What Lies Beneath


Jan 08, 2014 | 2:55 am


Gina B. Nahai

Gina B. Nahai

This article originally appeared in the Jewish Journal. View Original.

I don’t mean to alarm the global scientific community, but I feel I have an obligation, in these nascent days of 2014, to share a potentially disturbing finding I came upon at the end of last year.

Ladies and gentlemen: Einstein was wrong.

At least one of his theories — the one about the definition of madness — is complete fallacy. I don’t know when he arrived at it, or what kind of green and gullible following he suckered into believing it or how he managed to pound it into the collective consciousness of the Western world, but I can tell you, my friends, Einstein did not know my mother.

Take, for example, the act of posing the same question to one person multiple times. Assuming you ask the same way, and that the respondent is truthful, forthcoming and not under duress, Einstein would tell you that, insignificant variations notwithstanding, you are going to get the same answer every time. Einstein would be wrong.
All my life, I’ve asked my mother about her family. Specifically, I’ve asked about HER grandparents, Peacock of Esfahan and her lady-killing, tar-playing, rich-when-all-the-other-Jews-were-poor husband, Soleyman Khan. I knew he married her when she was 9 years old and he was somewhere in his 20s; that he had been flagrantly unfaithful to her; that she had borne four children and then divorced him. What happened after that is less evident. Time and again, I asked my mother the same two questions. For the first 40 years or so, she gave the same two answers.

What did Peacock do after she left Soleyman Khan?
She worked hard and became successful, raised her children, lived well past 100.

What did Soleyman Khan do after Peacock left him?
He lost all his money, got sick and died.

Maybe it was the implausibility of arriving at such poetic justice in real life, the Hollywood ending of the ill-treated wife being rewarded for rebelling while her evil-doing husband gets his comeuppance. Or maybe it was the sparseness of the narrative. Maybe I just don’t have a life and try, instead, to live vicariously through dead people. Something, at any rate, prompted me to keep asking.

Just as His Brilliance predicted, I always got the same result.

Years went by. Every so often I’d meet a stranger who, my mother would casually announce, was related to us through Soleyman Khan. That was amusing, but it did not raise major alarm. Everyone, after all, was related to each other in the ghetto. Here and there, too, I’d catch my father uttering Soleyman Khan’s name in a story about a shooting by a jealous husband, a daily regimen of 12 raw eggs for breakfast meant to enhance virility, more than a few all-nighters of lamb kebob and arrack in the company of a harem-load of women. My father isn’t much of a raconteur; he’ll say two words where a thousand are needed.

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Written by Gina B. Nahai
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