In Iran, the home burglars usually come late at nights when everybody is sound asleep after eating a big dinner. They scale the brick walls, tiptoe around the rooms, collect anything that they can carry on their backs and then throw them over the wall to their partner and run away. Before targeting a home, they usually watch it for a few days and then they spring into action. And that’s what happened on a warm summer night when my father was away on a trip and we were sound asleep on the rooftop.
I always looked forward to my father’s trips. Not only it meant souvenirs, chocolates and other things, it was also a good excuse for my grandmother to come and stay with us. She always had great stories about ghosts (Jen o Pari) that she would tell us at our bed time, but we had to promise to keep our eyes closed. Once in a while, if one of us opened our eyes, she would say, “I heard a noise in the house. If you don’t close your eyes a burglar will come!”
On that summer evening, my mom and my aunt took a few of us to see The Pink Panther. Watching the movie, I became fascinated with David Niven’s role as the rich and famous jewel thief who had a beautiful girlfriend! He did not look anything like the mental images that I had about the burglars! To me, he became the face of a burglar in a black outfit!
On summer nights, most Iranians have their dinners in their backyards, around the fountain, and then they would sleep either there or on the flat rooftop. Although many homes had air conditioning back then (Cooler Arj), but most people didn’t like to sleep with the A/C on. At nights, the backyards and the rooftops of Tehran would become an interesting place where a lot was happening!
There was a newly-wed couple who just moved across the street from us and rented the top floor. Late at nights when they thought that everybody was asleep, they would get into action under the mosquito net! At first I wasn’t sure why the guy kept saying, “Ah, ah, Fakhri…Ah, ah, Fakhri!” But one of my older cousins explained the whole thing to me later!
That night after dinner we all climbed to the roof and put our mattresses and pillows right next to each other and went to sleep. In the middle of the night my grandmother got up to get some water from the kitchen. She walked down the stairs and as she entered the big room she saw a shadow running out to the yard. She turned the lights on and saw all our clothes thrown on a large sheet in the middle of the room! There were ties, shoes, shirts and everything else that were in my parents’ closets!
She just ran outside and screamed, “People, there is a burglar! People, there is a burglar!”
آی مردم دزد اومده، آی مردم دزد اومده
The heads started popping up from the rooftops and a few guys ran out to the street. The burglar had just jumped over the wall and was running down the street when a couple of guys chased him down and cornered him. They were the two sons of Haji Tonbooni who lived down the street from us.
Haji Tonbooni was the guy who used to wash his Mercedes in his pajamas when clean water was running down the Joob. He had two college-age sons and many daughters! You could never tell how many girls lived in the house because they all wore scarves and looked alike! One of his sons started smoking cigarettes, but tried to keep it a secret from his father. One night as he was smoking the cigarette in the old-fashioned toilet at the corner of the yard, the accumulation of SH2 gases in the toilet caused a small explosion that burned his ass! He was rushed to the hospital, but the worse problem was that he had to explain to his father that he was a secret smoker!
Haji’s sons and a few other guys who had caught up with the burglar started kicking and punching him. He was not a big guy and kept saying that he was sorry and was praying to god to save him. An older man came to his rescue and told the guys to stop beating the burglar. A while later a policeman from the local station came. As he was rubbing his eyes and trying to stay awake, he grabbed the guy’s shirt, hit him a few times on the back of the head and dragged him to the station!
The thrill was over!
We all went back to the house. My mom started putting the clothes back in the closet while my grandmother looked on. Up on the roof, I lied on my mattress and looked at the bright summer stars and thought about our burglar and David Niven. I was not afraid of the burglars anymore!
Here is the song from the movie, The Pink Panther!