The Two Yasmins – Chapter 1
Yasmin glanced around the office where an assortment of people from a variety of cultures worked together. She liked the environment and felt quite at home here. It had been a rough ride arriving at this present position she occupied but some of the ugly memories were beginning to fade now with only the occasional bad dream waking her at night screaming much to the concern of the other young women sharing her apartment. They understood she’d come through many dangers as a refugee and were sympathetic calming her down then returning to their beds to sleep the rest of the night. Yasmin never shared her dark secrets with any of them though they’d discreetly tried to pry out of her the reasons for her night terrors. Fortunately, these night terrors were much less now as confidence in her safety increased in this country.
When people have undergone trauma, those experiences will never be forgotten, but the brain somehow has the capacity to isolate them over time, so they are relegated to the sub-conscious and a person is increasingly prevented from living in the terror of the moment. But the sub-conscious has a way of influencing the way we think and do, and it had shaped Yasmin’s views on life and trust in people.
Yasmin was a remarkably competent person and had the classic Persian beauty of her race. She’d arrived by boat, and it had been purposely sunk by the unscrupulous smugglers to force the pursuing border control craft to rescue those struggling in the water without life jackets. The boat had contained nationals from a few different nations at war in their own societies and they’d paid smugglers to get them to their targeted country destination. Only a few of them had survived that experience and Yasmin was the only member of her family to be rescued alive from the angry ocean waves. They’d been fools to try the crossing in this monsoon weather, but desperation overrules common sense when fear is the motivator to decisions.
So, Yasmin found herself without family or understanding of the language she was being questioned in to try and ascertain her country of origin seeing she had no documents. She was still terrified of that night when she was taken from her family at the point of their departure when they were unable to come up with the amount of additional money the smugglers demanded, and they passed her from one smuggler to another for their pleasure before she was returned screaming to her family next day. Her father and mother were too ashamed to talk with her, so she clung to her siblings for support for the rest of the journey. She now mistrusted any adults but had learned to negotiate with them well as it was for her survival to communicate.
The detention center for illegals contained many people from different countries and there was one family who recognized where this young child was from. They spoke to her in her language, but she refused to communicate with them. She’d noted they prayed five times a day and remembered her father being harassed by these people for following ancient Persia’s traditional religion and now they were trying to force their ideas onto her. Her family were followers of the ancient prophet Zartosht, and her family followed the religion of Mazdayasna. So, she attached herself to a Lebanese Christian family as a better option and even though the language difference was there, they were somehow able to communicate in a rudimentary way and the family protected her.
Yasmin grew up in the detention center and drank in this new language and lessons taught. In a surprisingly short time, she was able to converse in English and amazed teachers at her grasp of lessons taught. By the time she was considered of age and released from the camp with a permanent visa she was ready to experience her new world. She stayed with the Lebanese Christians for a while but when she got her first job, she left to join her present house sharing friends in an apartment of their own. She continued to study at night and over time completed her undergraduate work and was happy to receive her degree at the graduation ceremony. She was now twenty-five. But she was hungry for more and with her new qualifications sought a new job where she could grow and develop a career path. This is where she was now, and she looked around in satisfaction at what can be accomplished if you work hard.
Yasmin had been working diligently as she reviewed her life and was startled at the sudden interruption of her thoughts by the low buzz of her internal phone line. She picked up the phone.
“Good morning this is Yasmin.” She glanced at the display and saw it was the head of their corporation. She’d never spoken to him before as her communications were always with the supervisor of her team. But she knew from the internal phone directory who he was.
“Yasmin, we need to speak to you. Take the elevator up to the next floor and come to my office.”
“Yes sir, I’m coming now Sir.” Her legs turned to jelly as she hastily made her way to the foyer and pressed the up button for the next floor. She’d never been there before and was apprehensive. She reviewed her work. The supervisor had given her top grade at the annual work assessment, and she hoped there was no lapse in her work since that assessment.
Her eyes widened as she exited the elevator and saw the luxury of offices at that level with marvelous views of the city. Each office was a hive of activity, and she passed the big room where several people sat in conference. Finally at the far end she found the corporate head’s office. The secretary opened the door and ushered her into the office indicating a seat facing two people. The secretary exited the room.
The man smiled. “Thank you for coming so promptly Yasmin. Let me introduce you to my Vice President for Human Resources Ms. Yasmin Mazda. Ms. Mazda is from the Parsi community in India originally. She’s been intrigued by your name since you were first employed by us and wondered if you are from the State of Gujrat in India where she comes from?”
“No Sir. We were refugees from Iran, but I lost my family on the journey. Thank you for giving me a job in your company I’ve so enjoyed working here.”
Ms. Mazda spoke. “We are so sorry to hear of the loss of your family and I understand very well why your family decided to leave Iran. Your supervisor will be leaving us soon and he has recommended that you replace him, so we wanted to look at you and ask you a few questions.”
For the next half hour Yasmin fielded questions from the two. They investigated her plans, her academic history was reviewed, and several questions asked which probed her suitability to take on the role of a supervisor and potential for further development toward administration. Yasmin now relaxed enjoyed the interaction. When the allotted time was over the President nodded to his Vice President for Human Resources.
“You can take it from here, I’m satisfied.”
The two women exited, and Yasmin followed her namesake to her office where Ms. Mazda put her through psychological tests to determine aptitude toward team leadership and crisis management. At the end of the interview, she nodded and smiled.
“It seems a bit strange to be addressing you as Yasmin as that’s my name and even though we came from different countries we follow the same prophet. I’ll be phoning your supervisor and you should report to him now and get orientated to take over his job as soon as he leaves. That will be at the end of this month. We will now look for a suitable replacement for the work you are presently doing and hope we get someone as good as you were at that work. As the supervisor your immediate boss in this complex will be the Vice President for Corporate Affairs which includes the financial department you work for. Unfortunately, he’s travelling now but as soon as he returns, I’ll phone you and set up an appointment for both of us to see him in his office so I can introduce you to him. His name as you probably know is Ron Parmar.”
When Yasmin returned to the office complex, she went to see her supervisor, Ken Smythe. Ken had been working in this position for ten years and had been offered advancement to the top level of the company but declined as that would have involved more time away from his family and he valued family more than a career. Ken had sought employment in the town of his birth where he’d be in a more elevated position on a higher salary than he now had and where it would be possible for him to buy a home cheaper than city prices and more spacious for his growing family to enjoy. With his children now approaching higher education he needed that extra money to finance his children’s college years. He’d done his sums and it all looked like a better deal for him. He greeted Yasmin warmly as she appeared at his desk and indicated she should sit.
Yasmin tomorrow I’ll announce to the staff in our daily pre work orientation to plan for the day you’ll be taking my place at the end of the month. You have grown professionally since commencing work with us and I have every confidence you’ll not only be able to handle the team, but also disappointments that will arise when people more senior to you didn’t get considered for the job. You have a good attitude and that will see you through with your team and with your immediate boss Ron Parmar. Too bad you were unable to meet with him today, but I’ve talked to him about you, and he is clear on your appointment if the big boss and HR were comfortable with you on interview.
As Ken had indicated there were some grumbling words among some of the staff for a while but Yasmin’s expert handling of staff concerns, and personable nature soon had most staff on her side and the minority decided it would not be wise to challenge the appointment with Yasmin’s obvious support from top administration. From their experience troublemakers had been weeded out quickly by administration.
A week after her appointment Ms. Mazda asked her to come up and meet her immediate boss, Ron Parmar. She found her initial interview with him satisfying and determined to learn everything she could from him as a mentor. After the interview Ms. Mazda asked her to briefly step into her office.
“Yasmin did you know there is a Zoroastrian community in this city that meets at least once in a week, and we have our own temple for ceremonies out in the far suburbs?”
Yasmin shook her head in surprise.
“I was not aware of that.”
“I guessed you didn’t as I’ve never seen you at any of our assemblies. I’m giving you a card with address and contact details in the event you want to reconnect with the community. I think our practices would be much the same as what your family celebrated before leaving Iran. I hope to see you there.”
Yasmin made contact at the telephone number given on the card as soon as she returned to her office and made arrangements to attend the next assembly which was to be at the function room of a hotel owned by one of the Parsi community in the city. She was to learn the members of this community were high achievers and most of them were quite rich.
When the date of this meeting arrived, she made sure she was there on time. She was thrilled to be reconnecting with the religion she still remembered from her childhood before they fled Iran. She was surprised at the large group in attendance and their obvious prosperity. She was welcomed as one of them and found invitations began to reach her desk from members of their community for weekend visits. Her Farsi language had largely been lost and the Indian Gujarati language used by the majority in this community was incomprehensive to her. But the community embraced her and used English when she was around. As she got to know each member through visits to their homes she marveled at their prosperity and they high level of education they enjoyed.
She resolved to begin higher level studies at night school and shared that with Yasmin Mazda at one of these gatherings. Yasmin was surprised soon after to get a note from Human Resources Department indicating they would agree to pay the expenses of her classwork including tuition, books, and incidentals on signing a pledge to serve the company for five years beyond the completion of her master’s degree. She signed thanking administration for their consideration and began her studies seriously. However, this did have an impact on the good relationship previously shared with her apartment mates and they concluded she was becoming proud because of her job advancement and sponsored education which they had to pay for themselves. The relationships deteriorated and she shared that with her friend in HR who phoned soon after to say one of the Parsi families she knew had spare quarters which she could have for less than she was paying in her present apartment. She gratefully accepted and moved devoting all her spare time to study. At age twenty-nine she attended another graduation and received her master’s degree. HR records were updated, and notes made she was a candidate for elevation to the upper echelons of the corporation in time.
Mehran Mazda – Chapter 2
The Parsi Community always celebrated academic or professional advancement of any of their member families and Yasmin felt honored when the community celebrated her academic achievement. After dinner where speeches were made in her honor, she was approached by a young man who she estimated to be in his early thirties. He introduced himself as Mehran Mazda and indicated his mother who was watching them both from a distance. Yasmin nodded in surprise.
“I didn’t know your mother had another son. I’ve met the rest of the family, but this is the first time I’ve come to know there was another one unaccounted for.” Both laughed. Then she remembered Mehran’s picture was on the wall of the Mazda home and assumed it must have been one of the relatives she didn’t know.
“I’ve been studying in the USA for five years and have now completed my work toward a PhD in education. I’ll be returning home next year to take up a university appointment here. I believe you are originally from Iran but more recently than we. Our families have lived in India for centuries after fleeing persecution in Iran but decided to move here looking for opportunities and we’ve been citizens here for a long time now. My mother says you are very beautiful and a rising star in the corporation she does HR management for. I was wondering if you are free on Sunday to join our family for a day on the harbor in our yacht?”
Yasmin was speechless for a minute. Being invited into homes was a norm for members of this community but to receive an invitation like this was special.
“Where would this be and what should I wear?” She stammered.
“I know where you live and will pick you up. Wear shorts and shirt as we will all be casually dressed. Believe it or not it can get cold out there on the water at this time of year so you may wish to bring a light sweater. Can you be ready at 8 am? Lunch will be catered on board so don’t worry about that. I will return you home in the evening.”
Others came to congratulate Yasmin on her recent academic achievement and Mehran departed to join his family. Yasmin glanced as he returned to his family and saw his father pat him on the back and his mother smile in her direction. She felt elated at being called beautiful and kept glancing in the direction of the Mazda family. Mehran was quite handsome and obviously smart. Was it her imagination or was he also glancing in her direction from time to time? Dare this refugee girl think of having him as her life partner when his family were rich and well connected? She’d shown pluck in reaching this milestone in her career but wasn’t this an impossible dream?
As 8am approached on Sunday morning Yasmin dashed between the window overlooking the street and her mirror to check on her appearance and dress. She wanted to look beautiful for this man. Eventually the car pulled into the driveway and Yasmin dashed down the stairs but put on a nonchalant air about her as she walked slowly to the car. Mehran alighted and raced around to open the passenger door for her, and she got in demurely.
“My mother is right. You are beautiful and I’m so glad you accepted our invitation to share with our family for the day. Thank you!”
Yasmin was so full of happiness she didn’t know how to act or what to do. So, she softly replied to his conversation and trembled inside hoping she didn’t make any mistakes in what she said to turn this wonderful man away from her. Soon they reached the harbor and she gasped as she saw the size of the yacht. It was like a hotel on water. Yacht crew jumped to every command from the skipper as they called Mehran’s father and the family settled down to just enjoying scenes on the harbor as they made their circuits. Mehran inquired if Yasmin had thought to bring swimming gear and Yasmin shook her head.
“Too bad I forgot to mention that.”
His mother whispered to one of her daughters and they raced to a changing room and bought swimming gear in two sizes.
“Go change into the one you like best the young woman said.”
Yasmin was first inclined to say no until she saw the rest of the family heading for the changing rooms. She’d never worn swimming ware in her life and felt there was a taboo to wearing one, but she joined the girls and went to the room with them. She looked at herself in the mirror and was horrified to see so much of her skin showing and her curves accentuated. Mehran’s sisters came to fetch her and paused.
“You look gorgeous Yasmin. No wonder our brother was smitten with you the first time he saw you, and our mother has been urging him to capture you too.” They laughed and went outside pulling her along with them toward to yacht pool.
Mehran watched her approach and turned to his father. “Dad I think I found the girl of my dreams. None of the other girls you suggested could possibly match this one. Could you approach her parents?”
“Son her parents were killed when they fled from Iran. She is a brave girl and has clawed her way up in this world and she’d make a wonderful addition to our family. Your mom already claimed her as a daughter long ago. Perhaps you will have to convince the young lady yourself.”
Mehran got out of the pool as his sisters plunged in. He saw Yasmin had never been in a pool before as she looked scared and indicated she should move to the deck chairs toward the other end of the yacht. Yasmin was very relieved and followed gratefully sinking into the luxury of the chair. She turned.
“Thank you, Mehran, I didn’t want to make a fool of myself as I can’t swim and feel a little uncomfortable in this swimsuit as I’ve never worn anything this revealing before but guess you are used to it if your sisters wear them. I’ve never experienced this kind of luxury before and don’t want to look foolish in my inexperience.”
Mehran laughed. “Yasmin, I like you just the way you are. May I complement you on your beauty which is certainly enhanced by this bathing suit my sister loaned you. I think you should get used to wearing one because I’d like to teach you to swim starting today if you’re willing to let me do that. I’m sorry about your parents. But my parents have claimed you as their daughter and I’d like to cement that relationship by asking you directly since I can’t have my parents approach your parents at this time. Would you consider marrying me? You would find me to be considerate and caring and very family oriented.”
Yasmin stared at him. She’d not expected to be accepted by a family of this level after all she was only a refugee who clawed her way up in the world and not born to the ruling class of her country. Did she hear right. She turned to look at Mehran again and he was smiling waiting for her answer. She trembled.
“Mehran I’m just a simple girl how would people of your social standing accept me. I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, if you said yes that would make me and my family very happy indeed Yasmin so, please say yes and become part of our family through marriage.
Yasmin stared at him to judge his sincerity. “I’d love to marry you and be accepted into your family Mehran.”
“Well, the fact is you are already considered part of my family Yasmin so now you’ve made me very happy by saying yes. Please come and I’ll announce this to our family so they can share our joy.” Yasmin followed Mehran to the pool and the family watched them approach. They studied the joyful look on their son and future daughter in law and the skipper spoke.
“Congratulations and welcome into our family Yasmin. You have made us all happy by saying yes.”
Even Mehran looked surprised. “How did you know Yasmin said yes?”
“The look on your faces gave you away!”
Mother Yasmin was the first out of the pool and raced to embrace her future daughter in law wetting her thoroughly in the process, this was followed by each of the other members of the family until Yasmin’s bathing suit dripped pool water profusely. Mehran watched it all smiling happily. He took his future wife’s hand and helped her into the pool, and she clung to him in fear.
“Now for your first lesson. Mom says you are a quick learner so you should be doing laps by tomorrow.” They all laughed happily as he guided her around the perimeter of the pool until she gained confidence then supported her body at the shallow end while instructing her on the rudiments of staying afloat. There was electricity between them as she felt his strong arm supporting her and she luxuriated in his gentle touch.
One evening after the agreement to marry Mehran and Yasmin selected the engagement and wedding rings and sped back to the family residence where Mehran placed the engagement ring on her finger in the presence of family. This act cemented her feeling of acceptance and it soon became another reason for celebrating with the community.
Mehran had to return briefly to the US to complete formalities for his PhD but pled with his bride to be to message him at the end of each day so they could share their time apart in a personal way. The wedding was planned to take into account Yasmin’s time of vacation from her work and Mehran’s commencing at university. They would have a brief honeymoon in Fiji then return to their own home in the suburbs which Mehran’s parents gifted to their eldest and only son. Each would continue working but the family refunded Yasmin’s corporation for the investment they’d made in her education so that in the event of an unexpected child before her five-year commitment was made, she’d be free to devote her time to motherhood.
There was so much joy in Yasmin’s heart in acquiring a caring husband and accepting family that those latent terrors she’d had occasionally in adjusting to reality of the escape experience and loss of her parents and family never occurred again. Love conquers fears we are all acquainted with.
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