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Pay cut
You promised me the moon and the stars...

October 4, 2001
The Iranian

LONDON -- Varinder is not very happy with me at the moment. I too am somewhat unhappy with me. The background to our unhappiness is that the company I am a partner in is about to undergo explosive (I hope) growth thanks to a large injection of cash. The cash will come from investors who will take a 10% stake in our business (V's dad is one of these investors). The trouble is that our accountant has suggested that we, the founding partners, give ourselves a pay cut so that we do not appear greedy in the company accounts. "You will make the bulk of your money through dividends instead," we have been advised

I know he is talking sense but any way you look at it my pay cut means my take home salary will plunge from £4200 per month after tax to around £2800 per month. A gut wrenching cut. The upside, I keep telling myself, is that we will get dividends at the end of the year instead.

"Remind me why I married you?" V asks me.


"You are short, fat and no Brad Pitt." She continues, "I married you because you promised me the moon and the stars, servants, Aston Martins and homes in Switzerland and Monaco! Now you tell me we are to get a pay cut!"

"We'll get dividends."

"I don't want dividends! You can give your dividends to your mum!" And so she goes on.

The irony of our situation is that as the company gets richer, we are becoming poorer. I founded the business so that I could become one of those 'fat cats' you hear about in the financial pages of the broadsheets. Instead, I have to console Varinder with a promise of annual dividends and a salary that takes us back to where we were in 1997. Far from a 'fat cat', I now feel like a cat on a forced diet.

Despite our rather gloomy predicament, Varinder's spending continues unashamedly. She returned from a shopping trip to Selfridges with a £300 winter coat.

"Aren't you embarrassed that I had to actually consider how much I spent?"

"And you still managed to blow £300."

"Yes but I had to think about it!"

Personally, I am relieved that she had to 'think' about it. I predict that she will wear her new coat on a handful of occasions only. I also predict that before the week is out she will conclude that she has no shoes to go with her new coat and will go in search of a pair of new boots. The same may happen with a handbag. I, on the other hand, am not allowed to buy anything because I am on a diet and there is no point buying clothes until I get to me ideal weight -- according to V.

To cap it all, my diet has stalled. I have begun to eat rice and bread again. The low carbohydrate diet is on hold for a few weeks while I indulge myself in my favourite foods. The reason why my diet stalled is as follows: my cousin, Shahram, returned from Iran (Mashad) with an A4 sized tin box of baklava, all for me! I took it home, opened it, and whilst V was soaking in the bath, consumed half the entire box in one go. I didn't feel sick or depressed afterwards. I didn't even feel guilty. So when V came out of the bath, I shared the rest with her and the entire box was gone in 48 hours (I even licked the syrup out, getting some on my glasses in the process).

The straw which broke the camel's back, however, was when we went to Hafez restaurant in Notting Hill at 11:30pm last Friday night. We were en route home from seeing that amazing Iranian comedian, Omid Djalili, live, when V had a craving for their excellent vegetarian bademjoon. In my haste to pleasurably round off and cap a wonderful evening, I ordered and consumed: salad olivier, meerza ghaasemi (V's favourite which we share), noon, an entire chelo kababe makhsous with egg yolk and butter. I washed it all down with tea, baklava, and zoolbia bamieh. It was the first time I had eaten rice in five months and I was in heaven.

My mum is now distressed: "Nane toro khoda nazaar shekamet gondeh besheh. fekreh ghalbet o bokon." (Don't let your stomach grow. Think of your heart.)

"Don't worry, I will only take a week's break from the diet" I reassured her. I told her I can now actually pull on and off some of my trousers without unbuttoning or unzipping them. That is how much weight I have lost. I then recount to my mum a story from only a few weeks ago. An incident which took place in the toilet at work:

I had been wearing my very loose Gap chinos (40inch waist) whose front button had been lost when I was much bigger. It had pinged off, ricocheting around the bedroom as I pulled at it to force it closed. I had then discovered that the zip alone could hold my trousers up if I secured it carefully. So there I was in the gents with no front button when I unzipped my trousers to relieve myself. Why I didn't hold on to my trousers is a mystery in an instant of lapsed concentration they fell completely to the ground around my ankles. My only choice was to finish the job in hand and pray that no one would walk in on me. As if on cue, I heard the flush go in one of the cubicles and a stranger walked out and past me to wash his hands in the sink. He seemed to only really take notice of me when he turned the taps on. What should have been a glancing look turned into a shocked stare as his smile suddenly wiped itself from his face. I cringed a cringe, which still makes me shudder when I stare out onto the car park from my office desk.

"Nane koonet lokht bood?" (was your bottom bare?) my mum asked.

"Na maman jan short paam bood" (I had my underpants on.)

"Yaa abolfazl.... kooneh bacham lokht bood!" (Oh goodness my baby's bum was bare.)

"Lokht nabood! Cheraa goosh nemideen?" (It wasn't naked! Why don't you listen?)

"Toro khodaa raast begoo?" (Tell the truth)

Varinder is less charitable...

"My husband is bisexual."


"You deliberately bared your bum didn't you?"

"My trousers fell off accidentally and you know it!" I protest.

Varinder puts her arms around me and kisses my cheek.

"Its okay lover. Lots of husbands eventually have sex change operations; some even stay with their wives after their sex change."

I kiss her back then hold her tightly as I bite her cheek, threatening to leave teeth marks unless she takes everything she has said back.

"If you bite me, I'll tell your mum you regularly drop your trousers in the gents toilets and that you have a police record."

I back off.

My mum is now upset with Varinder.

"Een cheh joor aroosi hast keh dogme ye bacham o balad neest bedoozeh?" (What kind of bride is this who can't sow a button onto my baby's trouser?) "Bacham lebaas e hesaabi nadaareh." (My baby doesn't have any nice clothes to wear.)

Varinder is defiant.

"Tell your mum to come and sow the button on herself! If my family finds out that you want me to sow your buttons onto your trousers they will pull out all your teeth except for the ones that hurt! Also, if my dad finds out you are taking a pay cut he will take me back home again and find me another husband!"

"Goozam beh reesh e hameh," I sigh.

"What does that mean?"

"It means I need a holiday."

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