Tarof – to preserve or to cast off?

Now, as I’m burning the midnight oil, I thought that I could delve into a lighter (but yet rather serious) side of our culture that I’ve been ruminating on a lot lately:

Few things manage to boost my self-esteem as much as the first few minutes with an Iranian guy that I’m meeting for the first time. Before I even get the chance to present myself to this potential friend, I’m overwhelmed with beautiful phrases such as ghorboonet and fadat besham;  I’m confidently called dash and agha and casually invited to their homes while they continue to embrace me with their warmth and sheer joy. But regardless of how amply the affection warms my heart, the warmth of the words does not linger for long. Leaving almost immediately, it leaves behind a void that reflects the true hollowness of the endearing, but obviously automatic lines. And it’s now becoming increasingly peculiar to me that I get to hear such wonderful things from people before they even know me – completely irrespective of who I am and what I’m saying. And it makes the whole conversation feel rather pointless since the answers always are the same – both for thee questions that I have not yet asked and the opinions that I’ve yet to share. There’s politeness in that for sure, but where’s the respect?

In my previous post I talked about breaking down the walls between us in order to both understand and be there for each other. Well, tarof, no matter how beautiful or even amusing it sometimes can be, has become one of those walls. And while I’m usually a bit cautious when it comes to innovations and challenging cultural roots, I feel that this one needs to be taken out completely. Or, at least when it comes to instances in which it’s of great importance that we meet in the middle, such as in relationships – both platonic and  romantic – and when we’re trying to make new connections.

Because tarof manages to create distance between people in such a discrete way that we scarcely are aware of it. It diminishes the value of valuable words and disables us from truly seeing the people we’re looking at. It burns bridges before they’ve even been made and make the people our blood is closest to in the entire world, to feel so very far away.

Ghorboonetoon beram va fadatoon besham, but isn’t it about time that we say these things only when we mean them?

Mahyar

2016-07-06

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One thought on “Tarof – to preserve or to cast off?

  1. As an Iranian I admit that “tarof” has lost its purpose over the years, I’m not even sure that if it had right purposes at the first place and unfortunately it has been evolving ever since, and not in a good way! I mean sometimes it gets really hard to figure out what your audience is truly thinking about, since they wouldn’t tell you the truth trying not to be rude or hurt your feelings…
    I’ve had this habit and I wasn’t aware of its ridiculousness since everybody around me were doing it too, I was considering it as an ordinary behavior same as most people around me would do, but now I’m trying to get rid of it since one of my friends ( who hasn’t been raised in Iran) made me aware that how confusing and manipulative it can be.
    People would do it to be polite, to get rid of the overwhelming feelings that telling the truth might cause, I think it is probably why it has been created and formed at the first place but I think there more reasonable ways to be polite and considering to others feeling which are not involve in lying straight to their faces!

    Liked by 1 person

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