I remember in the 80's, despite the fact that the revolution was pretty young and the war between Iran and Iraq had reached its peak (cities, neighborhoods and therefore civilians were being bombarded), pop culture had never been as popular amon youngsters. Young Iranians would dance to Jackson's “Thriller”, George Michael's hit about “never dancing again”, and the latest in break dance and what not (Depeche Mode, Shakakan, Nena, MeatLoaf, Limhal, etc).
Two nights ago I witnessed the same kind of pop culture progression among Iran's youngest generation.
The last Tuesday of the year represents a significant celebration in Iranian culture, which derives from the ancient Zaraostran tradition of departing from the year that has passed and welcoming the new one with a brand new frame of mind and positivity, symbolized by a row of fire over which people jump and bid farewell to the past year. And there are parties, fireworks and lots of fun, particularly for young people.
There was a gathering at a villa in the outskirts which I went with one of my good friends. The villa itself was spectacular, not because of it being as luxurious as a castle, so to speak; but because of its use of architecture and design to ensure comfort.
A green gate opened to a vast field divided in several sections that were levels going underground. Each level had a different use. The first one was the one that contained a funky swimming pool of the kind I had never seen before. It had the shape of a bagel, but reversed: A large covered circle was in the center of the pool (probably for sunbathing) while the larger circle was for swimming. Two little bridges gave people access to the center of the pool. I was quite impressed.
The second level was a football field (or for any other sport for that matter), while the third was more like an orchard, where the fire was set up for people to jump over and carry out this fascinating Zoroastrian tradition. There were fireworks, too. Some of them too loud and others beautiful, illuminating the gorgeous purple colored sky.
There was House music (of the loud kind) blasting in the villa and Absolut vodka of every kind was being served (this would have been a dream 20 years ago). I met some really interesting people such as a movie make-up artist who was working with people that I or my dad knew or had done films with. She begged of me to make my way to Hollywood, since, as she put it, I had the opportunity to do so to advance in my career and “give it a shot”.
I talked to another young woman who had just returned from Cuba where she acted as a translator for a filmmaker interviewing Che Guevara's son Camillo for a documentary on my boyfriend (guess who?).
At some point during the party, I looked across the room at this group of young people who were dancing, drinking and taking picutres with their digital cameras. I told myself that this scene could be from anywhere in the world. Not only because these people looked as if they had jumped out of either Vogue or an MTV video, but because most people in the world are unaware that certain things are universal.
I feel prejudice very often blinds us from realizing that the media thrive on what they want us to believe about other cultures. Of course, I understand that there might be no journalistic merit in showing the world that youth is the same everywhere; there's nothing controversial about that. However, I feel there has been a great deal of injustice done towards Iran in particular, in creating an unfair global perception.
By 2am my friend and I were very hungry. We were contemplating the idea of staying overnight but we were fearful of the Revolutionary Guards controlling the roads on our way back to the city. However, in view of the fact that there was no food in sight (VERY unusual in this cultur), we decided to risk getting caught on the road and head back. We followed the car of a friend who told us he would be happy to go first and call our mobile if there were guards on the road.
As we were approaching the checkpoint, we realized there were no guards in sight and, as we passed , we gave each other the thumbs up in a sign of victory. I truly cherished that moment. Two cars coming back from an amazing party and elebrating the absence of guards would could make life miserable! Once again I realized that it is the sense of solidarity and love amongst people that is making them put up with repression of freedom day after day.
Hungry and tired, we ended up at this guy's house to eat. I couldn't help but think, realize, appreciate and celebrate the fact that my friend's friend was welcoming us into his house at dawn to feed us. It was a blast. We had Russian salad and chiken schnitzels. I love the love here.