When one grows up in a civil society, it’s hard to imagine the life in the countries that don’t follow a similar path. I recently chanced upon a book by Haleh Esfandiari, an Iranian woman who, being an Iranian-American academic in the US Wilson Centre, was firstly robbed and then imprisoned, while visiting her elderly mother in Iran. The book offers insight into Iran’s background, politically and socially, but also describes very vividly life under the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One can be violated in different ways, and when your freedom, your daily routine, the right to see your family or simply read, is taken away, it’s incredibly difficult to continue standing up for what you believe in and not sign fake confessions. I certainly feel better educated about Iran having read the book of this wonderfully stoic woman.
There is another book, that I am currently reading, that I want to mention. It’s written by an American male nurse, Greg Mortenson, who having failed to climb K2 in memory of his younger sister Christa, decided to build a school for the children in the village of his porter, Mouzafer, in a remote area of Pakistan.
How many of us will leave our comfortable existence behind, in order to go to a third world country and build a school? To save money, to sell one’s belongings, in order to help someone who you have never met? We take so many things for granted, we lose patience over the tiniest things but thanks to books like ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and ‘My Prison, My home’ one gains perspective and hopefully, changes for the better, offering our society something back, expecting nothing in return.
Haleh Esfandiari ‘My Prison, My Home’, Harper Press, pp.230 2009
Greg Mortenson ‘Three cups of tea’, Puffin books, pp.209 2009