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No, I Was Not Dreaming

By: Pari Mansouri

Translated from the original book of short stories in Persian:
"No, I Was Not Dreaming"

Copyright shall at all times remain vested in the Author. No part of the work shall be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the Author's express written consent.

Something very strange happened to me last night. It was so unusual that the next morning, I did not have the courage to tell my husband or my son and daughter about it. I was certain that my husband, being a rational and sensitive person, would become very worried, to the extent that he would suggest I should ask my friends to recommend a good psychiatrist. On the other hand, my son and daughter being quite carefree and relaxed, would have probably said, "Mum, have you been dreaming again? Hope it's a good Omen!"

Nevertheless, I am quite sure that I was not dreaming and need to tell someone about what happened last night. I hope you don't mind listening.


Well, I was sound asleep, when suddenly I was awakened by a tapping noise. At first I thought it might be the wind. Then, I listened more carefully, and realised that it was not. Someone was actually tapping on the window of our bedroom. I became very frightened and turned on the bedside lamp. I looked at the clock; it was one o'clock in the morning. I wanted to nudge my husband and awaken him; but I felt it was not fair to interrupt his sleep. You see, lately he has been suffering from stomach problems, and the pain does not allow him to sleep well at night.

I started to rationalise, and thought that it could not possibly be a burglar. We all know that burglars value their privacy and are not in the habit of knocking on people's windows at one o'clock in the morning to wake the household!

I was in the middle of these thoughts, when it dawned on me that it would be impossible for anyone to actually tap on our window, as our bedroom is on the second floor! Perhaps I had just imagined it; yet, the noise had not stopped, it was there continuously in the background. It left me no choice but to get up and see what was happening. I opened the window quietly, and there in the light of the moon, I saw a man of medium height wearing a pointed hat with a bell on the end, and a large golden coloured coat. He was seated in front of what appeared to be Father Christmas' sleigh. A second man dressed exactly the same, and who could have been the other one's twin, was seated in the back very close to our window.

I thought that perhaps this year our local Father Christmas has devised a new gimmick to collect money for charity. I said very politely and quietly, "I will bring you my humble contribution straight away; but I would like to point out that this is not a convenient way of collecting money for charity! "Suddenly the man by the window grabbed my hand firmly, and gestured me into the sleigh. "But why? What is this all about?" I said in protest. The man sitting in front of the sleigh and holding the reins said in an unfriendly tone, "Because his honour the benevolent Santa Claus has requested your presence!" I could not believe my own ears, and laughed with disbelief saying, "His honour, Santa Claus has requested my presence? But why? I am not even a Christian!"

The man who had grabbed my hand said in an angry tone, "Stop wasting our time. Come on, let's go!"

I could not contain my anger any longer and protested strongly saying, "Excuse me! Who do you think you are? I always believed that we were living in a democracy, in a country where you could not be summoned in the middle of the night, in such a rude and unfriendly manner. What a fool I have been!"

"You are talking too much", the man interrupted. "It is no use telling us any of this, we are only agents carrying out our orders. Any complaints or views you have should be stated in the presence of his highness, Santa Claus."

As soon as I had heard him say the word agent, I realised that it was useless to protest any longer. He was right, an agent is an agent, and his character and duty are quite clear. He does not work with common sense, and without questioning carries out what ever they order him to do. It is normal for him to be rude; it does not make any difference whether he is an agent from the Inland Revenue, the police, the prison, or even like these two men, an agent representing Santa Claus.

Reluctantly, I stepped inside the sleigh, and one of the men made room for me so that I could sit down. I then said calmly, and politely, "I am sorry, you are right. I understand your situation, but can you please tell me how long this honourable meeting will take? You see, if it is going to take a long time, I will have to awaken my husband and let him know exactly what is happening. If he wakes up and sees that I am gone, he will be very worried."

The man replied with confidence, "You need not worry about that. It will certainly not take more than an hour or two."

Well, I could not ask any more questions, and did not really know what awaited me. I did not trust what the man had said. Who can trust the word of an agent? I was agitated and burning with anxiety. You might have noticed that it was very cold last night; but I was so upset that I felt feverish. The man took no notice of my miserable condition and holding the reins, he used his whip gently on the reindeer, and the sleigh started to move towards the middle of the sky.

All of a sudden, I became very disorientated. How was it possible for this sleigh to move through the sky without an engine? I know that in fantasy and fairytales, Santa Claus' sleigh can move anywhere, whether on the ground or in the sky, just with the help of his reindeer. But, this was not fantasy, I was not dreaming. I thought to myself, 'this must be another one of those Japanese inventions. They know exactly how to adapt to marketing anything for every nation. They get their inspiration from the local customs and traditions, and then create what would appeal to that particular nation in a fashionable and modern way. After all it was the Japanese who for the first time introduced us Iranians to the rice cooker and the electric korsi 1. It stands to reason then, that these flying sleighs must be their latest lucrative invention for the Christians. It is amazing however, how they have managed to keep their appearance so close to people's fantasies. But of course under their glamorous exterior, they must be powered and move with the aid of a special engine invented by the Japanese.'

While in the middle of these thoughts, I came to realise that the two men and I had moved further and further up into the sky. We had reached a very high altitude. The moon was so large and there were so many bright stars all around us, that if it had not been for the worry of what lay ahead, I would have almost wished never to return to the ground. At the same time however, the pleasant memories of my husband and children, and the great longing to be with them again, weighed heavily on my heart, and brought me quickly back to reality.

I then tried to think what crime my family, or I may have committed to justify being summoned like this. I could not think of anything. I was certain that it could not be income tax evasion, since my husband is in the habit of paying it months in advance. None of us, not even the few friends we had managed to find in this country, had any affinity to groups involved in politics, espionage, or terrorism! I had even remembered to send all my Christian friends Christmas cards with all our best wishes. Perhaps this was now the wrong thing to do! We really can't be sure these days; there are no set rules in the world we are living in. We are also planning to have a Christmas tree this year. This must be a crime too. I had said to my daughter time and time again, "Shirin, my dear, we are not Christians; there is no reason for us to have a Christmas tree." To which she had replied every time, "But Mum, if we must sympathise, and feel the grief and sorrow of all the nations, regardless of their religion and culture, then why can't we share in their happy occasions, and feel their joy?"

Yet again I was engulfed in my own thoughts, when I suddenly realised that the sleigh was no longer in the sky. It was now on the ground and moving through a tree-lined path next to the woods. Finally it stopped in front a magnificent palace, and escorted by the two men on each side of me, I stepped inside. Having walked through a long and spacious corridor lined by more men wearing pointed hats with bells, we reached a great hall illuminated as bright as day with numerous chandeliers. At the end of this hall and sitting on a large throne adorned with golden cushions, was his highness, Santa Claus. He had rather a large built, and was wearing a white fur hat and a big red coat. I was overawed by all the glory and splendour, and by the presence of Santa Claus himself. I started to panic, not knowing what I should do or say. As soon as I came close to his throne, I started to bow continuously, just like the Japanese. I am not sure how many times I had bowed, when the two men held me and straightened me saying, "That is enough. Stand straight so that his highness, Santa Claus can speak to you."

I obeyed and stood straight, but Santa Claus did not utter a word, and with his large eyes stared at me intently. At last I found the courage to say, "Will it please your highness to inform me of the reason for summoning your unworthy servant?"

Santa Claus cleared his throat and said, "First of all, let me assure you that it is not because you have done anything wrong."

I let out a sigh of relief and thanked God in my heart. I then asked calmly and politely, "Will your highness kindly tell me the reason for summoning me in the middle of the night?"

Santa Claus replied with kindness, "I am truly sorry that I had to have you brought here at this time of the night. I am afraid I had no other choice. You see I needed your advice regarding a certain matter! Can I also ask you to be relaxed when speaking to me? I really don't like all this pomp and ceremony."

I thought I must have heard wrong. I am neither a Christian nor from one of the powerful countries of the world. How was it possible that Santa Claus with all his magnificence would want a consultation with an unworthy person like me? I said with fear and tribulation, "Your highness, who am I to be worthy of such an honour? May I be so bold as to remind you that although I come from a country where the classical literature is often enriched with respectful and awe inspiring images of Christ, the messenger of Love, I am not a Christian myself."

"That is quite alright. Don't worry; I am aware of that", replied Santa Claus. "Actually it is precisely for this reason that I want to ask your opinion. To tell you the truth, for this particular consultation to take place, I ordered a draw to be held with the names of all the non-Christians, and your name was pulled out."

I said with happiness mixed with anxiety, " What an honour! Indeed this is a sign of incredible good fortune that I have been chosen in this way. I will do my utmost to help you in every way."

Santa Claus appeared heavy-hearted as he said, "You see, I really feel that the planet Earth is no longer what it used to be. In many places, like this country, there are so many reports of poverty, crime, cruelty and violence that no one would believe that there are any true Christians left. There is no sign of compassion and kindness towards others. They all seem to be thinking of themselves. Neighbours don't care or know of each other's problems. True friendships of the past are gone and forgotten. Greed and selfishness rule people's lives. The air is so polluted and dark that the light of kindness can't shine through it. My helpers and I feel so disheartened and depressed that we have no real enthusiasm to continue with the Christmas celebrations any more.

We would like to ask you as an impartial non-Christian, if it would be justifiable for us to leave this place before the arrival of Christmas?"

My heart sank when hearing this question, and I remained silent and aghast for some time. Finally Santa Claus broke the silence saying, "Well, I am waiting for your answer?"

I replied with great sadness, "Your question seems very strange to me. It is as if you are asking, 'Is it justifiable with all the suffering and misery people endure, to take away their dreams and hopes as well?' Will this not turn every man into an empty and lifeless desert?

I come from a country where for centuries regardless of what people have suffered, they have endured the cold winter with the hope of the coming of Amu Noruz 2 who brings the warm breath of Spring. Now that events have brought me to this country where the sun hardly ever shines, how can I possibly agree to you taking away your light as well?

What crimes have all the poor innocent men, women and children committed to be deprived of their dreams? People like the eighty-year-old woman, my good Christian friend who has been told by the doctors that there is no cure for her, and this may be her last Christmas. I wished you could see how in spite of her poor health, she longs for the coming of Christmas and the chance to see her grandchildren again.

No, I can't agree to what you have asked. These people are blameless; they should not have to pay for the corruption in this world. They have not destroyed love and kindness. The cause lies elsewhere, and I am sure you know this better than myself. How can it be right to leave people in a vacuum, empty of hopes and dreams?" With this, my voice broke and I could not speak any longer.

Santa Claus seemed less upset now and with his powerful voice said to his helpers, " We will continue with the celebrations." Then like every other year, Santa Clause' helpers filled his sleigh with endless presents and tied bells to the reindeer's necks....


When returning home in the sleigh with my escorts, I noticed the path in front of the palace, then all the trees in the woods, and finally the whole city being lit by colourful lights. It was as if the flow of light had once again brought back the pulse of life to the dark streets. Even my escorts did not seem rude and unfriendly any more.


I entered our bedroom through the window and turned off the bedside lamp. Lying quietly beside my husband, I once again remembered Noruz 3, and saw in my mind the dazzling Spring sunshine on the snow-capped peaks of the Alburz Mountains 4. I could feel the zest and radiance of spring. My lungs were filled with the fresh smell of the northern mountains and the southern plains. As I lay there filled with the dreams of my homeland, I wished with all my heart that I could once again hear the happy laughter of my compatriots. I was choked with tears, my eyes felt heavy and I fell asleep.

The End

December 1988,

1- Korsi: A frame of wood which is covered all around with quilts and blankets, and under which a fire is placed for keeping a person's legs warm in Winter.
2- Amu Noruz: Literally translates "Uncle Newday". It is the title given to a mythical old man who brings with him the New year and Spring.
3- Noruz: Persian New Year.
4- Alburz Mountains: Mountain range in the north of Iran.


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