"This... is London."
That was how my parents would start their day -- listening to the BBC World Service. When I was growing up in Abadan in the '60s and '70s, I could hear my father's bulky Grundig shortwave radio first thing in the morning, broadcasting the latest international news.
I wonder why I cannot recall my father listening to the Iranian national radio or watching the evening news. He was head of public relations at the National Iranian Oil Company and he needed to know what was going on inside and outside the country.
In fact, except for the daily Kayhan, which I guess my father had to buy only to have a slight clue of what the Shah had dreamed up for the country that day, Persian newspapers and periodicals did not interest my parents.
Once in a while I would see my father buying Khandaniha, which was the Iranian version of Reader's Digest. But that was about it. Instead, my parents, both educated in the United States, relied heavily on the British and American media to keep in touch with the rest of the world.
Once a week they would walk a few blocks to Alfi Square and browse through the latest magazines at the "International Press" shop. They would come back home with Time and Newsweek, and for some intellectual stimulation they read The New Statesman and The Nation. For a good dose of American high culture and humor, there was The New Yorker.
Contrary to my parents, I was a big fan of the Persian press. The dailies especially came up with the coolest headlines about Iran's might and international influence. (Why does that sound so familiar?) I would cut and paste the Shah's grand declarations in my scrapbook. The most memorable one was that Iran was at the door of "the Great Civilization." I guess he forgot to knock or something, but anyhow, at the time it all sounded magnificent to me, then a starry-eyed 12- or 13-year-old.
And I couldn't wait to get my hands on new issues of Mosavvar comics. It would take me not more than a half an hour to read that week's adventures of Batman or Superman. Relieved that the Bad Guys had once again, despite all their evil powers, been crushed, I would start reading fairy tales in Kayhan Bacheha, literally Children's Universe.
These days I hardly read anything. Every time I pick up a magazine or a newspaper I see the Bad Guys on a rampage, with Superman nowhere in sight. I've heard that he fell off a horse and broke his neck. But I don't take these silly rumors seriously. He'll be back, I'm sure.
But until then, the only publication that revives my faith in humanity once a month is Harper's Magazine. You get the feeling that the magazine is put together by a group of progressive intellectuals. My impression of a progressive intellectual does not get much better than Marx at one end and Shariati at the other.
But the people at Harper's aren't revolutionaries (thank God). They promote civil liberties and social justice like all good intellectuals do, but in a very subtle, witty and charming way. Whenever I finish reading the magazine, I'm not inclined to shoot the Bad Guys or wait hopelessly for Superman. I only recognize all the many Good Guys, and smile.