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The richest fruit
They cared so much about what other people thought about them

By Azin Arefi
June 14, 2002
The Iranian

There was one. There wasn't one. Besides God, there were none. Once there was a husband and wife living in Old Tehran, who liked to pretend that they were more than they really were. They cared so much about what other people thought about them, as if opinions are bread and water and can feed you in times of hunger.

One day the wife decided to go to the bazaar. She wrapped her best chador around herself, put her dinars in the small purse she tied around her neck, picked up her red basket and went to the bazaar.

The bazaar was crowded and noisy, full of people selling and people buying. Each tiny shop on either side of the bazaar offered its specialties. Anything could be found there, from the life of a human to a chicken's milk.

The carpet seller had his beautiful Persian rugs hanging all around him, the textile vender was engulfed in his colorful fabrics. The confectioner was surrounded by his sweet rolls and pastries, baklavas, rice-and-saffron pudding. The butcher showed off his fresh red meat hanging from the hooks. When passing by the dry grocers one could smell all the spices, cumin and saffron, dried mint and basil. There were heaps of dry fruits and nuts, raisins, dates, shelled pistachios, almonds, roasted watermelon seeds, as well as dried plums and apricots. At the grocers all kinds of condiments were for sale, pickled cucumbers and cauliflowers and eggplants, pitted and green olives, fetta cheese and yogurt.

Men and women bartered with the venders as children ran around and bought sour delights for themselves. The wife walked around the bazaar carrying her empty basket and wondered what she could buy. She wanted to buy something expensive, but the purse around her neck told her she couldn't buy something too expensive. As she passed the fruit seller he invited her over to come and look at his fresh fruits and vegetables. "Khanoom," he said "just look at these oranges, just look. Ripe and juicy, from my own yard."

Oranges seemed too plain to the wife. "No thank you."

"Wait," he insisted. "How about some herbs? I have all kinds of parsley and chives and just smell my basil. You won't find like it anywhere else, khanoom." The wife walked up to the boxes of fruit. The seller had lots of apples and oranges, baby cucumbers, quince, persimmons, all perfectly ripe and shiny. But she could not decide. "I will give you something you won't be able to refuse" the vender said and reached behind the boxes and brought out a large melon. "These are the first of the season, sweet and juicy. I don't have too many but I will sell you one. You won't be disappointed." The woman thought about the melon. It looked like an elongated egg and had green lines on it.

"How much?"

"Pfah, as if you can put a price on a taste of heaven!" the man said. "But for you, khanoom, take it for thirty dinars."

"Thirty dinars?!"

"It is the most expensive fruit I have, but worth it. Sweet as honey this one is."

When the wife realized it was the most expensive fruit at the store she parted with the dinars around her neck and bought the melon. She walked home happy and proud, carrying the heavy melon in her basket. As soon as she got home she showed it to her husband and told him that it was the most expensive fruit at the fruit stand and not many people could afford it. Her husband was happy and proud. "Wife, did you walk home slowly and take the busy way so that many people could see the fruit in your basket?"

"Yes, husband. I made sure every good Muslim that passed by me saw my exotic fruit."

"Good, good. Now come, let us cut it up and eat it as soon as we can so we can leave the rinds in front of our house and the neighbors can tell that we ate melon so they think we are rich!"

"Yes, we shall." The wife fetched a tray and her big butcher knife from the kitchen. She put the heavy melon on the tray and cut all the way around the melon. The juice poured out onto the tray and the sweet smell filled the air. "Mmm, wife, it looks like a very ripe and juicy fruit."

"That is what the vender promised. He looked like an honest Muslim."

The wife scooped out the slimy seeds in the belly of the melon. She cut it again down the middle.

As soon as she put her knife to the meat, ready to cut, her husband said "Wife,"

"Yes, husband?"

"I have an idea. When you cut the melon you should cut it a whole two centimeters above the rind so that when we leave the rinds outside the neighbors will think that we are so rich and eat melons all the time so that we don't need to eat it all the way to the bottom."

"Oh, praise to Allah, what a great idea, husband!"

So the wife cut the fruit well above the rind and served portions to her husband and herself. The melon was ripe and sweet, and its sweet juice dripped from their mouths and hands as they ate.

"Ah, wife," the husband said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, "it has been a long time since I had a melon like that. May Allah bless the father of that fruit vender that sold you such a fruit."

"Yes, that was wonderful. Our neighbors will be so jealous when they see the rinds!"

The husband looked at the leftovers for a minute and said, "Wife, I have another idea."

"What is it husband?"

"Let us chew on the meat that we left and leave teethmarks then leave the rinds outside so that our neighbors will think we are so rich that we have servants who have chewed on the meat that we ourselves did not eat."

"Oh, I swear by Allah, a good idea, husband."

So they took up the rinds and chewed away at the rest of the fruit, splashing and spraying, down to the rind, and left teeth marks.

"There," the husband said. "Now it looks like we have ravenous servants!"

"The neighbors will be so jealous of our melons and servants!" the wife exclaimed. Then she started looking at the seeds of the melon she had put aside to throw away with the rind and said, "Husband, why don't we eat the seeds of the melon so that when we leave just the rinds out, our neighbors will think that we are so rich that we have chickens in the backyard and so we fed them the seeds of the melon."

"Ah, praise to Allah for the way your mind works! That is exactly what we should do and that is exactly what they will think."

So they chewed and swallowed all the slippery seeds of the melon. Only the rinds were left.

"The neighbors will be so jealous of our melon and servants and chickens!"

The two sat and looked at the rinds and then the husband said, "Wife, I just had another good idea. We should eat the actual rinds as well so that our neighbors will think we are so rich that we have mules and donkeys and we fed them the rinds of our melon!"

"Oh, Allah bless your brain! You are such a clever man, husband!"

So they sat down and ate all the rinds, so that all their neighbors would think that they were so rich that they ate melons all the time and could cut their melons above the rind, and had servants who chewed on the rest and had chickens that ate the seeds and had mules and donkeys who ate the rinds.
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Azin Arefi

By Azin Arefi

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