I recently attended a dinner party at one of my relative’s home. The guests were a collection of friends and relatives, some of whom held good positions under the late Shah, and a few of their kids who have now become ardent supporters of the Islamic Republic and its foreign policies. An interesting mix, to say the least!
Like many Iranians who live in the West, I come from a family of diverse backgrounds. In our relatively large family and the larger circle of friends, there were always all kinds of people with all kinds of political views. There were those who worked for the late Shah, those who opposed the Shah and went to jail for it, and those who were happy to see those guys sent to jail!
There were garden variety leftists, Shahi, Mossadeghi, Jebheh Melli, but one thing we didn’t have was religious Islamists. There was an old and distant aunt who went to Mecca one time, and that is as close as our family ever got to a holy shrine!
The gatherings of our family and friends were always eventful and full of heated discussions. But when it came to the dinner table, everybody was well-behaved. We respected everybody’s right to have a piece of Tahdig. My mom, who was good at counting heads, used to say before serving dinner, “One sikh e kabob per person!”
کباب کوبیده، نفری یک سیخ
And everybody followed that rule. There were those who took half of their kid’s kabob. But we looked at it more like an internal family matter!
سوسی جون امروز اشتها نداره
At the party at my uncle’s home, as it is the norm in the gatherings of the older Iranians, men sat on one side and talked about sports and politics. Women sat on the other side and talked about whatever women usually talk about. What was interesting about this party was that the older men addressed each other by their titles of over thirty years ago and there was a pecking order that everyone followed; Generals spoke before the colonels and managers before the regular folks.
Being new to the scene, they quickly wanted to figure out where I came down on certain topics. But, before I could put a few sentences together, they cut me off and started repeating their own views! So much for the First Amendment rights!
Before the party, my aunt had told me about one of the guests, a retired General under the late Shah. Apparently, he had some bladder control problems and had to wear diapers. She said that on some occasions, when he got excited talking about Iran and its politics, he unknowingly had lost control and peed in his diaper and the folks sitting near him could smell the odor. My aunt told me to be on the look out for that and to quickly let her know if I smell something bad. She would then let the General’s wife know to take him to the bathroom for a diaper change!
Then there was his son and a few others like him; Western educated, secular and quite reasonable in every aspect until it got to I.R. and its policies. They were very much like some of the folks on Iranian.com site. I used to tease people like that by asking them if they have ever read Ghoran, set foot inside a mosque or know the difference between Osool Deen and Foro’e Deen. But I have since given up on that. Nowadays, I just remind them that going to Emam Reza in Mashad once in your life and grabbing the sweaty Zarih does not count as a deep religious experience.
The General’s son and the IR supporter was married to a good-natured, mid-westy blonde, with a few extra pounds; the kind of woman that calls her Iranian mother-in-law Maman Joon and knows how to make a decent Ghormeh Sabzi! One of my cousins who knew the couple well told me that she walks in her sleep! Now, I would pay to see that! She would wake up in the middle of the night and sleepwalk to the kitchen to eat some cereal. I could not believe that. The last time that I saw someone sleepwalking was on the old black and white comedies, like Abbott and Costello, or the Three Stooges!
My cousin then told me how a few months ago he got a frantic call from the General’s son. The General’s son said that he was in serious trouble with his wife.
“Late last night, I was on the internet checking the “Nutty Girls from Prague” when I got a pop-up and then my computer froze. Right then, my wife was sleepwalking to the kitchen. I panicked and tried to pull the plug, but I knocked the router instead and woke my wife up! Oh, she was so pissed when she saw what was on the screen!”
“Doesn’t he know about Ctrl+Alt+Del?” I asked.
“All these years she thought that he stayed up late at nights, on the computer, trying to help the Iranian people from the Western Imperial powers. Now, she found out that he was just watching porn!”
As the retired General was telling everyone how the current recession, the high unemployment, and for that matter, all the problems in the US dates back to Jimmy Carter and his policies, I smelled a foul odor and quickly excused myself. I motioned to my aunt that it was time for action!
Once the diaper change was done, it was time for dinner. As usual when the dinner table was set, the heated arguments subsided and everyone respectfully grabbed their small portion of Tahdig!