“Years passed and my father was released from exile. Our hearts filled with eagerness, we returned to Tehran. It was morning when we arrived and we went straight to our house. My father, silent and griefstricken, entered our home, which had been stripped of all its furnishings. He did not linger inside but made his way to the garden, moving slowly and wearily. He looked at the empty flowerbeds. Only some freshly blooming morning glories in the middle of the three concentric rings of the pool in the center of the garden remained as a sign of the past. Father gave them a glance and then, perhaps unconciously, headed for the abandoned pigeon roost out behind the greenhouse at the back of the garden.
But suddenly, a familiar and bewitching song broke the morning stillness. He stopped, listened again and then rushed toward the roost, the hesitation in his stride left behind as he shouted for Mashdi Asghar, the gardener.
He had heard correctly. The pigeons called out in the early morning air, just as of old, chortling and singing as they waited for the cage door to be opened. My father reached the cage, opened the door and was engulfed in a white flood which burst upwards into the sky.
It was the same passion, the same uproar; the same spreading Milky Way and the same impatient flight that drew at first my father’s eyes and then, it seemed, his entire spirit after it.
Mashdi Asghar the gardener finally arrived and greeted Father, who, after so many long years, embraced him heartily, kissing his cheeks. Then gesturing at the sky, he asked:
“Where did they come from?”
“After Khanum [Bahar’s wife, Sudabah] sold them and left to meet you in Esfahan, they returned every day for some time. At first, they would sit on the roof of the greenhouse, craning their necks, looking at the ground and at their nests. Once they figured out their nests were still there, they sat on the ground and would go nowhere. No one came in search of them.”
“So where did the seed come from?”
“Well, when God has put everything in its place, all we can do is take care of the details.”
That old, good-hearted gardener was as sympathetic and loyal as the birds; or, better said, they shared his kindness and devotion. While my father had been in exile, Mashdi Asghar had given up some of his own food and spent the money on seed for the pigeons.
Again my father embraced him and for a moment, they held each other tightly. Their eyes were wet with tears. My father was happy and the old gardener was overcome with a deep sense of contentment.”