“ Ali came from a family of carpet sellers in Mashhad, the famous Persian carpet producing area in north-east Iran. I have a silk carpet from his hometown given to me by him. In England there is a beloved short story called Ali and the Magic Carpet that is used to teach young kids English.
Ali Dastmalchian came into all our lives like a Prince from the East, riding on his magic carpet. He swept up his sweet Welsh lass from Cardiff, and rode off with her into the New World, touching down in city after city, leaving a trail of gold created by his innate goodness.
His magic carpet also took him round the world multiple times, further blessing the many whom he met on these travels. He told my wife about meeting others in detention rooms as he was inevitably picked out to be questioned as he tried to enter the United States, talking to all the other temporary detainees (some of whom could be criminals!) and passing out his business cards to each of them.
I was at the University of Saskatchewan when he was there, but our friendship had nothing to do with our jobs. We never saw each other teach, never did research together – we were just good buddies. I watched Kia and Nikisa as they grew and matured over the years under his subtle guidance.
We visited and stayed often with Ali and Ann in Victoria, meeting his wonderful mother, and marveling at how he had learnt to cook so well under her guidance. Ali, in turn, taught me how to make Koresh, and how to make a perfect Yoghurt and Saffron TahDig, with that crispy, crunchy golden crust at the bottom of a pot of steamed rice.
Ali bought me a large bag of dried limes to aid in my attempts at copying his cooking skills – I think I still have some tucked away in a cupboard somewhere. His tea towel over the shoulder while cooking, and the inevitable slugs of frozen vodka are vivid memories of our times in his kitchen.
I was amazed that he took on the task of being the Dean of Beedie after having stepped down from the same task at Gustavson, a job that he had performed for so long and so utterly well. I always nagged him to take it easy, to stop and smell the roses. But he was an insatiable workaholic, eager to fly off on his carpet to transform yet another culture for the better.
It is remarkable and awe-inspiring how in his short life he has accomplished so much and how he has influenced so very many people in so many positive ways.
Goodbye Ali. I grieve for your passing, and I share the profound pain felt by your treasured loved ones, Ann, Kia, and Nikisa. ”