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Negotiating with the devil
They sounded like they were trading camels

November 28, 2000
The Iranian

Reza is a shrewd Iranian businessman who prides himself of being the biggest charlatan in North America. He is a type that paints a Yugo and sells it as a Cadillac. He cheats, lies, deceives, and manipulates with ease and sleeps like a baby at night. Reza, the only son of a multi millionaire bazaari from Mashhad, should be the poster child for Planned Parenthood. They should hang a picture of him on the wall with these words, "Here is another reason for birth control."

He is an equal opportunity swindler, who has no mercy on anyone, even his own family. He defrauded his brother-in-law on a real estate deal which, resulted in his in-law's bankruptcy. The common saying among Iranians here is, "Even though Reza is not gay, you don't bend over in front of him."

In a nutshell, Reza is one mean, lying, cheating, cholokabab-eating machine, who has no respect for human dignity or sense of business integrity.

You might wonder why I know so much about him? Well, he's my cousin.

Reza came to my house to share a revelation. I warned him I wasn't interested in hearing about his latest swindle. He assured me it was a personal matter. Reza is a private person who hardly ever shares his personal life with his family. So I was a bit curious and mildly interested.

"This place doesn't feel like home," Reza uttered, "different culture, language, looks. I always thought -- some day -- I would go back home and stay. But the more I stay here the more I get used to it. So I made up my mind. I am going to start a family here. It's time, you know."

"I'm happy for you. So I guess it's time to go to Iran and bring back a bride?"

"Actually, I don't need to go back home," Reza smiled. "There is this girl here that I met a little while ago. She's perfect for me. She has the same family values, stature, and mentality as I do. She's traditional, religious, and upright. She can cook, clean, take care of the house, do the laundry -- did I mention clean?"

"So you want a maid."

"I want a wife. Someone I can have kids with," Reza abruptly responded.

"So you want a maid you can have sex with."

"Whatever. I have to meet her father to ask permission for his daughter's hand in marriage. I need a wingman, a comrade, a sidekick; someone who can give me courage. Someone who will pick me up when I stumble. I need you to go with me."

"Hell no...." I stepped back.

"Please -- I am desperate; I can't do this alone. Nobody in the family talks to me except you. I have no friends. This is my future we are talking here. I'll do all the talking. You won't have to say a word. I promise."

"No way!"

Reza begged for hours. He wasn't going to leave my house till I said yes. My girlfriend was due home at any minute and she hates Reza. I had to get rid of him; so I reluctantly agreed to go. He finally left after finishing all my food and beers.

Reza picked me up the next day. He was uptight and visibly nervous. He didn't say much. We drove to the nicer part of the town where all the rich people live. He stopped the car by a huge house. We walked to the door, and rang the bell. Reza's face looked lifeless. A short, bald, middle-aged man opened the door. He had a long, green prayer beads in his left hand. He asked us to take off our shoes and walk in. He was the father of the bride.

Inside the house was drastically different from the outside. There were mirrors stuck to the ceiling and the walls. There was no furniture anywhere; however, there were tons of oversized Persian rugs on the floor. We walked to a huge living room, which was completely empty, and sat on the floor. There were a number of young women in the house. Some of the girls served us tea, candies, and fruit. They were giggling and laughing.

Reza was sitting down motionless. He looked like a zombie. I was waiting for him to start the introduction, but nothing came out of his mouth. I kept looking at him but he looked dazed and confused. Things were getting awkward. There was a long silence. I figured if I start talking, Reza might come out of the coma and take over.

"Well sir, my cousin Agha Reza, is here to ask your permission to marry your daughter. Reza is a man of integrity, wisdom, values and virtues." I felt my nose growing.

"Which daughter?" the father of the bride asked.

I looked at Reza with anticipation. Reza looked as if he was dead -- he was in la-la land. He was looking through the window at some infinite point.

"Pardon?" I exclaimed.

"Which daughter? I have seven daughters. Which one do you have in mind?" the man patiently asked.

I looked at Reza again. He was sleeping with his eyes open. He looked as if he was meditating. I wanted to kill the jerk. He was embarrassing me. I felt like getting up and kicking him in the head.

The father of the bride looked calm. He paused for a minute and said, "Well, regardless of which daughter, here are my terms: There will be an alimony contract that would include five hundred thousand dollars cash, a house, SUV, apprpriate gifts, jewelry, and all the furniture. She will walk into her husband's house with an holy Koran, clothes on her back and her charm. I congratulate your cousin and wish them both a good life and prosperity."

All of the sudden, Reza came back to life. He jumped up like a wild animal and yelled, "Do you think I'm stupid? Five hundred thousand dollars, a car, and a house? I am not marrying the queen of England you know. You got to be joking. Here is what I got for you old man: Two installments of hundred thousand dollars and maybe a compact car for her alimony. Your daughter's dowry should include two sets of furniture, big screen TV, washer, dryer, kitchen appliances, and at least twenty Persian rugs."

The father of the bride looked stunned. He just realized that he wasn't dealing with an average man but the devil himself.

"Young man, I'm not that rich to accommodate my daughter with such an elaborate dowry."

"Bullshit! I've done a background check on you," Reza shouted. "Don't even go there."

The man paused for a second. "Okay, how about a lump sum of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the house for alimony and my daughter will bring with her five Persian rugs and a big screen TV."

Reza looked at me while shaking his head and said, "Do I look stupid? Am I wearing a head band that says, 'I am the village idiot.' Am I not making myself clear?"

I couldn't believe this. What the hell were these guys doing? They sounded like they were trading camels. I was speechless. Is this normal? Am I missing something here? Do people do this nowadays? What should I do?

The father of the bride played with his prayer beads. He shifted his weigh around and calmly said, "Agha joon, I was born at night but not last night! You can't possibly think I would give my daughter away to a guy like you whose two Prozac pills short of a mental hospital. You can never find girls as virtuous as my daughters. Nobody has touched these girls and as God is my witness, nobody will but their husbands."

Reza thought for a second and said, "Two installments of hundred and twenty thousand dollars and a sports car; in return you will pay for the wedding and she will bring in five Persian rugs of my choice plus a refrigerator, bedroom set, and a big screen TV. That's my final offer and it's non-negotiable." Reza stood up, looked at me like I was his butler and said, "Get up. We're out of here."

I jumped up and followed him. Reza stopped on the way out and looked at a framed miniature painting hanging on the wall. He turned around, looked at the man and said, "I leave you my phone number. Consider my offer and call me if you change your mind. By the way, I want you to throw in this frame as a gesture of goodwill."

We walked out of the house and sat in the car. I looked at Reza and asked, "What the hell just happened?"

"Nothing, he'ill come around. He has seven daughters; do you have any idea how expensive it is to have seven daughters? He has no leverage for negotiation. For all he's asking, I might as well marry his youngest daughter."

"You're sick -- she's only fourteen!"


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