A pink taxi

A pink taxi

December 12, 2010

The Title of Dai

"Dai" is the title given to maternal uncles in Iran. My mom happens to be eldest child in a family of 10 children, four of which are boys. I was lucky to be her eldest daughter, and so it happened that my uncles were at most only 15 years older than me. They were basically like older brothers.

I have been very fortunate to have four Dais. They did a very good job as representatives of the Mehra culture, a hybrid of Iranian and American norms. This family culture combines  Eastern values and casualness from the new continent.

I can speak for all my cousins and siblings, having frequently exchanged notes on the matter, when I say that each of our Dais are unique in their own ways. They have a common base and attitude towards us, but each one gave of his own to us.

One thing they all have in common is that they have been amazing role models to their many nieces and nephews. They are nature lovers at heart and fearless atheletes. They are spontaneous and charming and the Iranian/Irish/French mixture made for very handsome men.

The first uncle is the most reliable one, as well as the  most intellectual. He speaks many languages,  is an avid reader,and enjoys good movies. He is the one who had the patience to proof read my college essays. He is also very athletic and has taken us dune bashing frequently. He drives an old Toyota Land Cruiser with a hatch back and throws us all in for the ride of our dreams.

The second uncle is the most relaxed and easy going one. His tempo can be compared to a UB40 tune. He is the most nature loving. He chooses any sport and excels in it. He is also the most sentimental  and emotional of the four.

The third is cool in every sense of the word, although he is known to be hot tempered at times. He's a great dancer and was the one to take me night clubbing for the first time. He also was the one to introduce me to Madonna. He is an attentive uncle, who used to demonstrate to us us how to walk sideways down a mountain, and how to climb one without falling down.

The fourth uncle was the closest in age to me, only seven years my senior. He had an ear for music (Depeche Mode and the Cure), and an alternative taste for life, one he filled with humor and fun. He was also artistic and knew how to draw the best car designs from an early age. He  also used to enjoy playing practical jokes on everyone.

My children have two Dais. When they bestow that title on my two brothers it is in that Mehra tradition, where Dais are fun, informal and caring. They should have been called Khalo since they are Lebanese, but Dai suits them much better, because I know they make the effort to perpetuate that relationship they themselves had with their maternal uncles.

A third Dai joined the family almost a decade ago. He has nothing Iranian to him, neither language nor origin, but his parents did study and meet in Iran! The title was given to him because Amou, in Arabic, just sounds too stern, for an equally loving, casual and giving man.

I will try hard to evoke what makes my brothers and brother-in-law so special as Dais. They are not as different from one another as our own uncles were. Their approach to their nephews and niece are very similar because they have grasped the essence of what it takes to be a Dai. They are casual, loving, very hands on. They are involved, interested and they put the effort. They are always there: births, birthdays, beach and desert outings, swimming pool sessions. They sit into study time, sometimes even conduct the tutorial. When they are with the kids they come down to their level, play and indulge them with toys.

I myself  have two boys and I am certain, that despite their now small amount of Iranian blood pulsing through their veins, their nephews and nieces will still call them Dai, a term of endearment and respect, that has been coined after the lovely Dais that I have and those that came in their image.


  1. When I commented on the "Number 3" entry couple of days ago,I mentioned that it will be more difficult to comment on the male side of that family;and here I am faced with the Daii posting,that in my opinion is more in depth and successful than the Khales posting!
    The boys started arriving after the 5th girl.In any other family,the trial and error would have stopped after the arrival of the third girl!I guess the arrival of the first boy made such an important impact that he was called Prince in Persian but added two more middle names similar to Prince Charles who has 8 middle names!He was 12 when I first met him,a typical American boy in Tehran,baseball,girlfriend and all.Yet he was always too responsible,too rigid in his opinion,too honest in his dealings,bordering on puritanism.
    The second Daii,at the age of 10 was ash blond,bedroom eyes,with a calm easygoing character,with a soothing manner of talking to people of all ages.My mother was charmed by him,and so were most of the females that knew him.
    The third Daii,a split from a girl twin,was special in his own way.He was too set in his ways even at the age of 8.He was dubbed a mountain goat by an old American lady who was a family friend.He loved the wilderness and anything to do with animals.In a way he was wild himself,in that he used to loose his temper easily.Now that he is married and tamed,he has a great sense of humour,became very serene,and takes life as it comes,the Californian way.
    The fourth and last Daii was the baby of the family,talented,sensitive with large saucer eyes.As the last child,he was pampered by the parents and the members of the clan,and could have had a big future in industrial design.His early loss was a shock to the family,especially the younger generation who knew him very well.

  2. Being a Dai is very special indeed. I considered my nephews and niece like my own children. They relax me. I truly enjoy the time I spend with them. They are each unique in their own way. I'm very lucky to have 3 live in the same building as me and 1 who lives down the street. I always miss my nephews in NY. But we make up for it during the holidays. I can't wait to welcome my new nephew in February inshallah.

  3. I am commenting on this blog because these Dais happen to be my brothers; they are very special in their own way and very precious because we waited so long for them! I was already married and no longer at home when my brothers were going through puberty and developing their individual characters. This is the greatest loss for me because I was not there to be part of it and it has been lost to me forever. Somehow, throughout the years I strived to retrieve an essence of this loss but it was almost impossible since the ups and downs of life always prevented me from being in the same place, even the same continent, as they. The love and caring and great sense of responsibility towards them was always there but I lost the closeness I share with my sisters. I know if we lived in the same vicinity, I would have developed the same closeness my three other sisters have. I am so happy that our blogger has such fond memories of growing up under the watchful eye of two of her Dais and has great memories of the other two having a wonderful influence in her life. This is also where my children missed out not having their Dies around them as they were growing up, except for the youngest of whom they have very, very fond memories. I still wish for the days that we can spend quality time together where I can love and appreciate you brothers for yourselves and perhaps capture some of the precious time we missed as children.