Is it a question? Is it a statement?
I don’t know.
I didn’t know what it would lead me to when I started watching the film. Set in the rocky seaside country of Iran, the film begins with a coming to age of a little girl- Hava. Nine years is all that she is. Set apart by her grandmother already from her best friend- a boy. Traditions speak in less words, more actions. Words merely cajole out the liveliness, the need of an action. Words could be soft, endearing, flowing as the smooth glacier flows when the summers run wild and loose. Words could be harsh- the sound of a typhoon starting and then gorging up everything that comes in its way. Hava’s mother, her grandmother, and Hava herself use words. Dull but endearing words devoid of any use of their faces. Only the little girl so long uncovered, unhidden in the blackness of a veil that her mother and grandmother have been cajoled or forced to wear around them. Cajoled or forced- one will never know.
Hava is to turn nine today. Her birth time, mid noon, rocks forth in her prospects of becoming a woman or continuing as she is- a young girl turning nine. Her mother teaches her a trick to know time- to hold time in her being, in her actions, in her hurriedness, in her lateness, in her every step as she takes along the sea shore, even when she sits, even when she stands, even when she watches as the sun moves along- without stopping for her. She runs out of her home, running against the wind, her scarf up and down in folds. Her veil- her new possession, a gift from her mother and grandmother. In all likeliness, a beautiful satin black veil, a shimmering piece of cloth, meaningless otherwise, unless it falls on the head of a little girl turning nine. Meaningless otherwise unless it rests on the shoulder of an old woman guarding her womanhood, her dignity, her last years. So, holding the sea-breeze in her scarf, Hava runs. Hava runs like the hava (wind) itself.
In the ticking minutes of her last hour as a girl, she checks the remaining time with the stick that she carries. Every time she checks, the sun has moved a little close to overhead, the minutes run a little too long, and the time to her womanhood, approaching sooner than she knows. And, yet she tries. She runs to her friend- Hassan.
Hassan asks her to wait for her near the shore. And, she traces her way to the shore, the scarf now and then, shifting and falling off of her head. Her tiny hands reach for it, the satin of the cloth slipping between her fingers- mellifluously. Sitting on the white sand, she waits and watches. She digs up a little hole, puts her stick once again just to reaffirm her saved girlhood. Oh! Yes. Few more minutes come to her rescue again. Her eyes follow to the outlines of the remnants of a newly-built boat. The boys working on it, send forth stolen glances aimed at her innocence, of finding some hidden treasure with her that could complete the object of their adventures- their boat and Hava’s black veil. The veil hasn’t yet recognized Hava as its owner and neither has Hava learnt what the veil would become for her in the forthcoming minutes. Alas! Freedom. She exchanges her veil for a little toy. Happiness. The blackness of her veil now the sail of the boys’ boat. Her head uncovered again- the head of a young girl.
Tired of waiting now and the stick still defiant in becoming her accomplice, Hava runs back to Hassan’s house. There by the window, she shouts her pleas. Oh! The beauty of their conversation. Oh! See them talk- a conversation warmed by the knowledge of each other for so long, a conversation that has an understanding far beyond their ages combined, a conversation that has anger, a little disappointment, and instant reconciliation. A friendship surviving on the grounds of a city alongside the seashore.
And, yet in the comfort of their friendship and the sweetness and sourness of the candies they eat, Hava checks the time allotted to her by her mother. She measures the length of the stick’s shadow in the tininess of her hands, her fingers outreaching beyond their dexterity. No matter how long it was before, no matter how short the shadow has become now, Hava eats her candies in a hurry- a hurriedness known only to her and the stick that tells her the time to her womanhood. Oh! She is okay with it. She is aware of her limited time. She is aware of the hurriedness with which her sweets disappear as they exchange the sweets between them. Hasaan and Hava. Hava and Hasaan. A little giggle. A childish whisper.
At last, her mother comes to pick her up. A black veil in her hand, she skilfully covers her daughter’s head. Her daughter, now a young woman. One hour between forgetting her daughter as a girl and learning her as a woman. The difference- a black veil.
A girl in every minute of the eleventh hour.
A woman from every minute beginning the twelfth.
Inspired by watching the film The Day I Became a Woman.