First day of school, horrific in its own right, but now imagine a third grader who has changed more schools in his eight years than underwear. Thus began my first day of third grade in Tehran. Not being yet assigned to a class, my principal decided to have me stand on the staircase with him as he went through the morning announcements and slogans.
However in that terrifying moment of looking at 400 students yelling in gray uniforms, a woman approached me. She asked if I was new to the school to which I mumbled a barely audible yes. She then pulled her brother from behind her (he happened to be my age and in the same class) and said “Good, now you two can be friends.”
Mehdi and I soon became friends mainly because we didn't know anyone else in the school. Now you might think I scored by making a friend my first day in school and yes I have to say he was a really nice guy, but there was one tiny little problem with him, and his family.
Mehdi came from a very religious and pro-Khomeini family, which made me a bit nervous to be around him. During those years there were many stories of kids, friends, neighbors, etc turning in family members and friends to the Pasdaran revolutionary guards if they suspected them of being anti-government.
My test of ingenuity came that year in Tehran, right before my birthday. Mehdi approached me and the conversation went similar to this:
Mehdi: Do you like Khomeini?
Me: Uh, Do you?
Me: Me too.
Mehdi: Do you pray?
Me: Uh, do you?
Me: Me too!
Mehdi: Are you a Hezbollahi?
Me: Uh, are you? (See I changed my answer right there. And I was quite dumb to think his answer could be anything different.)
Me: Me too.
Mehdi: Well I have a gift for you.
Mehdi then preceded to hand me a photo of Khomeini with a happy birthday wish written behind the photo. This presented a great issue. On one hand the “gift” had to be somewhere so that if Mehdi dropped by our house he could see it. On the other hand no one in my family cared to see Khomeini's picture.
So we compromised, and placed the picture backwards so we could see the birthday wish. And it was accessible so that if the Pasdaran raided our house we could turn the picture and show our devotion to the Great Imam. Hopefully they wouldn't look too much and discover our alcohol stash, backgammon and decks of cards.
In regards to school I was also shocked to find that now I was responsible for learning some 14 different subjects. To this day I think back about those subject matters and think to myself what a big waste of time they were. I mean I didn't learn anything in “herfeh o fan” (crafts) or our religious classes. Sadly the same can be said about math and Farsi but that is a different story.
About a week into the school year my uncle Mehran was shipped from Arak to live with us. He is my mom's youngest brother and was going to high school at the time. My grandmother wanted my mom to keep an eye on him and since my grandmother was busy with her five other children, Mehran was sent to us.
Thus began our many adventures. Being just a bit older than me, he became an older brother for Mahan (my brother) and myself. He kept us occupied while my mom was busy. His way of keeping us busy was with stories, games and pranks.
My uncle's favorite stories were about Hassan and Akbar; he would make up the stories on the fly. Unfortunately he couldn't remember the same story twice. If we heard a story we liked and wanted to hear it again, we would be out of luck. But my uncle was always able to weasel his way out by convincing us that we wanted to hear a new and much more adventurous story.
After a while Mahan and I decided that we would secretly tape my uncle while he was telling us his stories, that way we could listen to it whenever we wanted to. By the time we “hid” the recorder, my uncle had suspected something was up. We placed the recorder on the right side of the couch, which was the side he always sat. But this time he decided to sit on the left. We pleaded with him to sit on the right but he kept on goofing around until he finally stood up and said that he's had enough and won't tell us another story again.
We were crushed and heartbroken, but we still had the stories of my uncle's adventures in the military to amuse us.>>> >>> Index