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The House of Dreams

by mana on September 3rd, 2012

Interior sitting room of the Alemi house, Courtesy of Mahvash Alemi, Copyright Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The house is a simple two story brick building in which dreams, shattered hopes and tragedies dance together. My childhood memories are of tall accomplished uncles and eloquent aunts who often visited us after they had studied abroad at the best universities, of my father’s siblings who stayed with us for long periods as he guided and protected all of them, of many story-book weddings, of my friends who were always curious about the ideas emanating out of that house.

Mom at one of the many weddings

Mom at one of the many weddings

From the MIT and Berkeley engineering magazines that fascinated me, to legal books and the works of the best Persian poets, to the people gathered there to discuss the latest political or personal issues, to the melodious piano notes struck by my oldest brother, there was the raw material to build anything you wanted. At the source were two beautiful, successful, open-minded people, mom and dad. The energy was electrifying, and the variety of characters and ideas coming through that simple door more exhilirating than the stories written in all the books resting on the shelves.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

One morning, my dad called me to come and have breakfast with him. Looking at his face in the dark kitchen, I saw a devastated man that I had never seen before. The thin but always confident and powerful man was sitting in the small kitchen asking me what I wanted for breakfast but there was nothing on the table and his eyes were full of tears. We were all alone.

My sister and my three brothers had left to study abroad and my mom had taken a leave, a long leave to sort out her own life. There was no talk about it but the emptiness I felt in his eyes was overwhelming. There in that small kitchen, I told him that I want a milkshake. He took a banana, mashed it with the fork, poured over some fresh milk, and gave me the best milkshake in the world. I told him I had never had such a delicious milkshake in my life. Soon, I realized that despite sadness, I could fulfill my wishes if my dad was there with me and if there was a will to go on. That drive, we found it in each other, as in those moments we had nobody except the two of us. Soon, all his dreams and expectations started pouring into me and his work.

Dr. Sh. Alemi

Dr. Sh. Alemi

As he climbed the ladder of the judiciary, I soon understood that he not only loves and longs for his family but also for the just treatment of every member of the community. He would work for hours writing legal articles, protecting the poor and the rich as long as they were right. He taught me lessons in hard work, honesty and integrity, always by example. With his career success, his travels began, and I remember him taking me along to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. I will never forget the day that my brothers joined us for a visit. Guided by my oldest brother, we wandered around Amsterdam and The Hague, discovering our new surroundings. Learning and questioning glued us all together.

It was obvious to me that my father was struggling to decide what would be best for me, to stay in Iran or follow my own path alone in France. Our separation was difficult but gradual. In The Hague, he would go to the court all day and I could wander around but would join him for lunch with his colleagues. He sent me to Strasbourg alone one summer to see if I could get by.

Our family had become widely scattered. My sister started her studies in October, 1968, at the faculty of architecture in Rome and soon my oldest brother followed her. My two younger brothers left to study at the University of Wisconsin. They were drawn by the progressive atmosphere of the campus at Madison, which at that time was a center of anti-Vietnam protest.

My father had a government scholarship to study at the Institut International d’Administration Publique (IIAP). This institute was just around the corner from Pantheon-Assas where later I studied Economics. My dad insisted that I go with him to the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève just so I could see what it is like to do research! While at IIAP, he forged an enduring friendship with one of the most honored French families. I continued in his footsteps furthering my own ties with the family members, who were a great source of support and help to me throughout my time in Paris.

A note from Monsieur Jean Baillou

A note from Monsieur Jean Baillou

The news of the Iranian Revolution while I was studying in France caused elation among the student body abroad. This period did not last long. While I had always received letters from my father, the communication stopped and soon I realized that his life and the lives of all of us and the whole country had changed. Those letters, which were always full of poetry as well as advice, were a pillar of support for me. I have saved them all and still draw inspiration from them today.

From his early dealings with Dr. Mosadegh to his views on legal issues, I started to see another face of my dad. Courage. While many fled the country, he housed those who were scared despite his own position in the government. He would stand tall and confident that he is a man of law and he would fight until the end. My father, a handsome, charismatic, powerful, elegant and humble man, seemed quiet to many but he was not quiet when it came to the rules of law. When he saw people behaving unjustly, his finger would shake with rage and in his contained manner he would assert the principles of law. He started writing books about those principles. He would publish articles about his views no matter what the consequences and would live to the end of his life based on his sense of right and wrong and his belief in the power of law.

Despite his achievements, his wisdom and his unique view of the world, what I remember the most is his simple quiet kindness. He was a very humble man. He had a long battle with Alzheimer’s during which my mother and his nurse took care of him. He has left us now, but has left behind my caring and accomplished mother and my four siblings whose achievements realize the dreams that my father had for us.


As I say farewell to my dad, I strive to attain the courage and will power that carried him through life in every struggle he faced. Easier said than done, but I will always be guided by his love and wisdom.

  1. This is such a touching and moving story of our father’s life. He lived a good life and achieved a lot but most of all he was loved and admired by everyone who met him. His integrity and respect for humanity was fascinating. He was a political figure in Iran larger than life and left his imprint on the judicial life of modern Iran.
    He was the symbol of the last generation of political figures who were Francophile and lived in a turbulent time of Iranian history. A time of change and innovation.

    پدرم زندگی خوب، پر از عشق، پایبند به اصول اعتقادی محکم و پرماجرایی داشت. بهترین گواه آن همین گردهمایی و پیامهای بیشمار عزیزان دیگر از اقصا نقاط عالم است. هر چند همه اندوهگین از دست دادن این یار مهربان میاشند اما همه مملو از خاطرات زیبا از زندگی با وقار این انسان والا هستند. فکر کردم در این فرصت کوتاه چندی از این پیامها را برایتان بخوانم تا شما را نیز در برگزاری این یادگارهای زندگی او شریک نمایم.

    مانا دخترش که بعلت عمل جراحی حاضر نمیباشد از کالیفرنیا

    ای یار من ای یار من ای دلبر و دیدار من
    ای محرم و غمخوار من ای دین و ای ایمان من
    خوش میروی در جان من ای درد تو درمان من
    چون میروی بی من مرو ای جان جان بی تن مرو
    هفت آسمان را بردرم واز هفت دریا بگذرم
    ای شعله تابان من هم رهزنی هم رهبری
    هم این سری هم آن سری ای نور بی پایان من
    چون میروی بی من مرو ای جان جان بی من مرو

    دکتر اکبر عالمی برادر مهربانش از انگلستان

    چند روزیست، همیار و عزیزی غمخوار، برادر، همسر، پدر و دوستی همیشگی را از دست دادیم. زندگی با منش و با وقاری داشت که با یاد آن در این روز میتوانیم اندوه خود را مرهم بگذاریم. زندگی فراموش ناشدنی، پرماجرا و سخت، با بالا و پائینهای زیاد تاریخی، اجتماعی و خصوصی، اما موفق و پرارج با درستی و اصول محکم اعتقادی. پاکی و اصالت او دوست و دشمن را شیفته کرده بود. هر چند جایش خالیست اما همیشه در دلهای ما زنده خواهد بود. بگذارید با یادی از این زندگی بزرگوارانه و با وقار اشکهای خود را با لبخندی پاک کنیم.

    احمد هوشمند دایی عزیزم از آمریکا

    خانه امیرآباد ساختمانی کوچک و دو طبقه بود اما امیر و روشن آنرا به دنیایی رویایی، پر از تفکر و انسانیت تبدیل کرده بودند. خانه ای که عروسی های مجتبی، حوا و اکبر و جشنهای بسیاری در آن برگزار میشد و درِ آن به روی هوه باز بود. خانه ای که 5 فرزند شایسته آن بزرگوار در آن بزرگ شدند و برادران و خواهرانش را نیز مامن بود. اکبر، افسر و اکرم در آنجا با شهر جدید آشنا شدند و هر روز پیش از قبل در این دنیای عشق غرق میشدند…

    فرخ برادرم از واشنگتن

    خانه امیرآباد از اولین خانه های شاخته شده در این منطقه بود و هنوز با وجود برجها و ترافیک سنگین دورادور استوار ایستاده است. خانه ای آجری که هر آجرش داستانی دارد. خانه صفا و گذشت، خانه امکانات و آرزوها، خانه موفقیتها، خلاقیتها و تفکر. رویایی که به واقعیت پیوسته بود و همه نتیجه مهر و محبت این پدر و مادر بود. او انسانی عاقل، کوشا و با هوش، همیار و همنشینی مهربان که با زندگی پاک، با پشتکار و پر از عشق همه را شیفته خود کرده بود.

    پیروز برادر کوچکم که تا 4 ساعت قبل از فوت پدرم با او بود پس از شنیدن خبر با قلبی سنگین چنین گفت

    مردانه زیست و آسوده رفت. هنگام خداحافظی رویش میدرخشید

    ماموریتهایش به اقصا نقاط ایران و سفرهایش به خارج، فرانسه و دادگاه لاهه، کوهنوردی و قصه هایش از واقعیات جهان و کتابهایش روشنگر راه ما بود و تلاش همیشگی او برای بهبود زندگی جامعه اش زبان زد همگان.
    با تشکر از دوستان و همکاران گمنام و شخصیتهای بنامی که هر کدام گوشه ای از زندگی او بودید، همچون مرحوم دکتر مصدق، دکتر صادق وزیری، دکتر نجفی، دکتر پرویزفر، دگتر فقیه، فتوحی، مروستی و یاران دبیرستانی ایرانشهر. و شما عزیزان حاضر و پوزش از صدها انسان والایی که نامشان را در این لحظه بخاطر ندارم. در خاتمه لازم است از زحمات آقای نیازی پرستار دلسوزی که همچون فرزندی از او نگهداری کرد. اما از همه مهمتر با سپاس از مادرم که در تمام طول زندگی همیار و همراه پدرم بود و در سالهای اخیر از هیچ محبتی فروگذار نبود.

  2. Lily permalink

    Very well written Mana jan. Uncle Amir was truly a great man. We all miss him dearly.

  3. Jose Bonilla permalink

    A moving story. Filial love is one of the purest kinds.

    Leon Wieseltier once wrote a book about Kaddish, the mourning process in Judaism. The son’s last duty towards his father is to say his prayers for him in the synagogue for a year, to show that his father raised an upright man. In doing so, he renders him one last service, and the ties between the departed and the living are strengthened.

    Your article seems to me a touching form of this.

  4. jeannine permalink

    There could not be a more beautiful homage to the life of a man of honor, love of law with rights for all and family. It is my regret that I was unable to meet him. Yet through Mana and Homayoun, I have a sense of his graciousness, intellectual powers and love of justice for all in their lives. What a heritage!

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