The man hurriedly opened his black briefcase, taking out
the papers inside. He looked at them carefully, one by
one, and quietly put them back.
The woman, who had followed him to the hallway, asked
anxiously, "Were you looking for something?"
"No," he said, "I just wanted to make
sure I had the files of the two critically ill patients
with me. I brought them home to study last night."
He then put on his black coat and, with a worried
look in his dark eyes, said "So much snow! I have
to leave earlier this morning, and it's so cold! I tried
to start the car first thing, but the engineís frozen.
It is really falling apart. I called for a cab while you
were in the kitchen. Hassan Agha, as usual, was flattery
itself, but he said, ĎYou know that we are devoted to
the doctor, but this damn snow makes it impossible for
the cab to get into your road.í He is right too.
Anyway, I have to walk to the top of the road now, and
wait for the cab."
"But itís too early now. I have made
breakfast. Come and eat something before you go,"
the woman said with sympathy and kindness. "When is
Hassan Agha sending the cab?"
"Simeen, I haven't got the time to eat
anything," he said. "Don't worry; I'll eat
something as soon as I get to the hospital. The cab is
coming at 6.30. It is such a cold day and the snow is
badly frozen over. I hope you won't have any excuse for
leaving the house today."
She noticed that, as usual, he was in a world filled
with his own problems, and did not realise that to
ensure there is food on their table, she had to spend
hours in different queues everyday. She was silent, but
The man, who sensed that something was wrong, said in
a self-righteous tone, "I don't want to have to
worry about you too. Just look after yourself and
Then as he was about to leave, a little girl of about
four or five came out of one of the rooms. In her woolly
nightdress, she was like a playful white rabbit as she
hopped towards him and said, " Daddy, Daddy, wait a
minute! Don't go now! I want to ask you something."
He picked her up, embraced her, kissed her rosy
cheeks, and stroked her shiny brown hair, saying,
"Why are you up so early? Now ask your question, my
dear, because I have very little time. I have to leave
earlier this morning."
The little girl bent her head down and said sulkily,
"I donít want you to leave earlier; you're always
The man lifted her chin with his hand and looked with
kindness in her bright brown eyes, and said, "Taraneh,
look at me, my pretty little girl. I must leave early.
There are many sick and injured people waiting for me at
the hospital. Please ask your question, dear."
"When will these sick people get better, Daddy?
They are always sick!", she said sadly.
"No, Taraneh, they are not always sick my dear.
Some of them get better and leave; but there is a war;
so, every day many injured people arrive at the hospital
from the South."
"I know", she said. "I have seen them
on the television. They are always dropping bombs there,
Daddy. Will the bombs come here too?"
He held his breath in horror at the thought, and
hugged her more tightly saying, "No! No! They will
not come here. They wonít dare! But what did you
really want to ask me? Have you forgotten it?"
"I wanted to know if you had ever seen a
rainbow?" she asked hesitantly.
The question confused him. He had not expected it at
such a time. He was not even sure if he had heard her
properly. "Yes dear, of course I have seen it; but,
why do you want to know now?"
Her eyes lit up as she said, "Banafsheh was here
yesterday. She has a really pretty book with her, full
of nice pictures. It had a rainbow too Daddy. Banafsheh
told me no one has seen a rainbow."
There was a brief silence, as he put the little girl
down slowly, and kissed her again. "Banafsheh is
wrong, my dear. Everyone has seen a rainbow. Iím sure
you and Banafsheh will see it too someday. But, now I
really must go. Iím sure your mum can answer any other
questions you might have."
The man was walking carefully across the frozen ice
and snow, trying to keep his balance; but his
daughterís question seemed to linger in his mind,
haunting him. How could she know a rainbow, if not
through pictures in a book! In this polluted city of
concrete, with its sky of smoke, his own memory of a
rainbow had become like a distant mirage. His heart was
heavy with a sad longing, as he finally reached the top
of the road.
Akbar Agha, the cab driver, knew him. He quickly got
out of his cab, to open the door for him. Once they were
seated, and he was back behind the wheel, he said with
humility, "Good morning to you, Doctor! I hope you
are feeling fine today. Please have the heart to forgive
me for not picking you up at your door. Itís this
wretched ice and snow."
"Donít worry, Akbar Agha, a little walk is
good for me. Tell me, how is your stomach? Did the last
tablet I prescribed, help you at all?"
"Oh yes", said Akbar Agha, "Iím much
better. I pray that God will always keep you for us! God
knows these are troubled times, Doctor. Everyone's
suffering; itís stomach complaints and stress. I put
it down to all the worry. You have to work like a dog,
just to feed your wife and kids. Last month, my eldest
son volunteered and was sent to the front. He is only
fifteen. His mother has been crying and worrying the
whole month. Sheís restless, canít sleep. I come
home every night, dog-tired; but, I have to forget how I
feel, to give her some comfort. These last few days, she
has had a fever and the shivers. Her face is as yellow
as turmeric. I really want to try and take a day off,
Doctor, and bring her to your hospital. I donít know
what it could be. Is it malaria? Maybe it's TB? What
kind of fever could it be?"
"Please donít worry", the man said,
"Make sure you bring your wife to the hospital
tomorrow morning. I will examine her carefully. If
necessary, we will run some tests, and prescribe
something for her. Iím sure sheíll recover very
The cab moved slowly along the road. There were
chains on its tyres to stop it from slipping; but, it
was still very hard to control. Akbar Agha was managing
very well to drive the cab, talk constantly of the cruel
times, and sing the doctorís praises. Yet, the doctor
did not hear every word. He was deep in his own
thoughts. His daughterís question, and the image of
the rainbow, kept creeping back into his mind.
He realised suddenly that everything had changed; he
had changed so much himself. He remembered, years ago,
he knew what Nature was. He rarely stayed in the city
during the weekends, and with his friends, spent many
happy hours in the mountains. They used to set out at
dawn, and when the sunís first rays had gloriously
spread through the sky, they would be at the peak of
Tochal1. How sweet was the mountain
air that filled his youthful lungs; while the music of
the water and light, the birds, and life itself,
embraced his whole being.
Those were the days when he had time at least to
remember that he liked music, specially classical music.
He would often go to concerts. It was ten years ago when
he first met Simeen. He had been working as an intern in
the hospital, and Simeen was finishing her last year at
the college of music. He could recollect clearly the
night when the students of the college of music were
performing Beethovenís Sixth Symphony, and Simeen was
playing the clarinet. He fell in love with her
instantly, and a year later they were married.
He then recalled the day, all those years ago, when
together they went to the village of Demavend2;
but before they could start climbing the mountain,
suddenly, thunder and lightening shook the sky, and it
started raining heavily. Yet, it stopped as soon as it
had started, and the triumphant rays of the sun pierced
the clouds and painted the most beautiful rainbow on the
turquoise sky. They stood in awe at the wonder of it
That was the last time he saw a rainbow.
His mind then wondered to the time when he was four
years old. He was with his elder brother. They were in
the garden, and it was filled with the scent of summer
roses. They both had some colourful glass marbles, and
they were swapping them with each other, one by one.
Then, closing one eye, they held them up against the
other eye in the bright sunshine, and in those crystals
of light, they saw thousands of merging rainbows.
He was swapping the last glass marble with his
brother in his mind, when suddenly, a terrifying
explosion tore the cab from its place, embedding it in a
gaping hole in the ground. He could hear Akbar Agha
crying out twice, "Oh, Ghamareh Bani Hashem!3
Oh, Ghamareh Bani Hashem!"
Then there was silence. He tried to get up and help
him. He mustered all his strength; it was no use. A
metal rod had pierced his side, from where he could feel
the gushing of a warm liquid. His eyes were closed. He
felt extremely weak. He opened his leaden eyelids with
great difficulty. Blood slowly trickled down from his
forehead and covered his eyes and face. He struggled to
think what had happened, but he had no control over his
mind. He felt his whole existence filtering into the
depths of a black void. Then, suddenly there was a
horrific storm, and every molecule of his body was
thrown into a vast field. Through his waning eyes, as
though in a dream, he saw a crystal and bright sunshine
spread over this field. Simeen and Taraneh were by his
side, and together they could see, boys with large glass
marbles strapped to their waists. They were happy and
content and started to jump and skip through the field;
but, with every jump, a rainbow emerged. Then, the whole
field was adorned with thousands of rainbows, and the
Light and dust mingled and rose up high; so very
high, becoming one with the clouds, the sun, the moon,
and the stars. Now, everything started to fade, dim and
dimmer. The black void was engulfing him. It was as if
from a distant land, on the other side of the world, at
the beginning of time, or perhaps at the very start of
creation, he could hear the sound of the sirens; and all
was fading still ... and then, the whole universe stood
1- TochalL: One of the peaks of the Alborz
2- Village of Damavand: The village situated at
the base of Damavand, the highest peak of the Alborz
3- Ghamareh Bani Hashem: The moon of the Bani
Hashem family, the nickname of "Abbas", Imam
Hussainís brother, one of the martyrs of Karbala.