Bodbezan | Persian Handheld Fan

Some like it hot. I definitely and resolutely do not. People sometimes are surprised that I don’t like the heat. “But aren’t you from Iran? Didn’t you grow up in the desert? Isn’t it really hot there?” And the answers are yes, no, and it depends. That is, I do hail from a pishi cat-shaped controversial (to put it mildly) country with a heritage as rich as a decadent dessert; and indeed there are deserts in Iran, same as there are four deserts here in the U.S., but people (except for some nomadic tribes) do not live in the desert proper, and yours truly, moi that is, I was tenderly reared in Tehran, the capital of Iran, which is situated at the foot of the snow-capped peeks of mount Damavand. There were 4 distinct seasons: lots of snow in winter, very pretty seasons of spring and autumn, and warm summers with a fair number of hot days — but it was dry hot air which is an entirely different ballgame than humid air.

Humidity: it kills. It limpens the gait and frizzes the hair and deadens the spirit and turns an otherwise breezy joyful walk into a soggy drenched regrettable affair.

It’s summertime in New York and it’s hot! Times like this, I wonder how people managed without air conditioning. Thing is, while air conditioning is gaining a foothold as a basic human right, right up there with the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, it is still a relatively modern amenity (think post 1950s) and certainly a luxury not uniformly available to humanity across the globe, and before there were these heavenly machines that condition the air (oh, the beautiful miracle of it!) people of yore (i.e our grandparents) had to be crafty and inventive to keep cool.

Which brings me to get around talking to you about this post’s featured “gadget” — a Persian hand-held fan — that is called bodbezan. I’m a bit stumped as how to translate it. Bod means wind and bezan can mean either “that beats,” “that hits,” “that plays,” and as an imperative verb can mean: “beat it,””hit it,” “play it.” But I’m not sure how to put these together and translate it into an English name … and the ideas that I have make my inner Beavis and Butthead laugh their crude heads off. Wind maker? Make wind? Beats wind? Wind beater? Please make up a dignified translation in your head.

When I was growing up, everybody had air conditioning but people still kept a few bodbezans tucked in some closet or corner of their homes, I guess to fan oneself indolently when the mood struck or if the electricity went out. But where bodbezans really came in handy (ha! a pun!) was when grilling outdoors: to fan over the skewered kabob and get those charcoal embers going. I guess it would not be entirely implausible to advance the thesis that bodbezan is a valued if not indispensable accoutrement of an authentic Persian BBQ.

As a hand-held fan, bodbezan is nowhere as elegant as its beautiful Spanish, Chinese or Victorian counterparts. For sure I can’t picture Josephine Bonapart holding a bodbezan seductively while making smoldering glances at her next prospective lover nor can I conjure Scarlett O’Hara fanning herself with a bodbezan and saucily uttering “I do declare!” BUT, it gets the job done! And it’s kind of cute. It has charm.

And that’s really all I have to say about bodbezan except for one other thing, a small thing really. Namely, that in compliance with the FTC rules I have to disclose that this post is sponsored by Agha ‘ye Bodbodi; a manufacturer and importer of authentic Persian bodbezans.

This gentleman right here:

Ok, Ok, I was just kidding about getting paid to write this post. The fact is, I am paying Mr. Bodbodi for the use of his good name and image. Money well spent.

And there you have it. The end of a long-winded post! Sponsored by my heat stroke.

Now I’ll have to go and fan myself.

Keep Cool!

The End

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Comments (19)

  • apuginthekitchen 8 years ago Reply

    How did our forefathers get along without air conditioning, Love how you call it a basic human right, LOL Well it should be, and I’ll add that Con Ed should not charge us the extra $$$ when we have to use them, as a basic human right we should be entitled. The hand fans or bodbezan are beautiful and would come in quite handy when it’s hot but still doesn’t beat AC. Hello to Mr. Bodbadi who makes lovely hand fans!! Wonder if he has AC?

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Oh that’s such a good question! I think if he has any business sense he’ll do without. 😉

  • yvonne rafi 8 years ago Reply

    Only you… would weave your words into a delightful tale of my beloved bodbezans and paint a picture of the heat they ameliorate, with words dripping off the page.
    My introduction to bodbezans was at our roozehs. Roozehs are religious gatherings, at which the attendees cry, and mourn the passing of Imam Hussein’s son, some 1200 years earlier. They also allow women the opportunity to mourn their own losses and struggles, in its guise. As an American in Tehran, it took some getting used to. But, there were those gloriously simple bodbezans. They fluttered in direct proportion to the sadness of the woman who held it. Some “beat” so much, you’d swear the bodbazanee would levitate at any moment and fly away. I eventually figured it all out. Western civilization has psychiatry. Although, it is no foreigner to the Middle East, it’s no bodbezan and Roozeh. This was the place to come and let it all out. You cry for Imam Hussein’s tragic death and you cry for yourself. You gain strength in the company of other women, by sharing your anonymous personal sorrows among a group of friends. Your bodbezan kept you cooler in the heat of a woman filled room of venters, (emotionally not hot air-again bodbezan job)
    and its rapidity of movement signaled to those paying attention, just who might need an extra hug at the end.
    Oh, sweet little bodbezans. How many women have you comforted and rescued? Thank you, Azita Joon, for honoring them so. They richly deserve such accolades. Did you know, by a significant percentage, more women spontaneously combust, than men? Uh huh. That’s what I’m talking about. BODBEZANS, honey.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Yvonne, this was plain delightful reading enjoyment. Thank you for such a delicious comment! I have an idea inspired by this … will email you!

  • arefadib 8 years ago Reply

    Very cool post!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    I see what you did there Mehrdad! ; ) also: thank you!

  • Ross 8 years ago Reply

    These fans could be useful for Australian/Iranians/Afghans who doggedly celebrate Nowrooz not on the first day of Spring but the first day of Autumn when the Antipodean heat and humidity can be at its peak.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Wait. What? Are you saying some people celebrate the Persian new year in autumn? That makes no sense. If so, they need something stronger than a bodbezan.

  • Ross 8 years ago Reply

    They observe the date of the Western calendar, opposite equinox. I imagine that family and friends in Iran and environs might think them impolite if they haven’t heard from them at the “correct” time. We’re all upside down round these parts, and a minority in Nowrooz terms.

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    ah, yes. Gotcha.

  • adelaidefoodies 8 years ago Reply

    The fan is classic. I’ve seen so many fans like this through Asian and Australian Aboriginal history. I guess we all evolved the same way.:D

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Indeed. The human race! awesome and gruesome at once. 😀

  • radhika25 8 years ago Reply

    Hi Azita,
    I remember using something similar in my grandparents’ home during the scorching summers. Guess all cultures had a simple, green way of dealing with heat in the past.
    And reading through the comments, I realize that the Parsee community in India also celebrates Navroz (“new day”, just spelled differently). Its a national holiday!

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago Reply

    Hi Radhika,
    That’s right – the Parsee community in India. BTW, you don’t even want to know all the different spellings for “new day” … there are approximately 15-20 versions. I found out when writing my first “new day” post.
    May I say I absolutely love the linguistic info you pass on?

    radhika25 8 years ago

    India has been such a melting pot for so many millennia.
    There is so much we have in common with a multitude of cultures, that the mind boggles. You see Sanskrit in the Forbidden city, the Japanese tempura having its origins in Indian pakodas, rosewater used extensively in our desserts, Chinese fishing nets in Kerala, the Ramayana in different forms all over Malay Southeast Asia. And then there is Bali!
    The cross cultural influences have permeated so many facets of our lives- it’s difficult to say what is native and what is not.
    Don’t get me started- it’s a favourite hobby horse 🙂

    Fig & Quince 8 years ago

    It’s all fascinating. A good hobby horse you have my friend. One well worth petting! : )

  • John 7 years ago Reply

    Do you know where I can buy a bodbezan? It seems like I have to go to Iran to get one!

  • […] is my badbezan? I need to both fan myself and fan the kabob! […]

  • jasmin hejazi 3 years ago Reply

    HI! Do you know where I can buy one of these? I can’t seem to find anything when I google it and would love to get one for my dad for christmas!

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