Leaving Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979, setting up his dental practice from scratch in London, getting his mother out of prison – just a few of the events Fari has faced. What is the value of a life of challenges? Read on.
A Life of Challenges
Fari Safinia, San Francisco
My life of almost 85 years has been full of challenges from the very early days. Born and raised in Iran till the age of 17, I was then sent to London for my higher education. But with little knowledge of English, I was thrown in at the deep end. My father had always wanted me to become a doctor and study in England.
It was not easy to get into medical school as a foreign student so I was instead offered a place to study dentistry at the University of Durham. After graduation and specialization at the Royal College of Surgeons, I settled into an academic post as an Oral Surgeon. In the meantime, on a visit to Tehran, I met Mariam; we fell in love, married and returned to England.
During one of the Shah’s visits to London, practicing doctors were invited to meet him at the Iranian Embassy. After a short introductory talk, the Shah invited us all to return to Iran as we were needed there. I discussed this with Mariam, and we made the decision to return home. Our first child had just been born.
We move to Iran – life is good!
Starting in Tehran was a challenge. With UK training, I knew no one in my profession in Tehran. The law required all doctors who had not served their military service to do so – before being allowed to practise. So I duly signed up for military service, aged 32!
The newly established National University had no Dental school. Once my military service was over, we began to establish a new Dental School. I was responsible for overseeing the architectural plans, purchase and installation of equipment as well as recruiting staff. Life was very good and our second daughter was born.
Until . . . 1979 – revolution!
We enjoyed an active social and professional life with excellent prospects – until the Iranian revolution happened early in 1979. Overnight, our life was upended.
During the months leading to the revolution, life had become very difficult. There was unrest and huge demonstrations by the supporters of Khomeini in all major cities. Confrontation between police and the demonstrators led to many deaths in the streets.
There was rationing of food essentials like milk, eggs and meat. Petrol was not available unless you waited many hours in line at a pump and even then could only get 20 liters. There was constant power outage.
Starting all over again – life challenges in dark days
With the education of our two young daughters in mind, we made the difficult decision to leave our life in Iran and return to London. At the age of 45, I had been at the crest of professional success in Iran. Now I had to look for a job and try to establish a practice all over again. We had limited funds but at least I had the license to practice and the future appeared hopeful.
Troubles back home were of great concern. My mother was arrested and imprisoned on the charge of having been a member of parliament during the Shah’s regime. My two younger brothers were in Tehran trying to get her released from prison so she could join us in London. Sadly, it took several years before this became a reality. In the meantime, our house and other assets were confiscated in Iran.
I decided to go back to Tehran and fight in the Revolutionary courts to get back what was ours. This was not easy whilst I was running a full-time practice in London! All this put a great strain on our marriage and we eventually separated. Those were the darkest days for our family and my health began to suffer under the strain. The challenges were overwhelming.
During our separation Mariam had come across an ad and started to attend philosophy courses at the School. She later told me this was what she had been searching for all her life. By this time, our daughter Leila was attending university at Berkeley.
Back in London, Mariam and I continued our separate lives. Then one night around 2 a.m., a distraught Leila in California called me, to say her mother had been diagnosed with cancer.
The following day I went to see Mariam and from then on, took over her care. We realized that we were truly in love and should get back together. Having Mariam back with me was wonderful although the worry about her health was always in the back of our minds. In the meantime, she was continuing with her classes at the Philosophy School and tried to encourage me to also attend.
My response was, ‘You may need this philosophy, but I am Ok and have no need for it.’ Amazing Ego.!! However, the gradual change in her behavior, the way she talked about others, her acceptance of things and her inner peace did not escape my notice.
Moving to USA – different challenges
When I was almost 70, we felt perhaps the time had come for us to retire from our working lives and move closer to our two daughters – both married by now and living in California. We also had a beautiful four-year old grandson. Mariam says it was the love of a much younger man that brought us to California in 2004!
Worried about losing access to the School, Mariam discussed her concern with Mr. Lambie, and in due course she was invited to start a branch of the School in California. A formidable task; more challenges! True to her nature, she rose to the challenge. Even before we had fully settled in our new life, with the help of a new friend and word of mouth, she offered the first Practical Philosophy class in San Francisco. Soon there were classes in three other cities in the Bay Area. Not long after, she was driving over 350 miles each week to tutor four groups in four different cities!
It was no easy task, and she soon became worn out by all the driving. As I had nothing important to do, I offered to drive her the 50 miles to her Palo Alto class one day. Once there, I thought waiting in the car for two and a half hours was silly, and joined her Introductory class.
Joining the School
That first session was the beginning of a major transformation in my life. I was mesmerized by the material and I had to admit how foolish I was not to have participated before, in spite of all Mariam’s encouragements. Pretty soon, I was driving her everywhere and attending six different classes a week! My progress was rapid and I was soon introduced to meditation. After a couple of years, I began tutoring. My only regret was that I had missed all those years when I could have been attending.
The School’s teaching has been of amazing benefit to me. I have become a kinder and more forgiving person and the ego no longer rules. Finding inner peace, I can accept whatever life has to offer. I will be celebrating my 85thbirthday very soon. With perspective, I can say that a life of challenges has made me stronger and wiser.
Now visit the School of Philosophy in San Francisco.