8:08pm Monday 20th February 2012
By Patricia Drgonova
Uni student, Patricia Drgonova, introduces another Hatfield community star: Are you kidding? A girl from Tehran, a strictly Islamic country, so far away from home, without being able to walk. I automatically remember a time when I had broken my leg and my mother had to take care of me. She helped me with everything which was extremely frustrating, from going to school, to even showering, but Marjan Kalanaki lives on Collage Lane campus alone.
She agrees to let me interview her so I made my way to her university accommodation. She tried to open a door on her room, but she had difficulty getting in because of litter outside; and a plastic cup had snagged the wheels of her wheelchair. “Is this mess made by your flatmates,” I asked her, but she just smiled and replied, “They are young; alcohol is something new and special for them. They are having fun; I used to be like they are.”
Soon Marjan asks me to join her outside. “I like it when the weather is nice like today. I enjoy having an occasional cigarette with a cup of tea” she said, looking up at the clear blue sky. But this surprised me as I thought Islamic girls were not allowed to smoke – or drink - because of their religion. She smiled again when I mentioned this and explained that, in Tehran, modern people do drink and smoke, and they also believe in God, but in a less fundamental way. That is why she likes England, because she does not have to wear a head scarf and can express herself more individually.
Before the accident that confined her to a wheelchair, 3 years ago, she had a boyfriend, drank alcohol, and went to many parties. “I did not respect my family much, you know. I was young and I wanted to live have fun with my friends and dance the night away.”
If there was a doctor she could probably walk “The accident happened on 13th of April 2008 during the period of celebrating New Year in my country” Marjan explained, “ I was sitting on a window sill in my flat and I slipped and fell. My mother was also in the flat and she came immediately when she heard the noise. She knew she should not move me, so as to not damage me further, so she called an ambulance and waited” But Marjan's spine had been damaged. Unfortunately she had to wait 12 hours for a specialist to see her. But, due to the festive season, no specialist could be found in time to perform an emergency operation. “If I did not have to wait that long I would be able to walk right now, “she says.
Cruel destiny sometimes plays games with us. We never know how and when something can happen, what might totally change our life and that moment of carelessness or decision can change our views and ideals.
Lesson from heaven During physiotherapy treatment, Marjan became depressed doing the physical exercises, but she came to believe that her accident was, as she says, “A lesson from heaven. Sometimes life brings bad things to you, but sometimes you can find a deeper meaning in it.” She 'discovered' that the brain was a miracle and . its capabilities were amazing – and something that cannot be discovered by drinking. It is also incredible to see how studying at the University of Hertfordshire gives Marjan the energy to live, and how it has altered her attitudes and views.
She wishes that she had better appreciated her body before the accident, and would have spent more time being active because she did not realize how important fitness was until she lost it.
The Dream She believes that the cure for her condition will be found one day and hopes she will be able to dance again, but she has not lost her love of music and is now passionately studying sound design technology. Her dream for the future is to have a career in America. Marjan considers her biggest challenge was to come to university. And it was a difficult task, overcoming the many barriers, just to be here. But she is determined to make sense of her life, to face the challenges of destiny and find a new version of herself. She seems to have won the inner battle, and now she is ready to follow her dream.
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