My wife Varinder is Indian from a large Punjabi Sikh extended household. She should have been a Bollywood actress she tells me. Not married to a 105kg shorty who has no dress sense and can't Salsa dance.
Still, marrying me has had its advantages. She has come to love Iranian tea from a samavar, noon barbari and vegetarian khoresht-e- bademjoon which my mum used to cook for her when she lived with us. She enjoyed listening to my mum's Googoosh, Heideh and Mahasti CD's. She even wants us to go on holiday to Iran next year.
This is a far cry from when we first met.
— Varinder: “You are a Muslim and my parents will never accept you.” — Me: “'But I'm not a practicing Muslim. My sister became a Christian when she got married!” — “It doesn't matter. You are Iranian!” — “Okay. Tell your parents I'm Persian.” (I hate that distinction)
It took her three years to pluck up the courage to tell her parents about me. A further year went buy before they agreed to meet me (my mum had to step in) and six months later we had a combined Indian/Farangi wedding.
She loves Iranian gatherings. Dressing up, putting her Cartier watch on (a wedding present from me) and mingling/posing with other females. She loves Iranian dancing too. In fact, she has become more Iranian than me, embracing rituals and traditions ranging from insisting we host Iranian New Year every year to treating us to lunch at Hafez restaurant here in London once a week. She loves our cuisine despite being vegetarian. I, on the other hand, am addicted to Indian food.
The unusual thing is that neither of us knows any Iranians except for a few of my relatives. So whenever we go to Iranian events or restaurants I end up people watching; their clothes, conversations and (yes, I know, it's sad) what cars they drive.
Varinder gets very irritated because I sit there (her words) like a fat baby with my mouth half open trying to listen to people's conversations. I can't help myself. I was born and raised in the UK and being 35-years old with no real prolonged exposure to Iranians has made me into a cultural sponge, always trying to soak up anything remotely Iranian.
A fantastic opportunity for soaking up culture arose before Christmas when we were buying fresh supplies of Iranian tea for the samavar from Mr. Reza's shop in Kensington. I saw a Googoosh poster. The only difficult decision was which seats to book. They ranged from £30 to £250. We pushed the boat out and decided to treat ourselves to the £250 seats nine rows from the front. What an opportunity, sit and be seen next to the most affluent members of our community.
— Varinder: “You are one of the saddest people I know. You just want to go there to pose don't you?”
She was right of course but I wasn't going to admit to being so small minded.
— Me: “The view of the stage will be fantastic!” — Varinder: “Yeah right!”
And so we went. On Saturday the 6th of January I pressed my trousers, got out my best jumper and put on a pair of expensive looking suede loafers. I was dressed to turn heads make the community wonder who I was; make people curious about this mysteriously affluent looking stranger.
— Varinder: “You still look like an oversized short, fat Iranian baby!”
Needless to say, no one gave a monkey's about me. No one looked, no one stared and everyone looked more affluent and successful than me. In fact, it was me who did all the staring and Varinder kept well away from me so people wouldn't think we were together.
— Varinder: “Who do you think you are? Your trousers are too tight around your waist and you have a double chin. Why would anyone want to look at you?” — Me: “Do you know how many Iranian girls would have queued up to marry me from Iran if my mum had put the word around and distributed some pictures… I drive a nice car, have a good salary and am very settled.” — Varinder: “You are also fat, your teeth are crooked and are fast going deaf. Who in their right minds would want to marry you? Think yourself lucky that I married you – I must have been on some kind of medication.”
She was right of course.
The concert itself can only be described as awesome. Googoosh was in tears as she walked on stage to the roar from the crowds. We were all in tears. People to my left, right, front and back were in tears. Varinder was in tears.
Varinder commented on how stunning she looked, and she did, breath-takingly so. She worked the crowds to fever pitch with her amazing voice and, together with her son and a fantastically international band, made every penny of the £500 we spent worthwhile.
What surprised me was the number of beer guzzling men and women in our section. Beers were being passed around so freely that Googoosh made a special request for people not to drink in the arena itself. What also surprised me was that there was an Iranian policeman on duty. I had never seen one before. Every time he walked into the arena during the intermission the crowds would cheer him. It was very funny to watch him shrug his shoulders at his colleagues and turn red faced.
During the interim break Varinder went to the ladies room. She had to queue. A very drunk looking lady standing in front of her spoke to her in Farsi. She explained that she was Indian and couldn't understand any Farsi. When asked why she had attended, Varinder mentioned that I was Iranian. The lady corrected her: “Your husband is PERSIAN!”
On the way out after the concert, I saw some incredibly good looking and smartly-dressed young Iranian men. They were eying all the beautiful young women walking past, all of whom pretended not to notice.
— Varinder: “Why can't you be slim and good looking? Why did I have to marry someone who has trouble tying his own shoe laces so he has to wear loafers?” — Me: “These loafers cost me £120!”
When we got home I looked at myself in the mirror. I didn't look too fat. Perhaps wearing Khaki Chino's and a Khaki jumper wasn't such a great idea. My glasses weren't sitting properly on my face either '” they were at a slight angle.
— Me: “Can I come to Salsa lessons with you on Wednesday please?” — Varinder: “No you can't, fatty.” — Me: “Please. I really want to lose some more weight so I can look tall and thin.” — Varinder: “But you are 5'6'' short. How can you possibly look tall?”
I am now on a diet, wondering how to pay off my £500 Visacard bill for the concert and in the process of changing my wardrobe from brown/khaki to slimming black/charcoal.