Several friends asked me to post something about how these Shahnameh-Khani sessions started. I prepared the following text. Please read and comment so we can document the start of our sessions. Thanks!
How Shahnameh-Khani Sessions Started:
In winter of 2012-2013, while hiking in Blue Hills with Dr. Masoud Simani and Mr. Mohammad Gharooni, Mr. Gharooni kept encouraging us to start a Shahnameh-Khani group in our houses. He mentioned there were a lot of such groups in Iran and absorbed a large and mostly young audience.
I was interested in Shahnameh-Khani and I had some experience in setting up such sessions. My spouse, Dr. Marefat, had run monthly poetry nights for years and I had helped her with those. But I wasn’t sure if I had enough time and resources to dedicate to this cause.
Gharooni was persistent! He wouldn’t let go! Every couple of weeks, he brought it up again!
In July of 2013, while hiking with Dr. Simani’s hiking group at Walden Pond, I indicated I was ready to start and host the sessions at my place.
Mr. Gharooni, Dr. Simani and Mr. Mohammad Companieh mentioned they would support it. Dr. Homaee mentioned she would support it but Shahnameh was not her main field of study. We started looking for someone who could moderate and guide the sessions. We considered Dr. Mahdi Farhani Monfared, a history professor. We contacted him and he gladly accepted to help.
I mentioned my decision to start these sessions at the next meeting of the board of directors of the Grand Iranian Family (GIF). Everybody especially Ms. Jaleh Adibi (Dr. Monfared’s spouse), Dr. Syamak Moattari, and Dr. Esmaeil Mahdavi indicated their support. We decided to keep this program independent of any group so our concentration would be on Shahnameh only. It was decided to start with monthly sessions.
The first session was at my house on Sunday, July 21, 2013. Besides the people mentioned above, we invited a few people from the Molana-reading group of Dr. Homaee as well. These included Dr. and Mrs. Moulai and Dr. and Mrs. Mashayekhi. The group decided to start reading Shahnameh from the beginning.
The second session was on August 11th. We continued discussing the format of the sessions and studied a couple of pages too. The third session was on September 8th. Dr. Monfared prepared a few references that I emailed to all of the participants. These references were very helpful for our studies and we appreciated Dr. Monfared’s efforts.
Two important decisions were made in the second and third sessions. First, Dr. Homaee suggested that we study some of the stories of Shahnameh first to get familiar with the style and language of Ferdowsi and offered to provide us with some books that were the shortened versions of the stories with descriptions and meanings of words prepared by Tehran University professors. The group agreed this could be a good decision and decided to try it. We thank Dr. Homaee for that.
The second decision was to take the sessions out of my place so there would be more room for expansion.
The fourth, fifth, and sixth sessions were at the Brookhouse Function Hall on October 13th, November 10th, and December 29th, respectively. We studied the story of “Rostam va Esfandiar” in these sessions.
In order to make the communication easier and more productive, I decided to start this blog during the Christmas and New Year Holidays. This way, the references could be online and easily downloaded.
We started the seventh session with the story of “Zahhak” on January 19, 2014. Again, Dr. Monfared prepared a lot of references for this reading. We appreciate it very much.
These sessions have a class format and people can participate in reading and studying the poems if they are interested. We hope we can continue these sessions and make them as useful as possible.
I would like to thank everyone who has helped with these sessions. This is a group effort and cannot continue without the help and support of all of us.