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Shahin & Sepehr

Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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March 31, 1999
The Iranian

Part V


May 1979

Malek had now moved into the residences that surrounded the grounds of the Rostam Palace. Home of the Peacock Throne. He had been put in charge of investigating the many allegations that were now being brought forth to the council allegating acts of corruption and wrongdoing. People were being brought in daily as their past affiliations were traced and anyone who had had anything to do with anyone in the Shah's regime was called forward to explain.

One Friday afternoon as Babak walked through his house looking for something to do, he noticed a commotion outside in the street. He walked over to the kitchen and looked out onto the street and saw several men carrying rifles and Uzi machine guns walking down the sidewalk. Babak followed them through the window and moved into the hall and made his way past the front doorway to go towards his parents' bedroom window to continue his observation. But they hadn't continued down the sidewalk as Babak had expected. As he walked back into the hall the front door burst open with a loud boom! In poured all the armed men.

"Put your hands in the air," one of the men barked. Babak frozen in horror immediately complied. They ran into the house and pushed him against the wall and patted him for weapons. By this time Babak's father came out of the TV room and the men immediately turned him around and shoved him into the kitchen.

"Where is Bagher Tabrizi?" they ordered. Bagher Tabrizi was Babak's father's uncle from the province. He had owned a large commercial farm and had become a wealthy man producing food for export. He had been showcased to the Shah many times as a model industrial farmer and had received several grants and projects with U.S. universities testing new agricultural techniques and drought resistant hybrid plants. A very educated man, he was self-taught in five languages and came to visit often to speak with Babak's French mother. He had visited Babak's home just three days ago on one of his visits to Tehran. No one knew where he had gone after his visit. Finding this hard to believe, the guardsmen turned to Babak and his mother and almost routinely said they would be taking Babak's father in for questioning.

Babak did not protest, even though he knew inside he would not see his father again, just like the kids in school. But his mother had a worried look on her face and Babak had to reassure her for now.

All the next day Babak was unable to concentrate on school. Now people looked at him as he had at the others. Now he knew how it felt not knowing. Finally at noon he called his cousin who had a car to come and pick him up. His cousin told him that they wanted to speak with him anyway and they had been looking for Babak all day and asked him to take him in for questioning. Babak cringed in horror and thought that this was it, this was when they would hand him his father's body and everything would end. He sat silently in his cousin's car as they made their way slowly through the impossible Tehran traffic towards the south of the city.

He was in a trance when his cousin finally stopped the car and turned to Babak and said,"Well, we're here."

"Huh?" Babak suddenly awoke from his other place and stumbled out of the car. They made their way past several armed guardsmen through the large gates of the former palace to a main office area. They had converted the large entry ways of the palace into administrative rooms full of phones and typewriters. people with beards in suits without ties but collars buttoned up, now the trademark of a revolutionary, moved urgently in and out of the rooms. Babak was asked to have a seat in front of one of the desks. Babak asked to see his father, and one of the men gruffly said, "You'll see him soon enough."

This had the desired effect and Babak promptly sat down. After an hour of waiting, a man walked by the table where Babak sat and said, "It won't be much longer." and left the room. Another hour passed. Babak began to think that this was part of a plan to break his will, although he couldn't imagine what will they were worried about, he knew nothing. So he played along. Could it be any worse? If they had already executed his father there wasn't much more anyone could do to hurt him.

Finally a man came up to Babak and asked him to come with him and they left the room. They walked through the grounds and Babak remembered how normal everything looked, a sharp contrast to the opulence it had before when the Shah was in power, when only guided tours were allowed and everything was kept up meticulously. They walked past the Peacock Throne almost as if it never mattered, and Babak was amazed at how close he was to it. They almost brushed past it as they walked through the open-air room where the throne had sat for hundreds of years.

Finally they entered an ante-room off the side of a main courtyard on the grounds. There was an office set up much like the waiting room he had sat in for three hours. He was shown the seat in front of the desk and asked to sit.

"Here we go again," he thought as he sat down expecting to be put through the now thinly transparent tactic once again. But about 10 minutes later the door opened and in walked a molla. He was young and as he moved quickly into the room Babak caught a glimpse of the hand gun tucked into his sash under the light brown abaa. As he wheeled around the other side of the table and sat down, they both looked up and froze, eyes wide open. It was Malek!

"Is it you?" Babak exclaimed. He couldn't believe what he saw. Malek's eyes glistened as he looked at Babak. For a moment he smiled, then suddenly his eyebrows became sharp and he sternly looked back at his paperwork, and asked quickly, "What do you know about Bagher Tabrizi?"

"He's my dad's cousin, and he has a lot of land, and he is loved by his workers....what's this all about?" Babak replied. He wanted to get this over with now that there was less formality.

"He is accused of crimes against the homeland," Malek repeated almost automatically.

"That's ridiculous!" Babak laughed. "He's a farmer."

"Some of his workers think otherwise." Malek shot back quietly.

"So, is this the way you want to have a revolution? By paybacks?" Babak was becoming angry.

"Hey, they had their time. Now it is our turn," Malek said matter of factly.

Disgusted Babak realized this was the andakhtani game all over again. The game they had played in their youth was being played out in another form now. And Malek was as good as ever.

"How's your Mom and Dad?" Babak changed the subject hoping to get on Malek's good side again.

"They're fine. My Dad is in charge of the Davoudieh Komiteh" Malek replied, now equally eager to avoid the issue.

"That's great." Babak said. He was patronizing Malek now. Malek spotted it and the conversation turned terse again.

"Does your father own a gun?" Malek asked, looking down at the paperwork on his desk.

"You know, I have no idea. Can I call my mother to let her know I will be late?" Babak said just as rapidly.

"Yeah, in just a minute. So, you don't know that your father owns a gun eh?" Malek was so obvious in his play to get Babak to blurt out something.

But Babak didn't know anything and as such recognized it as a ploy. "Look, if he told you he has a gun, then he must have one then. I haven't seen one, so I don't know." he said.

Malek became uncomfortable. He thought the ploy would clearly work. It hadn't. He changed the subject again. "Have you thought about what religion you are? I mean, your mother is a Christian and your father is a Moslem. So what are you?" he asked flashing his holiest smile.

"I don't know. See, I wear a cross next to my Allah." Babak replied and pulled out the thin gold chain one of his aunts had given to him one Noruz. It had the usual gold coin with a picture of Mohammad on one side and Ali on the other. Babak's mother had given him the small gold cross one Christmas and for lack of a better idea he had put them both on the same chain. It was a personal reminder of what he was.

"But which one will you choose?" Malek repeated.

"I don't know. I'm still studying." Babak responded obviously. He watched Malek in enjoyment, as it slowly sank in that one could not know which way was right. To Malek it had been always so clear.

"You should choose Islam." Malek finally said. "It is a much more complete and modern religion."

"Yes, it's also a younger religion, so it has been able to refine areas that the other religions fall short in." Babak tossed in.

"Exactly!" Malek replied thrilled that Babak felt as he did.

"Can I please see my father now?" Babak asked hoping to get a quick yes.

Malek looked at Babak as the remains of the smile faded, and stopped, reached for the phone and told the other end to bring in Mr. Bahrampour.

"Do you want some tea?" Malek asked.

"Sure, but only if you have some too." Babak responded. The traditions of tea and sitting, talk and conversation had been bred well into both as boys and now as men.

Malek picked up the phone again and soon the tea arrived. Soon after, another knock on the door, this time Babak saw four men outside. The second man who entered was his father! Babak wanted to jump up and run to him. But he saw in his father's eyes that everything was all right and instant relief took over and Babak relaxed almost immediately.

"Are you okay?" Babak asked his father in English.

"Yeah!" His father grinned back. Babak later found out that for the past few days his father had been playing hokm and smoking hashish in the large group cell shared by 40 other men.

"Your father will be released tomorrow after our investigation is done." Malek announced benevolently.

After they all had tea, Malek asked the men outside to take Babak's father back to the holding area. Malek led Babak out of the office and put his arm on Babak's shoulder as they walked through the palace grounds, now lit up by small lights and moonlight. They reached the gates and passed through the guards to the street where Babak was amazed to see his cousin still there standing by the car. His cousin started to run across the street to meet him. As they waited, Malek looked at Babak and said, "Hey, do you remember how we used to play andakhtani on our bikes when we were kids?"

"Yeah, you were always better than me. You always used win," Babak said rubbing it in.

"Aw C'mon don't be sore," Malek teased. "I used to let you win one now and then didn't I?"

They looked at each other quickly one last time. Each knew what the other had meant, each knew things had changed forever and each knew that they were now on separate paths leading towards an uncertain future.

One thing was sure, they had each passed into manhood. Malek said goodbye, Babak thanked him for his kindness as was proper, to which Malek properly replied he had done nothing. And they both turned and walked away.

End of part five. The end.
* Part one
* Part two
* Part three

* Part four
* Part five

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