives become so beautiful and I'll come and sit for a while on your big branches and eat a few wild olives and sing for a minute. Then I'll throw a few wild olives in my pocket and return home.
p.7. Abdullah Amjadian, Class 5: 'Describe your own house'
First I will write about the yard of our house, then later I will come to the other things:
One side of our yard is covered with the wood and bark of plane trees. It has three tall wooden columns and we have put one tall tree above it and we made the top with wood and flowers. We refer to it as the 'underhallway'. The door of the yard is made of tin and the walls of the yard look like they could be destroyed with one kick.
Now we reach my room. In the winters our room has nothing in it, only in the summers we have a coarse carpet which we spread in the middle of it. The rooms of the wall are black and once a year we plaster them with straw. Six wooden poles are fixed on the walls of the room that we hang clothes on with nails.
p.8. The nails are used in place of wooden clothes pegs. An old icebox which has been in the family for 40 years takes up the corner of the room. The room also has four shelves, on one of which there is a lamp and on one of the others an earthen grain pot, two bowls, and three spoons, and a two rial mirror broken in the middle, fixed to the wall. We also have a stove that we light at night so we don't get cold we put firewood and cow dung inside it. We also have a 'nishtamam' (room for baking bread which is also a guest room) which has been turned as black as charcoal. There are also two beehives in there, one of which is full of flour, the other empty. We have a hayloft which has nothing in it and mice run around this way and that inside it. We have two stables, one of which has two donkeys in it and two pens, and in the other stable there is only one heifer. Several days earlier we had a cow that father sold because it was ill. At the side of the stable is a calf-pen where calves are kept when we have any. At the moment, our calf-pen is empty. We have three chickens as well and yesterday one of them fell ill and died.
p.9. Abdullah Amjadian: Winter
One winter's day my father was ill and he didn't have money to go to the doctor in Kermanshah to get two injections to make him better. We had one heifer and two cows who both had calves. My father told me to sell the cows and to take the money myself to the doctor in Kermanshah. My father was really ill. He sold one cow for 550 tuman and went to Kermanshah. Several days passed and my father had not returned, and we became sadder and sadder. From morning till night, my mother and sister and I kept our eyes on the road our father had taken. We kept going down it to look and see if a car was coming. One Friday I wasn't in the house, but out with our one remaining cow. When sunset came and I brought the cow back to the house, I saw my friend Ismaili going into his garden. He said, 'Abdullah, your father has come back from Kermanshah.' I didn't believe him and said, 'You're lying!' He said, 'No, by God, he's come.' Along with the cow, I quickly reached home. Every person I saw told me that my father was back from Kermanshah. When I got back to the house I sent the cow into the stable and went into the room and said, 'Welcome, father!' He said, 'Health to you!' Then he put his hand in his pocket and gave me two or three sweets and said, 'Abdullah, go and throw some hay into the cow-pen and then come to the house.' For two or three days, my father's condition was better, but in the days that followed he became ill again. He went to Kermanshah again three or four times and he sold the remaining cow too, but he still didn't get better. The day that he sold the last cow, I was sitting on the roof of the house and saw him give the cow to someone from Poshte Darband village. It was like the mountain tops had been destroyed around my head. I cried very hard. In remembrance of you dear cow, in remembrance of your horns like a plumb-line , of that mouth which used to eat hay, of those big and beautiful eyes, now that they have sold you, we will drink the yogurt and buttermilk of which cow? When I went back into the house in the afternoon, I took one mouthful of the yogurt that my mother had borrowed and burst into tears. I remember the day that the Poshte Darbandi came and took you away and how much I cried that he shouldn't take away our cow. No one listened to me. We sold you and father paid for his treatment and medicine with the money he got from selling you and he still hasn't got better. His chest is hurting and he has a constant cough. People say my father's liver has become black and he's in a very bad state. But my father says that if spring comes and the weather becomes good, me too I will go to the land and work and my condition will get better. (meaning himself not the son)
p.12. Hosseinali Hassani, Class 5: Mother
Yesterday was Friday. My mother said, 'Hosseinali, as today is Friday and you don't go to school, go to the village of Alyasan, go and get that 50 tuman from your cousin if he has it. None of you have shirt or shoes. I ate a mouthful of yogurt and bread, and I set off for Alyasan. My cousin wasn't home. His mother invited me in, saying, 'Come inside and warm yourself'. I said, 'I have a job to do, I can't come in.' She said, 'By God, until you get warm I'm not going to let you leave!'
p.13. I went and warmed myself, then said goodbye and went home empty-handed. I was on the way, walking along with my head down when suddenly I saw two creatures flash by in the corner of my eye. A hound had fallen chasing a rabbit; the rabbit was tired. They reached the top of a hill. The hound caught the foot of the rabbit in its teeth. The rabbit gave a cry and escaped from the grasp of the hound. The hound set off after him. I don't know where they went after that. I reached home. As I reached the yard, I heard someone cry out. When I went in I saw that my mother had lit the oven and no one was near her and she was crying. I said, 'Mother why are you crying? Why are you sad?' My mother said, 'My son, why should I not cry? What do I have to be happy about? In two or three more days the hay will all be finished and the cows and sheep will stay hungry. How long can these poor dumb creatures cry in the stable with empty stomachs? Not a single one of the children has shoes or a shirt or a coat. How long must they shiver in this cold! Every day the landlord comes and harasses us for his rent. What answer can I give him? I said, ' Mother, let's sell our cow and sheep.' Mother said, 'Sell them? We only have one milk cow and two or three sheep. They are thin and pathetic too. Nobody will buy them. Even if they buy them they will only give a little money.'
P.14. I said, 'Mother, don't cry. Father will be back from Bandar Abbas in a month; he may even be back tomorrow. He will bring money with him and we will pay off our debts.'
p.15. Hosseinali Hassani: Write about a day of your life.
One day my mother woke me up early. She was very sick. She said, 'Hassani, wake up and go and clean the stable. I'm really sick. I'm sure I'm going to die. Come out of the stable a bit earlier and go to the shop and buy me two pills.' I set off and went to the stable. We had a calf that had put its head over the pen and was dying. Whatever I did, I couldn't get it to stand up. I went outside and said to my mother that the calf was dying. I don't know if the cow or the ass had hit him. My unhappy and sad mother said, ' Oh, what can I do? You can see that I can't get up from bed.
p.16. I said to myself, 'Oh God, what sin have I committed? My mother is sick. Oh, why is the calf dying?' That day there was a heavy snowstorm. No one could leave their house to go outside. From sadness and sorrow, I didn't take any more notice of the calf. The shop didn't have any medicine. I fell silent from sadness; there was nothing I could do. I became like a sheep that hits itself on the head with a stick and can't go anywhere. I was so unhappy that I sat down and cried and said to myself, 'Oh God, the calf is dying, my mother is sick, my father is away working in Bandar Abbas, from where can I learn my lessons? When I go to school they will ask me to recite my memorized lessons, what answer will I give them? How ashamed I will be among the other children.
p.17. Jahanbakhsh Amjadian, Class 5: Criticize Yourself
Several days were left till our school opened and the children of the village went to class to learn their lessons. Every one of the children became happy when the school was mentioned and ran around this way and that. It was a summer's day. I woke up and said to my mother, 'Come and milk the cow and the sheep so I can take them out to the desert and put them to pasture and go round and about.' My mother took a bowl and came to milk the cow and sheep so I could take them out. I was just coming to the bottom of the village when I spied Hassanali with two cows and one sheep. I shouted to him and said, 'Hassanali, we should go together.' Hassanali stopped and we arrived both together at the place where they were harvesting. Hassanali said, 'Oh Jahanbakhsh, let's go and steal some of that!'
p.18. I asked, 'Who's there in the garden?' He said, 'Babar Ali'. I said, 'All right, but let's make sure no one sees us.' Hassanali said, 'Don't let these cows go anywhere until I go and bring a few quinces.' I said, 'OK, you go, then I'll go'. Hassanali set off. It only took him a couple of minutes to disappear among the plane trees and half an hour passed before he came back. I saw that he had gone pale and he was breathing quickly and he had seven or eight quinces in his shirt. I asked, 'Hassanali, why have you gone pale?' He said, 'Don't ask! Don't you know, there was a guard dog among the plane trees and when I'd picked the quinces and wanted to come back to you, it followed me.' We ate the quinces and this time I went and brought back ten quinces. As I was coming back my heart was beating in fear. I said to myself, 'If I do this ever again, may God kill me!' When I reached the side of Hassanali he was laughing at me. I started laughing too. Each of us took five of the quinces. It's some time since Hassanali went to work in town. To the memory of Hassanali! To his memory!
p.19. Jahanbakhsh Amjadian: A Letter
I hope you are well. How I wish I could see your kind face, my good friend. I send these few words as greeting. Let me write something to you about my bitter life which is full of suffering. Early in the morning when I wake up I rub my eyes then I put on my dirty shirt and I go to the yard to eat a piece of bread with a cup of tea. I take a walking stick in my calloused hands, black from being scorched by the sun. Half asleep, I go to the wilderness, and I sweat under the burning sun, and I run this way and that after the cows and sheep. Like an animal dying from the heat, I throw myself under this bush and that
p.20. and then again I stand up. Until sunset this work of mine keeps me busy. At sunset when I am driving the cows and sheep home I say to myself with great weariness, 'Oh God, when will I reach home?' When I reach home. I have more work to do; I have to go on the carpet weaving frame and sit and weave carpets. My eyes hurt, my back hurts. I'm close to dying from the terrible pain. In the evenings when I am bringing the cows and sheep back to the house, and I pass in front of the school, I look into the classroom and I remember you. I don't have any more to say. Give my greetings to your friends.
p.21. Mohammad Reza Khodamoradi, Class 3: Friday
I spent the whole of this Friday clearing away snow and if I hadn't cleared the snow off the roof, the house roof would have been ruined and there was no one who could build us a new house; my father had gone to Tehran in search of work.
This Friday when I woke up, I ate my breakfast and went to get some hay to throw to the sheep so they wouldn't stay hungry and would get full. Now that there is no pasture for them to graze on, I don't take them to the heath. Well, the sheep won't stay without hay and get hungry. We're hungry ourselves, why should they be hungry too? Now that the snow has hemmed us in all round, no one can go from this village to another village. My mother said, 'Mohammad Reza, go, the snow has buried our house. There are deep snowdrifts all around us. Go and clean the snow off the roof so that water
p.22. doesn't get inside the hayloft. You know we only have a little hay and if the snow melts inside the barn and the hayloft gets ruined, no one is going to give us hay and our sheep will die of hunger and we will have to throw them for the wolves to eat.
My mother said, 'You know that a lot of snow has fallen and we're snowed in. People say oh God, when will the wind of spring come and clean away all of this snow?
p.23. Nader Safareh - Class 4, The Life of a Sick Person
Last year my brother Adel became very sick. This happened in winter. He didn't eat anything. He had completely lost his appetite, he had a fever and he was vomiting. His whole body became hot like fire. His color turned yellow and he was dizzy. My mother cried over his head and tears streamed from her eyes and poured over her old torn jacket and she couldn't calm down. My elder sister, who was 14 years old cried over my brother's head and tears poured down from her little eyes. She cleaned her tears with an old handkerchief, which was made from other old ones. At this time my mother said, 'Nader, you had better go and call your aunt and uncle, maybe they
p.24. know what to do for him. I ran in the direction of my uncle's house and told my uncle that Adel was ill. My uncle was very upset and immediately got up. He put on his torn shoes and ran to our house. Then I went to my aunt's house and told her that Adel was ill. My aunt and her sons and daughters were all unhappy and set off in the direction of our house. When they saw our dirty and ruined walls, they climbed the stairs and entered the house and saw that my mother was crying and my uncle was trying to console her. They became even more upset and rushed to Adel's side without even removing their shoes. Adel was sleeping on a rough carpet. My uncle said, 'He's caught a cold, we'd better blow opium smoke into his mouth.' But my aunt said, 'You must take him to the doctors.' My aunt and mother lifted up Adel and dressed him in many clothes and set off. During this time heavy snow was falling and the cold wrapped itself like a snake around their necks and feet. Sometimes they fell over in all the heavy snow and Adel was in a really bad way. In short, they reached town with great difficulty and got Adel to the doctor. My mother said, 'Doctor, please for the sake of God make our son well. In exchange I will give you all the money I have.' The doctor gave several pills to my mother and gave Adel an injection. My mother and uncle gave the doctor ten tuman and returned to the house. Adel slowly got better and came outside again and started playing. My mother was over the moon with happiness.
p.25. Nader Safareh: 'In the nest a handful of feathers remained.'
A quail lived in the wilderness with his chickens. A big eagle who had a nest nearby , was the enemy of the poor quail, but he didn't know where her nest was. The chickens of the quail were so small that they couldn't find food for themselves. The quail found food for them all alone, and in the evenings she put them under her own wings because the weather was quite cold and they fell asleep. In the morning when they woke up they didn't see their mother and they knew that she had gone to get food for them to fill their little stomachs. One day the quail pulled the clover this way and that until she found the small and soft leaves of the clover to bring them for her chicks because they were so small that they couldn't eat wheat. As soon as the eagle saw her
p. 26 he flew quickly towards her. The quail who knew the eagle was coming from the sound of his wings, changed her position and hid under a bush in order to save her life. The eagle, who had lost the quail, returned and looked at the ground from the air and reached above the quail's nest. The quail's chicks thought it was their mother bringing them food and made cheeping noises. The eagle came down happily and ate up all of them and was full, and from there flew off and left. When the quail came back only a handful of feathers remained in the nest. She knew that the eagle had eaten them. She started crying and from then on life was hard for her.
p.27. Nader Safareh: Sleep
When I was asleep I had a dream that I was sitting next to a river with clear rippling water and small and big fish were playing in the water. A long snake which was stretching its stomach on the grass beside the water was making attacks on the fish and bothering them. If he caught the fish, he ate them. The fish were hiding in fright from the black snake. The snake was looking at them with its little eyes and blood was running from its eyes. He flashed his fangs at everything he saw around him. No fish dared to cross in front of him. As soon as the snake saw it couldn't do anything, it went in a corner and fell asleep. A stork came flying up and searched in the waters, but
p.28. could find nothing to eat. He was very hungry. At this time, he saw the black snake which was asleep. On his long legs, he slowly approached the snake. The snake raised his head and looked at the stork. He caught the snake with his long red beak. The snake wrapped itself around his beak. The stork carried the snake off into the air, and suddenly dropped it from a height. The black snake fell to the ground and died. The stork ate the snake. Now the fish were free of the evil black snake and swam around freely in the river and nothing harmed them any more.
I got up from there and came in the direction of the house where I suddenly woke up.
p.29. Kheirallah Asdi, Class 5: Sick Person
It was winter of last year when my younger brother became ill. For two or three days no-one knew he was ill. After three or four days when people heard of his illness, they came to our house in the village of Kazam Abad. Our house was in a terrible state and we had no money to take our brother to town to see the doctor. People came in scores to pay visits to my brother. My mother brought fire from the clay oven outside so the people wouldn't get cold. Her eyes were bloodshot and full of dust. Najmieh was an elderly lady, she was hunchbacked, and her cheeks were pockmarked. She came and sat by my brother's head in her old ripped shirt and took his pulse and said in a sorrowful voice, 'What a fever he has!' As she spoke these words she started coughing, an hour later when her cough had stopped she said, 'Go and buy 2 tuman's worth of cinnamon and bring it and boil it and give it him to drink so that he sweats
p.30. and the cold leaves his body. Later Aunt Turan came and said, 'Sorry to be late, give him rose to make his chest soft. The wife of Darvish came and said, 'With all that befalls us poor and poverty-stricken people, I don't know why those whose hands don't reach their mouths rarely become ill.' We had two or three sacks which we threw around the bed. People were sitting on top of the sacks and saying how cold the sacks were. We had only one cow and the walls and roof of the house and the beams of the house were black from smoke and the house was very dark. Ain Ali came and said, 'People say that the time comes for you to die, say prayers, you will go to hell.' Hell is even worse than this world. My wife and children have eaten so much dry bread they've become nightblind. This is not life that we are living.
It was almost sunset, people were saying, go to Char Gah village to say a prayer for him. I went with my friend Haji to Char Gah to the house of Mullah Mohammadi to say a prayer for him. He said someone had put the bad eye on this boy, give this prayer with green leaves and fix it on his left shoulder and put two or three seeds of rice and the point of a needle with the poison of the white thistle in the prayer. We came back to the house and fixed the prayer on his left shoulder, but his condition didn't get any better. My mother was forced to sell our only milking cow and take our brother to the doctor in the hope that his condition would get better.
p.31. Haji Hossein Sharifi, Class 5: Irrigation
When it is his turn to get water, Khalu Qasem doesn't sleep till morning and goes for water in bare feet. He has a heavy shovel and he can't see very well with his right eye. His face is freckled. He does the irrigation at night. One night it was very cold, he went home at sunset and brought a mattress and a quilt and a pillow, and put water on top of the tank and went to sleep. He slept a bit and then woke up. He put his shovel on his shoulder and took one or two steps and got a thorn in his foot. He became angry and said, 'a dog must shit in this life that we have, till morning we don't sleep and suffer desperation which doesn't benefit us at all'.
One time a rabbit with a huge stomach and long ears escaped from in front of his feet.
p.32. at first he thought it was a wolf, and raised his shovel to hit it, by the time he had raised his shovel, the rabbit was one farsang away from him, and he said to himself angrily, 'Rabbit and wily fox have ruined all my clover'.
He carried the water to the cart down below, then after putting it on another cart, sat down on the ground and lit up a cigarette. He stayed until the moon went down and the sky became dark. He said to himself, 'Let me go to the house and bring a light.' He unrolled his trouser legs and set off.
Khalu Qasem is a superstitious person. He came forward and came forward /amad va amad/ until his foot hit a stone and he said to himself, 'Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim- /ba khoda bekhabar begzarad/,' and he set off running from that same place until he reached his house, looking behind him in fright.
p.33 Ahmad Ali Amini, Class 5: The Life of a Sick Person
I was sick, and was in a bad state for a long time. My father said that I would get better. Our house was not in a good state. I was studying in class 2. One day our teacher asked me from in front of the class, 'Ahmad Ali, why has your face become pale? I said, 'I'm sick.' He said, 'Go home and ask your father to take you to town to see the doctor.' I picked up my books and went in the direction of the house. When my mother saw me she asked, 'Why have you come home?' I told her the teacher told me, 'Go home, you are sick.' My mother was really unhappy and said, '/nemishavad/ in this cold you will go out of the house?' In the morning the car came and my father took me to town. We went to the hospital
p.34. and the doctor examined me with a magnifying glass and asked my father, 'How many days has this child been ill?' My father said, 'Three or four days.' The doctor prescribed four injections for me which he injected into my leg muscle, and gave me a lot of pills which I had to take: 4 at lunchtime, 2 at dinnertime and 2 in the morning. Then the doctor said, ' You must take this child to Kermanshah for treatment.' My uncle got 400 tuman from Zahara and took me to Kermanshah. I felt weak in the bones. We were in Kermanshah for four or five nights. Every morning we went to the hospital and they gave me six injections and gave me a lot of pills to swallow. One Friday my mother and father came to see me. There was no hair left on my head. They were really unhappy. They sold the four remaining goats so I could get completely better. When I got better, and we returned to town, we had 5 tuman and the doctor said that every morning I had to eat fillet and liver. When we got to town we didn't even have a rial to buy a piece of bread to eat. My uncle said to his fellow travelers, 'He's wiped his poor father out.'
p.35 Ahmad Ali Amini: In the Nest a Handful of Feathers Remained.
One group of birds lived inside a nest. Every morning they went off in search of food and searched the fields for seeds until sunset. When it became dark they went back to their nest and stayed awake until it was almost morning and talked to each other. When it became morning they went off in search of their daily sustenance to fill themselves and their children. Slowly all of them fell into a deep sleep. A fox was sitting there and heard their talking. The fox didn't say a word, until all of them fell asleep. The fox got up from behind the bush where he had been sitting and went and caught one of the birds around the neck with his sharp teeth. The bird
p.36 let out such a cheeping sound when the sharp teeth of the fox bit its neck, and with the second cry of the bird, all its friends got up and started pecking at the fox. The fox attacked them and injured them, one of them which was more intelligent pecked the eye of the fox. The fox let out a great cry and fell to the ground. The birds jumped on his head and killed him and revenged their friend.
p.37 Adel Safareh, Class 3: Mother and her Hopes
My mother doesn't have a good life. It's several months since a carpet of the house of the foreman of the landlord, Naser Aqa was ripped. Every day they come in search of her from Naser's house and tell her come and weave a carpet for them. She has to get up in the morning at 5am in order to finish the work in our own house, and at 7am go to the house of the foreman and work till sunset. Then she comes back and gives hay to the goats and sheep. Now you will hear about her hopes:
We have every sadness in our hearts. Her first wish is that the people of our village do not migrate to the city and leave us all alone and she thinks this thought every day.
Her second wish is that they would not come from Naser's house looking for her,
p.38. and she could work in her own house. She hopes that her children will be intelligent and that they will have a good life. She also hopes that the house does not get ruined.
p.39 & 40 /EPILOGUE
If you pay attention to the date, it is almost 32 years ago, 6 years before the Islamic Revolution. In those days Iran was considered to be a rich oil-producing nation, but this book shows the reality of rural life. The setting of the collection of stories is the remote villages of western Iran. During that time, the poor hardworking teachers willingly devoted their lives, taking pity on the poor rural children. Life in the remote villages was a hard and unconfortable struggle and even the people who lived there for generations didn't know why they stayed.
All the classes from class one to class five were taught together. The poor teacher needed to make special arrangements for them, as they could not even speak Farsi fluently. In the remote villages, the local dialects were different and the students had a lot of difficulty with Farsi conversation. The teacher states that after three months, the students mastered the alphabet, and were even able to write beautiful compositions in the class composition lesson. It is a compilation of these stories by the village students which became the book Pushte divare barf.
This is a shameful reflection on those who governed the country in those days. The needs of students and the working conditions of teachers were not given attention. It could be argued that even today the situation is not vastly improved, when we see supposedly rich countries such as the UK sanctioning schemes which beg parents or businesses to help buy computers for schools, or where local education councils are selling off the recreation areas of schools to raise capital to keep the school going.