Friday, April 06, 2007

Bam-e Tehran

My second trip to Iran was two weeks prior to the Iranian presidential elections. I had intended to be there for that political event, and also to participate in the pilgrimage to the Pir-e-Sabz shrine which was taking place during that period. Tehran was in a very unusual situation. Eight candidates running for the presidency had ornamented the city with their banners and messages. Interestingly enough, there was not a single word of Islam in any of them. Instead there were plenty of Iranian three color flags. Also, you could park your car anywhere you wanted, roll up you shirt sleeves a little higher, and pull back your head scarf a little more and no one would bother you!

Akbar Ganji had been let out of prison for a short while by the authorities supposedly for medical reasons but actually to reveal things about one of the front runners, Rafsanjani, and so discredit him. Instead, not even checking in with a single doctor, he issued a manifesto and condemned the entire establishment and the ruling clerics. As a result was taken back to the prison. He then went on hunger strike just a week before the elections. Reformists, supporting him while boycotting the election, gathered every night and day in front of Evin prison

Mobilization in Iran for Akbar Ganji

but my brother objected. He was afraid I might get into trouble, that being American citizen and marring to a Jew could cause me a real headache if arrested in the wrong place. With Mansoureh and Farah, another old friend, we left, promising not to go to Evin.

We went for dinner to an Indian restaurant. As expected, it was the best Indian food I ever had, and then we drove further

Mansoureh Shojai

north. Tehran had changed drastically from what I remembered; and so it was Mansoureh who knew where she was going and occasionally asking Farah if she should go this way or that way and Farah would say it does not matter. (That was her general attitude, nothing mattered to her ever.) We finally decided that we were lost. (In Tehran using the road map is not that popular yet. That is why the taxi drivers need to have a very high IQ, which they all seem to have, in addition to their Masters Degrees and being such a good companions.) After passing through various narrow mountain roads, we finally came in front of a walled complex with some two hundred people standing there in groups eating fresh walnuts, fresh almonds, and barbequed corn cobs, customary Iranian snacks. I looked at Mansoureh, who had promised my brother not to go to the prison, and she shrugged, saying “I did not promise not to get lost!”

Everybody was there: Noushins, Shirins, Azadehs, Royas, Farhads, Alis, and Payams. We talked about the elections, about the reformist candidates, about the uselessness of voting, about the usefulness of boycotting, about how the government’s legitimacy would shatter if the people did not vote, about whether or not the this government’s legitimacy indeed had come from the people’s vote, about the reformists’ ineptitude which was being used by the reformists voters like a hammer to bang on the heads of the reformists’ candidate. Behind the wall of that complex, Ganji was ill, on hunger strike; the crowed outside the wall was to support and help him. I think those daily gatherings helped. Thanks to the Iranian journalists who kept him on the front page, he is out and alive.

It was almost 2 am. We got back to our car. Farah was very tired, but not us. I just wanted to tell Mansoureh about the death of Mercutio, the little dog I had for fourteen years. She suffered two heart failures and finally died of low blood pressure. I still miss her and wanted to tell my friend exactly what happened. I wanted to tell her story to Mansoureh under the moonlight, and it was her idea that we should walk with the moon behind us while I narrate the story so that when we return, the moon would be in our face so that we could see Mercutio’s face reflected in it. We drove to the nearby parking spot under some steps leading to a flat area called “Bam-e Tehran” (“Roof of Tehran”) on the mountain overlooking the city. Farah

Bam-e Tehran

decided to sleep in the car and we left. We walked up to the observatory terrace overlooking the city, which was shining under our feet like a giant piece of jewelry. And behind us was a the rocky body of the Alborz Mountains. The moon was above us like a majestic deity; my beloved dog is housed in it until we all join her in heaven.

I told Mansoureh all about the dog’s suffering and the pain she went through; and the care and all the nourishment I gave her, and the last few days, and finally the painful loss. I cried and she cried with me. When we returned, the moon was in our face, shining. I heard a barking, and then again, I thought I am imagining. I was not. A little further on, a few people where walking and a little dog was running around and barking. This is not a usual scene in Iran. People do not take their dogs to public places. And here at 3 am in an isolated area a little dog, from distance like Mercutio, sounded like magic. We went to them I picked up the dog and gave it a kiss and hug, and returned to our car. We woke Farah and drove back. It was only then that I noticed how fortunate I am to have friends like Mansoureh and Farah to be with me, listening to the trivial tale of my dog’s death with such sensitivity while each one of them was fighting for such vital matters in their life, one with the political upheavals and the other with a life-threatening disease. It was then that I noticed that under no condition would I have dared to walk in Central Park, in New York City, unarmed, at 3am.

Next week I’m going to Tehran for my third trip. With deep sorrow I have to face certain pains for which I am not prepared. My dear friend Farah died last month due to an illness she was suffering from. She was old friend and very exceptional. I’ll miss her.

In addition, after some 25 years, I think it is finally time that I face the loss of my mother, something that I could not bring myself to face on my last two trips back home. This time it is unavoidable. April 27 is her anniversary and is the last day of my stay in Iran.

It is now that I realize that that night on “Bam-e Tehran” under the moonlight it was my mother who was shining on my face and smiling and welcoming me back home and with her usual warmth and love, and forgave me for not accepting her untimely departure, as if it was her choice.

No comments: